TechTip: Printing PDFs from the iSeries 400

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We have several departments that are large users of iSeries 400 printouts. By users, I really mean they typically print it out, put in a binder, and put the binder away until the dust is so heavy they don't know what it is. However, there are rare occasions when these printouts must be referenced, so we cannot abandon the reports completely.

Being an IT guy, I think printing out those large reports is a cardinal sin. To get around this, we considered having the documents print out as a PDF. We did not want to spend the money on native AS/400 PDF writers nor did we want the hassle of installing new software on the AS/400.

Our solution was to print to a PDF print driver on the client computer that was printing the report. Using Client Access/400, we set up two PC5250 sessions. The first was a typical display session. The second was a printer session that we arbitrarily named CHRISPDF.

The printer session was set up such that the default printer for any jobs printed was the Adobe Acrobat PDF Writer. When you install Adobe Acrobat 4.0 and later, it installs print drivers for both the Distiller and the PDF Writer. The benefit is that Acrobat does not need to understand each individual application that writes to it. It simply sees the standard Windows print stream and converts it to a PDF--no matter which application is the source of the printout.

When I am ready to print on the AS/400, I direct the spool file to the CHRISPDF output queue. When it hits that queue, the Client Access/400 printer session downloads it from the AS/400 and sends it to the PDF Writer. When the PDF Writer receives it, a window pops up on my computer asking for the file name of the PDF file and where to save it. Once this information is entered, the PDF file is created and saved, and we're all done!

There are a few drawbacks of this solution, as you can probably tell. There is no way to automatically name a file based upon, for example, a title in the AS/400 print out. It is not an automated system, so user intervention is required. Batch printing any more than about five print jobs would be too time-consuming for this process. But it works, and for $200 to $300 and no software installed on the AS/400, you can't complain.

--Chris Green
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