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Display large PDF documents in Grafana

· Updated on September 9, 2023
Mikhail Volkov

In the recent article on our blog, we delved into the advantages of utilizing Docker containers and initial provisioning when crafting our panel plugin template for Grafana. This approach has proven to be valuable when implementing the current feature request for Base64 Image/Video/Audio/PDF Panel and letting us swiftly provide solutions for long-term plugin support.

During the creation of Base64 Image/Video/Audio/PDF Panel for one of our projects, we also included support for displaying PDF documents. It's satisfying to see that the plugin is now used to display PDF files stored in databases such as PostgreSQL.

For an in-depth overview of the plugin, feel free to check out the video on our YouTube channel.

Images, PDFs, Video, Live Camera Feed on Grafana Dashboard.

PDF documents

PDF documents are classified into four categories based on their size:

  • small (10-100kb)
  • medium (100-1MB)
  • large (1-16MB)
  • huge (16-128MB)

Our plugin was designed to support small and medium-sized PDF documents that you can easily test without setting up a separate database for storage. For this purpose, we have used the static data source and stored the data in the dashboard.

To validate and assess the plugin's performance when showcasing large PDF documents, we followed these steps:

  1. Installed PostgreSQL.
  2. Loaded PDF documents into the database.
  3. Created a data source and dashboard to facilitate validation and performance checks.

Furthermore, it is essential to verify that the script is easily deployable for continuous integration and development purposes.


From Grafana's perspective, all data sources are the same because they return data frames. We received a feature request for the plugin to enable display of large PDF documents retrieved from a PostgreSQL database.

Large PDF document retrieved from a PostgreSQL database and displayed in Grafana.
Large PDF document retrieved from a PostgreSQL database and displayed in Grafana.

To install PostgreSQL, we added a container with the latest version of the postgres image. We specified a volume for the folder /docker-entrypoint-initdb.d, which takes care of creating necessary tables and permissions when starting.

image: postgres
restart: always
- 5432:5432
- ./postgres:/docker-entrypoint-initdb.d

In our case, it was a table with the bytea fields to store binary data with unique names. When images and PDF documents are retrieved from the database, they can be stored in the Base64 format or transformed using the encode() command.

CREATE TABLE images (name text, img bytea, UNIQUE(name));

Loading PDF files into the database

To load PDF documents and test images into the database, we created a Node.js script:



The initial provisioning configuration that adds a new dashboard for PostgreSQL is already present in our plugin template.


We have included a configuration to provision a PostgreSQL data source with SSL disabled, as well as a specific login, password, and URL pertaining to the database setup.


You can find more information about the PostgreSQL data source in the official documentation.

Load data

The final step is to start containers and load data. When they start, Grafana and PostgreSQL will be automatically provisioned and ready for use.

It takes around 1-2 seconds to load a 13-megabyte PDF document with 2,990 pages. The user who requested this feature was pretty happy with results, therefore we passed the plugin to the Grafana team for review and approval, and it was later added to the Grafana Plugins catalog.

Please check the plugin's repository and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for future improvements.