On a call last week with a long-time Alfresco client, much of the discussion was around printing and the different options. While much of the information for different printing options exist within our products, this post will summarize for Alfresco clients the different issues and how the TSG approaches can provide a variety of different printing options.
Alfresco Printing – Issues with Downloading and Printing
One of the major issues surrounding printing also has to do with just how browser based systems work. For a print stream to be sent to the printer for a document, typically the document has to be downloaded to the device and displayed in the appropriate application. For office documents this could be Microsoft Word or Excel or Powerpoint.
- Once on the device, it is very difficult to continue to control the document. The document can be printed at any time, saved to the desktop or memory device for distribution a number of different ways.
- Just because the document was downloaded doesn’t mean it was printed. For clients that want to control printing, it is hard to distinguish which documents were printed, by who and when.
One solution TSG has built for clients in the past was a server based printing where all print requests funneled through the server. TSG no longer recommends this approach as keeping track of user print locations as well as error conditions (didn’t print or print well) make the solution extremely difficult to support, particularly given the move to a distributed work force. All the printing options below will rely on the users device print setting allowing the user to pick the printer most appropriate for their current needs and location.
Alfresco Printing with OpenOverlay
Technology Services Group grew up in regulated world of pharmaceutical manufacturing and has always provided solutions to better managing printing. One of our first offerings was OpenOverlay. OpenOverlay provides the ability to apply watermarks onto documents. With printing, any Alfresco platform can leverage OpenOverlay when displaying PDF documents to include metadata, time or user information. In this manner, any document that is downloaded can include a watermark of the time and user name of the person downloading the document to provide some print control.
Alfresco Printing with OpenAnnotate
OpenAnnotate can be operated both in annotation mode as well as a view or redact mode. OpenOverlay watermarks can be incorporated into the PDF OpenAnnotate is viewing regardless of the viewing mode. In any mode, OpenAnnotate offers a big advantage in regards to the issues with downloading a PDF. To provide viewing and annotating within the browser, OpenAnnotate does not download the PDF to the device, instead it breaks the PDF into separate page images and streams them to the browser. In this way it is very difficult for a user to simply download the PDF for later printing or for distributing. OpenAnnotate has a variety of different options for printing including:
- Print with or without Annotations – includes options to either allow to print either way or can be defaulted to either always print with or without annotations.
- Controlled Print – Tracks who and when documents were printed. Look for a blog post next week on the controlled print scenarios.
- Split & Reorder – includes the ability to split a single document into multiple documents and even reorder pages. Functionality usual performed outside of Alfresco can easily be done within the ECM, reducing the risk of a document being lost outside the system record.
Alfresco Printing with OpenContent Search and Case
Within OpenContent Search and OpenContent Case, the combine PDF action is also related to printing. With Combine to PDF, multiple documents can be merged together as one PDF with a table of contents. For performance reasons, the latest version of Combine PDF processes all activity on the server. Specific document pages can also be excluded as desired. For printing multiple documents, Combine to PDF offers a quick way to send multiple documents to the printer quickly. Combined with OpenOverlay and OpenAnnotate, all solutions provide a means to not have to download the document to the individual device.
OpenOverlay, OpenAnnotate and OpenContent Search and Case provide for a variety of printing options for Alfresco focused around PDF. Any thoughts or questions, please comment below: