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.

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.

New Watermark Enhancements in Win2PDF Pro

Our latest release of Win2PDF Pro (10.0.60) has a couple of new enhancements to the watermark/background feature.

The first enhancement is that you can now apply a PDF watermark or background that contains a clickable link to an external web page. When you select the watermark in the PDF Options… you can check “Allow Links in Watermark” as shown below.

This can be quite useful for things like company letterheads, where you may wish to have a clickable link to the company home page. Or, you may wish to have a direct link in a PDF invoice that takes the customer directly to a payment page on your web site. Here is an example of what a PDF invoice would look like after a payment watermark has been applied.

We’ve heard from several customers who have needed this feature to automate their payments and invoicing process with Win2PDF.

Additionally, there are two new options on the PDF Options… Watermark tab that allow you to apply a watermark to ONLY the first page, ONLY the last page, or to all pages. Previously it applied to all pages only. Here is a screen shot of the new options.

These new features are now available in the 10.0.60 release of Win2PDF Pro*. If you have a licensed version of Win2PDF Pro, you can download the latest Win2PDF Pro Service Pack at the Win2PDF download page.

* The standard edition of Win2PDF does not have the watermark feature enabled. This is only available in Win2PDF Pro. Standard Edition users can purchase a Win2PDF Pro Upgrade if this feature is needed.

How to Save a Full-Page Screenshot as a PDF in iOS 13

If you are an iPhone or iPad user, the latest iOS 13 software update adds an interesting new feature. With the Safari web browser, you can now take a screenshot of an entire web page (not just the visible portion on the screen) and save the web page to a PDF file. This article details the procedure for doing so.

I’ve found this quite useful on a few occasions where I want to save the contents of a web page that I come across on my iPhone, and then edit the PDF file later to extract specific pages or images that I want to use elsewhere.

Note, this feature is specific to iOS 13 devices and only works with the Safari web browser (not Chrome or Firefox, unfortunately).

Content-based File Naming with Win2PDF

*** NEW FEATURE ALERT ***

In our latest Win2PDF 10.0.58 update we added a new feature for content-based file naming. It allows a PDF file to be named based on a certain word or set of characters that reside inside of the document being printed.

Here is the customer situation that prompted the new feature:

A county sheriff’s department wanted to generate PDF files from a legacy AS/400 application. A secretary named the PDF files based on a document number that was listed in the original document, and because she did so manually it was time-consuming and error-prone.

An example transport order from the sheriff’s department looked like this:

sheriff1

With the content-based file naming feature in Win2PDF, however, this process is automated. It allows Win2PDF to search the text of a document being printed, find a target search word, and use the following word as the PDF file name. It requires that PDF files contain text with a common search word that exists in all PDF files. (*Note: The “word” can be numbers or any character string that has a space before and after the “word”).

In the sheriff’s example, the content search word is specified as “DOC #:” in the Win2PDF Admin Utility.

sheriff2

Then, in the Document section of the Win2PDF file save options, the “User Defined” field was enabled with “%PDFAutoNameContentSearch%.pdf” as the file name.

win2pdf-auto-name-content-based-naming

The result? When each file is printed, Win2PDF searches for the document number in the original file, and then automatically names the PDF file with this number. No possibility of manual errors or extra time involved.  In this case, the file was automatically named “118277.pdf” when the file was printed.

Again, this was a relatively simple modification that we were able to do for customer that had a particular need and had no ability to change the original AS/400 program printing the documents.

If you have a similar need, let us know and we may be able to help.

Win2PDF for the Enterprise: Integration

In our last post, we talked about how Win2PDF can be customized for the enterprise.  In this post, we’ll continue the theme of enterprise users but focus on how Win2PDF can be integrated with other applications or business processes.

img_488306First, all of the Win2PDF products make use of the standard Windows API for printers. This means other applications can print to Win2PDF automatically, without any user interaction.  It does require some level of technical proficiency in programming, but there are a variety of programming environments we have documentation for, including Visual Basic (VB), Visual C for Crystal Reports, .NET, and Microsoft Access.  For a broader perspective all all features, just visit the Developer Information section of the Win2PDF user guide.

This in and of itself is a powerful tool that allows enterprises to create PDF files with specific naming conventions, file locations, and output options automatically.

Other useful features for incorporating Win2PDF with enterprise processes are:

  • Post-action setting:  This is a registry setting that can be set to allow the PDF created by Win2PDF to be passed to another program.  This can be useful for doing a secondary step with the PDF file, like processing it into a document management, email, printing, or reporting application.
  • Command-Line interface:  This was something we recently added and dedicated a blog post to it earlier this year.  It supports simple command line access to Win2PDF for merging, compressing, extracting pages, encrypting, and a variety of other PDF functions.
  • Win2PDF Mail Helper:  This free utility provides a SMTP mail client that can be used to send PDF files via email without user interaction.

