Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

JAXB RI new home on the web

June 30th, 2017 by Jason is JAXB’s new home ( now redirects there).

Issue tracker is at (though it seems some existing issues didn’t get migrated over, for example

I’m not sure where you are supposed to get official binary releases from; Maven I guess?

Discussion group is apparently at, but first you need to join the parent group has details of other the projects migrated from to GitHub

Docx4j Helper Word AddIn: new version v3.3.0

May 11th, 2016 by Jason

We’ve just published a new version of our Helper AddIn for Word; you can download it from (link updated 3 Sept 2016).

Here’s what it looks like:


Its new features:

  • code generation from your selection (no need to use the webapp interface)
  • generate PDF output using Plutext’s commercial PDF Converter (either a locally installed instance, or
  • document sanitisation/anonymisation so you can safely publish it for support purposes
  • easy docDefaults manipulation

I’ll run through these one by one.

code generation from your selection

With the old version, you launched a local version of the docx4j webapp to generate code.

You can still do that (click the Load Helper button, then Parts List); its a useful way to see all the parts in your docx.

With this version, if you click the “Inspect selection” button, you’ll see the corresponding XML:


What’s new is the “Java” button.  If you click that, it’ll generate corresponding code, and display that in your web browser:





generate PDF output

The “PDF” button generates a PDF.  Either of your whole document, or your selection.

It uses our commercial PDF Converter so its probably most useful:

  1. if you want to evaluate that, or
  2. have found something which doesn’t convert correctly, and want technical support

It can use either a locally installed instance, or

You configure that with the “Config” button.

The generated PDF will open in whatever Windows opens PDFs with for you.

document sanitisation/anonymisation

The idea of the “anonymise” button is to make it easy for you to email/publish a docx (or PDF) for support purposes, without giving away sensitive info.

Again, if nothing is selected, it’ll do your whole docx.  Otherwise, just your selection.

The results will be saved to a temporary local docx (so your source docx is unaffected), then opened.

If there is anything potentially sensitive the code can’t remove, it’ll let you know.

The code which does this is at

easy docDefaults manipulation

Its sometimes useful to see/edit your doc defaults.


Your changes will open in a new temp docx.

For example, try changing font size (w:sz) from 22 to 42.

You can also make changes in Word’s Paragraph and Font dialogs by pressing the “Set as Default” button, then look here to see how that translates into XML.  Without this, its hard to be sure whether you’ve changed your default styles, or docDefaults!

Feedback and Comments


Any feedback, comments, requests for new features etc, please post in   Alternatively, Plutext customers can email support.

PDF/A-2b compliant Word to PDF

April 13th, 2016 by Jason

Plutext’s commercial PDF Word/docx Converter now produces fully PDA/A-2b compliant PDF output.

We say this having tested its output using “a purpose-built, open source, file-format validator covering all PDF/A parts and conformance levels.”

You can try our PDF Converter now, at

Aspose.Confusion in Words

September 26th, 2015 by Jason

In June, Aspose’s Shoaib Khan published a blog post purporting to cover features available in Aspose.Words for Java but not docx4j.

It is either breathtaking or amusing in its inaccuracy, depending on whether you think it was born of deceit or ineptitude.  Either way, its a caution to anyone considering drinking the Aspose.Kool-Aid!

Here I’ll go through his claims one by one.

As a general comment though, it is worth remembering that with docx4j, you can do pretty much anything the docx/pptx/xlsx file formats allow.  If docx4j doesn’t have a high level API for something you want to do, you can always implement it yourself, thanks to docx4j’s lower level JAXB-based APIs.  And docx4j is real ASLv2 open source, so you can use the source Luke!

Without further ado…

Set Page Borders.
Here Aspose seems to be talking about section properties (ie margins etc).

Shoaib implies you can’t control these in docx4j.  Of course you can!  You can add or remove sections, or modify the settings of an existing section.

Track Changes in Documents.
Their AcceptAllRevisions method is said to be similar to Word’s “Accept All Changes”.

