Can Win2PDF be used as a Shared Printer?

We get this question a lot, and it’s worth discussing.

First, what do we mean by a shared printer?

Typically, a shared printer refers to a paper printer that is attached to a print server and then shared to multiple workstations on the network. It is very useful for a paper printer because it allows one physical resource (the printer) to be accessed and utilized by many users. Each workstation can print files, and then that printer file data is sent to the shared printer where it is queued up with other print jobs until each file is printed.

If you’ve ever worked in an office setting with many users sharing a printer, you’re probably familiar with the line of people waiting for their printouts because ‘that coworker’ sent a 200-page manual ahead of you. It has its drawbacks.

The primary advantage, of course, is cost savings since one printer can be utilized by many users.

So, back to the original question: Can Win2PDF be used as a shared printer?

The short answer is it can be used as a shared printer, with limitations, in some configurations, although we don’t officially support it. The reasons for this are likely true for just about any virtual printer. Win2PDF, like most virtual printers, simply works differently than a paper printer:

  1. There is no cost savings as in the case with the paper printer. The licensing for Win2PDF is ‘per workstation’, and the Win2PDF TSE license does not allow you to share the Win2PDF printer to an unlimited number of workstations. One license is needed for each computer, whether it is using the locally installed Win2PDF printer, or accessing the Win2PDF printer over the network. The price is the same in either configuration.
  2. There is no performance advantage like a paper printer might have. A shared paper printer may accept print jobs from multiple workstations, and then do further processing on the printer. But this isn’t the way Win2PDF works. Since Win2PDF converts files directly to PDF, it doesn’t offload any of the processing capability to the print server. The workstation does all of the processing.
  3. Win2PDF relies on some Windows operating system components to work correctly. When you run the Win2PDF setup program, the setup program checks for the existence of these needed Windows components, and then installs them if necessary. If Win2PDF is only installed on a print server, and then shared over the network, this check is not performed. Other workstations on the network may be able to access the shared Win2PDF printer, but the printing may fail if their specific machine is missing components.

When it comes to virtual printers, since there are no inherent cost benefits or processing speed gains, what most customers really want is an easy to deploy and manage PDF solution for a large number of users.

And that can be addressed in other ways that make more sense for a virtual printer. For larger numbers of users, we provide a volume license installer that can be used to push licensed copies to each workstation. And that, coupled with our silent install options, makes it easy to get Win2PDF on each desktop so that users can create PDF files hassle-free.

More details on this issue can be found at our online support FAQ.

How to automatically name and send PDF files by email

Here is a more advanced example of using our new content-based naming feature in Win2PDF.

Suppose you want to name a PDF file based on some value within the PDF file, and then email the PDF file to an email address that also resides within the PDF file. This could be useful if a customer wanted to send out invoices to customers based on an email field in the invoice, or to send a report unique to an individual client based on their specific information.

The latest version of Win2PDF 10.0.71 includes new features that allows you to search for up to three different values within the PDF file, and then use those values for Auto-naming and for sending the email.

Let’s show this feature using the following example: Here is a sample invoice from an ERP system. It includes both an invoice number (which we’ll use for the naming of the PDF file) and it contains an email address for each invoice (which we’ll use for addressing the email).

We’ll start by opening the sample file of the invoice in the Win2PDF Desktop app. Once opened, you can use the Auto-Name ➜ Define Auto-Name Search Field menu to define up to 3 search fields.

We’ll define two of the search words as follows:

“Search Field 1” = “Invoice #:”
“Search Field 2” = “CUSTOMER EMAIL:”

When you select the Define Auto-Name Search Field, you’ll get a window where you can enter the text you wish to search for (see image below). The value immediately following this search field will be used in the configuration screen.

After you have defined the search fields, Win2PDF will display the values of the search in the current document as a confirmation.

Using our sample document as a reference, the values (the text immediately following) for the search fields are:

“Search Field 1” value = “01357”
“Search Field 2” value = “[email protected]

These values can and likely will change for each document being printed.

Next, when you go to the Auto-Name ➜ Configure Auto-Name… menu, these two search fields will the be used for the file name, and for the email recipient.

Now when you print an invoice to Win2PDF from the ERP system, the files will be automatically named and attached to a new email message as shown below.

You could take this one step further and set up these PDF files to be sent automatically using our Win2PDF Mail Helper add-on application.

