RealObjects: effective and extensive – 2 key characteristics of the PDFreactor PDF conversion tool

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PDFreactor is a powerful tool for producing PDFs based on web content. My task today is to find out what it can do and how it compares to other expensive web-to-PDF tools.

Massive demand for the server-supported provision of printable PDF files is not a new phenomenon. Furthermore the production of documents with the relevant ready-to-print characteristics requires the application of effective software programs, like recently profiled tool, pdfChip, created by Callas Software. These professional conversion programs are used, for example, for dynamically generated, web-content-based documents like invoices, reports and datasheets or premium-quality marketing materials and magazines with high standards of print quality, like compliance with chromaticity requirements (e.g. for CD-conform print products) or true-to-size depictions (e.g. technical documentation). There are also various usage scenarios in the online print sector, e.g. transaction printing and book-on-demand production, in which HTML, CSS and JavaScript deliver considerable benefits for print applications. For that reason I want to talk about another tool, which in terms of performance is in many respects the equal of pdfChip and which was also created by a German software developer.

Irrespective of which commercial-use conversion tool you choose, the objective of zero-defect HTML and CSS code print output (irrespective of volume) is always the same; Source: suntoucher.de

That’s enough of the preamble –so what can the PDFreactor do? The software developers and IT consultants at RealObjects, which is based in Saarbrücken/Germany, launched the first version of this tool on the market back in 2006. The eighth generation of the converter, which supports all HTML5 elements, CSS3 as well as JavaScript-driven layouts, is now available. As in the case of Callas’ recently profiled pdfChip tool, no additional preparatory steps are required to convert web content codes to (print-) ready PDFs. Specifically, both tools feature the following in their range of functions: SVG and MathML support, generation of barcodes and QR codes, automatic imposition, production of PDF/A for archiving purposes and of PDF/X (up to PDF/X-4p) for the creation of technically sophisticated print documents with perfect typography, including special colors, CMYK support, print control strips, trim marks etc.

pdfChip and PDFreactor are two high-performance PDF-generation options, which were created by German developers and which both have their strengths. There is ample requirement for such professional PDF tools in the web-to-print and eCommerce sectors; the importance of fast, flexible PDF creation from web content, be it for transaction printing purposes or for larger print documents, is set to increase in the future.” – Bernd Zipper

Example applications for PDFreactor include large documents of more than 150 pages. To create this size of PDF document you need to opt for the M version of Callas´ pdfChip, which after all will set you back by 10,000 Euros plus sales tax plus 2,000 Euros in the first year for the maintenance agreement. In contrast, RealObjects’ basic package costs “only” costs around 2,680 Euros, including maintenance and support during the first year of use. Well now, it sounds as if what both tools can do is almost identical – so where’s the difference? I checked briefly with Dietrich von Seggern, a member of the management board at Callas.

PDFreactor enables you to convert HTML, XML and CSS to PDF for various publishing purposes; Source: pdfstore.de

“As a rule our users specifically utilize web languages and JavaScript in particular to create highly dynamic, high-performance, precision-customized PDF products using pdfChip. For example, these could be thousands and thousands of invoices, personalized postcards or customized labels. The quality of the PDFs created is a much more important criterion than the conversion of a maximum possible number of HTML structures/designs, and pdfChip therefore creates streamlined, high-performance editable PDF files. We create template-based, dynamic PDF pages using extensions to the JavaScript language.”

What this statement makes clear is that pdfChip’s focus or rather its strength lies in high-volume creation of template-based, dynamic pages featuring customized data. In this respect it’s not the length of the individual documents that’s important but rather the delivery rate. In the case of pdfChip that means the S Version is good, but quickly reaches its limits, if high conversion rates are required. The M version in contrast really makes sense for providers that require more than an average conversion rate of 16 pages per minute. In terms of output formats the PDFreactor is just as interesting, even if quantitative output seems less important than the quantity and complexity of supported functions.

In profiling these two tools, I have not really even scratched the surface of all the options available. So what’s the story with other similarly powerful tools? During my research I came across other, to some extent similarly effective options – but to profile them all in detail here would exceed the scope of this blog post. But I’m not saying they don’t deserve to be profiled… That’s why I should like to mention a couple of other commercial-use tools for converting web content into ready-to-print PDF files, which you can do your own research on: Prince, Antennahouse and DocRaptor.

My take: There is always more than one solution for achieving one’s objective, in this case professional, ready-to-print PDF files. When choosing the right tools, you have to decide what range of functions and what speed of web-to-print performance you require. And last but not least: beware – apparent cost savings can definitely be deceptive. In other words, performance has to be right. And anybody, who, for example, has to supply several thousand transaction print items in PDF format per month, sometimes not just during so-called peak periods, requires supreme performance and therefore a professional tool.

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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