Docx4j doesn’t provide a high level API for doing this (since users haven’t asked for it), but a user could implement this for his/herself easily enough using XSLT or docx4j’s TraversalUtil.  You could start with this XSLT

Using Control Characters.
This example is a bit bizarre, because in a docx, specific elements w:br and w:cr are used for line breaks;  OpenXML follows the usual XML rules for whitespace.

Split Tables.
This example shows the steps a user would follow to split a table into two.  Basically, clone the existing table to make a new table with the same properties, then move rows from the first table to the second.

Of course you can do the same thing in docx4j!

Repeat Table Header Rows on Pages.
This example is just about setting the header row property.  See

Clone Documents.
Cloning a document.  Aspose suggest you can’t do this with docx4j? WTF?! OpcPackage’s clone() method has been there since 2.7.1

docx4j also includes code for making partial copies, where less than a full clone is required.

Moving the Cursor in Document.
OpenXML is of course XML, which is hierarchical.  docx4j uses JAXB to give you an object model representation of that.  The hierarchical structure is basically nested lists.  Lots of stuff boils down to finding a position in a list, and then inserting or deleting etc using the Java collections API.  To find that list/position, you’d typically use docx4j’s powerful traversal functionality.   Or you can use XPath (in JAXB, the objects are bound to the underlying XML).

Aspose has some notion of cursor position, so you can move to the start or end of the document.  This may appeal to people with a VBA background, but in practice it is of little use.

Protect Documents.
Whilst it is true that in docx4j 3.2.0 there was no high level API for the functionality Microsoft Word groups under Protect Document (Mark as Final, Encrypt with Password, Restrict Editing etc), this is available now in the 3.3.0 previews:

Working with Digital Signatures.
As with the other Protect Document features, there was no high level API in 3.2.0.  That’s not to say you couldn’t do it, but there’s a nice API for this in the commercial Enterprise Ed. (forthcoming v3.3.0)

Check Format Compatibility.
This seems to be restricted to knowing what type of document you are working with; Aspose says it doesn’t validate the file format.

Per the specs, an OPC package has a content type.  In docx4j, docx/dotx/docm etc are all represented by WordprocessingMLPackage, but you can distinguish between them by calling getContentType(); the value will be one of:


Load Text File.
Whoopey do.  Apparently you can import plain text using Aspose’s expensive software!

Of course that is trivial with docx4j.  Docx4j also supports converting altChunks to native WordML content.  For XHTML altChunks, you need docx4j-ImportXHTML;  support for altChunks of type docx is an Enterprise level feature.

Specify Default Fonts.
The way the default font works in WordprocessingML is more complicated than you might expect, in that there are a few different ways you could affect it (via the theme part or the styles part).

That said, in real life, this doesn’t tend to be a problem.  With docx4j, you can easily set  w:docDefaults/w:rPrDefault/w:rPr/w:rFonts in your styles part, if you want to.

Working with Tables:
Autofit Setting to Tables.
This is just about the tblLayout setting: w:tblPr/w:tblLayout/@w:type, which you can access via TblPr’s get/setTblLayout

Joining Tables in Document.
I can’t recall anyone ever asking for docx4j to provide a high level API to do this, but it could be added.  In the meantime, docx4j allows to you to do anything with tables which the file format allows, including joining tables.

Mail Merge
Mail Merge from XML Data Source.
docx4j provides a high level API for working with legacy MERGEFIELD fields.

If you wanted to fill those fields with data from XML, you could do that easily enough.

Where docx4j really shines though, is in its support for content control data binding.  In that approach, introduced by Microsoft in 2007, you have a bidirectional XPath mapping between content controls in the document, and an XML file.

If you are working with XML, and not forced to work with legacy MERGEFIELDs for some reason, content control data binding is the way to go.

Off topic: Eclipse’s maven from a command line?

June 16th, 2015 by Jason

You’ve installed Eclipse.

Eclipse includes maven (m2e).

Can you use that Maven from outside Eclipse, or do you need to install maven again/separately?

It turns out you can use it.  Whether its worth the effort or not is another question…

You launch maven using the plexus classworlds launcher.

That needs a config file.