There are many options available for naming and emailing PDF files automatically — more than we can reasonably cover in this post. So, if this does sound useful and you need help configuring this for your own reporting applications, let us know and we’d be happy to assist you setting this up for your needs.

Win2PDF Report Server for Legacy Reporting Applications

We’ve recently added new capabilities to our Win2PDF Terminal Server Edition (TSE) software that allows it to be used with legacy applications that were originally designed to create paper reports.

What do we mean by legacy reporting applications? In this context, what we are referring to is a class of (typically) older software programs that sent text or special printing data directly to a dedicated paper printer. Essentially, these reporting applications would stream the data directly to a laser printer connected to the local area network, and the paper printer would print whatever information was sent.

“Now more than ever, with employees working remotely or from home, it’s important for companies to adapt their interfaces to legacy programs so that the reports can be captured and shared electronically as PDF files.”

The new Win2PDF Report Server component of Win2PDF TSE does the following:

  1. Creates a dedicated copy of the Win2PDF printer named Win2PDF Report Server
  2. Installs a Windows AppSocket Service that uses the AppSocket printing protocol, also known as Port 9100, JetDirect, or RAW printing mode. The service accepts print data from a legacy application and then routes it to the Win2PDF Report Server application installed on the server*.
  3. Installs a console monitor program called the Win2PDF Report Server. This program is added to the startup folder and takes data routed from the Win2PDF Appsocket Server and converts it to PDF using the Win2PDF Report Server printer.

* Note: The Win2PDF Report Server has the capability to support additional printing protocols based on need. If you have an application that relies on a protocol other than AppSocket, let us know and we can provide more information.

The Win2PDF Report Server currently accepts data in text or Printer Control Language (PCL) format, and the created PDF can be named and saved on the customer’s network using any of the numerous Win2PDF Auto-name options.

If you have a need for this type of PDF reporting solution for legacy applications, contact [email protected] for more details.

Content-Based File Naming with Win2PDF

One new capability of the Win2PDF Auto-name feature is the ability to define and save PDF files based on defined content that resides “within” the document to be printed.

For example, suppose you have a reporting application that spits out a report, and you want to name this report based on the document number, or invoice number, or customer name, or some other value that exists inside of the report.

There are a couple of different ways to set the Content-Based File Naming within Win2PDF.

The first method is to use a search word.  Using this option, you would define a word to search for in the document (like document # or invoice # or customer name), and then the software would use the following word or set of characters to be used in the file name of the PDF file.

The second method is to use a defined content field.  Using this option, you would define a particular fixed location on the page where the content field always exists, and this would be used in the file name of the PDF file.  The following animation shows the basic process, but more detailed instructions can be found at the content field section of our online user guide.

Content based naming 1

How would you know which method to use?  Well, the search word option works when you know the content field value always follows a particular word, but the exact position on the page or length of this value may be variable.  The content field option works when the content field value always exists at the exact same location on the page.

Grabbing the name from a printed purchase order may use the search word option, since the length of the purchase order number may change from customer to customer.  On the other hand, grabbing a Tax ID number from an IRS form may use the content field option, since the number and location on the form will always be fixed.

As more customers are working to digitize their reporting functions (without any user interaction), we feel like this content-based file naming will become an increasingly popular tool for automating reports.

Using Auto-name to Save Reports to PDF

As the Coronavirus problem persists and more and more employees work from home, we’re getting questions from customers who are trying to adapt reporting applications to generate PDFs. Specifically, they are looking at ways of automatically saving these PDF reports without any user intervention.

The easiest way to do this is to enable our Auto-name Files feature. It can be found by clicking on the PDF Options… button on the main Win2PDF file save window as shown below.

Here are a few tips on using the Auto-name Files feature:

  • There are a variety of predefined options to use which allow you to include the document title, date, and time in the naming of the file. However, there is also a User Defined option which gives you much more flexibility. You can use any number of variables to make a customized file name based on document titles, as well as the time and date.
  • Not only can you use these User Defined variables to customize the file name, but you can also customize the folder(s) you are trying to save to. For example, if you used the following variables as the User Defined name:
%PDFYear%\%PDFMonth%\SalesReport-%PDFMonth%-%PDFDay%-%PDFYear%.pdf

You’d end up with the following results whenever you saved the PDF file.

