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Author Topic: Mini-Review of Print2Flash (Virtual Printer - Prints anything to Flash)  (Read 11257 times)
patteo
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« on: April 03, 2007, 10:45:08 AM »

Mini-Review of Print2Flash (Virtual Printer)

What is Print2Flash?

Print2Flash lets you easily convert any printable document (e.g. Microsoft Word, or Excel, or PowerPoint document Corel Draw, Autocad, you name it or whatever it is that is printable) to an Adobe ® Flash ® file (file with SWF extension). This file can be shared with users who don’t have the software that created the original document (for example, Microsoft Word). You can view such files with Adobe ® Flash ® Player that is available across a number of operating systems. And these files can be easily published on the Web as well for fast and easy access to them from anywhere across the globe.

Print2Flash generates the swf file together with the necessary html codes to post it to the web. Alternatively you could just attach the swf file to an email and the recipient can view it with the help of an swf viewer or maybe even the browser.


App NamePrint2Flash
App URLwww.print2flash.com
App Version ReviewedVersion 2.3 Released in Mar 07
Test System SpecsToshiba Tecra Laptop 1.70Ghz 1GB Ram Windows XP SP2
Supported OSesWindows 2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista
Support MethodsEmail
Upgrade PolicyFree upgrades
Trial Version Available?Trial version of the app is available, but it defaults to the Basic mode. Moreover, for each page of the output, there's a url reference to www.print2flash.com
Pricing SchemeBasic is US$59.95, Pro is US$79.95)
Author Donation LinkNot Applicable
Reviewer Donation LinkDonate to patteo, the Reviewer
Screencast Video URLThere's no Screencast Video URL as usage is quite straight forward. It functions as a virtual printer.

The links below are in fact the end results produced by Print2Flash as posted on the website :

To really appreciate the power of Print2Flash, I really encourage you to play with the control buttons at the top of the flash file at each of the url below , ie the Grab button (with a Hand), the Zoom slider, the Search etc, and also the last Print2Flash Output which give an example of a lot of text mixed with some graphics at http://www.print2flash.com/samples/sample2.php


Output file based on 75 by 113 mm dimensions, 96DPI and Quality at 50 
Output swf was 281kb
http://www.dcmembers.com/patteo/


A slightly higher resolution version based on 100 by 150 mm dimensions, 96DPI and Quality at 80.
Output swf was 376kb
http://www.dcmembers.com/patteo/MaxRes100by150/

An even higher resolution version based on 150 by 225 mm dimensions, 110DPI and Quality at 60.
Output swf was 593kb
http://www.dcmembers.com/...eo/HighRes150by225DPI110/

So it's really up to you to play around with the 3 key settings of Output Page size dimensions, the DPI setting and the compression level of the Jpegs to get the desired file size so that the surfing experience is not too slow.

For text output, there would be not much need to compromise at all. See sample from their site.
http://www.print2flash.com/samples/sample2.php
Relationship btwn. Reviewer and Product REVIEWER: I have no link with www.print2flash.com other than as a reviewer of the software Print2flash.


Introduction :

Print2Flash - The name says it all - Print to Flash

In my last review of Fineprint http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=6519.0 (wait, please don't click the link but read on), I called Fineprint a "Work of Art". And I thought it would be hard to find another piece of software shortly, that I would give this same credit.

Believe it or not, I did find one, but also one that can complement each other seamlessly (almost that is). Read on and hopefully you will understand what I mean.

Ever wanted to post a Powerpoint, Excel Spreadsheet, Text Document, or in fact anything that you could print (to a printer)  to the internet and have it easily accessible to anyone or at least almost anyone, without them having to click to download a file, or install a special reader or have access to a particular program.

What if you knew how to do that but you wanted to keep the rights to the documents (ahem, just like a museum exhibit) so that while others could view it electronically and search through it, they could not print it, or extract information from it - ie "you can see but please do not touch" if you so desired.

Additionally there's a possibility (more on this later ) that the "controlled" document could be sent via email without triggering a virus warning or blocked by a firewall.

Now you can solve all these problems if you know how to click or execute the Print command.

Of course you can do that with Printing to a PDF, but there here's another way that is really neat, much neater.

What could be easier !! but to use Print2Flash to Print To Flash.


SCREENSHOT OF APP INTERFACE HERE

Main Screen

It is from the main screen that you get to decide whether to save as Flash, or save as Html in which you get the all the Hthml codes to post to the website. This screen presents itself everytime you use Print2Flash as the default or the designated printer.

