The Apache FOP Project

The Apache™ XML Graphics Project

Apache™ XML Graphics Commons: Image Loader Framework


Apache™ XML Graphics Commons contains a unified framework for loading and processing images (bitmap and vector). The package name is org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader. Key features:


Setting up the manager

Before we can start to work with the package we need to set up the ImageManager. It provides convenience methods to load and convert images and holds the image cache.

The ImageManager needs an ImageContext. This interface provides the ImageManager with important context and configuration data. Currently this is only the source resolution. The ImageManager and ImageContext are intended to be shared within an application.

import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.ImageContext;
import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.ImageManager;
import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.impl.DefaultImageContext;


ImageManager imageManager = new ImageManager(new DefaultImageContext());


In this example, DefaultImageContext is used. You may need to write your own implementation of ImageContext for your use case.

Preloading an image

In order to load an image, it needs to be "preloaded" first, i.e. the image content type is detected and the intrinsic size of the image is determined. The result of this process is an ImageInfo instance which contains the URI, MIME type and intrinsic size. In most cases, this is done without loading the whole image (see SPI section below for information on exceptions to this rule).

Preloading is normally done through the ImageManager 's getImageInfo() method. For this operation an ImageSessionContext needs to be provided. It is responsible for supplying JAXP Source objects, URI resolution and providing other information needed for the image operations. In simple cases you can simply use DefaultImageSessionContext, but often you will want to write your own implementation of ImageSessionContext. In that case, it's recommended to subclass AbstractImageSessionContext which lets you avoid rewriting a lot of code for providing Source objects.

import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.ImageInfo;
import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.ImageSessionContext;
import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.impl.DefaultImageSessionContext;

ImageSessionContext sessionContext = new DefaultImageSessionContext(
        imageManager.getImageContext(), null);

ImageInfo info = imageManager.getImageInfo(uri, sessionContext);

Loading an image

Once the image is "preloaded", it can be fully loaded in the form/flavor that is needed by the consuming application. The required flavor is indicated through the ImageFlavor class. If you want the image as a bitmap image in memory, you could request an ImageFlavor.RENDERED_IMAGE. Again, the ImageSessionContext will be needed.

import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.Image;
import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.ImageFlavor;

  Image img = this.imageManager.getImage(
          info, ImageFlavor.RENDERED_IMAGE, sessionContext);

  ImageRendered imageRend = (ImageRendered)img;
  RenderedImage ri = imageRend.getRenderedImage();
  //...and do anything with the RenderedImage

In this example above, we simply acquire the image as a RenderedImage instance. If the original image was a vector graphic image (SVG, WMF etc.), it's automatically converted to a bitmap image. Note: The resolution of the created image is controlled by the target resolution returned by the ImageSessionContext.

Of course, the framework can only provide images in the formats, it has image loaders or image converters for. An example: It is possible to load EPS images, but they can only be provided in raw form. In order to provide it as a bitmap image, a PostScript interpreter would be needed to interpret the PostScript code. This interpreter would be integrated using an ImageConverter implementation (see SPI section below). If the requested form of the image cannot be provided you will get an ImageException on which you'll have to react as needed.

In Apache FOP, each renderer supports a different set of image flavors that can be embedded in the target format. For example: The PDF renderer can deal with Java2D image, bitmaps, XML, native JPEG and CCITT images. The PCL renderer, however, can only consume bitmap images. So, if you can accept more than one flavor, the package allows you to specify all of them in an ordered list (the first in the list is the preferred format). The package will then try to return the best representation possible. Here's a code example:

import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.Image;
import org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.ImageFlavor;

final ImageFlavor[] flavors = new ImageFlavor[]

Image img = manager.getImage(
        info, flavors, sessionContext);

if (img instanceof ImageGraphics2D) {
    //handle Java2D/Graphics2D image
} else if (img instanceof ImageRendered) {
    //handle BufferedImage and RenderedImage
    //(BufferedImage is a subclass of RenderedImage)
} else {
    throw new IllegalStateException("Unexpected flavor");


While each BufferedImage is also a RenderedImage, it can be more efficient to also specify ImageFlavor.BUFFERED_IMAGE in the flavor array.

