SCHEMA Blog (EN)

Corporate blog of SCHEMA GmbH

On Some Aspects of Layout Automation and its Supplementation (Part 3)

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[3] Challenge: Native PDF creation. Answer: The ST4 PDF Engine

Which immediately leads us to the next topic: For the production of PDF files most systems – just like ST4 in the past – rely on external PDF renderers. This is normally not a big problem if it were not for the requirements from item [4] to be fulfilled… But these tools must be purchased, installed for each concurrent user who wants to carry out a layout preview and/or generate a layout. The producer in return must be compatible to several producers of PDF renderers and if necessary support several of their versions with their various bugs. In the end this effort will be paid by the customer.

We decided to avoid this problem by developing our own ST4 PDF Engine which has been in practical use since version 2012 SP1 as well. The customers need not pay extra, deployment problems are obsolete and all layouts that are created with the Page Layout Designer can be generated. No wonder as the PDF renderers for the ST4 Page Layout Designer, for the ST4 PDF Layout Preview and for native PDF generation are identical. The previous productions based on external PDF renderers will of course still work, but the last topic makes it possible for us to fulfill another of our customers’ wishes…

[4] Challenge: Layout modifications differing from the template with ‘memory‘. Answer: The ST4 Layout Recall.

Normally with a 100% PDF generation you have to accept the fact that no changes are possible to the produced document as it is created 100% fully automatically. When the template covers all cases satisfactorily this is of course the ideal solution. As no later editing is necessary. But what is to be done when the template does not fit for some reason or another? Then there are only two possible ways.

  1. First the template is adapted accordingly because one hopes or believes that this will be a change for all documents of the same type resp. a template variant must be created which does not make things easier to maintain. Besides this must be done by “trained operating staff” – i.e. the programer of the template, which could constitute a problem regarding time and/or costs. Depending on the situation the customer might even forfeit warranty if he changes the template-setup of the producer…
  2. Second possible way: Formats that can be edited later are generated like Microsoft Word, Adobe FrameMaker or Adobe InDesign. The disadvantage is that programing here is proprietary and layout changes must be carried out again after the next generation, as the document is generated anew and the changes are gone. Besides the whole content of the document is ‘open’ and everyone who can open the file for editing can also change the content – be it unintentionally.

Here at SCHEMA we even took one step further and developed the so-called “Layout Recall”. Starting from an actual WYSIWYG layout preview the user can make certain changes to the layout (differing from the template), that are only valid for this document and save them persistently to this document instance. This might be e.g. odd page breaks or odd column widths of tables.

When the content of the document changes the Layout Recall can reapply these to the document without having to carry them out again. The user can then produce the document either with layout changes or also with the original template directly to PDF.
With the Layout Recall document types are now possible for our customers that would normally have eluded the paradigm of automation, like e.g. marketing documents, datasheets of several pages with refined layout and the like.

And I almost had forgotten to mention. With the Page Layout Designer not only PDF (including Layout Recall) can be created directly, but also Adobe InDesign and in the future Microsoft Word documents as well. The reason for this simply is that some customers must be in a position to deliver printable documents, but the customers’ customers sometimes require an open format like e.g. Microsoft Word.

We think the above mentioned four components really present a nice piece of work.

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