For the novice, take note that you need to remember to rename the initial default page (I shall call it default.html) to index.html (all lower case) so that the webpage will be displayed once you browse to the url that the codes are posted to the website.



Default Documents Options (You can only change the options on this screen if you register the Print2Flash in Pro mode. Otherwise, all you see is a series of "greyed-out" buttons that kind of makes you salivate.


So for US$20 more bucks, you can have extra options - you decide whether you want to spend the money on 5 or 6 more Starbucks Cappuchino.


Basic Vs Pro Comparison




Once installed, you can access it also just like you can access any installed printer through the Windows Start Menu.




Who is this app designed for:

Anyone who would like to be able to publish a document that exist in another format (such as Powerpoint or any Application that can print a document) to a webpage easily.

Anyone = Webmasters and ordinary computers users like fellow donationcoders, visitors who has any need to publish a printable document to the web and still want to retain control of the contents.

You could also distribute the generated swf via email (although you may face some issues like users being blocked by Internet Explorer)

The Good

You already got your documents in one form or another such as a Word, Txt, Spreadsheet, Powerpoint etc. And now you want post it on the web and you want to make sure they can access it without any intervention by you, and without you sweating your fingers converting or worse retyping or recreating it.

You also want them to be able to search, but not copy the contents or print it.

And you want to be able to magnify it and still have very good resolution.

Now that is certainly a tall order, unless you have Print2flash

Just convert it to Flash.

The beauty of it is that so long as they have a web browser (and who doesn't) they can read it, search it etc. And it would not be blocked by firewalls, anti-virus etc.

Theoretically, one can send the swf via email without triggering a block by an anti-virus program or firewall and then the recipient can view it offline with a standalone swf viewer. But really, I have not tested how effective this would be.

Programmatic access to the document
With the Pro version, you can also have programmatic access to the document via the API provided. This allows you to fine-tune how you would like your viewers to access the documents.

Co-existing with/Complementing Fineprint
And interestingly, you could also use Fineprint ( if you own it to enhance the output - yes you could of course use Powerpoint, Word or which ever native program the document is generated in). That is you first print to Fineprint and from Fineprint you choose Print2Flash as the Output printer.
After looking through this review, you can check out the review of Fineprint http://www.donationcoder....um/index.php?topic=6519.0

But do take note that some of the enhancements made by Fineprint does not pass through to Print2Flash correctly, such as "Angled" Watermarks and some of the graphics seems a bit pixelated and shadow text does seem out of line - But this is not the fault of Print2Flash as it is likely just the way Fineprint is designed. You may have to test them together to work out compatibility issues.

The needs improvement section

Initially, when I started testing Print2Flash 2.2.1 (which has just been superseded by Version 2.3) , I was a little surprised that the swf files were rather large. So I tweaked the properties page to adjust the DPI down and also change the page size (after all in Flash, it is rather scalable without becoming blur and distorted). But somehow, the change in settings did not take effect until I discovered that I had to make the changes to the settings through the printer applet before it will "stay as set".




After that, the files were very much smaller. In fact one file dropped from 24 MB to 333k when I set the page to 2 x 3 inch and 96DPI from a setting of A4 and I think it was 192 DPI. You have to adjust the DPI setting to achieve the desired results.

Anyway, this problem is no longer critical to me with Version 2.3 which was just release in end Mar 07 where you can control compression of the graphics although I think it would still be useful to set the DPI.

Though there's nothing wrong with Print2flash, however, it would be nice if

1. We could add our own logo and url. Currently, it only allows adding Print2flash logo and url or none at all.

2. We could allow copying/printing only of certain defined pages - now it's an all or nothing option.

3. It allowed the addition of customized actionscript to the output. For example, allow the user to add a line that restricts the swf to a particular website. So that the swf will not work if it's placed in a different website. This would be a nice addition to the Pro edition since protection of content is one of Print2Flash selling points.

4. Some additional skins for the converted documents were available.


Why I think you should use this product

This is not only a cross format converter but also a cross platform converter. That it, you can have a foolproof method to convert all printable documents into a format that easily display in a web browser (with Adobe Flash installed - and that mean literally 99% of all internet enabled computers) and of course on Macs.

How does it compare to similar apps

It's direct competitor is Flashpaper from Adobe
http://www.adobe.com/products/flashpaper/

Flashpaper also allows you to print to a PDF, but this is no real advantage as there are that many freeware application that allows you to print to PDF. And if all you want is to print to PDFs without too many options to tweak to the file to be put on the PDFs, you probably can find a free PDF printer out there.

