Vincent Hennebert

vhennebert at apache dot org

I am a committer of Apache FOP and a PMC member of its umbrella XML Graphics project. I started to get involved in the development of FOP in June 2005 but I had already been following the fop-dev mailing list for one year.

How it All Started

My main domain of interest is typography, that I discovered by using the LaTeX typesetting system. I liked the geekish input format where you had to type keywords to describe the content of the document (a bit like in HTML). Also, compared to word processors the result was of so much higher quality.

But soon I started to notice the shortcomings of LaTeX. This is difficult to author the content so that it looks good on both the print and HTML outputs. Usually you get a print result of good quality but the HTML one leaves a bit to be desired. It is also very difficult to customize the layout. Even if the default layout looks good enough, one would argue, sometimes you just need to meet some imposed requirements. And most of all, the whole chain looked quite old, especially in terms of font formats and management.

By looking for alternatives I discovered the DocBook format and its associated XML tool chain. This time this was the other way around: the HTML output produced by the DocBook XSLT style sheets was excellent, but the PDF you could get with open-source tools was no near comparable to LaTeX… unless you used TeX-based solutions! I was looking for more modern tools.

Back in 2004, the most viable open-source alternative to TeX that I found was Apache FOP. FOP was based on a W3C standard, XSL-FO, was written in the Java language which I happened to know well, and was hosted by the well-known Apache Software Foundation. Unfortunately the 0.20.5 version, which was the latest one at that time, was lagging far behind TeX in terms of typographical quality.

Getting Involved in FOP

Well, this was the perfect opportunity to start getting involved in an open-source project after all! I subscribed to the various mailing lists and started to study the XSL-FO Recommendation. I made my first significant contribution during the Google Summer of Code 2006, where I started to implement before-floats (objects like figures and graphics floating at the top of pages). I wrote down my thoughts in a set of pages on the FOP Wiki.

After the Summer of Code I was promoted as a FOP committer and found a job at Anyware Technologies (Now known as Anyware Services). Anyware Services develops a content management application based on Apache Cocoon, that uses FOP to produce PDF documents from a variety of sources.

I then joined Thunderhead, a company that develops a multi-channel communication platform. I continue to extend my expertise of FOP and work on various areas, such as the layout engine, fonts, PDF, PostScript.