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I've been hearing about The GNU PDF Library since 2007. Since then I've been looking forward to see this tool in the wild, but four years have passed and it seems to me that this is a painfully long time. I'm aware of the complexities of the project, but as I recall the GNU Foundation have marked it as a top priority project. What is going on?

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3 Answers

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There seems to be some activity on http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/pdf-devel/. Also, see http://gnupdf.org/manuals/gnupdf-hg-manual/html_node/Information-for-Newcomers.html#Information-for-Newcomers for information about cloning their repository. Specifically do

 $ bzr branch bzr://bzr.savannah.gnu.org/pdf/libgnupdf/trunk libgnupdf

Bazaar is a distributed version control system, and its command line client is called bzr. Looking at the repository is a good way to determine activity. You can see the logs by changing directory into the repository libgnupdf and doing bzr log -v | less. My two cents are that 929 revisions in slightly less than 4 years isn't so bad. Such projects usually have a shortage of manpower and of course everyone is a volunteer. If you have any specific questions, I'm sure the developers would be happy to answer, as long as you ask nicely.

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I know some people are going to crucify me for this I'm about to say: I think the choice of "plain" C as the programming language for this project has complicated things a lot. I know that everybody wants a fast library, but IMHO I prefer an existing yet not-so-fast one than an inexistent fast one. I would have voted for Python. Now let the nails come! –  Sergio May 17 '11 at 0:03
    
@Sergio: Actually, I'd be inclined to agree with you, but... Were they perhaps concerned about stability? Python isn't exactly static, and they'd eventually have to worry about making their code work with Python 3. I don't know if speed is so much the issue. Could they not have written just the hot-spots in C? –  Faheem Mitha May 17 '11 at 6:42
    
This is certainly an issue, although I think Python is pretty stable right now. Many projects are perfectly OK with pre 3.0 python. I agree with you that C doesn't change a lot these days. I still stick to my previous opinion on this. –  Sergio May 17 '11 at 15:29
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C is ideal for a library because bindings can be provided for just about every language. I don't think there is another reasonable choice for this, is there? –  user10770 Sep 15 '11 at 13:21
    
@Don: If you write for GNOME then there is also Vala. –  Maciej Piechotka Sep 21 '11 at 10:34
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The FSF has recently dropped GNU PDF from their list of priority projects because libraries like poppler, podofo, MuPDF and Apache PDFBox have developed quite nicely over the last years. Given the speed of development of GNU PDF over the last years I'm tempted to call it glacial: They seem to spend all their time at building foundations and up to now don't seem to have at least a minimal parser. It seems GNU Hurd will be finished before GNU PDF.

See here for a list of PDF libraries.

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In addition to Faheem answer - it is good to look on Ohloh stats (here is GNU PDF Ohloh page). It sees that project have steady growth and while it have not increasing year-to-year development it is not dieing out as well (which is good).

Ohloh of course is just visualization of bazaar but I believe that "a picture is worth a thousand words".

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