The config file (call it m2.conf) contains something like:

main is org.apache.maven.cli.MavenCli from plexus.core

set maven.home default /home/jason/.m2

load /home/jason/eclipse/plugins/org.eclipse.m2e.maven.runtime_1.5.1.20150109-1819/jars/*.jar

With that, from a project dir, the following is the equivalent of ‘mvn install’:

java -cp ../eclipse/plugins/org.eclipse.m2e.maven.runtime_1.5.1.20150109-1819/jars/plexus-classworlds-2.5.1.jar:../eclipse/plugins/org.slf4j.api_1.7.2.v20121108-1250.jar  “-Dclassworlds.conf=m2.conf” org.codehaus.plexus.classworlds.launcher.Launcher install

You could make a shell script to do that.  And you could base the shell script on the one included in the maven distribution.  Or more sensibly, you’d just download  install and use  maven proper.

If you need it.  Right clicking on your project in Eclipse then Run As gives you a handy UI for maven-related stuff:

Finally, note it is  possible to avoid the plexus classworlds launcher by invoking MavenCli directly:

java -cp “../eclipse/plugins/org.slf4j.api_1.7.2.v20121108-1250.jar:../eclipse/plugins/org.eclipse.m2e.maven.runtime_1.5.1.20150109-1819/jars/*” org.apache.maven.cli.MavenCli install

If you are going to use that, you might wonder about setting maven.home with -Dmaven.home=/your/path/to/where immediately after the classpath

Content controls for business data connectivity

January 20th, 2015 by Jason

Sometimes, Word is a natural way for people to interact with back end applications (eg SAP).

This is particularly so when:

  • business data will be output to a Word document,
  • the user is more familiar with Word than the other system,
  • certain data updates may be required (and are permitted)

So maybe there are 4 high level categories:

  • apps which support commercial transactions (a recipient will receive a Word document), eg
    • employment onboarding (letter of employment)
    • invoicing
  • apps with a reporting component:  is the report format a natural interface if it was made bi-directional?
  • workflow/BPM systems which present documents (work orders, proposals, approvals etc)
  • policy/procedures in regulated industries, where a worker must follow a series of steps.  Can present that in a docx; the worker can tick the steps off as they do them
    • related training scenarios?

Microsoft had an emphasis on what they then called “Office Business Applications” back around the Office 2007 launch.  Fast forward to today, and “business connectivity services” are part of SharePoint.

But you can achieve the same sort of thing without SharePoint, using docx4j and data bound content controls.

Once you have your back end data in an XML format (and there are many tools/techniques to help with this), you can use content controls to bind what the user sees in Word to elements in that XML.

The beauty of it is that the binding is bi-directional, so if the user edits the document, the XML is updated (ie it stays in synch).

After the user has made their edit, you can update the back end application.  Typically, you’d do this after they saved & closed the document (ie outside Word, using docx4j), but you could also do it from within Word (a less good approach, but still, an option).

What if there is some data which the user shouldn’t be able to edit?  You simply lock the content control to prevent editing.

To quickly try out this approach, put together some sample XML, then upload it as explained here, to get a docx you can experiment with.

We’d loved to hear about how you might use this approach?

I have my XML, now what?

January 20th, 2015 by Jason

A barrier to using  content control data binding has been getting a feel for what the solution might look like.  You have your XML data, but what do you do next?

The audience for this post is broader than docx4j users; its for anyone wanting to easily set up a template docx using XML data binding, just to get a feel for what it is like from an authoring/Word perspective.

How do you add content controls to your Word document, and map them to the XML data?

For docx4j purposes, you use an OpenDoPE Word AddIn (of which there are two you can try).

Alternatively, Word 2013 introduced the XML mapping task pane (and some additional file format features) .  The docx linked in my previous blog post highlighted some usability issues with the XML mapping pane.

This post presents a “fast start” way you can try.  Simply upload your XML file here, and it will give you back a docx, with content controls mapped to that sample XML.

