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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Making Technology Simple

I’ve heard it said that great technology is a simple solution to a complex problem. That statement sounds compelling, but I think it actually sells technology short. So much of the technology that we use every day and even take for granted is in fact extremely complex and clever – but is successful because it comes with a user interface that we find simple and natural to use. Our smart phones for example, are much richer and more capable than the old generation phones they replace but we actually find them easier to use. But the evolution in user interface that has made this possible has not simplified the underlying technology – quite the opposite.

When it comes to print management, PaperCut NG makes it all appear simple. Installation and configuration is straightforward and intuitive. In minutes you can have a PaperCut NG solution up and running, delivering benefits. But let me tell you, as a newcomer to PaperCut, there is a great deal more to print management than I ever thought possible!

My name is Geoff Smith and I’ve just recently joined the PaperCut team as a senior developer and team leader. I’ve worked for many years in the complex field of Internet Communications and print management is something I’ve always just taken for granted. But after delving into the code behind the tranquil green user interface it is clear that the PaperCut user experience has only been achieved through a sustained and committed effort by some very clever people. The complexities are numerous and the solutions are well thought out and robust. The previous blog on EMF page level color control gives one small example – the painstaking and detailed work that must be done to bring you a feature you may not even notice but which helps make the overall solution run more smoothly and effectively.

I joined PaperCut because they are good at what they do. Each member of the team has something to teach me and it is a privilege to work with them. I’m looking forward to a great future.

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PaperCut 13.1 Release (and Behind The Scenes)

This week we unwrap PaperCut version 13.1!  Following on from 13.0’s massive release, including the headline Print Archiving feature, 13.1 delivers dozens of improvements across the entire product.

The release notes (see NG or MF) contain a full list of all the changes, so for this blog we thought we would do a deep-dive on just one 13.1 feature: Page-level Color Detection.

PaperCut looks closer at your documents than even this!

Page-level Color Detection is an important part of PaperCut. Counting the color pages is a simple concept to understand, but you may be surprised by the complexity under the hood faced by the PaperCut engineers who bring you this functionality. To count the color pages, PaperCut must read the print spool files and there are many printer languages that must be supported. Prior to release 13.1, PaperCut supported the PCL, PostScript and XPS printer languages (PDLs) for color detection. With release 13.1 we’ve added the Windows EMF (Enhanced MetaFile) print language.

Why EMF? Even if you already have PostScript or PCL capable printers, a driver-level configuration change was necessary to ensure spool files did not render in EMF, which is the Windows default spool file format. To make this change users were referred to the manual. Our goal is that all mainstream features work “out of the box” without complex configuration or making it necessary to consult the manual. As software developers we also don’t like reading manuals!

We’ve found that this driver configuration step is an often forgotten task. Now that we have EMF support there is less need for driver configuration. We feel we are now one step closer to our ultimate goal of having Page Level Color Detection the default option for new printers.

Adding EMF support was a major challenge for our engineer Peter. EMF is an internal, undocumented Windows format. Many hours have been spent wrestling with the Windows API, GDI and font anti-aliasing to ensure accurate color page counts. We’ve tested with many real-world documents as well as contrived samples to verify the feature. We even held an internal competition to see who could “trick the logic”. None could. A sign of a good development team is that the challenging projects like this one are also the fun ones!

Please refer to the relevant release history for full details of all 13.1 enhancements:

Image: cc-by-ca by Siri Hardeland

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