can look as good as the paper originals with new software
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue # 325 January 16, 1996 High Tech Office column
trying to reduce the deluge of paper that floods in, going digital
might seem attractive. As we saw last week, a new generation of
and software makes it simpler for even small businesses to scan paper
documents, convert them to computer-editable digital text, and then
index and file them in a more easily retrievable form.
is like most, this can create a new set of problems. For example,
can you store your digital documents in a form that allows all your
users to access them? Perhaps your enterprise has a mix of computer
types--a bunch of PCs, most of them running Windows, but a few older
machines off in a corner somewhere still running DOS. You may use some
Macs for graphics and page design, or maybe you have a UNIX workstation
or server. Many offices have different word processors using different
save your digital
documents as plain text, also known as ASCII text. This is the lowest
common denominator: every computer can read it, but that's because
it throws away all the formatting information--you lose anything
to page layout, design and graphics.
relatively new category
of software allows you to take digital versions of your paper documents
one step further, creating an electronic document that maintains the
look of the original, including design, layout, and graphics, and
that can be viewed on a wide range of computers, even if they lack
the fonts or the application used to create the original. Programs
which can do this include Common Ground from Common Ground Software,
WordPerfect's Envoy Publisher, and Adobe's
of these products,
you can distribute a product catalogue, complete with fancy layout
and illustrations, and distribute it widely on floppy disk or CD-ROM
to potential customers who use Windows or Macs. Within the company,
layouts can be created on the art department's Macs and sent in a
form that allows them to be viewed on the PCs used by management.
allows the document
creator to add hyperlinks--connections that jump between sections
of a document, such as the first instance of a technical term and
its definition, or the caption on a picture and a more complete
As well, readers can search documents for desired information.
an added-cost item called the ProViewer allows readers to add their
own electronic bookmarks and annotations--useful for allowing
to add comments before sending the layout proposal back to the art
department for revision.
Perfect Office Suite, you already have a copy of Envoy. With Novell
aiming to sell off its desktop applications, however, the future of
this product is unclear. But if you want a copy of the free Envoy
Reader, check the Web site at http://www.novell.com.
Acrobat is the
most expensive of these products, but in some respects, the most
For example, since Adobe purchased the PageMaker page layout program,
the new version 6.0 allows users to automatically convert their page
designs into Acrobat format. Adobe has worked hard to make its Portable
Document Files (PDFs) a standard across a wide range of computers,
and readers which you can freely distribute along with your catalogue
exist not only for Windows and Mac computers, but for DOS and UNIX
as well. Adobe has also ensured that popular Web browsers such as
the latest versions of Netscape Navigator can view Acrobat documents,
so these are starting to appear on the Internet as well.
Any of the
of Acrobat Readers can be obtained for free on the Web at
Or you can call 1-800-521-1976 and Adobe will send you a free CD-ROM
containing the full collection of free readers, along with a collection
of sample documents. These include not only sample graphics, but also
several complete books, which provide interesting examples of how
faithful these sorts of electronic documents can be to print originals,
as well as showing how, with the use of hyperlinks and electronic
search, they can improve on printed text.
By using any
of these products,
your company can produce and distribute electronic documents with
all the appeal of full-colour, printed product.