Win2PDF Plug-Ins Extend Features Specific to Customers’ Needs

Last month we introduced a new Win2PDF Plug-In for Slack, and this month we’re back with several new Win2PDF Plug-Ins.

A Win2PDF Plug-In is simply a small customizable program that can be created, modified, or installed that will give the user an option to automatically take some action with the PDF file after it has been created. It allows Win2PDF’s functionality to be extended to address specific customer needs or workflow integrations. For example, it has already been used by customers to upload PDF files to a content management system, automatically make archival copies of PDFs, store PDF in cloud-based services, delete blank pages, split PDF files into single page documents, use multiple watermarks, and send a PDF file to a specific email program.

Why use Plug-Ins? Why not just add these features directly to Win2PDF?

The Win2PDF Plug-Ins were created specifically to add capabilities that might be unique to each customer. Most of the new Plug-Ins were unique or very specific to a customer request, so they may not be useful to the user base at large. Rather than clutter the main Win2PDF program with these types of unique features, we allow them to be created, customized and added as needed for each customer.

As of today, there are 8 additional Plug-Ins available for download at our GitHub page. [GitHub is a central code repository for our Plug-In samples — you can download compiled Plug-Ins that are ready to use, or, if you are a developer, you can download and modify the source code to build your own Plug-Ins specific to your needs. These examples show what can be done with Win2PDF, and provide a template for future solutions.]

The new Plug-Ins are:

  • PDF Send To Outlook – Add a “Send To Outlook” option to Win2PDF File Save window to automatically attach a PDF to an Outlook email message.
  • PDF Duplicate File – Automatically make a duplicate copy of the newly created PDF file in a designated duplicate file folder which may reside on a shared network location or in a cloud based folder (OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive).
  • PDF Print Logger – Automatically log files created by Win2PDF to the Windows Event Log.
  • PDF Archive File – Automatically archive newly created PDF files created by Win2PDF in a designated archive file folder which may reside on a shared network location or in a cloud based folder (OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive). Files are appended to an archive PDF named based on the current date.
  • PDF Delete Pages – Automatically deletes extra pages from a newly created PDF.
  • PDF Split Pages – Automatically splits a multi-page PDF into separate one page PDFs.
  • PDF Apply Multiple Watermarks – Automatically apply different watermarks to separate sections of a PDF [Requires Win2PDF Pro].
  • PDF Image Only Flattener – Automatically merge watermark layers into a single layer Image Only PDF [Requires Win2PDF Pro].

A few other notes:

  • The samples only allow one Win2PDF Plug-In used for each instance of the Win2PDF printer.
  • If you wish to remove a particular Win2PDF Plug-In, you can use the Windows Add/Remove Programs feature to uninstall.
  • All of the Win2PDF Plug-Ins hosted on this page can be used at no charge. Some only work with licensed versions of Win2PDF. Contact [email protected] for a 30 day evaluation license.
  • An evaluation version of Win2PDF can be downloaded for free at https://www.win2pdf.com/download/

If you have any requests for Plug-Ins, let us know. We’re interested in building out this capability with more examples, so if you have a particular integration or special need, send an email to [email protected] and tell us about your requirements. If it’s something we can assist with, we’ll be happy to help.

For now, hop over to the Win2PDF Plug-Ins page and take a look.

It’s Greek To Me: Case Study for PDF Image Only Files

We recently received a unique support question that illustrated a real-world case where the PDF Image Only file save option saved the day. Here was the issue our customer came to us with:

I am trying to help my wife who is teaching ancient Greek language classes online. The problem is that there is no standard universally recognized font for ancient Greek – they all render the language in different ways. And ancient Greek is quite different from modern Greek. She can create documents on her Windows PC using one of a number of specialized TrueType (TTF) fonts. And she can convert documents to Unicode for pasting into web content and/or she can print or export Unicode documents to PDFs. For most of her students these processes are successful. However some students see only gibberish. She has no control over the various platforms her students are using, Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, Chrome, etc.

By Hesiod / Houghton Library, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Is there a way Win2PDF can handle this situation? The best option would be if she could print/export her multi-page documents to non-searchable, graphics only PDFs.

For this case, the solution was easy. Win2PDF can create multi-page image only PDFs that render the TTF fonts as graphics. It’s just a standard Win2PDF file save type the user can select when printing.

While this particular customer was able to make the conversions using other programs, this was the easiest method since it was just a single step to save the PDF file.

When we recommended this solution to the customer, he gave us the following reply:

While the Covid-19 pandemic lasts and much teaching is being done online, you might want to share this information with university departments of Classics and Religious Studies and theological colleges (and other academic institutions that teach archaic languages for which there are no universally standard means of rendering them as computer-created text). My wife cannot be the only university instructor with this problem.

