PDFWriter for TS
- Published: Tuesday, 21 October 2008
The functionality to create a PDF file out of the business applications and the default office applications is nowadays at many companies a demand. Most end-users do not want to create the PDF fully on their own, but mainly have a report (or similar) out of another application saved as a PDF file for distribution.
For this demand several PDF printer software products have been released. Such a program creates a new printer within the operating system and when this printer is selected by the user a PDF file will be made as the file would be printer on a real printer device.
Many of these programs offer a freeware version for personal use on operating systems like Windows XP. The "freeware" feature is announced a lot on the websites of these manufacturers. Many organizations assume that such a free version can be used on Terminal Servers as well, but logically the technique and methodology is completely different. Because of this many PDF creator products are offering normal paid products for a Terminal Server.
But because the assumption is made that the software is for free (and also is not made really clear on the websites of the manufacturers), there is no budget allocated for that and the need for a freeware product is still there. In this article I take a look at those PDF creator products that also offer a freeware version for Terminal Servers.
The first product is the PDF995 by Software 995. The software actually exists of server small programs, together creating a full PDF creator suite. To let the software function you need to install at least two components: the PDF995 Printer Driver and the PDF995 Converter. Without the PDF995 converter the product will not function, so I prefer that those two components are combined in one installer, because you need to install them both.
Besides those two they also have components called PDF995 Edit and PDF995 Signature.
PDFEdit offers advanced functionality to edit created PDF's with bookmarks, add keywords, and combining multiple PDF's and many more. PDF995 Signature offers encryption and certificate security for a higher protection level.
All products are installed via a Winzip self extractor. The installation can be personalized using a INI file at the same location as the installation executables are located (for example changing the destination location). An unattended installation can only be performed via the autosetup executable, which is only available for customers who bought the product.
After the installation with a INI file the configuration can be adjusted (default location where the PDF will be saved and so on) and the software should be get familiar that is running on a Terminal Server.
When using the product as a freeware version a Pop-Up and the PDF995 website will be opened when a user creates a PDF file. This is pretty annoying (it takes at least 5 seconds before the pop-up is disappearing).
I personally have seen this product on a couple of Terminal Server infrastructures of my customers. In some of those infrastructures the product had a couple of issues with unattended installations and once there were issues that the basic functionality was not functioning with PDF995 Edit also installed on the Terminal Servers. But mainly the product is working fine (also in my test environment for this article) and delivers a normal quality PDF files.
Also CutePDF writer has a freeware version which is available for commercial and non-commercial usages. The freeware version of CutePDF also exists of two installations. The CutePDF printer package and (open source) PDF Converter. CutePDF recommends GPL Ghostscript as a converter, but others should also work.
There is no official fully unattended installation, but a silent parameter is available. Only also with this silent parameter at the end a browser (for displaying the readme file) is opened. On the Internet several unattended solutions can be found, so you can create a kind of unattended installation including the PDF ghost script.
The installation is straight forwarded. You need to accept the license agreement installing the PDF Writer and at the end the installation is also mentioning that you need to download the PDF converter. Because CutePDF does not deliver this their selves it is logical that they separated the installations, but still one installed is easier to maintain.
The biggest advantage of CutePDF Writer is probably that this freeware version is not showing any pop-up or advertisements to the users. Also the output is of a good quality even with images within the file.
I have used this product at one of my customers and despite of the unattended installation (on MSI was created for this, because we are using) we did not have any issues with this version.
PDFCreator is open source project, located in the well known SourceForge.net. In comparison with most of the other products this means there is no "upgrade" path to a commercial version for the future and there will be no official support from a company. However probably this is the most feature rich product. There are translations available for 25 languages and the installation offers the most possible configuration settings of the compared products. For example it is possible to create a network based PDF printer, a toolbar for Internet Explorer/FireFox and to add entry in the Windows Explorer context menu. Also the installer has several parameters to install the product unattended. Also the installation includes the converter, so no second installation is required.
After rebooting the server message is showing up that PDFCreator is conflicting with the DEP (Data Execution Prevention) feature. This causes PDFCreator to crash. After excluding PDFCreator from the DEP function, the software is functioning fine.
When the user chooses the PDFCreator as the printer to create the document one additional screen will pop-up. In this pop-up window additional information can be added to the PDF like keyword, document title, author and several dates (see above displayed figure). The quality of the output is fine, but I images are a bit blurry.
Doro PDF Writer
The Doro PFD software is developed by one guy as he mentions on his website with too much spare time. He created an impressive list of freeware tools (you can donate if you want), where the Doro PDF Writer is one of them. The installation exists of a single executable, which installs with much interaction. I could not find a way to install the product unattended. The Ghostscript part for converting to the PDF files is also included within this installation file.
Just like the other products Doro will create an additional printer, which can be selected at every windows program. When the user selects the printer for creating the PDF file a windows will be displayed in which the user can enter additional properties for the PDF file as a document name, keywords, author and so on. Also additionally encryption can be specified to allow copy or pasting or even an password for full control of the document. The output has a good quality.
BullZip PDF Printer
BullZip PDF Printer is the only PDF solution in this list with a real limitation mentioned on the website. It is only allowed to use the product up to 10 users. If you have more than 10 user, you should acquire a license for the product.
BullZIp PDF printer does not include the GhostScript part, so this one should be downloaded and installed separately. On the forum several posts are available describing the possibility to install this product unattended.
Also on the same forum of the manufacturer there are several topics about troubles with running the software on Terminal Services. In my test environment however the software was running fine, without any additional configurations actions.
Printing to the PFD Printer will show a dialog window where a lot of options can be configured. This product has definite the most options available of the reviewed products. Just like other you can configure more document properties and protect the document (for printing and copying and full control). But the options to expand a current PDF and to add a watermark (within the default user interface) are also available in this product. Also this output has a good quality.
Microsoft Office 2007 PDF Converter
With the release of Office 2007 a free add-on can be downloaded from the Microsoft website, which enables an option to save Office documents into the PDF format. This add-on is single executable which can be installed unattended easily.
There is not much configurable with the Office 2007 PDF Converter. After the installation there is an additional option available in the Save As option called PDF or XPS. When a user clicks this option he can choose the quality and the name of the file. The quality is fairly good, but images are sometimes a bit blurry.
In this article I took a look at range of freeware PDF writers that are compatible with Terminal Server/Citrix XenApp. I only tried those products which really offer a free product (no trial versions) and those who mentioned explicit that the product can be used on Terminal Servers. Of course it is possible that I forget a product, so do not hesitate to share your experiences with us via the comments options at the end of this article.
Summarizing the product I have been tested it is not easy to determine which product is the best solution, because they all have their advantages and disadvantaged. PDF995 has lots of options and unattended installation solution, but will probably not used much because of the very present commercials add during the creation of the PDF file. CutePFD has advantage that there is an official supplier behind it and offers a good quality. On the other hand it does not offer the most options and the unattended options can be improved. PDFCreator is an open source project, thus lacks official support. In comparison with the other it offers the less quality during conversion to PDF (but it is definitely not bad). Doro PDF Writer does not have an unattended option and is only maintained with one guy. On the other hand it offers lots of functionality with a good quality output. BullZip offers the most features within the product and is also maintained by a company. The biggest disadvantage is that the product officially may be used with 10 users. The Office 2007 PDF Converter is free (of course if you purchased Office 2007), but this is only available within the Office applications.
If searching for a freeware PDF solution determine the demands of your organization, so you can select the product which suits your needs most.