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Receiving content from people using proprietary file format tools - part two

PostScript to PDF

In Part I of this series, we examined the vexing problem of the common exchange of data between heterogeneous pools of users. Some users will end up using a file format version (often due to use of a software vendor's proprietary tool), which another cannot be read by a recipient as the sender intended.

A lingua franca of PostScript offers a 'common tongue', for which included or freely available 'print drivers' exist in every production class computer operating system of which we are aware. We saw in that tip, that it was possible to produce and send PostScript files around with the same ease of sending the non-portable proprietary format content.

But at the recipient end, occasionally differing printer setups -- A4 paper vs. US Letter, and so forth -- can cause line breaks and forms to shift around, and not appear visually exactly as the sender intended. Additionally, custom local font sets (which the sender may have unknowingly used) may not be present at the destination. In such cases, one of the 35 'default' PostScript base fonts is substituted, sometimes causing significant changes in the appearance of a document.

To address these and other issues, and for some interesting performance gains, the freely licensed Adobe "Portible Document Format" encapsulation of PostScript content, and the requisite font outlines were developed. As with PostScript drivers, there are again both commercially supported and freely available implementations of PostScript 'Distillers' (the term which Adobe calls its variant which converts PostScript to a well-formed PDF). A freely available version is available, along with full source code, at links off the Artifex Software AFPL ghostscript website.

Interestingly, the commitment to zero defects of Artifex Software is so high that as of late 2002, they are paying a 'bounty' of $100 per well-reported unique 'bug' duly reported to and verified by them.

The software installs easily, and is trivially easy to use. Producing and transferring exactly the form of the message the sender intended to send to the recipient is easy and direct, using this toolset. PDF 'readers' are likewise either pre-installed, or freely available for each production class operating system.

And so the goal of not being trapped in or out of sending or receiving content to and from users of proprietary file formats is solved. All that is required is a bit of training and freely available or included software.

Please respect our copyright, and consider contacting us for all your Open Source and *nix design, architect / systems analysis, and administration needs.

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Last modified: Sun, 06 Oct 2002 15:07:28 -0400