Despite the advance of web-based layout controls, there is still a demand for offline/downloadable documents, the most popular format is PDF.
One reason for the popularity of the PDF format is that PDF documents can be accurately formatted so that they display with the same layout and appearance to all users, something that is virtually impossible with HTML based designs.
PDF documents are often used for reports and data based information that is then used to inform market and business decisions. The information in the document is often shared between decision makers and so a single document that can be emailed is often found useful. Controlling the security in the document is an important aspect and the PDF format handles this well (even though some PDF readers don't handle all aspects quite so well).
XSL-FO is a well established document formatting language primarily used to create PDF files and for precise control it is the ideal method of converting data to PDF. Whilst there are applications which convert HTML to PDF, none offer quite the precision or flexibility offered by XSL-FO. Below are few examples of what can be achieved using XSL-FO. All documents are based on fictitious organisations.
Example application: Business Stationery
MadeUp PLC are a nationwide company with several regional offices. The company want to ensure that their stationery and advertising material used by all the offices has a uniform "house" style.
A Internet or Intranet based system allows each regional manager to order new stationery (advertising flyers, business cards or compliment slips) based on corporate templates. When a manager places their stationery order, they can edit certain areas of the stationery such as the names and addresses, colours and images used etc... Once the order is complete it is converted to a print-ready PDF and this is then either sent directly to the printers or may first require approval by the head office. Head office can control colours and images available if needed and can also add new templates for use by the regional offices.
See an example Business Card layout
Example application: Barcodes
ABC Ltd have an e-commerce system selling their own products. Each product is identified for shipping and stock control by barcode. The ABC e-commerce system has a facility to create printable barcode labels. When a new delivery of products arrive in the store, the store manager can update the stock level and at the same time create a printable PDF for the new stock. The PDF will be formatted to match the correct adhesive label layout. The e-commerce system has the added advantage of being able to book stock in and out using the barcode, speeding delivery and ensuring accurate stock control. A sample page of adhesive labels is below, the layout is for 63mm x 33mm labels with a mixed list of products each with their own EAN-13 barcode. Other Barcode types, such as Datamatrix can also be created if needed.
See an example Barcode Label page
Example application: Marketing Report
MN Marketing provide business intelligence based on stock market information and their own in-house analysis. the company sell these reports to subscribed analysts who can download the reports as PDFs. Depending on the access level agreed between the analysts and MN Marketing, the PDF can be password protected, print protected, copy protected or a combination of all three. Because XSL-FO has sophisticated layout control, the reports are neatly arranged, can allow for double sided printing and set the margins correctly left and right pages, contain an automatically created table of contents and page numbering and of course can be personalised for each analyst if needed.
The example here shows page numbering, odd and even pages for double sided printing, table of contents with links and several other features such as embedded Google® maps.
See an example Marketing Report
Below is the same document but password protected. There are two levels of access, Owner and User. The Owner can print and copy and the User can only view the PDF. The respective passwords are below.
Owner password = canprint
User password = cannotprint
Please note: The current Foxit® Reader (Ver 4.3) cannot handle this mixed security levels and so this example will currently only work in Adobe® Acrobat®. Foxit have been informed of this bug.
See an example Marketing Report with security
For more information on converting your data to PDF contact us.