Tips & Tricks

If you are loading bitmap images and you get an error like "Cannot load image (no suitable loader/converter combination available) for myimage.tif (image/tiff), you maybe be missing the necessary ImageIO codec to decode the image. A number of well-written codecs can be found in JAI Image I/O Tools Project. Just download the distribution and add the JAR to the classpath. ImageIO will automatically pick up the new codecs and they will subsequently be available to the image framework.

Service Provider Interface (SPI, Plug-ins)

The whole image framework is designed to be highly extensible. There are various extension points where new functionality can be added. The three main SPI interfaces are:

If you plan to write an implementation of one of the above interfaces, please also take a look at the existing implementations for reference.

Throughout the SPI, you'll find a Map parameter (hints) in the most important methods. That's a way to supply additional information to the implementation by the caller. For example, the source and target resolutions from the image (session) context is stored in the hints. The implementation should not rely on the presence of specialized information and should always have sensible defaults to rely on in this case.


The first task is identifying whether the implementation supports the given image. If the image is loaded using an ImageInputStream it is important to always reset the stream position to the beginning of the file at the end of the preloadImage() method, because all registered preloaders are check in turn until one implementation signals that it supports the format. In that case, it has to extract only the minimal information from the image necessary to identify the image's intrinsic size. For most formats, this is doable without loading the whole image into memory.

However, for some formats (like MathML or WMF), loading the whole image at preloading time is hard to avoid since the image's size can only be determined that way. In such a case, the ImagePreloader implementations shall pass the loaded document to the respective ImageLoader through the custom objects that can be attached to the ImageInfo object. If the preloader loads the whole document, it shall close the given Source object (calling ImageUtil.closeQuietly(Source)).

The priority the implementation reports is used to sort all registered implementations. This is to fine-tune the inner workings and to optimize performance since some formats are usually used more frequently than others.


Normally, if you implement an ImagePreloader you will also need to implement the respective ImageLoader/ImageLoaderFactory, or vice versa.

ImageLoader and ImageLoaderFactory

The factory interface has been created to allow checking if some library that an implementation depends on is really in the classpath so it can report back that the ImageLoader is not funtional. The factory also reports what kind of image formats it supports and which image flavors it can return. There can be a complex relationship between the two. It is recommmended, however, to write smaller implementations rather than big, almighty ones.

The usage penalty is used when constructing image conversion pipelines. There can be multiple ways to provide an image in one of the supported flavors and this value helps to make the best decision.

While the factory basically just provides information and creates new ImageLoader instances, the image loaders are doing the actual leg work of decoding the images. The image flavor returned by the loader must match the flavor that is returned by getTargetFlavor().


The image converter is responsible to transform one image representation into another. Bundled implementations support these conversions: Java2D to bitmap, bitmap to Java2D and RenderedImage to "raw" PNG. Ideas for additional image converters could be: PDF to Java2D, EPS to Java2D or MathML to SVG or Java2D.

Each ImageConverter comes with a usage penalty which is used when constructing conversion pipelines so the pipeline with the least penalty value can be chosen. This is necessary as the consuming application my support multiple image flavors and there can be multiple ways to convert an image in one of the requested image flavors. Internally, Dijkstra's shortest path algorithm is used to find the best path using the penalties as "way lengths".


Disabling Source Re-use

By default, the Source object being used during the pre-loading stage is re-used when the image is fully loaded later (assuming an ImageSessionContext is used that descends from AbstractImageSessionContext). That means that a stream is only opened once and the image loading framework tries to re-wind the stream when it has to re-read portions of the stream when loading the complete image.

In some situations, this behavior may be undesired. Therefore, it can be disabled through a system property ( Set it to "true" and that feature will be disabled.

Adjusting plug-in penalties

Every image loader plug-in has a hard-coded usage penalty that influences which solution is chosen if there are multiple possibilities to load an image. Sometimes, though, these penalties need to be tweaked. The ImageImplRegistry (reachable through ImageManager.getRegistry()) supports storing additional penalty values. An example: ImageImplRegistry registry = imageManager.getRegistry(); registry.setAdditionalPenalty( "org.apache.xmlgraphics.image.loader.impl.ImageLoaderRawCCITTFax", Penalty.toPenalty(10000)); This increases the penalty for the raw CCITT loader significantly so it will only be used if no other solutions exist. You can also set Penalty.INFINITE_PENALTY to disable the plug-in altogether. Negative penalties are possible to promote a plug-in but a negative penalty sum will be treated as zero penalty in most cases.