To take the following XML for an invoice as an example:

You’d get back the following Word 2013 docx (note that Word 2010 silently strips the repeats without warning):

In “design mode”, it looks like:

Whether you’re in design mode or not, you can edit the content of a content control, then to satisfy yourself that things are working correctly, save the docx, then unzip it and see your altered data in /customxml/item1.xml

This idea is that once you have the basic docx, you can quickly/easily edit it in Word to make it prettier:

The tool recognises and uses the following content control types:

  • repeats: automatically detect repeats and set up suitable content control structures (we use a table if there’d be more than one column) fully populated with the XML data
    • note that these are Word 2013 repeatingItem structures, not OpenDoPE repeats.  (We recommend you use OpenDoPE repeats, but the tool creates Word 2013 repeatingItems, so you can see what Word 2013 users get out of the box).
  • pictures/images: will use a picture content control if the field contains base64 encoded data, or the string PICTURE or string IMAGE
  • checkbox: generated if value is true or false
  • escaped Flat OPC XML: a bound rich text content control will be inserted if the element contains the string FLAT-OPC or the string   ?mso-application progid=”Word.Document
  • date control: used if the element content is the string DATE

Have fun.

Word 2013 repeatingSection content controls – ready for prime time?

January 17th, 2015 by Jason

For developers wondering about Microsoft’s commitment to content controls, Office 2013 was certainly good news.

In Microsoft’s “What’s new for Word 2013 developers”, 2 of the 4 items were about content controls:

  • Enhancements to content controls
  • UI for XML mappings

And in 4 of the 5 reasons relate to content controls!

The MSDN article “What’s new with content controls in Word 2013” describes the changes in detail, but one of them was the introduction of repeating section content controls, which are comparable to OpenDoPE repeats (which docx4j has supported for ages).

The question is whether the time is ripe to migrate from OpenDoPE repeats to Word 2013 repeatingSection content controls?

My suggested answer is “no, or at least, not yet”, because

  1. Word 2010 strips out Word 2013 repeating content controls, and does so without warning!  Compare OpenDoPE repeats, which work in Word 2007, 2010 and 2013.  So until Word 2010 becomes irrelevant (or support is back ported), Word 2013 repeating content controls can’t be used in a generic solution.
  2. Word 2013 doesn’t handle the case of repeat zero times as you’d expect; it leaves a single instance, which will cause problems in many applications.

For authoring, the XML Mapping Pane in Word 2013 also leaves a bit to be desired.  For more details, please see w15RepeatingSection_cf_OpenDoPE.docx

Even so, docx4j 3.2.2 will support processing Word 2013 repeating content controls, for those who still choose to use them.

XHTML-docx roundtrip: content tracking

September 8th, 2014 by Jason

There are a couple of common use cases for docx4j’s XHTML import capability:

The first is enabling a webapp with HTML reporting to output/export reports in Word’s docx format.  With docx4j, you can get really nice results doing this, especially if your XHTML has @class which map to Word styles.

The second – to support web based editing – is the subject of this post.  In a full incarnation, the vision is:

  • be able to edit the content in Word or in the web browser (using an XHTML editor such as CKEditor)
  • track chunks of content, perhaps for workflow/approval processes, version control, or re-use

docx4j can help you with this vision in a Java or .NET (eg C#) environment.

Web based XHTML editing is well understood, so here I’ll focus on tracking chunks of content.

In XHTML, its straightforward.  You can add div elements (eg <div id=”contentXYZ”>) to your heart’s content.  And you can nest them (think book, chapter, section, sub-section).

How to track that ID to or from docx format?

The answer: content controls.

Bookmarks are another possibility, but I wouldn’t recommend them for this purpose, because it is easy for a user to delete them, or inadvertently insert extra bookmarks.  They lack the rich features of content controls (eg locking), and aren’t very “XMLy” (they are pairs of start and end point tags which create additional challenges).

So, back to content controls.

Content controls are analogous to divs.  They have IDs; you can nest them; etc.

Content controls aside, the docx file format is flat.  Its a sequence of paragraphs and tables.  Its only inside tables that paragraphs also appear (and nested tables).

So, all we need to do convert divs to content controls, and vice versa.

This post tells you how to do that with docx4j.

XHTML to docx (div to content control)

For XHTML to docx, you use docx4j-ImportXHTML

div to content control support was added after 3.2.0’s release, in this commit.  So for now, you need to build from source, or use a nightly build.

