Native IBM i PDF Conversion Versus Paperless Reporting

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No_ProgrammingAs of IBM i 6.1, IBM now provides native PDF creation capabilities inside the operating system with the licensed Transform Services product (5770TS1 for i 7.x, and 5761TS1 for i 6.1).

While this is a welcome enhancement, it’s important to understand what Transform Services can and can’t do as part of an IBM i report automation environment (paperless reporting).

Here’s a brief overview on how spooled file-to-PDF conversion works with Transform Services, why it’s not a complete paperless reporting solution, and what you can do about it.

What Transform Services Does

5770TS1 and 5761TS1 are free products. You must have Transform Services installed on your system for native PDF report conversion, along with a few other i/OS options such as Integrated File System support (IFS) and PASE for i (AIX support). Information on installing and using the product can be found on IBM’s Using Transform Services to Generate PDF Stream Files instead of Spooled Files Web page.

Transform Services provides spooled file-to-PDF output capabilities as a DIY programming solution that’s implemented through the operating system’s Advanced Printer Function (AFP) feature. Native spooled file-to-PDF output conversion can be accomplished through either of these techniques.

  1. Configuring new parameters in IBM i printer files that output spooled file reports to the Integrated File System (IFS) in PDF format. You set up and change these parameters through the Create Printer File (CRTPRTF), Change Printer File (CHGPRTF), or the Override with Printer File (OVRPRTF) commands. Your printer files can be set up for PDF output before report generation or at run time. There are no settings for converting groups of spooled files to PDF output. Each printer file must be individually configured for PDF output.
  1. Using new parameters in the Copy Spooled File (CPYSPLF) command to copy a spooled file report to a newly created PDF file in the IFS. The new CPYSPLF can be called from within another program, a custom command, or from the command line.

What Transform Services Doesn’t Do

With Transform Services, IBM gives you a tool for PDF conversion. It doesn’t give you a complete paperless reporting solution.

IBM’s Transform Services software requires programming support to implement spooled file-to-PDF report conversion. Users will not be able to convert spooled files themselves. Your programmers will have to individually configure each spooled file for PDF output or modify their source code to use the CHGPRTF or OVRPRTF commands to change your print files PDF files at run-time. There also isn’t any support for automatically emailing converted PDF files to users or storing them on external Windows file servers.

Transform Services gives you the ability to convert spooled file reports to PDF format, but you have to build your own DIY programming solution to make it practical to use.

Going Beyond Spooled File-to-PDF Report Conversion

While Transform Services provides PDF report conversion tools, it isn’t a paperless reporting solution. It’s only a building block for creating one piece of a paperless reporting solution. For a complete solution, you’ll also want to provide your users with the following capabilities.

  • The system can automatically convert any spooled file report to PDF or users can create and access PDF files on demand from already existing reports…without programming support.
  • Spooled file to PDF conversion and delivery can be automatically scheduled through batch capabilities, without using computer operations resources or buying a commercial job scheduling package.
  • PDF conversion, delivery, and archiving is menu driven, which allows users to handle their own conversion and delivery activities, taking programmers out of the PDF creation business.
  • Converted PDF reports can be archived in either the IBM i IFS or on external Windows file servers, giving you more freedom to automatically download reports to Web servers and other external server solutions.
  • The system can convert IBM i spooled files to several different universal file formats, including PDF, XLSX, HTML, Word, text, or CSV. The system isn’t limited to converting spooled files to just one universal format, such as PDF.

While it’s great to have native IBM i tools, the end game with PDF conversion is to provide a complete paperless reporting solution such as SpoolFlex, which provides these benefits and more. Third-party packages automate spooled file conversion to PDF and other formats at a reasonable price, often less than the cost of having your programming staff create an in-house DIY solution using native capabilities.

There are many good packages out there that provide paperless reporting capabilities at a comparable or better price than rolling your own solution. And using third-party software for paperless reporting has the added benefit of freeing up programmer time to work on more business-centric projects, rather than reproducing functions that are already available in reasonable priced professionally developed software.

Give us a call at DRV Tech if you’re interested in converting, delivering, and archiving your IBM i spooled file reports as PDF files or in other universal file formats. We’ll be glad to go over your options and show you the benefits of using a professionally developed package for paperless reporting and how it compares to creating your own DIY solution. Also be sure to check out the helpful articles I’ve listed below that provide more information on this topic.

Related Reading

3 Steps to Setting Up Better IBM i Report Automation

4 Benefits of Professionally Developed Software that Aids IBM i Development

8 Reasons Why You Should Care About Report Automation

How Much Can IBM i Paperless Processing Save You?

SpoolFlex Paperless Reporting the Easy Way (Webcast)

What is IBM i Paperless Processing?


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