Consider it done.

NEW! Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-In

One of the requests we get is how to take some action after a PDF file is created, and do it automatically. The most common example is to take the PDF file and attach it to a new email message. While Win2PDF has supported this feature since the beginning, many customers want to expand this capability to integrate the PDF files with other applications. And since these processes may be unique to each customer, we’ve expanded our support into a flexible new feature called Win2PDF Plug-Ins.

A Win2PDF Plug-In is simply a small customizable program that can be created, modified, or installed that will give the user an option to take some action with the PDF file after it has been created.

Here’s one example we’ve created for our own internal software development team using the Slack business communication platform. When we download and install the Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-in, it allows our users to check a box on the Win2PDF file save window and automatically send the PDF file into a specific channel in Slack.

Slack allows teams of users to share comments, images, files, etc. in different channels. [A slack channel is simply a topic-based message board that allows any team members who are subscribed to that channel a way to share and exchange information related to that topic. Examples might be channels like #features or #support or #sales.]

With this Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-In installed and configured, it gives our Win2PDF development team an easy way to share PDF files without using email, and they will all be archived in a common channel for all team members. There are a few one-time steps to configure this Win2PDF “Send to Slack” Plug-In to work with your specific Slack workspace and channel.

This is just the first of many Win2PDF Plug-Ins we have in development, and we’ll also be providing more details in future posts on how users can create their own Win2PDF Plug-Ins, or modify ones that we’ve created.

Adobe Liquid Mode for Easier PDF Viewing on Mobile Devices

Have you ever tried to read a long PDF document on your iPhone or Android phone?

Painful, right? Pinching and zooming, pinching and zooming… Something we recently chronicalled on our blog post: PDFs are unfit for human consumption.

Well, Adobe is finally offering a cloud-based and artificial intelligence (AI)-based solution called Liquid Mode that works within the Adobe Reader mobile apps.

With the push of a button, Liquid Mode automatically reformats text, images, and tables for quick navigation and consumption on small screens. Powered by Adobe Sensei, Liquid Mode uses AI and machine learning in the background to understand and identify parts of a PDF, like headings, paragraphs, images, lists, tables, and more. It also attempts to understand the hierarchy and ordering of those parts to reformat a static PDF into a more dynamic and customizable experience.

Adobe

Essentially, when you open a PDF in the Acrobat Reader app (as shown in the iPhone example below), it will try to determine if it’ll work with Liquid Mode; if so, the Liquid Mode button lights up.



Tap the button and the file is sent to Adobe’s Document Cloud for processing. Once complete, users can tweak to their liking things like the font size and line spacing. Liquid Mode will use the headers/structure it detects to build a tappable table of contents where none existed before, allowing you to quickly hop from section to section. The whole thing is non-destructive, so nothing actually changes about the original PDF. Step back out of Liquid Mode and you’re back at the original, unmodified PDF.



Liquid Mode is available in the free Adobe Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android. It will also work on Chromebooks that support the Google Play Store and will eventually be available on desktops and browsers.

Win2PDF creates PDF files that are compatible with Adobe’s Liquid Mode. However, Liquid Mode works with most, but not all PDF documents, and is currently limited to PDFs that are under 10 MB in size or 200 pages long. This is still a developing technology and Adobe will improve support and capabilities over time.

Create PDF Documents With Searchable Text from Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge

Win2PDF now has a feature that allows you to print documents that would normally contain non-searchable text to PDF files with searchable text.

Why this feature? When would you use it?  Well, there is one area in particular where this is useful, and that’s when it comes to printing PDF files from Google’s Chrome web browser, Microsoft’s newest Edge browser, or from other Google apps like Docs. Due to the way Google and Microsoft have developed their browsers and apps, printing from these programs creates PDF files that are image-based and not-searchable (or selectable) as actual text. When documents or web pages are printed to a paper printer, this isn’t noticeable or an issue. However it is a problem if you are using Win2PDF or another PDF printer since the files will be larger, non-searchable, and non-selectable.

We’ve solved this problem by adding a new save format called “Portable Document Format – Searchable (OCR PDF)”. When you use this save option when printing from Chrome, Edge, or Google Docs, the resulting PDF file will contain searchable text. It applies Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to the file and converts the image-based text into searchable text automatically.

This has been frequently reported to our Win2PDF help desk as a problem for users and prior to this feature we had to explain a multi-step process to get the desired results. Now, it’s just a single save like it would be from any other application.