But Print2flash Pro has several options (not available in Flashpaper) that allow you to tweak the output like removing the Print2flash logo so it would not be a distraction, disabling printing, disabling copying, Option to show search box, compressing the graphics, batch processing, API interface etc.

Arguably, printing to PDF is an alternative, but the experience is really totally different as the PDF cannot be integrated into the webpage and the downloaded PDF takes the reader always from the webpage he/she is viewing. Now that to me, is not a good idea as it can become a distraction - and you have lost the "eyeballs".

Conclusions

When all is said and done, Print2flash is another "Work of Art", just like Fineprint and they can work together reasonably well (with some exceptions). But they can work totally separately too.

I would give it a must buy for many of us here or at the very least, "must try" http://www.print2flash.com/download.php .

It may not save you physical ink like Fineprint can, but it can certainly save you lots and lots of time when you wish to use digital medium like the web to communicate with others, yet not have people easily copy and print your materials and also not be stopped by firewalls, antivirus apps, and having people install another viewer or reader (which is really a show stopper).


Links to other reviews of this application
I did not find any other review other than those that regurgitate what is found on the Author's site.


Credits
The screenshots were done with Mouser's wonderful Screenshot Captor http://www.donationcoder....reenshotcaptor/index.html
« Last Edit: May 25, 2007, 12:23:05 PM by patteo » Logged
tomos
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« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2007, 02:58:45 AM »

great review!
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Tom
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2007, 07:00:24 AM »

Please note the following updates to the review.

OS Supported  : Windows Server 2003. Vista support will be coming soon.

I will put notifications of important updates in a post in the forum as well as update the mini-review.

I had also neglected to state the fact that Print2Flash also generates the necessary html codes so that the output can be posted to the webpage. No need to write your own codes.

I would appreciate if anyone has any thoughts of what else Print2Flash can be used for, innovative or otherwise to post his/her thoughts here.
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f0dder
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[Well, THAT escalated quickly!]

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2007, 08:57:56 AM »

It might be an idea to move the "What is Print2Flash?" section to the very top of the review... other than that, great work smiley
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- carpe noctem
patteo
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2007, 09:10:44 AM »

It might be an idea to move the "What is Print2Flash?" section to the very top of the review... other than that, great work smiley


Thanks and wonderful idea.

Why didn't I think of that. Done.

Perhaps we should modify the standard Mini-Review template to reflect this.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2007, 09:35:30 AM by patteo » Logged
Jimdoria
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« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2007, 12:21:58 PM »

Good review, thanks for the heads up.

I somehow got the impression that the entire app went for US$20. (I guess my eyes just gravitated to the word "Starbucks"  smiley ) When I found it it was actually $80 I was a bit surprised.

Adobe's own FlashPaper application is $79, which makes me wonder why you'd want this app over the one from the publishers of Flash. US$60 for a version with most of the functionality disabled is a bit of a wash for me, frankly.

Since this program really has only one competitor (FlashPaper) I'd have liked to see more of a head-to-head comparison. The whole PDF thing seems to me to be a bit of red herring. It's not really relevant to which app is better at creating Flash-based documents, the entire purpose of which is to avoid using PDF. PDF output is worth a mention maybe, as the two apps are almost identically priced and such a feature might tip the scales for one or the other, but it seems to have displaced any discussion of the real differences in the functionality between the two apps when used for their main intended purpose.

Also, the ability to remove a logo from my document is not really a feature or a benefit in this case. FlashPaper would let me create a document without logos to begin with! I see this more of a ding for Print2Flash than a benefit. Not letting you at least disable the company's logo spam in an app you've paid $60 for is really kind of inexcusable.

When I thought Print2Flash cost US$20, I was trying to figure out how soon I could afford to buy it. At $60, I might still be somewhat interested, if it weren't for the logo thing. But at $80, I'll probably just give it a pass.
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2007, 04:18:27 PM »

Just had to chime in with one more thing. I struggled for about an hour to get Print2Flash working properly on my machine with MS Publisher. I got it to print correctly exactly once. Word and "Print Test Page" both worked fine with it, but it just ignored Publisher's print jobs.

Or so I thought.

As I monkeyed around trying to get it to print from Publisher, I kept tweaking settings, printing, tweaking settings, printing. I tried printing to the driver and printing directly from the Print2Flash app, even printing from the context menu. Every time, the print dialog would display the progress bar saying it was printing to the Print2Flash Printer on port "ne09:" (or something like that) but when the progress dialog disappeared, the Print2Flash app window would not come up, or if already up, would not respond. The Print2Flash Printer control panel never showed any jobs pending.

