Recently, some of our largest customers (Fortune 500) complained to us that their smooth running systems weren’t properly displaying AFP documents such as credit card brochures and human resources documents. Given the viewers failing to handle these documents were provided by Snowbound, it was a big concern.
When we investigated, we learned that the AFP print stream document format originally created by IBM was also now being generated by a product that HP acquired a few years ago known as HP Exstream. HP Exstream is a sophisticated document generation product intended for use, among other things, to generate thousands and sometimes millions of customer specific documents that are either e-mailed or mailed. When opening a bank statement or credit card statement, those colorful inserts or letters with all the exciting details about their new service or product are likely to have been generated by HP Exstream. Exstream can generate documents not only for web, but also e-mail and printing, all through the use of standard document formats. I won’t belabor all of the specifics about this interesting product, but suffice to say, it expands the boundaries for the generation of these kinds of documents. So what’s the problem?
Well, when a document format that has been around for over 30 years is expanded, the specs are not always followed. Even when they are, document generation features may be used that no one has ever worked with before. And we now find that’s the story with HP Exstream. This product creates documents–at least in the AFP print stream format–in ways that are quite innovative. And except for HP Exstream, many viewers and other processing software aren’t prepared to handle them. Technically, these documents aren’t bad. They’re just stretching the envelope. But if your system can’t cope with them, you’re stuck.
There are many other instances like this with document viewing. Whether the new documents are technically correct or even flawed, the four takeaways below can help:
- When using a new document production system, test (and test again!) before going to production
- When getting documents from a new source, ask for a lot of sample documents (and test!).
- Make sure your vendor can be responsive. Do they understand the format and do they have engineers who can quickly turn around a solution?
- Give your viewer or CMS vendor advance notice for best results.