iTextSharp Alternative?

iTextSharp is another open source library to create and edit PDF documents in C# and other .Net Projects.

Common question we are asked are:

  • “can we hi-light the key differences between IronPDF and iTextSharp?,
  • "is iTextSharp an IronPDF alternative?"

We are happy to try and offer a balanced opinion. iTextSharp is ideal for some .Net projects, but not others. We developed IronPDF to fill developer needs that we were told that iTextSharp could no longer meet.


iTextSharp and IronPDF are very similar in that they are popular C# developed PDF manipulation and generation libraries for .Net software developers to use in their projects.

Both libraries provide the ability to Create, Read and Edit PDF Documents very competently.

Key Differences

iTextSharp uses a primarily programmatic model to render PDFs.

With iTextSharp, each piece of text, graphic, table or line is “plotted” or drawn onto a PDF. This model allows precision but many developers complain that it is time consuming to generate PDFs - and that it is very time hard to closely match existing design styles or web assets.

iTextSharp has advanced PDF manipulation APIS that are powerful, and follow the PDF standard closely.

iTextSharp is a port of a Java Library called "iText". In keeping, the methodology and programaitic interface have a distinct Java flavor.

In contrast, IronPDF uses an embeded, full Chromium based web browser renderer to generate PDFs from HTML, images and CSS. This allows developers to work closely with existing web assets and also work in parallel with designers during a project. Although iTextSharp does boast basic HTML to PDF functionality - developers report that it is not as advanced.

IronPDF focuses on developer productivity. The Library simplifies many common complex PDF code tasks into convenient C# methods to extract text and images, sign PDFS, edit PDFS with new HTML and so on - without the developer needing to study the PDF document standard to understand how to achieve their best result.

ironPDF was build with .Net and C# in mind from the beginning, and aimts to be completely intuative for .Net developers to use.


Is iTextSharp Free? Developers report that is is only actually free in very specific use cases.

iTextSharp is Open Source under the AGPL license agreement. This is probably the strictest CopyLeft open source license - meaning that anyone who uses any part of an application suing iTextSharp - even over a local network OR over the internet must be give the application’s full source code.

This license is often used for highly academic works that are intended to stay academic, and also for open source projects who intend paid usage for software deployed outside of academic environments.

This makes iTextSharp realistically unfeasible for most commercial use, unless a private license can be arranged and negotiated with the developers.

IronPDF, in contrast is an openly commercial C# PDF library. It is free to development use, but must be licensed for commercial deployment.

Our license prices and license terms are standardized on this website - which means that no negotiation of legal fees need be incurred to use IronPDF in a non-academic application.

We think this is a clearer license model that does not require developers to learn the ins and outs of GNU / AGPL license models.


IronPDF and iTextSharp are fair alternatives to one another, but each suits different project types:


  • AGLP strict open source licensing, lends its self to academic projects
  • Programmatic drawing model to create PDFs
  • Offers excellent and deeply technical functionality for PDF manipulation
  • Based on a Java library, and some developers percieve a Java flavor to the code interface

Iron PDF

  • Commercial Licensing, lends its self to commercial website and software development projects
  • HTML-to-PDF model to create PDFs
  • Offers high level PDF manipulation methods for productive solutions to everyday problems working with PDFs in C#
  • Build in C# and designed exclusivly for .Net developers