PDF document creation on the AS/400

David Fowle has kindly submitted this informative article on PDF format files and their use within the AS/400 world. Here he compares various utilities that are available as well as providing plenty of resources for anyone interested in PDF format files. After reading this article, you will be able to visit many of the mentioned sites. Please don’t forget to take a look at our review of David’s work. 

Introduction

Share Ware

Recommended commercial products

Other commercial products

Products that can help you create your own software

In Conclusion


Introduction

Spooled-files produced on the AS/400 are formatted in a way that is not generally supported on other platforms. In order to distribute spool-files electronically, they must be converted to some more widely supported format.

The Portable Document Format standard (PDF) created by Adobe Systems Inc. is a platform neutral format designed for publishing documents electronically. It is commonly used on the Internet, particularly for distributing long, highly structured documents. Among the reasons for its success is that the Adobe Acrobat® Reader program for reading PDF documents is distributed as “freeware” by Adobe for almost every operating system. Unfortunately neither Adobe nor IBM provide software for creating PDF documents on the AS/400. If you take advantage of the PDF format then you will have to look for a solution from a third party.

I have recently spent some time searching the internet for products that can convert spooled-files to PDF documents. Apart from the many search engines on the web, I have found the AS/400 Usenet news group: comp.sys.ibm.as400.misc and the mid-range mailing list particularly helpful. Of course when you search with terms like AS400 and PDF you will get hits on thousands of irrelevant pages. However I was able to filter my search results to produce the following (very) short list of URLs

I have divided the list into three sections:

Share Ware

Recommended commercial products

Other commercial products

Products that can help you create your own software


Share Ware

I was able to find two shareware solutions. They both give you an un-limited trial period before you need to register the product. Both these products have been highly recommended by their users.

Bradley V. Stones AS/400 Tools includes SPLTOOL which has recently been enhanced to produce PDF documents from spooled-files. At the moment only the most common *SCS type of spooled-files can be converted by SPLTOOL, but I understand that *AFPDS support will be included later. This product can be registered for 179.000 US Dollars. The companion program SPL2EMAIL can be used to e-mail the converted spooled-file. I would recommend a visit to this site as an excellent source of AS/400 information, software tools and code examples.

The PDFingMailer web site is a dedicated to one product. PDFingMailer can convert both *SCS and *AFPDS spooled-files. The program runs on a Microsoft Windows PC and emulates a remote-printer. Because of this there is no requirement to install AS/400 software and only a few simple configuration steps are needed. PDFingMailer offers a variety of useful features including electronic mailing and the ability to add graphic images and bookmarks to PDF documents. The product can be registered for 399.00 US Dollars.


Recommended Commercial Products

These two commercial products are tightly focused on spooled-file conversion to PDF. Both are products from companies with a long history of producing AS/400 products, and both come highly recommended by their users.

Gumbo Software Inc. produces Spool-a-Matic. This product can convert any of *SCS, *IPDS and *AFPDS spooled-files to PDF documents. Other document types such as RTF can also be produced. The companion product Report Manager can automate the spooled-file conversion process. The cost depends on the AS/400 processor group but starts at 495.00 US Dollars.

RJS Software Systems Inc. produces WinSpool/400 PDF Report Converter. This product runs under Windows. It can be integrated with other RJS products to automate report distribution for a variety of environments.


Other Commercial Products

The links below are listed without comment. The numerous features of these products are difficult to summarise. At some of these sites I found it hard to discover what additional products must be purchased and what the costs are. Perhaps these companies prefer to concentrate on large customers and traditional marketing strategies?

SymTrax Compleo.

Magellan Spy View.

Help Systems Robot Report.

Alliance Report Web.

S4I Express.


Products that can help you create your own software

The following links are resources where programming libraries can be downloaded.

PdfLib by Thomas Merz. This site allows you to download the C source code for a library of functions for creating PDF documents. This library, which is now at Version 3.0 has been available for several years. The latest version can be compiled on the AS/400. The code is very reliable and the documentation is excellent. The licensing terms are very reasonable and for non-commercial use, there is no charge.

Adobe PDF library This is a port of the Adobe PDF library to AS/400 by DataLogics. This has only become available recently. If you have used the Adobe PF library on other platforms, this port could be just what you want.

CPYSPLFPDF (Java Source). Free java code from experts in Java on the AS/400. A commercial version is coming soon.

PDF/400 This is a native PDF writer for the AS/400. The product costs 500.00 US Dollars


In Conclusion

I first became convinced of the benefits of PDF about six years ago. At that time the only way to produce PDF from the AS/400 was to use IBM printer emulation and the Adobe PDF writer on a PC. As interest has gradually increased a few products became available. More recently with the widespread interest in the Internet many more products have appeared. Indeed in the last two months while I was doing the research for this article two new products have been published!

I should declare an interest at this point. When I wanted to convert spooled-files to PDF I had to write my own software! PDFingMailer is all my own work!


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