Announcing deprecation of support for Java 7

Based on the feedback from our users (and developments in the larger Java ecosystem) we have decided that future releases of the iText 7 Suite will target Java 8 SE. This blog post looks into our reasons for doing this, and what it will mean for iText users.

JAVAAt iText, we pay close attention to the needs of our users. The iText userbase is a large and varied community, and back in January we asked our users to complete a short survey about which versions of the Java and .NET platforms they use for iText.

This was to gauge which versions of these platforms we should target for future iText 7 development, and whether we should drop support for older versions of Java and .NET, allowing us to better advance our technology by taking advantage of new features. At the same time though, we’re aware that some of our customers need to run on legacy systems, so we wanted to get a better idea of user requirements.

The results were extremely interesting. With the first release of iText 7 in 2016, we (naturally) targeted Java SE 7 which was released in 2011. Now, almost 10 years after the release of Java 7, the most popular version of the Java SE for iText users is version 8, with close to 80% of responses compared to a little over 11% for version 7. That’s not too surprising since Java SE version 8 has been around since 2014 and gained popularity thanks to significant performance improvements, and a wealth of new features. In addition, the larger Java ecosystem moved to Java 8 a while ago, with modern versions of most popular Java/Gradle build plugins requiring Java 8+, not to mention numerous libraries.

Java 8 was a major update, and crucially was also an LTS (Long Term Support) release, meaning Oracle still provides public updates and auto updates until December 2020 for personal users, while for commercial users extended support is available until December 2030.

Therefore, with the upcoming release of iText 7.1.13 we’ve decided that it’s finally time to deprecate Java 7, and to instead target the Java 8 SDK for future development of the entire iText 7 Suite. In this way we hope to strike a good balance between evolving with our userbase, while also still supporting the needs of those using iText 7 in legacy environments. Rest assured that our codebase will not suddenly become completely tied to Java 8, and we will add Java 8 features gradually. So, the more technical users among you will be able to play around with the code and fork it as necessary to compile with Java 7 in mind.

Oracle themselves stopped providing premier support for Java SE 7 in July of 2019, so you might say we've gone above and beyond the call of duty in this regard!

iText 7 Suite Oracle Java SE support plan

Release

Original Release Date

Premier Support Until

iText End of Support

7

July 2011

July 2019

July 2020

8

March 2014

March 2022

March 2023

11

September 2018

September 2023

September 2024

Benefits of Java 8

By switching to target Java 8 as a baseline for iText, we will be able to build richer and more modern and robust APIs and functionality using key features such as:

  • Lambda Expressions
  • Functional Interfaces
  • Default Methods
  • Streams API
  • Improved Date/Time API

There were many other changes of course, such as improvements to security, garbage collection and memory usage, though we think being able to make use of Lambda Expressions and the Streams API are probably what our users will appreciate most.

To back up our decision, the latest JVM Ecosystem Report (published this February) reports that Java 8 remains far and away the most popular version used by developers in production, with 64% of responses reporting it as their preferred version. Java 11, the other LTS release is in second place with 25%, while users of Java 7 (or lower) are reported to be just 3%. The JVM report is annually conducted by Snyk.io who describe it as “the largest annual survey on the JVM ecosystem”. There’s a number of other interesting data points in this report, so we’d recommend giving it a read.



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