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Elm City Craftworks

News and updates from Gregory Brown and Jordan Byron.
We work on the Practicing Ruby journal, and are active in F/OSS
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Mar 17 '14

Prawn 1.0 is finally here

Work began on the Prawn PDF toolkit in April 2008, thanks to some generous crowd funding from the Ruby community. Nearly six years later, I’m proud to say that we’ve finally shipped our 1.0 release.

This 1.0 release represents a fresh start for Prawn, and I hope that even folks who have been using our project for several years will see it that way. Start with the Prawn by Example manual and our API documentation, and then get in touch via GitHub or our mailing list if you have questions or suggestions for us. Where six months ago you would have found a stagnant project, you should now see signs of life!

Our history is long and complicated, but the basic story is that Prawn is a very powerful but unwieldy ball of legacy code that we’ve been trying to rebuild from the inside out for many years now. We’re nowhere near done with that process, but we’ve done a lot over the last several months to get things pointed in the right direction.

It’s been a wild and bumpy ride, but over the last few months we’ve done the following things to make the project more sustainable:

  • Since 0.13 shipped in December 2013, we’ve resumed a monthly release cycle with clear and comprehensive notes in our CHANGELOG. We’re going to try to keep this going indefinitely, and will also maintenance releases when needed to fix bugs or make performance improvements.

  • We have put a free-flowing commit bit policy into action, and have added 20 new committers to Prawn since I resumed work on the project in November 2013.

  • Because our former core team members are mostly inactive now, I also invited two more people to help me with Prawn’s long-term maintenance and release management: Evan Sharp and Alexander Mankuta. While I’m planning to stick around for a while, Evan and Alex will help make sure the project doesn’t go stagnant again, even in my absence.

  • We have an official API compatibility policy now. If you look at it, you’re probably going to think “wow that’s complicated, why not just use semantic versioning?”, and you’d be right to think that. But the underlying goal is to make a clear dividing line between our stable API and extension API, and then either stabilize or extract all of our experimental features. Once that happens, we’ll make the switch to semantic versioning, probably starting with a 2.0 release somewhere down the line.

  • All open issues have now been responded to, and all pending pull requests have either been merged or rejected with a reason. We had something like 100+ issues without recent activity back in November, but we’re much better at being responsive now. Even though we’re not implementing very many new features or fixes ourselves, we’re trying to make it easier for others to contribute to the project by providing feedback, guidance, and reviews where needed.

  • We are starting to undo past mistakes by disabling or extracting features that never worked properly, and that we don’t currently have the resources to support. So far this has included the removal of our templates feature and transactions/grouping, and there may be more cuts to come in the coming months. Where possible, we’ll work with those who depend on these features to provide extension points that will let them live on as external add-ons to Prawn.

  • We’ve been putting an emphasis on returning to the ideas behind our original tagline: Fast, tiny, and nimble. The truth is that Prawn is none of those things right now, but the performance optimizations, introduction of new extension points, and restructuring of our internals over the last several months have hopefully hinted at our commitment to return to those roots.

A lot of the work that has been done over the last few months has been boring behind the scenes stuff, and for that reason our 1.0 release announcement isn’t nearly as exciting as what you might expect from a project with a less complicated history as our own. But if you give Prawn a spin, you’ll see that it is the product of many years of hard work from nearly 100 generous people around the world.

I’d like to thank the Ruby community for their initial funding of the project and the Prawn core team for putting so much effort into the project over the years. Over the last several months, I was provided with 100 hours of funded work from Madriska Inc. (Brad Ediger’s consulting company) to help get 1.0 out the door. So in addition to contributing a ton of code to Prawn, Brad also kicked in some money to help get it to where it is now!

Here’s hoping that somewhere in the not too distant future, we’ll have a Prawn 2.0 announcement to share with you. But even if that day never comes, I’m happy we at least made it this far.