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Creating PDF files from FileMaker – A Comparison

Printing into a PDF document has long been an option for Mac OS X users, while Windows users could utilize third-party applications to redirect printing from the printer to a PDF file. Then FileMaker 8 introduced the option to Save/Send Records as PDF… , a slightly misleading reference to a print as PDF functionality. Although it seemed there was no place left for any third-party solutions, Schulz Bernhard EDV Consulting has kept their Schubec PS2PDF plug-in up to date; having released new versions and created a Universal Binary for Intel Mac users. So, in deciding whether to use a plug-in to create a PDF, consider the fact that Schubec PS2PDF plug-in has several features that are currently not available even from within FileMaker 8.5.

Let’s check the features side-by-side:

Feature FileMaker built-in Schubec plug-in
Save as PDF In FileMaker 8.x: menu command, script step. Starting from FileMaker 5.0, works with FileMaker’s Print script step.
Regular menu item Yes No
Although can be scripted and attached to a custom menu item (FileMaker Adv. 8.x)
Script step Yes Yes
Insert PDF No Yes
Any PDF file can be inserted before or after a FileMaker report printout.
Merge multiple print jobs into one file No Yes
Creation of a single PDF file from multiple FileMaker reports.
Create PDF files with different quality settings No Yes
Options: default, screen, printer, prepress.
Password to open file Yes Yes +
Can define a separate password for admin and a user. Password creation is scriptable.
Password to control printing, editing and security Yes Yes +
User privileges can be separately set/calculated.
Set document properties Yes
Options: title, subject, author, keywords.
No
Acrobat-reader compatibility setup Yes No
Control initial view Yes No
Open the PDF file automatically Optional Optional
Separate script step to open any PDF file.
Send PDF as attachment Optional
Opens the user’s e-mail client and generates a new message with the just created PDF file attached.
Optional
Operation is fully scriptable using FileMaker calculations. Will send e-mail automatically without opening mail client. Option to add multiple attachment(s).
Support Yes
FileMaker Pro documentation and support.
Yes
Plug-in documentation:
  • English documentation (lags behind the German version),
  • Example file (a Reference is available in the German version only)
  • Manual is clear and simple to follow
  • Support forum is active, response time is impressive

If you still use a pre-8 version of FileMaker, the Schubec plug-in is a reliable cross-platform solution to print to a PDF file. You do not have to worry about new FileMaker versions either: you do not lose the work invested in scripting the PDF creation process as there is already a version of the plug-in to perform the task.

The major advantage of the plug-in is the option to combine print jobs, and already existing PDF files, into a single PDF document. It is essential if the user wants to send, for example, an order with an invoice, or add a graphical presentation of a report, to cite only two possible uses. If your bandwidth is limited, the cap you can put on the size of the PDF file might come handy too. Since the process of scripting the PDF creation is fully controlled by parameters, all of which can be calculated in FileMaker, the plug-in is more flexible to adjust settings: different versions with varying security settings can be sent to different groups of recipients. It might also be easier to create and e-mail a set of personalized flyers to recipients than combining the Save/Send as PDF… and the Send Mail functions in FileMaker.

These features do have an additional cost; however, the plug-in is reasonably priced, and a thirty-day trial period provides plenty of time to assess whether the plug-in is up to your job.

There are cases, however, when the built-in Save/Send As PDF… is the only way to go. One example is within a corporate environment that relies on document properties to search and access their PDF documents. The Schubec plug-in does not offer any option to manage title, subject, author, or keyword information. We have found no workaround for this limitation.

If allowing users to access the PDF functionality from a FileMaker menu is what is required, a plug-in (any plug-in, for that matter) may not be the way to go. However there is a workaround, a script can be set up, and offered from the script menu, or (for FileMaker 8 and above) from any menu using the custom menu feature of FileMaker Advanced 8.x.

The use of the plug-in is straightforward and can be easily learned, although the documentation is somewhat language-challenged: the German version is complete; the English is still “under translation”. The Manual in English is fully functional, and, although the examples are not completely translated, it clearly describes the options and how to call the different functionalities. A list of error codes is also available for troubleshooting.

There is more to do in the English version of the provided example file: the Reference part is only available in German, script names and comments are in German regardless of the language selected. The actual examples however, are useful and can be figured out without learning German.

Tech support is fast and reliable if you ever need it. There is a support forum specifically for the plug-in. When we had a question and submitted it to the support forum, we got the needed answer from the developer (in English) within 24 hours.

For further information, please check the developer’s site at http://www.schubec.com/.

Update: The Schubec plug in has been discontinued and is no longer available for download.

Bottom line:

If you need the extra functionality it offers, the Schubec PS2PDF plug-in is a reliable, feature-rich plug-in.

Disclosure

1. CoreSolutions Development Inc. is in no way connected to Schulz Bernhard EDV Consulting, the maker of the Schubec PS2PDF plug-in.

2. The author of this article understands basic German.

Leave a comment

1 comment

  • Sterling Smiddy
    Sterling Smiddy 06 June 2010 Report

    Can your plugin save file as PDF work in FileMaker Pro 11 Adv. Runtime.

    as you may know this is disabled in the runtime

    thanks

    sterling

    Comment Link

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