Using PDF Software with VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) Solutions

Recently we’ve been getting some questions about using Win2PDF in a virtualized desktop environment. Specifically, how can customers license and install Win2PDF in this type of configuration.

The good news is that Win2PDF is supported and it works the same as in the traditional individual PC environment. Before we get into the specifics, we should provide a little overview to this topic. What exactly is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), or as it is also called, Desktop Virtualization?

Traditionally, a typical corporate IT department will manage a large number of physical PCs. Each employee may have a desktop or laptop PC (or both), and loaded onto each PC are operating systems, service packs, anti-virus software, office applications, printer drivers, and a host of other computer programs. For large organizations in particular, maintaining this type of computer environment can be quite challenging since the applications are installed specific to the hardware of each PC. And each user may update or upgrade applications at different rates, creating a patchwork of different versions for applications on different PCs.  And if a computer fails, the user may lose data or be offline for a period of time.

This is where VDI becomes useful. Essentially, it is a way of easily managing user desktops by using software that separates the desktop and associated applications from the physical client device that is used to access it. Since the desktops are not dependent on the physical hardware of each PC, the IT department can create a standard image that contains the desired operating system version and all of their applications.  A VDI service then connects users to virtual machines running the standard image.

Desktop Virtualization Benefits
Desktop Virtualization Benefits

The advantages of this type of configuration are numerous. Rather than trying to keep track of each individual PC with all of its changing applications and versions, IT only needs to manage the central image. When a new update or application becomes available, they can test it and upgrade all users simultaneously by updating this central image.

It is also useful for backup and disaster recovery. Again, if a particular computer hardware component fails, no data will be lost since the application data is all stored in the virtualized desktop environment. A new PC can be inserted and the user can login and continue working without any interruption or loss of data.

Now, back to Win2PDF: How does Win2PDF fit into this type of VDI environment? Basically, it works the same as in the traditional individual PC environment. Each virtual desktop will require a license of our standard Win2PDF or Win2PDF Pro software.  For large organizations, we provide volume license pricing and a volume license installer to facilitate the deployment, so it is still easy to manage many licenses.

VDI may not be for everyone, but we’ve seen a definite interest in this technology, especially with our larger enterprise customers.  If you have any specific questions about your own deployment of Win2PDF in this type of environment, let us know.

New Win2PDF update supports Windows 8.1

Our latest update to Win2PDF (Version 7.6) now supports the new Windows 8.1 operating system update.

Win2PDF 8.1
Win2PDF 8.1

This is a free update to registered users of Win2PDF 7 or later, and the updates can be downloaded and installed from our web page here:

http://www.win2pdf.com/download/download.htm

In addition to the Windows 8.1 support, this update also includes the Win2PDF Desktop App, which provides easy access to the Win2PDF PDF conversion process and supports drag and drop functionality. During the initial installation of Win2PDF 7.6 you will be prompted to add (or not) this optional add-on.

Win2PDF Desktop App Setup
Win2PDF Desktop App Prompt During Setup

For more information about the Win2PDF Desktop App, please see our official documentation here:

How to use the Win2PDF Desktop App

And, as always, if you have any questions about the new Win2PDF 7.6 software, you can go to the Win2PDF Technical Support Page.

Windows 8.1 Preview

On June 26th, Microsoft will release a free 8.1 update to its Windows 8 operating system.  Here’s the preview video demonstrating the new features in 8.1.

New 8.1 features at a glance:

    • Improved Personalization.  You’ll be able to view pictures on lock screen like a digital photo frame.  It will also provide more background images and colors for the Start screen, more tile sizes, and moving backgrounds.
    • Enhanced Search. The search charm will provide global search results using Bing.  The search results will be displayed in an app-like experience, allowing to to find information on both your local PC or tablet as well as the internet as a whole.
    • App Improvements. For example, the Photos app will now include basic editing features, and there will be better support of multiple app viewing.  An “All Apps” screen will appear when you swipe up from the main Start screen.
    • Improved cloud connectivity using SkyDrive. With 8.1, you’ll be able to save files directly to your SkyDrive cloud file storage account from any app.
    • Internet Explorer 11.  IE11 has improvements for page loading speed and touch performance.

For Win2PDF users, there aren’t any changes with this new operating system update, but we will be adding a Win2PDF Desktop app to the Windows 8 store soon (we’ll provide more details when it’s available).

If you are a Win2PDF user and are new to Windows 8, please feel free to check our our Windows 8 support topics using the links below:

Editing a PDF file with Adobe Reader – Part 2

In our last post we looked at the new annotation features in Adobe Reader XI.  Those features are useful if you need to makes comments or markup a PDF file.  But what if you want to extract pages from a PDF file, or rearrange the pages, or combine multiple PDF files together into one document.

