Project of the Month, September 2010

GPL Ghostscript

GPL Ghostscript is a complete set of page description language interpreters including PDF, PostScript, PCL5, PCLXL, and XPS along with the ability to convert to and from any of these languages. There is no other open source solution for page description languages that is this comprehensive.

Why and how did you get started?

GPL Ghostscript began in 1989 and its first release was in 1990. There was an obvious need for open source support for PostScript. GPL Ghostscript has been the engine inside of every Linux print architecture for nearly 20 years.

Who is the software’s intended audience?

Anyone who needs to view, print, archive, or convert PDF, PostScript, PCL, or XPS on any platform is a potential GPL Ghostscript user.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

* The Linux print architecture

* Ghostscript’s PDF interpreter is in every Kyocera printer in the last eight years

* Ghostscript is the PDF engine in many document management solutions including Xerox, OpenText, and Xinet

* Ghostscript is the PDF engine in many PDF tools applications including PrimoPDF, NitroPDF, and activePDF

* Ghostscript is the PDF/PostScript engine in many host-base Raster Image Processors (RIPs) including Caldera, Aurelon, Ergosoft, and Devstudio

What are the system requirements for your software, and what do people need to know about getting it set up and running?

GPL Ghostscript is platform-independent and has been ported onto a vast array of operating system environments including:

* Window (all)

* MacOS (all)

* Linux (all)

* Unix (all variants)


* Embedded OSs including VxWorks, Windows Mobile 7, and embedded Linux

GPL Ghostscript can run with our without a hard drive, and with or without floating point. It assesses the hardware environment and automatically optimizes its configuration for that environment

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?

We have millions of users and have provided commercial licenses to over 100 OEM companies for integration within their end-user solutions.

What has been your biggest surprise?

What has been your biggest challenge?

Technically, the level of sophistication needed to provide a quality solution for complex languages such as PDF and XPS, with their color-handling and transparency demands, requires a staff of dedicated engineers with a depth of knowledge of systems-level software skills that are very rare.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?

I believe open source projects provide the end-user/developer with the assurance that no matter what happens, the project will not die because of the failure of one person, one group, or even one company.  If there is value in the technology, then the project can continue based on the interest of the community.  GPL Ghostscript was one of the first open source projects, and continues to be a pioneer in the community.

What advice would you give to a project that’s just starting out?

Do the right thing. Hire the best talent. Be open, forthright and honest.

Where do you see your project going?

The need for independent implementations of page description languages is not going away. We have as many internal projects and talented staff members now as ever. I foresee PDF becoming a requirement in pocket computers (smart phones and tablets), and one of our technologies, “MuPDF” is optimized for that kind of application.

What’s on your project wish list?

More color management improvements and platform specific performance

What are you most proud of?

The widespread use of GPL Ghostscript around the world by individuals, academic institutions, commercial companies, and government agencies gives me great pride in knowing that our efforts are recognized and valued.

How do you coordinate the project?

We use an “ownership” mode, the code is divided up into functional parts: interpreter, fonts, color etc. each of which is assigned to and engineer and they become the domain expert and steward that part of the code. We use Bugzilla for bug assignment and a cluster of geographically remote Linux (i7 and x6) and Mac OS X boxes to do regression testing.

How many hours a month do you and/or your team devote to the project?

1,700 hours per month.

What is your development environment like?

Microsoft Visual Studio and free software GNU tools (gcc, gdb, make
etc.) running on Windows and Linux/Mac OS X respectively.

The Buildbot environment uses Windows, Ubuntu, OS X, and Solaris along with a bunch of supporting software including NSIS, rsync, and ClamAV.


Date Milestone
1990 First release of Ghostscript
1993 First release of GhostPDF
1996 First release of GhostPCL
2000 Released Ghostscript with PostScript Language Level 3
2001 Released GhostPDF with support for PDF 1.4 transparency
2005 Demonstrated GhostXPS interpreter
2006 Deleased GhostPDF with PDF 1.7 compatibility
2008 Released GhostXPS interpreter

How can others contribute?

We welcome outside contributors. We are willing to pay for bug fixes through our bug bounty system. Engineers are welcome to submit engineering proposals for projects.

Ten-year badge

This month and for the rest of 2010, we’re highlighting some of our most venerable projects. This month’s Project of the Month is one of about 1,000 that began hosting on in the site’s first year of existence, beginning in November 1999.

More projects of the month

Project name: GPL Ghostscript

Date founded: 1989

Project page:

Why did you place the project on

It was the only resource to provide a complete solution to hosting the project.

How has helped your project succeed?

GPL Ghostscript is used for free by millions of end-users. Many of these folks downloaded GPL Ghostscript from the SourceForge site. In addition, we have a large community of developers around the world, and SourceForge allows us to unify their efforts.

What is the number one benefit of using

Reaching a large number of users at one location.