This feature is still in our pre-release testing phase, but we want users to try this and give us some feedback. To try this feature, please do the following:

    1. Download and install Win2PDF 10.0.78 (or higher). This version can be downloaded from the Win2PDF 10 Update section of our knowledgebase.
    2. Download and install the Win2PDF Desktop with OCR Download.
    3. After you install the separate Win2PDF Desktop with OCR package, Win2PDF displays an extra save as type labeled “Portable Document Format – Searchable (OCR PDF)

While this is useful when you are creating new PDFs from Chrome or Edge, what about existing files that had previously been saved as image only, or that you received as email? Is there a way to “fix” those so that they are searchable?

Yes. Just open the original PDF in the Win2PDF Desktop App and Select Export  -> PDF – Searchable (OCR) from the File menu.

make-pdf-searchable-menu

The Searchable OCR PDF is only available in our pre-release software and we’re working on improvements, but give it a try and if you have any feedback or issues, let us know by sending an email to [email protected] or opening a ticket at our Helpdesk page.

Researchers Say PDFs Are ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’

We just stumbled across this Vice article titled Researchers Say PDFs Are ‘Unfit for Human Consumption’. It references a new paper published by the Nielson Norman Group outlining the problems with the PDF format that still exist.

“The format is intended and optimized for print. It’s inherently inaccessible, unpleasant to read, and cumbersome to navigate online. Neither time nor changes in user behavior have softened our evidence-based stance on this subject,” the article reads. “Even 20 years later, PDFs are still unfit for human consumption in the digital space.”

Ouch!

While it is an interesting read and does outline some very real limitations of the Portable Document Format as well as strategies to make them more user-friendly, it is, after all, a document format. The primary function of PDF is to make files universally available on all platforms and to preserve the formatting and layout of the original documents.

Court filings, for example, require a consistent and universally accepted standard for submitting electronic documents. Most companies require standardization of company forms across their business practices. Government agencies like the IRS need standard forms and documents for processing. So do hospitals and clinics working with patient medical records. Many electronic texts require a specific layout of images and text in order to be understood correctly and in context. So many examples in just about every industry. And to accomplish this, you really need a standards-based document format.

Having said that, it’s certainly appropriate to make some information available in other formats, especially if the information needs to be dynamically formatted to different sized screens and for different users, but it’s hard to fault PDF because it doesn’t work for all users in all situations.

Also, it should be noted that there really aren’t any viable alternatives to the Adobe PDF for enterprise users where these types of considerations are paramount. Microsoft did try to gain support for its XML Paper Specification (XPS) but it never took hold as a replacement to PDF.

While PDF files do have limitations, especially for users reading the files on small screens like phones or tablets, they still provide the best technology for creating, archiving, and sharing electronic documents. Adobe’s blog gives many reasons why PDFs are better than other proprietary formats.

How to Create a Non-Searchable PDF File

When you create a PDF file from most applications, the result is a PDF that contains both text and images. The text can be searched from PDF viewers like Adobe Reader, can be cut & pasted into other documents, and it can also be indexed and searched by search engines like Google or Bing.

However, some people want to create PDF files that are NOT searchable for a variety of reasons.

We posted an example some time ago where some sensitive documents were redacted in the PDF, and even though they displayed correctly (where the text appeared blacked-out), the actual text in the PDF file was searchable and selectable. Whoops!

There are also situations where lawyers litigating cases need to share documents with the opposing side, and they have an interest in dumbing down the PDF file. That is, making it very difficult to search through the documents.

Whatever the reason, the easiest way to create non-searchable PDF files is to use the PDF Image Only file save option with Win2PDF. This will save all text in the document being printed as an image, so that it can’t be searched or indexed by search engines. You can save the output as either a monochrome image, or a color image depending on your needs.

One caveat with this feature is that it will make the file sizes larger, which is usually not desirable.

Unless, that is, you’re a lawyer litigating a case…

Win2PDF Release 10.0.72 Now Available

A new version of Win2PDF (a free update to existing Win2PDF 7 or Win2PDF 10 users) is available now at the Win2PDF download page. In addition to bug fixes and stability improvements, it adds several new features to Auto-Naming PDF files, command-line options, and the Win2PDF Desktop App. Win2PDF 10.0.72 includes the following new features:

  • Adds a Configure Win2PDF Auto-Name shortcut to the start menu to make configuring the Auto-name features easier.

  • Adds Send File and Print File actions to the Configure Win2PDF Auto-Name menu to automatically email or print a PDF. See How to Automatically name and send PDF files by email for an example of automatically naming and sending invoices to email recipients based on the contents of the PDF.

  • Performance and stability improvements

Again, if you have a license for Win2PDF 7 or Win2PDF 10, you can download this new version at no charge.

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.