Mark Stephens Mark has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and is a big NetBeans fan. He enjoys speaking at conferences. He has an MA in Medieval History and a passion for reading.

20 years of Developing PDF viewing software in Java

1 min read

It seems like only yesterday, but I have started getting messages telling me IDRsolutions is now 20 years old…

Technically the anniversary is 30th November – as a History graduate from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, I naturally chose St. Andrews Day to be the official start of the Company.

The discrepancy is because in 1999, you setup a Company by buying a shell company and renaming it – our shell Company was called WB CO (1197) LTD and setup on 27th July 1999. We renamed it to the much catchier IDRsolutions – you can read where the name comes from on our About us page on the website…

In July 1999, I was running around, desperately trying to finish off our first product (News International used Storypad to help them publish The Times on the Internet), hiring my first employee, and doing demos to other Companies. Most notably, my colleague Damien Kennedy found me a 15 minute slot between flights at Heathrow to see the CTO at Vignette.

I think the key reason IDRsolutions has lasted 20 years is that we have a team of really loyal and able people who are constantly seeking to improve and to raise their game (and keep me on my toes). Brendan was our first employeee in 1999 and stayed with us until 2012 when he had the opportunity to get his dream job in academia. Kieran has been the key to support and testing since 2006. Sam joined us in 2009 and has spent the last 10 years becoming a world expert in fonts and Browsers. Leon, Sophia and Suda have been here over 5 years and have transformed the Company into what it is now.

In the last 20 years, we have been lucky enough to work with lots of customers large and small in government, academia and business. We have been lots of interesting places and done lots of talks.

Our customers who you may have heard of include Daeja (now part by IBM), Taleo acquired by Oracle), EMC, Boardvantage (acquired by Nasdaq), Kofax, News Corporations UK publishing businesses, Abacus Research, Siemens, Reuters, Intel, Cern, Sybase, Samsung and a whole load more.

I think I am still proudest that we licensed our PDF library to Adobe, who created the PDF file format. They still use it in ColdFusion 14 years later.

And we are still finding new and interesting things to do and new firsts. We made our first visit to Japan last year and I finally made it to Troy. when I did a talk at DevFest Istanbul. In January 2020, I have my first trip to Montreal to speak at a software conference (19 years after my first talk in Boston).

Given the changing nature of the software world and the ever creative way people use and create PDF files, I do not think we will every ‘finish’ our software – I added my latest tweak to our parser to handle an odd PDF yesterday.

But I do think the next 20 years will be just as exciting and interesting as the last 20 years (I will just have to learn to live with slightly greyer hair). And I hope to meet you on the journey…

Mark Stephens Mark has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and is a big NetBeans fan. He enjoys speaking at conferences. He has an MA in Medieval History and a passion for reading.

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