Win2PDF can be used with  Adobe Reader (or any other PDF viewing application) to accomplish these tasks.  You’ll essentially need to open a existing PDF file in Adobe Reader and print a range of pages to Win2PDF.  If you print just a simple range of pages once, you can “extract” pages.  If you print a series of different pages and then merge them together in a new file, you can “rearrange” the PDF.  Or, if you print an entire PDF and append the results to a different PDF file, you can effectively “merge” the two files together.

Print a range of pages from Adobe Reader
Print a range of pages from Adobe Reader

To see a detailed description of each Win2PDF procedure, please visit our support pages here:

Editing a PDF file with Adobe Reader XI – Part 1

One question that we frequently get is: ‘How can I edit a PDF file‘?

To answer this question, it first depends on exactly what you mean by ‘edit‘.  Do you need to make changes directly to the PDF itself to remove or replace text/images?  Or do you just need to make comments on an existing PDF file?  For example, what if you just needed to markup or make comments on a PDF file that a coworker sent you to review?

To do advanced editing (removing or changing text/images) you will need a full-blown PDF editing software program; the most popular software is the full Adobe Acrobat product.  This can be expensive, however.

If you just want to make comments or markup a PDF file to return for review, then the better alternative is to use the new annotation features that are available in the free Adobe Reader XI software.  In this latest incarnation of Adober Reader, you’ll have access to a full set of commenting and markup tools, including sticky notes, a freehand drawing tool, and typewriter, highlight, underline, and strikethrough tools.

Here is a short video that describes the annotation features in Adobe Reader XI.

You can also read an interesting overview of other Reader XI features at Adobe’s Reader blog.

CD or not CD… That is the question

131/365 [cd stack]More and more software companies are eliminating CDs and DVDs for product distribution, and turning to an electronic download model.  Just recently, Adobe released plans to eliminate boxed copies of its popular Creative Suite software.

It’s not just due to cost, either.  True, it’s much cheaper for a software company to deliver software this way, but it’s also more convenient for the customer.  Consider the following:

  • Most Microsoft Windows operating system updates are already delivered electronically, especially for security fixes.
  • Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware software products depend on electronic distribution to quickly update and patch security software.
  • Many new laptops, netbooks and tablets don’t even have a CD or DVD drive, which is also decreasing the need for boxed software.
  • Software companies (like us) can quickly deliver fixes and enhancements to customer reported issues as soon as they become available.
  • New products, add-ons, and utilities can also be provided as they become available.  For example, our last blog post announced availability of our new Win2PDF Desktop product.

We’ve always used an electronic distribution model for these reasons.  Our latest hotfix releases of Win2PDF can be accessed on our Win2PDF Updates support page*.  Our add-on utilities — such as the Win2PDF Mail Helper, Win2PDF Admin Utility, and Win2PDF Desktop — can be found at our Win2PDF Add-On support page.

*  If you purchased Win2PDF before November, 2009, you will need to purchase an upgrade to Win2PDF 7 to get the latest hotfixes.

And, if you still want to make a backup copy of your software, at least with our Win2PDF software, you can easily copy the Win2PDF setup program along with a text file containing your license code to a thumb drive, CD/DVD, or to the cloud (see our round-up of cloud storage services here).

We recommend always getting the latest and greatest versions available, and those can typically be found easily at each vendor’s web site.  If you have any questions about updating or re-installing our Win2PDF software, please contact us at our support page and we’ll be happy to assist you.

‘Win2PDF Desktop’ Beta – Drag & Drop Functionality for Win2PDF

We’re looking for feedback on a new add-on product to Win2PDF called Win2PDF Desktop.

What is it?  Well, basically it’s an icon that sits on your desktop and allows you to drag and drop files to create a PDF.  Normally, since Win2PDF installs as a printer, you would need to open another application (like Word, Excel, etc.) and then choose print.  This eliminates that extra step.

Win2pdf desktop

Download Win2PDF Desktop Beta today and if you encounter any issues or questions, send an email at [email protected].

