Network Printing Nuggets Included with V4R3

Lest IBM be accused of delivering a variety of extraneous enhancements with V4R3, Big Blue also hits the enterprise where it counts with a series of network printing upgrades and printer announcements.

V4R3 includes components designed to re-engineer business processes through use of electronic documents, applying the AS/400 print model to the network and effectively managing mission-critical print from desktop to production print volumes.

Improvements to the IBM printing environment are "mostly concerned with customers who are printing documents that essentially run the backbone of the business, where an incorrectly-delivered job affects the bottom line of the company," says Paul Preo, marketing segment manager for IBM’s Distributed Mission-Critical segment. "AS/400 users are used to that type of printing support."

Specific print interface enhancements introduced with V4R3 affect Print Services Facility (PSF)/400 as well as Postscript Transform, SNA Character String (SCS) to TIFF, Java Print and AFP Workbench.

PSF/400 is designed to provide Page Printer Formatting Aid (PPFA), Data Description Specs (DDS), performance and archiving improvements. PPFA enables graphical page design and copy support, as well as a fast way to convert existing SCS applications. DDS provides dynamic control over all document elements, including lines, boxes, overlays, text, fonts, images, graphics and bar codes.

PSF/400 is the print driver integrated into OS/400 that manages the full printing process, providing full printing management, two-way communication and full error recover, according to Preo. "OS/400 pioneered a lot of the robust print management capabilities," Preo notes. In AS/400 environments using IBM InfoPrint printers, PSF/400 eliminates the need to install InfoPrint Manager software.

With the introduction of V4R3, AS/400 users can expect enhanced document and file support in Postscript format. In addition, full AFP Workbench is now standard in Client Access/400. The full AFP Workbench for Windows version for Client Access lets the user view and manipulate both PC-based and AS/400-based documents. Additionally, users can preview documents before printing and select part or all to print; view documents instead of printing them; and support a variety of application data streams such as SCS data and AFP documents, including electronic forms and images, ASCII data without graphics controls and TIFF, PCX, DCX, DIB and GIF files.

Coinciding with the September release of V4R3 is a new component to IBM’s 1998 "industrial strength" printing initiatives. "We’ve been finding that the trend now is to take previously IBM-dedicated, Twinax-connected printers and place them on the network," Preo says. "IBM has changed its focus now and brought enterprise print management capabilities down to the department and workgroup level."

InfoPrint 3000 – an intermediate, continuous-forms production printer – was also announced in September. The InfoPrint 3000 provides 112 to 344 impressions per minute at 480 or 600 dpi and a direct network attachment for full print capabilities. Intelligent pre- and post-processing equipment can be attached as required.