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  • Variable Data Printing Software - Need Feedback

    To avoid any confusion I would like to be upfront. This is not a product promotion post. There is nothing for sale. I am simply wanting to open up a dialog with other printers about where I should take this project next. The site is free to use. I’m not mining data. I’m just looking for a few print shops interested in alpha testing and providing feedback for a new piece of variable data software I’ve been working on as a hobby project. I have also confirmed with Print Planet this post does not violate any forum rules.

    Frankly after years of working in a exclusively variable data print shop I got frustrated with a lot of the software out there. Variable data merge oftentimes requires a steep learning curve of various different concepts and software applications. My project; VDPDF.com, is designed with the goal that even someone completely unfamiliar with professional printing will be able to produce a print ready and problem free PDF/VT.

    As this is only an Alpha version many features available in other software were either implied, such as “Never Clip Text” and “Automatic Colorspace Resolution,” or removed, such as “text alignment” and “data based rules.” My main focus with this release is simplicity and speed. Because the software is web based I want to make sure it will do the most basic functions; take a datasource (currently only a csv file) and merge it efficiently, in a way that can be easily adapted to fit various workflows. So while I welcome all feedback please keep this in mind as you test the software.
    I am mainly looking to answer a few basic questions. Does the software perform in the manner you would expect? Was it easy to learn? Could the output file go directly to your print queue without any additional modifications? And what features are “must haves” before you would consider using this software in a production environment?
    Those interested please visit vdpdf.com

    Current Features:
    • Dynamic Gang Run Imposition
    • Automatic PDF Flattening and Colorspace Conversion
    • Automatic Colorspace Conflict Resolution
    • Static Text “Stamp” Overlays
    • Dynamic “Variable Data” Text Overlays
    • Drag and Drop Layout Preview
    • Rotating Design Sets
    • High Speed Merge Algorithm
    • Output Meets Current PDF/X4 & PDF/VT ISO Standards
    Current Limitations:
    • MUST USE CURRENT CHROME BROWSER
    • Page Images - Will Only Accept Basic Image Formats & Single Page PDF’s
    • Data Sources - Will Only Accept CSV files
    Your feedback will help determine upcoming features, but currently being considered are:
    • UI Enhancements
    • Overlay Alignment Shortcuts (i.e. center frame on page)
    • Textfield Justification Buttons (i.e. center text in frame)
    • More Font Choices
    • User Specific Font Upload
    • Data Source Manipulation Rules
    • Printstream Manipulation Rules
    • Zip File Support
    • Layout Save & Recall
    • Auto Counter Overlay
    • Barcode Overlays
    • Graphic Overlays
    • Slip / Bundle Sheets
    • Multipage PDF Support
    Please post all feedback on this thread or if anyone would like a personal tutorial of the capabilities please feel free to message me and we can set something up.

  • #2
    I gave this a quick try since I'm always interested in software for the printing industry. This is a really cool idea! Just based on what I've try so far, here's a couple things I noticed:

    1) Got some error messages trying to delete variable data fields
    2) Uploading a csv file and image in the same upload field was a little confusing. Maybe make one for images and one that only accepts csv files for ease of use?
    3) when I uploaded the pdf, it didn't import correctly because it had a lot of white space. the bg in the pdf was probably transparent. I was hoping the software would import the pdf to the pdf's media box
    4) The processing time for a simple vdp job was QUICK!
    5) I like the modern ui, more instructions and/or those hint boxes would help the user
    6) Overall, very simple like you said. I can definitely see the viability of this software

    Comment


    • #3
      Justin,

      Thank you for your feedback. Do you remember what the error message you received was? I would like to investigate that issue. As for the PDF import issue; because of the vast variations of input pdfs I assumed would come in, I settled on converting based on the size of the bleed box. My line of thinking was that most simi print ready files would already have a bleed. However in situations where there is no bleed box it should default to the crop box. If you experienced a different result; I would be really interested in looking at your input file, if I am able to?

      I'm trying to determine the next set of features to add. What feature would you say is missing that really should be included?

      Comment


      • #4
        HAH! You know what, I just did the exact same thing that I did before and I didn't get any errors. Maybe it was caused on my end. Looks like it's working now. As for the document, I spoke too soon. You got it right with the bleed box. I had the size of the document typed out differently so when I uploaded the PDF and started to do the merge it used the size that I typed in. Maybe give the user a warning if the size of the pdf box is different than the one typed in?

        As for next features, I'd go with the text box justification settings. That's probably one of the more important things in my eyes.

        Looks like I just didn't know exactly how to use it when I first started but it's working now. This is really cool btw, what programming language did you use to create that software?

        Comment


        • #5
          That's good to hear about the error. You are correct whatever is uploaded will resize to the dimensions defined in the job settings. Mainly I took that approach for workflows that use jpg's or png files that have low resolution but extra large dimensions. Basically if you want a finished 3" x 3" piece at 300 dpi and you have a 12.5" x 12.5" at 72 dpi (essentially the same thing) the software will scale it for you automatically and allow the user to skip any additional resizing steps. I agree justification is a biggie and at the top of the list yet surprisingly more entailed than one would think. I'm glad you are liking it. The app is actually a composite of javascript, php and C#. Have you had a chance to build a job that gangs up multiple variable data jobs? I do a lot of same page size yet different data size runs so this was where I spent a lot of time; allowing a user to quickly gang up and layout many short variable runs into one large one quickly. I'm interested to hear how that performs in other production workflows.

          Comment


          • #6
            I gave it a quick try too.

