Barcode Company T.L. Ashford Introduces Forms Generation Software
January 21, 2015 Dan Burger
Conversion of IBM i spool files to a format that readily fits into a business workflow process is a great idea. Lots of companies have done this successfully by starting with a clear and well defined business problem to solve. And now T.L. Ashford, a company best known for its IBM i-compatible barcode software, is in the electronic forms business with a new product called TLA Forms.
The software is designed to extract data from IBM midrange systems’ spool files and place it into a custom designed form as text, barcodes, or graphics. The spool files are what drives the new form generation. And in most instances, companies would use this functionality to replace pre-printed forms.
When converting data to text, the software provides a selection of type font sizes and styles. It also is equipped to convert data into a variety of barcodes, including two-dimensional bar codes like PDF-417 (used to get a large amount of data in a small area and big with companies that supply the auto industry) and the marketing professional’s friend, the popular QR Code.
Forms can be created in full color and require no coding, which means the forms design can be handed off to a graphic artist or an end user with knowledge of how the form can be most efficiently used.
The template for design is directly related to how the spool file is laid out, says Keith Suedkamp, product development lead for TLA Forms. “But you are not stuck with that,” he says. “You can add graphics, corporate logos, boxes, shading, gray scale, and full color on all objects. And from a user perspective, I think it is easier to use than Word. You can lay your data on the form, make the type font whatever you want, and draw your boxes and lines.”
When the user is presented with spool file data, he or she can make fields with any data on the spool file. The user can barcode those fields. The user can make certain fields pull specific graphics that go with the fields. There are instances, Suedkamp says, where the entire contents of spool files were made into one big field and a second field was turned into a barcode. The user created two fields and the job was done.
The design tool, which is written in Java, runs on Windows and Mac.
The software has already found a niche with customers that want to create PDF files of their forms that are then archived to the IBM i integrated file system (IFS). The software can also be programmed so that the form can be automatically printed and/or automatically emailed.
According to Suedkamp, a 21-year employee at T.L. Ashford, the creation of TLA Forms was the result of the existing barcode customer base asking for it. The demand grew from companies wanting to get rid of pre-printed forms and create new forms in PDF format and email them to anyone. Plus, the PDFs can be easily archived and managed in the IFS.
TLA Forms has been available on a limited basis for six months and almost two months to the general public. It supports IBM i operating systems from the newest i 7.2 back to V5R3. On request, T.L. Ashford provides a 30-day trial of TLA Forms. Additional information can be found at www.tlashford.com.