Why iText and Blockchain?

When iText was first released in the year 2000, its author, Bruno Lowagie, wrote down the following mission statement:

We want to enable the paperless world,

pushing the limits of digital document interactivity!

With iText, we wanted to replace paper-based workflows with a workflow involving digital documents. We wanted to accomplish this by emphasizing the added value of digital over paper. Today, this mission seems almost accomplished:

  • Digital invoices are legally binding in many countries,


Use cases



When Contracts aren't Smart Contracts

We're constantly talking about documents, and some of these documents might be agreements, or "contracts." The word "contract" is also used in the context of DLT, more specifically when we talk about "smart contracts." We need to make sure that we don't confuse one with the other.


PDF and Digital Signatures

The digital signature technology, as described in ETSI's PDF Advanced Electronic Signatures (PAdES) standard and ISO's ISO-32000 standards, was created to meet specific requirements.

Requirements that PDF digital signatures need to meet

The purpose of the PDF digital signatures functionality is to ensure:

  • Integrity: we want assurance that the content of the document hasn't been changed somewhere in the workflow,


Basic Concepts (Glossary)

If you are new at Blockchain and PDF, you'll find this short glossary interesting.

Concepts related to Blockchain:

Distributed database: we talk about a distributed database when the storage devices aren't attached to one central processing unit, but are spread across a network. Some examples include:

  • NoSQL databases, with well-known implementations such as MongoDB and CouchDB,

  • Hadoop, which is an open source framework for storing data and running applications on clusters of hardware devices,


Blockchain for Documents

We all know blockchain because it's the technology used by Bitcoin in the context of cryptocurrency. "Virtual money" or "Digital currency" is only one application of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). At iText, we've developed a series of patents that describe mechanisms:

  • to automate document workflow and version management,

  • to ensure document integrity, authentication, and non-repudiation,

  • to provide long-term validation, and

  • to manage document identification and retrieval.

iText blockchain
In February 2018, our own Joris Schellekens was invited to speak at Oracle Code LA about how blockchain and PDF technology can improve the trust in your document workflow. This topic is one that we are excited about, as iText is researching blockchain applications for document security. Inspired by the talk, Alan Zeichick has written an article for Forbes that we are pleased to share: "Can Blockchain Solve Your Document And Digital Signature Headaches?" See the article...
Oracle Code LA Speaker
Join us Tuesday 27th February at 4:05 PM, at Oracle Code LA to hear Joris Schellekens' talk "Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology for Documents". What can you expect? In this talk, Joris will explain Blockchain, which is a type of Distributed Ledger Technology, where records are organized in blocks and appended to a single chain using cryptography and distributed consensus. Each block contains a time stamp and a link to the previous block, ensuring that data in a block can't be altered retroactively. This makes blockchain a good choice for the recording of events,...