Once you have that, to use it, do something like:

XHTMLImporterImpl XHTMLImporter = new XHTMLImporterImpl(wordMLPackage);
XHTMLImporter.setDivHandler(new DivToSdt());

That implementation will convert div elements to content controls, and place @id and @class values into the content control’s w:tag, for example “class=class1&id=myid”

You can extend DivToSdt with any extra functionality/logic you might require, such as locking the content control for editing/deletion.

docx to XHTML (content control to div)

The content control to div functionality has been present for a lot longer.

For that, you use docx4j to generate XHTML output in the usual way, but first you invoke SdtWriter.registerTagHandler

See the sample for a fully worked example of divs to content controls, then back to divs again.

The tag handler concept is to treat the content of the w:tag like an HTTP query string (key value pairs).

A tag handler is registered for a specific key (eg ‘id’, ‘class’) or the wildcards (‘*’, ‘**’), and will only execute if the key is found in the w:tag.

For this example, we want our tag handler to insert a div depending on both class and id keys, so we register it as ‘*’ (we don’t want 2 handlers, which might result in 2 divs).

A tag handler with double asterisk ‘**’ will always be applied if you need that.  See the SdtWriter source code for definitive behaviour.

docx to PDF in C#/.NET

September 5th, 2014 by Jason

How to convert docx to PDF without using Microsoft Word?

If you docx is mainly text, tables and images, docx4j.NET may work well for you.  Edit (Feb 2015): if not, you may be interested in our new commercial high fidelity PDF renderer.

docx4j.NET is open source (Apache software license v2), identical to the Java version, but made into a DLL using IKVM.  Currently we’re at v3.2.0, released last week.

It is easy to test; you can upload your docx to the docx4j demo webapp

Or with very little effort, you can run it from a sample project in Visual Studio.  Its very easy, because docx4j.NET is in the repository:

To create your sample project:

  1. make sure you have NuGet Package Manager installed
    • for VS 2012 and later, its installed by default
    • for VS 2010, NuGet is available through the Visual Studio Extension Manager; see the above link.
  2. create a new project in Visual Studio (File > New > Project).  A Console Application is fine.  I chose that from the .NET 3.5 list.
  3. from the Tools menu, choose NuGet Package Manager > Package Manager Console
  4. type Install-Package docx4j.NET

You should see something like:

And then, your project/solution will be populated to look like:

We’re nearly there!  Notice the file src/samples/c_sharp/Docx4NET/DocxToPDF.cs

Click on your project in Solution Explorer, then right click (or hit Alt+Enter) to get the properties pane:

Then set the “startup object” as shown in the above image.

Now you can hit Ctrl+F5 (“Start without Debugging”) – you don’t want to debug, since that’s really slow.

You should see some logging in the console window, culminating in “done! Press any key to continue..”

What just happened?  All being well, the sample docx “src\samples\resources\sample-docx.docx” was saved as a PDF “OUT_sample-docx.pdf” in your project directory.

You can modify src/samples/c_sharp/Docx4NET/DocxToPDF.cs to read your own test docx.

A few comments.

XSL FO; Apache FOP. docx4j creates PDF via XSL FO.  It generates XSL FO, then uses Apache FOP (v1.1) to convert the XSL FO to PDF.  FOP also supports other output formats (the subject of another blog post).

Logging, Commons Logging. Logging is via Commons Logging.  In the demo, it is configured programmatically (ie in  DocxToPDF.cs).  Alternatively, you could do it in app.config.

OpenXML SDK interop: src/main/c_sharp/Plutext/Docx4NET contains code for converting between a docx4j representation of a docx package, and the Open XML SDK’s representation.

Improving PDF support. To improve the quality of the PDF output, typically you’d make the improvement to docx4j first (ie the Java version), then create a new DLL using the ant build target dist.NET.   docx4j is on GitHub, and is most easily setup using Maven (see earlier blog post).

Help/support/discussion. You can post in the docx4j PDF output forum, or on StackOverflow (be sure to use tag docx4j, plus some/all of c#, docx, pdf, fop, xslfo as you think appropriate).  Please don’t cross post at both!