[Default Save-to folder] \ [Current year] \ [Current Month] \ SalesReport-MM-DD-YYYY.pdf

In other words, folders will automatically be created (if they are not already present) for the year and month, and the appropriate sales report for the day will be placed in each location.

  • You can also create multiple Win2PDF printers and set auto-name for specific departments/people. For example, suppose you want to keep the normal Win2PDF printer for use with day-to-day PDF creation, but you want to make a copy named “Reports from Win2PDF” that will be used to generate PDF files from a specific application (without any user interaction). You’d simply need to
    1. Add a copy of the Win2PDF Printer and name it “ Reports to Win2PDF”
    2. Turn on the Auto-name feature (as discussed earlier in this post) for this new copy of Win2PDF
    3. You can repeat steps 1-2 to create any number of specialized Win2PDF printers that save PDF files automatically, with names and locations defined by an application, department, location, etc.
  • You can also apply Auto-Name settings to all users. To do this:
    1. Configure Auto-Name in PDF Options…
    2. Open the Win2PDF Admin Utility. The file name definition shows up on the File Name tab.

    1. Check Apply to all users
    2. Click Apply, and Auto-Name will apply to all users

The Auto-name feature is very powerful.  If you have reports you want generated on a regular basis, and you want to define your file names and eliminate any input from the user, use these tips and let us know if you have any questions.

Working From Home Using Terminal Servers

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus and COVID-19, we’re seeing more interest in the use of terminal servers in many enterprise environments. This article from Citrix, for example, gives an overview of this shift in workplace culture that many companies are now exploring.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a terminal server is essentially a central server that hosts applications, files and shared resources like printers (virtual or physical), and then shares these programs and resources over a local network or over the internet to “terminals” (sometimes called “thin clients”). Since the applications are all loaded on just one server, it allows remote users (in this case we think of work-from-home terminals or computers) to run the business programs they need without having anything required on the local machine.

One enormous advantage to this type of solution is that the remote work-at-home “terminals” can be practically anything — home PCs, Windows laptops, Apple iMacs or Macbooks, iPads, Tablets, etc. Each work-at-home terminal would simply run applications from the server and be able to print on the server. The business doesn’t need to worry about each individual client’s hardware, operating system, or local program availability.

This is where our Win2PDF Terminal Server Edition (TSE) comes into play, as a way to share and view documents remotely. Win2PDF TSE is the same as our desktop Win2PDF software (it has the exact same interface and features), but it has been adapted for a server-based, multi-user environment. It allows remote workers working from any work-at-home terminal to access company software programs and then create PDF files that can be saved on the server or on a local PC client, printed to a network drive or hard-copy printer, or e-mailed to a group of recipients. After you install Win2PDF TSE on the server, it is automatically available as an available printer to all published applications on the server.

There are a variety of solutions that handle this type of terminal server deployment that are available from companies like Microsoft, Citrix, and many others. They use slightly different terms (i.e., Microsoft calls terminal services “Remote Desktop Services” and terminal servers “Remote Desktop Session Hosts“) and product names, but they work in the same general way.

If your company is considering Terminal Server deployments and wondering about PDF solutions for remote workers, download the trial version of Win2PDF TSE and let us know if you have any questions. Win2PDF TSE is licensed ‘per server’, and each server can support unlimited numbers of users or clients at no additional cost. Volume pricing for multiple servers or server farms is available as well.

Working from Home Due to Coronavirus? Remember WinPDF Can Help

With more and more office workers now being asked to work from home, it’s probably a good time to revisit how PDF files can help with your day-to-day workflow. Here are a few tips:

  • First and foremost — Win2PDF makes it easy to go paperless! Just use PDF files for document transfers instead of printing and sharing paper! PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format and it can be shared with any type of user using any type of operating system. If you send a Word or Excel file, a smartphone user or a coworker on an Apple iMac or Macbook may not be able to open the document if they don’t have a Word or Excel viewer installed. PDF files, on the other hand, are universal and can be read by Windows computers, Apple computers, Chromebooks, Unix and Linux computers, iPhones, Android phones, tablets, etc.
  • Second, if you’re using Win2PDF, remember to use the ‘Send file’ option to automatically attach a PDF file to a new email message. It’ll save you a few clicks each time you create a PDF file if you need to share it with others.
  • Fourth, even the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC program (which is installed on most PCs) has basic tools to comment, annotate, and sign documents. It’s a good way to share feedback when you do send or receive PDF files.
  • Fifth, convert legacy reporting programs to paperless systems by using the Win2PDF Auto-name feature. Need to share different reports with different departments? Add separate copies of Win2PDF and configure them for users of each department. Once reports are in PDF format instead of paper, they’re easy to view and share with users wherever they are located.
  • And lastly, make sure Win2PDF is loaded on your home PC as well. Did you know that the Win2PDF end-user license agreement allows you to install the desktop software on both a work computer and a home computer at no additional charge? You do now.