Basically, if you have the ability to modify the application you are using to generate PDF files, using the integration options described here will give you the most powerful and flexible options to link PDF files into your workflow processes.  If you do not have the ability to modify the application, then the customization options for the enterprise would be the best option.

Let us know if you have questions about these or any other integration issues.  Again, if you can think of a situation where your PDF files can be incorporated into an enterprise process, there’s a good chance we’ve already figured out a way to make it happen.

Win2PDF for the Enterprise: Customization

Generally, Win2PDF has two main types of users.  The first is the individual user who simply wants to use Win2PDF as a desktop printer to interactively convert a variety of documents to PDF files.  The second type of user is an enterprise user in a company or larger organization.  Often, these users need Win2PDF for a specific application, process, or to generate PDF files in a consistent way across their team or department.

gear-icon-svg-2 (2)Based on the support requests we receive, many of these enterprise users don’t realize the extent to which Win2PDF can be customized for their specific organization’s needs. “I didn’t know Win2PDF could do that?” is something we hear all too frequently.

Just consider a few examples that an administrator or manager of a larger group of users may wish to use:

  • Create a dedicated copy of the Win2PDF printer that prints and names PDF files automatically when used from a specific application, and save them in a specific network folder.
  • Have all PDF files automatically sent as e-mail attachments after they have been created.
  • For all PDF files generated, preset a Master Password that only the system administrator knows. [requires Win2PDF Pro]
  • Force certain default settings and disable certain interface fields that you don’t want users changing (i.e., “always save the file as a PDF/A file, in a specific location, and don’t allow the user to email or print that to a paper printer when it is being created”)

Many of these things can be enabled directly by the user or administrator with our free Admin Utility or free Mail Helper utility, or by using the Auto-name feature.  Other things may require some level of customization in the Win2PDF setup program (particularly for large deployments).

If you are a manager of a enterprise group of users, let us know if there are particular things you want to do.  In most cases, we’ve probably already had a similar request and can direct you to what options are available.

Win2PDF & Google Cloud Print

Another new feature in our latest Win2PDF 10.0.56 release is the ability to print to a Google Cloud Printer when you save a PDF file. If you’re not familiar with Google’s Cloud Printer, you can visit the Cloud Print product page for more information.

If you check the “Print file” option on the main Win2PDF file save window (shown below), and if you have Goggle Chrome installed, you’ll be notified that Google Cloud Print can be used.

cloudprint1

If you select “Yes” to “Use Google Cloud Print”, Win2PDF launches Chrome after the PDF (or other format) is created.

cloudprint_printersThe user can select a cloud printer, and the print job will be submitted to the cloud print queue. The Chrome printer selection also contains a “Save to Google Drive” option. This can be used to save the PDF directly to the cloud even if Google Drive is not installed on the PC.

If you select “No” to “Use Google Cloud Print”, Win2PDF will present you with list of local printers you can choose from, just as it has with earlier versions of Win2PDF.

While Google has a free “Google Cloud Printer” windows printer driver, it doesn’t allow saving to PDF or combining with other workflow options. Also, the “Google Cloud Printer” doesn’t support Windows Terminal Services, so Win2PDF Terminal Server Edition (TSE) may be the only option to print from an Windows native app to a Google Cloud Printer from a Citrix or Microsoft terminal server.

If you use Google Cloud Printers in your organization or home, this new feature gives you a great way to save a PDF and print in a single step.

Win2PDF 10.0.56 is available as a free update to registered Win2PDF 10 users.

Change the default file name when saving PDF files

The Win2PDF Auto-name feature makes it easy to customize the file name and automatically save a PDF without prompting, but what if you want the File Save window to appear so you can email, print, or manually change the file name?

We just released Win2PDF 10.0.56 (available as a free update to Win2PDF 10 users), and one of the new features is the ability to customize the default file name that is used to save PDF files in the Win2PDF File Save window. For example, in previous releases if you had a Word file named “Sales Report.docx” and you went to print it as a PDF file, the default name in the Win2PDF File Save window would be named “Sales Report.pdf”. You could always change this name, but there wasn’t a way to customize this name when you first entered the file save window.

This is now customizable. If go to the Document tab after clicking on the PDF Options… button, you see some new options.

NewSaveAsOptions

When the the Auto-name Files option is unchecked, the settings in this window apply to the name displayed in the Win2PDF File Save window. You can add a fixed file name start, a date stamp, or a timestamp. Advanced users can customize the order of these items using the user defined setting.

In the screen shot example listed above, the month-day-year was added to the default “Sales Report” file name. While this option is set, the date stamp will be applied to all file names when you print to Win2PDF. You can automate your PDF workflow by creating multiple Win2PDF printers, each with different customized default file names.

The customizable PDF file name feature can save time by eliminating the need to manually type date or time information to the file name.

Download the new Win2PDF 10.0.56 software at the download page of our web site.