How iText adapts to the evolution of open source and PDF

It’s easy to take the freedom and profits of the open source software market for granted. But wait a minute and think about the companies and people who build open source into nearly endless new innovations.

When software development boomed in the 2000s, a project called iText arose from the need to introduce open source into PDF, a document format originally tightly controlled by Adobe.

Tony Van den Zegel, Vice President of Marketing and Products at iText, states that iText is an ad hoc pioneer in back-end generation of PDF documents.

“In the early days, we had to fight the fears, uncertainties, and doubts associated with the use of open source software at the time. Open source software is undocumented and the IP of open source software. Is unclear and open source software is not backed by companies, “he says.

“The early decision to open source the iText project created a viral effect, built a strong brand, and recognized iText as the leading PDF library worldwide. Millions of users recognized iText as the leading PDF library. We downloaded and implemented the library, generated a lot of feedback about feature requests and software bugs, and created a very robust and mature software product. ”

In 2008, the PDF format became an open standard. This means that there was room for PDF innovation. iText was waiting for a break.

Who is iText?

iText is now renowned for its performance and dedication to companies that need to generate or digitally sign large numbers of PDFs in a short amount of time. That’s why iText technology is found in everything from customer invoices to boarding passes.

André Lemos, the world leader in iText’s products and services, says it’s an exciting place. He likens it to a provider of cooking ingredients-there are many common ways to use it, but sometimes chefs come in to make new dishes from the thin air.

“Sure, your imagination and needs are much broader than we can think of for ourselves!” He says.

“Removing” open source “from our DNA is a nearly impossible task and a wasteful exercise as it is deeply rooted in our culture. It’s no longer iText, “Lemos adds.

A key defining element of iText is the dual-licensing model, which is based on the copyleft AGPL and supports commercial and open source licenses. The copyleft licensing model exposes the source code to the open source community.

“We are unique in that we do not limit the functionality of open source technology compared to commercial products. Both versions are the same in terms of performance,” says Vanden Zegel.

“Open sourcing our technology brings a lot of benefits to us and the community. The community supports the development of iText technology through pull requests. We provide premium support to our customer base. We do, but at the same time, we recognize that no matter what happens, our customers and users can always self-support through the availability of source code. “

iText puts the user at the core of that goal

As cliché as it looks, iText believes in the mantra that “good developers are lazy.” If something can be automated, why are they wasting time on manual tasks? They will prefer to spend their time more efficiently.

“In that context, we recently have significantly fewer lines of code that developers need to write to generate template-based PDFs compared to using the iText PDF software development kit. , We have developed a low-code product, iText DITO. Besides iText DITO, we want to make the life of software developers as easy as possible, “says Van den Zegel.

Lemos adds that whether you’re an open source user, a software company, or a company, you value your relationships with them.

“Even if you have technical questions about managing PDF documents (for example, if you’re actively monitoring Stack Overflow), we strive to provide open source users with the best possible experience. There are also good pull requests, “says Lemos.

To foster community involvement, iText works as quickly as possible when an open source user submits a pull request on the company’s GitHub page. This basically makes the user part of the team.

Lemos further explains: “When a pull request occurs, we’re introducing a mechanism to prevent it from being lost in the disabled state of the Internet, and we’re trying to educate our contributors by suggesting ways to improve their contributions. Whether in terms of or if they need a test to verify what they are submitting.

“It’s a longer process than accepting pull requests at face value, but we know that in the future, both open source and commercial users will benefit from quality standards.”

The ideal document management process for modern business

Document management is undergoing a digital revolution, with more and more organizations needing to adopt digital document workflows to address the modern business world.

According to Van den Zegel, common processes include document capture, imaging, and management. This process is widely integrated into cloud-based solutions driven by cloud computing. Security is a major concern. In short, organizations need to protect their content across the network and the cloud.

In the near future, technologies are being developed that automatically recognize the document structure of unstructured PDF files that can be integrated with IT systems.

“The rapid growth of data in the enterprise and the various formats in which it is displayed require AI-enabled tools, such as search capabilities that can understand queries in context,” he says.

Back in PDF, why does iText believe this document format is ideal for digital document workflows?

“PDF plays a role in modern document management systems. In our vision, PDF is becoming an increasingly data container, in a fixed document format, consistent regardless of operating system, device, or software application. Is visualized. “

The main advantage is the ability to use secure digital signatures in digital document workflows. This concept has been widely adopted and is well integrated into the PDF specification. Such digital signatures can capture the intent of the individual making the contract, and can also be used to encrypt information and verify the validity of the signed document.

To demonstrate the versatility of the PDF format, Van den Zegel emphasizes the creation of interesting features, more commonly known as the PDF Portfolio. Introduced by the ISO Commission as part of the PDF 1.7 specification, multiple file types can be included in a single PDF.

“The PDF Portfolio provides the same functionality as combining multiple files into one PDF, but with one major aspect that is different. Simply combining files will convert all files to PDF. However, when you create a PDF Portfolio, the files are kept in their original file format and can be edited or modified in a native application without being deleted from the portfolio. “

An important advantage is that if the PDF portfolio is digitally signed, it covers the entire PDF, including the PDF portfolio and its files, so editing the document will corrupt the signature. This means you can protect many different documents with a single digital signature.

Looking to the future of PDF and open source

Lemos adds that the IT world never stops, so iText confirms that its research team is at the forefront of innovation.

Based on continuous monitoring of user feedback, the company has released two new iText 7 SDK products, pdfRender and pdfOCR, this year alone, with pdfOptimizer coming soon.

“The challenge here is to continue the quarterly release of iText’s modular developer line and business line using iTextpdf2Data, a PDF data extractor, and iTextDITO, a low-code document generator.”

iText is also a member of the PDF Association’s board of directors, which has technical staff on the PDF ISO Committee.

“This way, we can keep our future technology and PDF space features unobtrusive, while at the same time actively contributing to keeping the ecosystem alive and fresh.”

Click here for more information on iText.

How iText adapts to the evolution of open source and PDF

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