Frequently Asked Questions

How does it work?

What file formats do you support?

Why use a dedicated conversion server?

What do I need to do to get it working at my site?

Do you have sample code that can be used?

Do you have any plans to support SUN and UNIX?

Viruses - what happens when the conversion server gets infected?

Speed and Reliability

How well does the Document Conversion Server scale?

Who else uses this technology?

How does ImageMAKER's licensing policy work?

How does it work?

The Document Conversion software controls file conversion to TIFF, TXT and JPEG by first launching the file owner application (e.g. Word, Excel, Netscape), then instructing the owner application to print the document using Windows shell commands.

Our experience is that no one utility can convert all file formats. However, most applications have a mechanism used by the Windows shell to support file printing. File associations are based on the file extension. Any application that has a DDE, OLE, or command line print capability can be adapted to work with our conversion server. We then use our proprietary technology to monitor the formatting process that occurs during the print process, allowing us to produce TIFF, JPEG, and TEXT output from any file type.

A Print Monitoring application (Server and Carrier Grade) monitors the status of the conversion process, closing any dialog boxes that may come up. Our unique ‘learn mode’ built in capability ensures that the monitoring process only needs to be told once what to do, and from then on dialogs and problem applications are closed automatically.

What file formats do you support?

Supported file types include:

  • Internet HTML (Netscape or Internet Explorer 5.0)
  • Adobe Accrobat PDF
  • Rich Text File RTF
  • Microsoft Word DOC
  • Microsoft Excell XLS
  • Microsoft Powerpoint PPT
  • Corel Word Perfect WPD
  • Corel Draw CDR
  • TIFF CLASS F
  • ASCII and UNICODE TXT

Support for other custom file formats:

All that is required to support a custom file format is a Windows print mechanism, and an ability to load and print the original file via command line arguments or scripting (DDE) commands.

Supported OUTPUT file types include:

B&W TIFF Class F fax format, multiple pages per file, or single file per page.

- Suitable for faxing, or viewing from email as a fax attachment.

24 bit JPEG, variable compression, one page per file

- Suitable for viewing on the WEB, PDA, or as an email attachment.

ASCII TXT

- Suitable for viewing on WAP devices, or for use in Text to Speach applications.

Why use a dedicated conversion server?

Certain conversions can be very compute-power intensive and might overload the Web Server or otherwise interfere with its normal operation

Where the Web Server is UNIX or OS/2-based and the conversions are primarily between document types used by Windows applications, off-loading these conversions to a Windows-based system may be the simpler technical approach

Many Windows applications use file formats that are proprietary and subject to change with each new release. Use of the original application to convert the document gives the best possible fidelity, and also allows new formats to be supported as soon as the application becomes available, rather than waiting for third party tool suppliers to update their conversion products

Security: Certain files may contain viruses, invisible text, or represent some form of security risk. By isolating conversion on a separate server, documents can be ‘cleaned’ by converting them to TIFF, without possible contamination of the central server.

What do I need to do to get it working at my site?

First, download one of the Demo applications. These are self-extracting EXEs that install the conversion control application and the conversion drivers. Then, install standard applications to test the conversions. Source code sample projects re supplied with the demo application, providing a starting point for product integration and development. API interfaces include OCX, DLL, PIPE, and EXE command line.

If additional support is required, our support staff is happy to assist you.

For web based document conversion, additional sample ASP sample code can be made available.

Do you have sample code that can be used?

All the downloadable demos contain sample VB and C++ projects that demonstrate code integration with the Conversion Engine. Sample code for WEB integration is available on request. Programming requirements are minimal. We expect that you will be up and converting within a day. 

We also welcome custom work to help integrate our product into your development environment. In addition, we provide open access to our technical staff, in that we can get any problems that might come up dealt with as quickly as possible.

Do you have any plans to support SUN and UNIX?

UNIX and LINUX pose special problems that we feel are difficult to resolve. As most documents are Windows based, we will likely keep to our Windows roots for a while to come. The NT conversion server can easily be controlled from a UNIX machine through a pipe communication protocol. Sample code, and an overview document can be provided on request.

Viruses - what happens when the conversion server gets infected?

The conversion server can be isolated on its own network, separate from the corporate or web servers. Files can be uploaded to the conversion server via FTP or through a secure network communication protocol, similar to how any internet addressable computer is accessed.. Output files (TIFF, JPEG, and TXT) can be returned the same way, and are by definition virus free.

If the conversion server does get contaminated, then the machine can be ‘re-installed’ from a clean backup, without having to bring down the rest of your network.

Speed and Reliability

We've built a job monitoring application (Wpdaemon.exe) that we ship with the server conversion engine that monitors the printing job, can 'kill' applications that don't close, and can be taught to 'close' dialogs that come up prompting for information (e.g. Internet Explorer will ask you to confirm the name of the printer to print to). Reliability therefore goes up with the number of jobs printed (each new problem type only occurs once, from then on the daemon has been taught what to do).

We currently benchmark our conversion speed at 1 second per page on very conservative hardware. A single computer should be able to convert 60 pages a minute, 3600 pages an hour, 86,400 pages a day, not allowing for program load time overhead. Throughput can be improved by adding additional machines.

How well does the Document Conversion Server scale?

The key to our Carrier Grade Conversion Engine architecture is our 'hub' conversion process, where the 'hub' queues up the jobs, and separate slave computers handle the conversion. This results in a very scalable solution, in that if you need more horsepower, all you need do is add additional computers to the network. This also means the web server does not get bogged down handling conversions, and instead concentrates on serving web pages while a separate machine handles conversions.

Conversion of a Word document requires tremendous resources. To complicate matters further, most applications (including WORD) do not handle multiple simultaneous conversions well. Since computers are relatively cheap, it's a lot easier to pass off the conversion process to a slave machine than it is to debug multiple conversions all on the same machine.

A conservatively-built slave can convert a 3-page Word document in approximately 10 seconds, of which 4 seconds is spent loading Word; if Word is already loaded, the conversion time is about 6 seconds. Assuming you do not leave Word loaded, a slave should be able to convert 360 3-page documents an hour, 8600 documents (25800 pages) a day. A conversion server hub initially is licensed for 10 conversion slaves, rendering a throughput of 60 3-page documents a minute. Additional slaves can be added to increase throughput.

Who else uses this technology?

Our traditional customers are companies in the unified communication business that need a Tiff print driver on the client work station in order to send faxes from the desktop. We license our products to Microsoft Corporation, Nortel Networks, Lucent Technologies, MCI Telecommunications, Mail.com, Globe Wireless, Verso (MessageClick), and other large and small businesses.

The Document Conversion Server is a newer product for us, used by MCI, Message Click, and Global Wireless to name a few. We are putting a lot of development effort on improving our Document Conversion Server product.
 

For more information, contact:
ImageMAKER Development Inc.  
Suite 102, 416 Sixth Street,
New Westminster, BC
Canada V3L 3B2
http://www.imgmaker.com
To contact us from overseas:
Sales: +1.604.525.2170.
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