The Vaucanson Projet groups together a series of realizations whose purpose is the embodiment of finite state machines — in various ways.
Launched in the beginning ofthe year 2000, it gradually took shape with the definition of its components. The first and most important one, and the one which by far has mobilized most energy and work, is the Vaucanson Platform — also called VCSN in the sequel — a C++ generic library and software platform for the computation of, and with, finite states machines. It has been designed and realized in collaboration with the LRDE-EPITA.
The other components of the Vaucanson Project are VauCanSon-G, a LaTeX macro package for the drawing of automata, a proposal for an XML format for the description of finite state machines (temporarily called FSM-XML, waiting for a name adopted by the international community of users), and a graphical user interface for an interactive and user friendly usage of the Vaucanson plaform.
The Vaucanson platform VCSN is a software dedicated to the computation of, and with, finite state machines. Here finite state machines is to be understood in the broadest possible sense: finite automata with output — often called transducers then — or even more generally finite automata with multiplicity, that is, automata that not only accept, or recognize, sequences of symbols but compute for every such sequence a «value» that is associated with it and which can be taken in any semiring. Hence the variety of situations that can thus be modellized.
VCSN has been designed with (at least) three goals in mind: to allow generic programming of a wide class of finite automata, to provide a language close to the mathematical description of algorithms on automata, to be a free and open software.
Vaucanson-G is a package of macros based on PSTricks and allows to «easily» draw automata within texts or slides written using LaTeX.
This first version is distributed since June 2002 and is fully documented by a complete user's manual. A second version is under construction. Comments and remarks from the first version users are especially welcome.
The definition of an XML format for finite state machines, which could be used by a large part of the community of people interested in the implementation of such machines and in the writing of algorithms for them, is a key feature for the development of softwares devoted to finite state machines and the communication between them.
The Vaucanson Group has designed such a format to be part of the discussions within the community. This format is tested and used for the exchange of data between the several modules of VCSN.
An interactive graphic interface is a natural feature for any software that computes automata. It was not the main priority when the Vaucanson platform was designed but its usefulness became clear with the first experiments.
A first experimental version of such an interface was put in hand in October 2004 and tested with version 0.7 of the platform. It is currently under redesign and rewriting process and a «beta» version should be open to public in the beginning of 2007.