If you download it, here’s a couple of notes on its usage:

  • Win2PDF Desktop Beta does require a working copy of Win2PDF to work.  When you install it, it will automatically download and install a copy of Win2PDF (if you do not already have it installed).  
  • Drag a file (or multiple files) onto the Win2PDF Desktop icon to create a PDF file.  It will open and print the default application associated with the file type (e.g., a .DOC file will open with Microsoft Word, an .XLS file will open with Microsoft Excel, etc.).  It will prompt you for where to save the file and for the name.  If you want save the PDF file without prompting, you can use the Win2PDF Auto-name capability.
  • If you double-click on the icon, it will prompt you to select a file on your hard drive.  Again, it will open and print using the default application associated with that file type.
  • If you right-click on a file in the Windows Explorer or the desktop, you can choose Send to…  –> Win2PDF Desktop
  • If you have an image (.jpg, .gif, etc.) saved to your clipboard and you double-click on the Win2PDF Desktop icon, it will convert the image to a PDF file.

We’ll have more details and documentation about the final Win2PDF Desktop product once we get some field testing completed, but feel free to give it a try today and let us know what you think.

Scratching Under the Surface

Now that Windows 8 is starting to get traction on new devices, we’re seeing more and more customers using Win2PDF on tablets and laptop/tablet hybrids.  One of the more interesting entries has been Microsoft’s first foray into the hardware world with their Surface tablet.

Microsoft Surface Tablet
Microsoft Surface, photo by methodshop.com via Flickr

Microsoft released its newest version — Surface Pro — earlier this month.  While similar in design to the more inexpensive and lighter Surface RT, the Surface Pro really is a full-fledged PC stuffed into the form factor of a tablet.

Please note, there is a significant difference between Surface RT and Surface Pro:

Surface RT uses an ARM-processor and can only run apps designed for the newer Windows 8 style interface.  Many existing desktop Windows applications (including our Win2PDF product) will not run on this platform at this time.  Also, you can only install applications through Microsoft’s App Store.  This is probably a suitable option for people that only want an iPad-like tablet for running specialized apps or accessing email or a web browser on the go.

Surface Pro, on the other hand, has an Intel processor and uses the complete Windows 8 operating system. This makes it especially useful for business users who need a full Windows compatible PC to run any type of application (and yes, our Win2PDF product is fully supported on this device).  For our needs, and for others who need PDF tools like Win2PDF, the Surface Pro is the only model that is capable of running all applications from the tablet.

We haven’t got our hands on one yet, but most reviews are generally favorable.

  • Consumer reports:  “The Microsoft Surface Pro delivers on its promise to provide the most laptop-like performance yet from a tablet. But like most groundbreaking devices, it has flaws—including limited storage and hefty weight and size—that mean it’s suited mainly to road warriors who can’t wait for a better super-tablet device to come along.”
  • New York Times:  “But inside, the Pro is a full-blown Windows PC, with the same Intel chip that powers many high-end laptops, and even two fans to keep it cool (they’re silent). As a result, the Pro can run any of the four million Windows programs, like iTunes, Photoshop, Quicken, and, of course, Word, Excel and PowerPoint…  Are you getting it? This is a PC, not an iPad.”
  • ZDNet: “There are a number of Windows 8 laptop and tablet options, but I haven’t seen any that are as light, well designed, and compelling to me as the Surface Pro. I want a super portable computer that is well designed and does not limit me from doing what I need to do when the occasion arises and I believe the Microsoft Surface Pro is that computer.”

It has decent horsepower and capability for serious Windows users, but the Surface Pro is not without its flaws.

Wired claims that it is virtually unrepairable should something go wrong:  ” In a teardown of Microsoft’s tablet-laptop hybrid, the company gave it a rock-bottom score of just one — one! — out of 10 for repairability, lower even than Apple’s iPad and the Windows Surface RT.”

For now, the Microsoft Surface Pro seems to be a good option for users who need to access to a full-fledged Windows PC (with applications like Win2PDF), but still want the portability and tablet features like touch-screen and pen-based applications.  I’m sure the options will continue to increase as other hardware vendors introduce new products, and hopefully the competition will reduce prices as well.  Until that happens, though, the Surface Pro seems to be a respectable option if you’re looking for a tablet today.

New Year’s Resolution (part 4): A Comparison of Cloud Storage Services for PDF Users

And finally, the last in our series of cloud storage services for PDF users (see part 1, part 2, & part 3).

There are many Cloud Storage Services available to make backups of your PDF files, but we’ve found that some services are better than others based on who you are and what you need in a cloud storage solution.  Some services offer broad mobile access on a variety of platforms, and others do not.  Some offer generous initial storage for free.  Some index the PDF files for better searching.