            1. Initial reaction, like the look and feel.
            2. I do like all the options for the layout on the first step.
            3. I agree with another poster about step two, being a bit confusing to load both the data file and pdf into the same area.
            4. Would be nice to have the top '1. IMPOSE | 2. MERGE | 3. VDPDF.com' as links to the different steps. As I tried that numerous times.
            5. The speed, is really NICE!
            6. What was strange, is my first test I upload a PDF with a 1/8" bleed and it made the imposed PDF with multiple crop marks. And I see that it treated the PDF as an image and scaled the full PDF including the media box down to the page width and height plus bleed, instead of reading the page boxes in the PDF. For me, that is an absolute no go. But I can appreciate what you are trying to do, and can see a market for this. Maybe not customers to create the VDPDF, but small print shops who don't have the time or the money to invest into VD software.

            I will be happy to keep on testing when you release new versions for you, though.

            Comment


            • #7
              Scotts,

              Thank you for testing and providing feedback. I believe points 3 and 4 are valid and will be addressed in the next version. Regarding point 6. I might need a bit more clarification on this. You are correct this version defaults to treating input pdf's as an image which serves as a down and dirty way to deal with transparency and font restriction issues. So I guess my question is; is this conversion your primary issue, or does your input PDF already contain crop marks which cause this conversion to incorrectly alter the page size and ultimately produces duplicate crop marks? My original thinking on the conversion as a whole was that it will be an actual option in the "advanced mode" of a future version. The later; however is a known bug I have been trying to squash, but have not figured out a good way to handle programmatically modifying a PDF that doesn't conform to PDF/X standards.

              Comment


              • #8
                vdpdf,

                Conversion might not be as much as an issue. I tried with a PDF that already had bleed and crop marks in the file, which incorrectly altered the page size and duplicated the crop marks. Maybe a way around this would be to put a note saying to include the PDF or image to include bleed, but not crop marks. And put that on the side where the user is uploading their file. That should solve quite a bit of this type of issues, without any programming. Just a suggestion.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Yeah that might be the best option at the moment. Hopefully I can have something figured out for the next release. That bug aside what missing features do you feel are a must have?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Going back to the original questions: Does the software perform in the manner you would expect? Yes. Was it easy to learn? Yes. Could the output file go directly to your print queue without any additional modifications? Yes, in theory. And what features are “must haves” before you would consider using this software in a production environment? Text justification options, multiple page PDFs, more font choices (followed by being to upload my own), barcodes, slip sheets/bundles. In that order.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by VDPDF View Post
                      To avoid any confusion I would like to be upfront. This is not a product promotion post. There is nothing for sale. I am simply wanting to open up a dialog with other printers about where I should take this project next. The site is free to use. I’m not mining data. I’m just looking for a few print shops interested in alpha testing and providing feedback for a new piece of variable data software I’ve been working on as a hobby project. I have also confirmed with Print Planet this post does not violate any forum rules.

                      Frankly after years of working in a exclusively variable data print shop I got frustrated with a lot of the software out there. Variable data merge oftentimes requires a steep learning curve of various different concepts and software applications. My project; VDPDF.com, is designed with the goal that even someone completely unfamiliar with professional printing will be able to produce a print ready and problem free PDF/VT.

                      As this is only an Alpha version many features available in other software were either implied, such as “Never Clip Text” and “Automatic Colorspace Resolution,” or removed, such as “text alignment” and “data based rules.” My main focus with this release is simplicity and speed. Because the software is web based I want to make sure it will do the most basic functions; take a datasource (currently only a csv file) and merge it efficiently, in a way that can be easily adapted to fit various workflows. So while I welcome all feedback please keep this in mind as you test the software.
                      I am mainly looking to answer a few basic questions. Does the software perform in the manner you would expect? Was it easy to learn? Could the output file go directly to your print queue without any additional modifications? And what features are “must haves” before you would consider using this software in a production environment?
                      Those interested please visit vdpdf.com

                      Current Features:
                      • Dynamic Gang Run Imposition
                      • Automatic PDF Flattening and Colorspace Conversion
                      • Automatic Colorspace Conflict Resolution
                      • Static Text “Stamp” Overlays
                      • Dynamic “Variable Data” Text Overlays
                      • Drag and Drop Layout Preview
                      • Rotating Design Sets
                      • High Speed Merge Algorithm
                      • Output Meets Current PDF/X4 & PDF/VT ISO Standards
                      Current Limitations:
                      • MUST USE CURRENT CHROME BROWSER
                      • Page Images - Will Only Accept Basic Image Formats & Single Page PDF’s
                      • Data Sources - Will Only Accept CSV files
                      Your feedback will help determine upcoming features, but currently being considered are:
                      • UI Enhancements
                      • Overlay Alignment Shortcuts (i.e. center frame on page)
                      • Textfield Justification Buttons (i.e. center text in frame)
                      • More Font Choices
                      • User Specific Font Upload
                      • Data Source Manipulation Rules
                      • Printstream Manipulation Rules
                      • Zip File Support
                      • Layout Save & Recall
                      • Auto Counter Overlay
                      • Barcode Overlays
                      • Graphic Overlays
                      • Slip / Bundle Sheets
                      • Multipage PDF Support
                      Please post all feedback on this thread or if anyone would like a personal tutorial of the capabilities please feel free to message me and we can set something up.
                      Does this tool/software is standalone solution or its for a specific framework?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It is mean to be a stand alone tool. Once I get the basics rock sold I might entertain opening up the API and allowing for a custom scripted workflow, but that is quite a ways off still. Did you have any feedback or specific feature requests? I am currently in the process of creating the beta version and feedback helps me make sure the tool will be useful to print shops with various workflows.

                        Comment

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