The POI project was dreamed up back around April 2001, when
Andy Oliver landed a short term contract to do Java-based
reporting to Excel. He'd done this project a few times before
and knew right where to look for the tools he needed.
Ironically, the API he used to use had skyrocketed from around
$300 ($US) to around $10K ($US). He figured it would take two
people around six months to write an Excel port so he
recommended the client fork out the $10K.
Around June 2001, Andy started thinking how great it would
be to have an open source Java tool to do this and, while he
had some spare time, he started on the project and learned
about OLE 2 Compound Document Format. After hitting some real
stumpers he realized he'd need help. He posted a message to
his local Java User's Group (JUG) and asked if anyone else
would be interested. He lucked out and the most talented Java
programmer he'd ever met, Marc Johnson, joined the project. He
ran rings around Andy at porting OLE 2 CDF and rewrote his
skeletal code into a more sophisticated library. It took Marc
a few iterations to get something they were happy with.
While Marc worked on that, Andy ported XLS to Java, based
on Marc's library. Several users wrote in asking to read XLS
(not just write as had originally been planned) and one user
had special requests for a different use for POIFS. Before
long, the project scope had tripled. POI 1.0 was released a
month later than planned, but with far more features. Marc
quickly wrote the serializer framework and HSSF Serializer in
record time and Andy banged out more documentation and worked
on making people aware of the project
Shortly before the release, POI was fortunate to come into
contact with Nicola -Ken- Barrozzi who gave them samples for
the HSSF Serializer and help uncover its unfortunate bugs
(which were promptly fixed). More recently, Ken ported most
of the POI project documentation to XML from Andy's crappy
HTML docs he wrote with Star Office.
Around the same time as the release, Glen Stampoultzis
joined the project. Glen was ticked off at Andy's flippant attitude
towards adding graphing to HSSF. Glen got so ticked off he decided to
grab a hammer and do it himself. Glen has already become an integral
part of the POI development community; his contributions to HSSF have
already started making waves.
Somewhere in there we decided to finally submit the project
to The Apache
Cocoon Project, only to discover the project had
outgrown fitting nicely into just Cocoon long ago.
Furthermore, Andy started eyeing other projects he'd like to
see POI functionality added to. So it was decided to donate
the Serializers and Generators to Cocoon, other POI
integration components to other projects, and the POI APIs
would become part of Jakarta. It was a bumpy road but it
looks like everything turned out since you're reading this!