Here’s a summary of the services, features, and our assessment of who each one is best for:

Service Features Who/What it’s good for…
Microsoft SkyDrive – free account with 7GB initial free storage;
mobile apps availabe for Windows phone, Android, and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad
The nice thing about SkyDrive (aside from the largest initial free storage space) is that it is included with Windows 8, so there isn’t any additional setup required for Windows 8 users.  If you recently acquired a new Windows 8 device, this is an easy place to start.
Google Drive – free account with 5GB initial free storage; mobile apps availabe for Android and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad This is Google’s offering and may be a good choice if you already use Google’s other integrated applications like Gmail and Google Docs.  Google Drive is also the only online service that indexes your PDF files so that they can be searched online.  This means that you can search for content within the PDF files, and not just the file names.  This alone makes it one of our favorites.
Dropbox – free account with 2GB initial free storage; mobile apps available for Blackberry, Android, Kindle Fire, and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad Dropbox was one of the first of the major online cloud storage services, so it has a large user base.  The other major technology companies (Microsoft, Google, Amazon) seem to be catching up with better initial storage, but Dropbox is still widely used, especially among home users.  Also, Dropbox just added an app for Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.
Box – free account with 5GB initial free storage; mobile apps available for Windows phone, Android, Blackberry, and Apple iOS devices like iPhone and iPad This service has the most comprehensive mobile offerings. Also, it has more flexibility for IT departments with a larger group of users that need to have centralized control and management of their accounts.  It seems to be a popular choice for enterprise users, whereas some of the others are focused more on an individual user basis.
Mega – free account with 50GB initial free storage; No mobile apps currently available This is the newest entrant into this cloud storage market.  It has a generous initial storage account and touts security and strong encryption as a main advantage.  However, its security claims are controversial and the founder’s prior company was involved in some legal issues.  We don’t recommend this service at the moment until we understand more about the technology and if the business looks both secure and stable.
Gmail * – free email service with over 5GB (and growing) free storage; Android and iOS mobile apps, and also can be accessed with any mobile email client that supports IMAP. Some organizations have firewalls that limit access to the other cloud-based storage solutions listed, but allows emailed PDFs to be sent through firewalls.  Using Win2PDF’s email option and Gmail, you can still archive PDFs by just emailing copies to yourself.  It also provides searchable index of PDF files that can be stored based on filters and labels you create.

* We like Gmail for the features, but other web-based email services (Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, etc.) work similarly.

And of course, there’s always the option to use multiple services for redundancy or particular organizational needs.

New Year’s Resolution (part 3): Email as an alternative cloud storage solution

Our last post gave an overview of several cloud storage solutions for your PDF files. While we generally like all of these services, many users may also find it useful to just use an existing web-based email service (like Gmail, Yahoo, or Microsoft’s new Outlook.com) to archive and preserve copies of their PDF files.  This is also a viable alternative if your company or organization has a firewall or policy restriction when using the other services; this method just uses email to send PDF files.

Let’s take a look at a simple procedure at how a user with Win2PDF and a basic Gmail account can make a backup PDF file every time to print out a paper copy of a file. [Note: we like Gmail because it indexes PDF files for search.  You can search your Gmail account for any text that resides within the PDF file. In addition, you can automatically label the incoming emails to archive them without filling up your regular inbox. Other web mail accounts will do similar things, but our example uses Gmail for these reasons.]

For this example, make sure you have Win2PDF installed on your computer and have a active Gmail account. Then do the following:

1. Select your paper printer to be the default printer on your computer

2. Print to Win2PDF and select ‘Print file’ and ‘Send file’ (and ‘Delete after sending’ if you don’t want to keep a local copy of the PDF on your PC)

Send and Print file options with Win2PDF
Send and Print file options with win2PDF

The ‘Send file’ option uses the default e-mail client, or the free Win2PDF Mail Helper application (download Win2PDF Mail Helper).

3. A copy of the print will be sent to the default paper printer that you set up in step 1, but you will also create a PDF file that you can email to a Gmail account.

4. In Gmail, create a filter that matches your typical email and way of storing files. For example:

– From “[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>”

– Subject has the words “pdf” and “invoice”

– check “has attachment”

gmail_filter_sm
Use search criteria to filter emails

and then after filtering, you can

– apply a tag (e.g. “Invoices”)

– mark as read

– skip the inbox

Create filter with Gmail
Create filter with Gmail

And that’s it… This will automatically create a backup of your printed paper documents off-site in your Gmail account. And they won’t clutter up your inbox — they’ll just be archived in with a label that you can reference in the future. And you will be able to use Google’s search features to find these documents in the future — and Gmail allows you to search for text within the PDF files.

Next week we’ll conclude this series by looking at how the different services and methods compare for PDF users…  Stay tuned…