Pro Tip: How to Print a Folder of PDFs to a Paper Printer

Here’s a little trick that may come in helpful this tax season:

Suppose you have a directory of PDF files that you wanted to print to paper. You could open each one individually from Adobe Reader or some other PDF viewer and print. Or, you could use a built-in command line feature of the Win2PDF Desktop app to do this for you.

First, open a command prompt from the Windows Start menu search area by typing in “cmd”:

Second, in the command prompt window, change to the directory where your PDF files reside. The command to change folders will look like this:

cd C:\users\Public\Documents

And lastly, type the following command which uses the Windows “for” command:

for %i in (*.pdf) do C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\x64\3\win2pdfd.exe printpdf “%i” “printername”

Note: You may need to change the path location of the Win2PDF Desktop app, depending on what version of Windows you have installed. You can read more about finding the correct location for your PC at our Win2PDF Desktop command line support page.

Here’s an example where we have 12 monthly PDF receipts in a folder and want to send copies of all of them to the printer named “SalesLaserPrinter”.

In the above example, all of the PDF files in this C:\Users\Public\Documents folder will be printed to the SalesLaserPrinter.

The Windows “for” command can also be used to do batch processing of PDF files using any of the other Win2PDF command line operations. Try it for yourself and if you have any questions, contact us at our support page.

Microsoft Officially Ends Support for Windows 7, Win2PDF Doesn’t

Earlier this month Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 7.

“The specific end of support day for Windows 7 was January 14, 2020. Technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect your PC are no longer available for the product. Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available.”

This will pose problems for many companies, especially considering the fact that this operating system is still being used on approximately one-third of PCs globally.

Many customers have been hesitant to move to Windows 10 for a variety of reasons, and one significant issue is that some software applications that worked in Windows 7 don’t work in Windows 10. Since upgrades to Windows 10 can break older versions of business applications, IT departments have been reluctant to make the changes so far until they work out solutions that are compatible.

The good news for Win2PDF users is that Win2PDF 10 fully supports both Windows 7 and Windows 10, so there should not be any issues as far as Win2PDF is concerned. And we plan to continue support of both operating systems as well as Windows XP and Windows Vista for the foreseeable future.

One note, however: Anyone using the older Win2PDF 3.5 or earlier versions (prior to 2009) will need to upgrade to the most recent Win2PDF 10 version to use the software with Windows 10.

Win2PDF Celebrates 20 Years!

Now that we’ve made it to 2020, we’re proud to announce that this year marks Win2PDF’s 20th year anniversary. We sold our first desktop version of Win2PDF in 2000, and we’ve spent the last 20 years expanding and improving the software based on feedback from our users. We’re proud to be an independent software creator and we wouldn’t have made it without the support of all the Win2PDF users. So to our customers we say THANK YOU!

After the initial desktop Win2PDF software was released, we introduced Win2PDF Pro (with expanded capabilities for businesses needing strong document encryption, watermarks, and other advanced features). Then we added our Win2PDF Terminal Server Edition (TSE) and Win2PDF Pro TSE versions, which supported Microsoft and Citrix terminal server environments for multiple users and server-based applications. We’ve also created and expanded developer APIs and introduced a developer version of Win2PDF that will allow other programs to distribute a special version of Win2PDF with their own applications.

Through the years we’ve continued to update and expand the features of Win2PDF, added a Win2Image printer (included with all Win2PDF purchases) that saves files in a variety of image formats, supported every major Windows desktop and server operating system at the date of its release, and provided free utilities and documentation to aid users with a variety of PDF solutions.

So what about our plans for the future? We can summarize our plans in three words: Support, Continuation and Enhancement. Our focus is on expanding the Win2PDF product line to provide continued support of all new operating system releases from Microsoft, expanding the capabilities of Win2PDF, and focusing on customer solutions and ease of use issues.

Once again, to our users… THANK YOU!