InterForm/400 Gets Better PDF Support
March 27, 2012 Alex Woodie
InterForm next month will begin delivery of the Spring 2012 release of its InterForm/400 document management system, which is called ArtForm/400 in the United States. Major new features with the Spring 2012 release include better compression of PDF output, capability to electronically input PDF files into the IBM i-based software, and input support for PNG and GIF images.
InterForm develops a suite of IBM i document management solutions that’s used at 3,100 sites around the world, including large European customers like DHL, Porsche, GlaxoSmithKline, and Boehringer Ingelheim. American customers may know the Danish company’s software as ArtForm/400, a change necessitated by a copyright issue.
The InterForm/400 suite includes all the components you would expect to find in a modern document management suite, including a PC-based graphical forms design tool; an IBM i-based spool file merge utility that generates PCL and PDF output; support for distributing documents via email, fax, and XML; modules for integrating with Word and Excel; support for barcodes and check printing; support for optical character recognition (OCR) and signature pads; a separate archive module; and workflow and approval capabilities.
With the new Spring 2012 release, InterForm has bolstered the input side of its document management equation. While most of the data that needs to be reformatted, distributed, and archived resides within customers’ IBM i servers and is accessible as a simple SCS spool file, customers occasionally need to incorporate data originating from documents that live outside the system. And because these documents are often distributed using the PDF standard, the need arose to accept PDF input.
The capability to accept PDF input will be very helpful in situations where a company is reselling another company’s product or service and needs to include that company’s billing information on its own invoices, explains Peter Sørensen, who was named CEO of InterForm in September.
For example, the new feature will be especially useful for a bank that is billing its customers for an adjunct product or service provided by another company, such as check printing. “That invoice probably did not come from the AS/400, so it’s not a spooled file. It comes as a PDF, but you would really like to use that data on your AS/400,” Sørensen says. “Basically what we do is input the PDF, generate a new spool file from that, and then create a document that you could distribute.”
InterForm has also bolstered its PDF compression capability. With this release, InterForm is able to reduce PDF file sizes by an average of 75 percent. When the new files are only one-fourth their original size, it improves all aspects of performance, including disk and network bandwidth utilization.
Sørensen says InterForm wrote its own compression algorithm to ensure the compression process has no effect on quality. “You can always compress something, but the images end up looking blurry,” he says. InterForm’s support for PDF is complicated by the fact that it also supports the PDF/A format, which is a more stringent version of PDF that’s specialized for archiving.
The third major new feature is support for GIF and PNG image formats. This feature was added at the request of InterForm customers in the delivery business that needed to merge digital signatures collected from mobile signatures pads with delivery confirmation documents generated on the IBM i server.
The company already supported the more widely used JPG, TIFF, and BMP formats, but the PNG and GIF family of formats are still used in mobile signature applications, where quality is not as big of an issue as efficiency. “It’s a format that’s small and good enough quality that it can be inserted into documents,” Sørensen says. “It’s the cheapest to transmit and transmit a lot.”
The Spring 2012 release also enhances email distribution and better previews of output. Compared to previous years, which featured more new features than fixes and enhancements to existing features, the mix in the Spring 2012 release was equal. The company is currently conducting its customer surveys to determine what new features and enhancements will go into its Spring 2013 release.
This article was corrected. InterForm has sold thousands of licenses for its software, not hundreds. IT Jungle regrets the error.