The infuriating part came later. I am on a network, and after I printed something else, I walked over to the network printer, and there were dozens of identical print jobs there! Print2Flash was somehow passing all the print jobs through to the default printer! Since I had been toying with custom page sizes, the print queue had stalled while the printer waited for someone to load the custom paper. More time and paper wasted while I straightened out the mess. Thankfully no one else was waiting for a critical print job.

It is off my hard drive now. No thanks.  thumb down
« Last Edit: April 26, 2007, 04:21:15 PM by Jimdoria » Logged

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patteo
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2007, 09:42:44 PM »

Adobe's own FlashPaper application is $79, which makes me wonder why you'd want this app over the one from the publishers of Flash. US$60 for a version with most of the functionality disabled is a bit of a wash for me, frankly.

Actually :
Print2Flash Basic (US$59.95) = Flashpaper 2 (US$79)
Print2Flash Pro (US$79) = Flashpaper 2 (on Steroids) But it does not exist

Perhaps another way to phrase it is :

Adobe's Flashpaper 2 is US$80; but I'm only getting functionality that I could get for only US$60 in Print2Flash.

It then makes me wonder why should I pay US$80 for Flashpaper2 when I can get "Flashpaper2 on Steroids" (in the form of Print2Flash Pro) for the same price.

Besides, Print2Flash provides Free Upgrades. Of course, no one can guarantee a constant stream of upgrades.

But in the time that I was reviewing Print2Flash and communicating with the authors, they have provided me with some insights of what is in the works and I know a newer version is in the works that could provide functionality that would interest a wider group of "regular" people.


Since this program really has only one competitor (FlashPaper) I'd have liked to see more of a head-to-head comparison.


In a sense, you are right, but in the spirit of a Mini-Review, the main coverage is on the program being reviewed. In only a full review, one would cover a head-to-head comparison.

But a quick and dirty comparison for flash functionality is here :

Think Flashpaper 2 when you see Basic in this comparison.



The whole PDF thing seems to me to be a bit of red herring. It's not really relevant to which app is better at creating Flash-based documents, the entire purpose of which is to avoid using PDF. PDF output is worth a mention maybe, as the two apps are almost identically priced and such a feature might tip the scales for one or the other, but it seems to have displaced any discussion of the real differences in the functionality between the two apps when used for their main intended purpose.


Precisely ! PDF functionality (in Flashpaper 2) is mentioned simply because for Flash functionality :

Print2Flash Basic (US$59.95) = Flashpaper 2 (US$79)
Print2Flash Pro (US$79) = Flashpaper 2 (on Steroids)

Also, the ability to remove a logo from my document is not really a feature or a benefit in this case. FlashPaper would let me create a document without logos to begin with! I see this more of a ding for Print2Flash than a benefit. Not letting you at least disable the company's logo spam in an app you've paid $60 for is really kind of inexcusable.

Interesting. Which version of Flashpaper2 are you using ? In every example of Flashpaper2 output I have seen, there is a Macromedia/Adobe logo near the top left of Flashpaper 2 document.

Try downloading a Flashpaper 2 output to take a look from http://www.gpsoft.com.au/...ryOpus8UpdateNotesSWF.exe

My trial period for Flashpaper 2 has expired so I cannot go back to see if it is possible to remove the logo.

I remembered that the logo could not be removed and I agree with you that it's Logo Spam which is why I would go for Print2Flash Pro.

When I thought Print2Flash cost US$20, I was trying to figure out how soon I could afford to buy it. At $60, I might still be somewhat interested, if it weren't for the logo thing. But at $80, I'll probably just give it a pass.

Well, if there was enough interest, donationcoder could approach them or I could approach them for a discount for members.

Just had to chime in with one more thing. I struggled for about an hour to get Print2Flash working properly on my machine with MS Publisher. I got it to print correctly exactly once. Word and "Print Test Page" both worked fine with it, but it just ignored Publisher's print jobs.

Or so I thought.

As I monkeyed around trying to get it to print from Publisher, I kept tweaking settings, printing, tweaking settings, printing. I tried printing to the driver and printing directly from the Print2Flash app, even printing from the context menu. Every time, the print dialog would display the progress bar saying it was printing to the Print2Flash Printer on port "ne09:" (or something like that) but when the progress dialog disappeared, the Print2Flash app window would not come up, or if already up, would not respond. The Print2Flash Printer control panel never showed any jobs pending.

The infuriating part came later. I am on a network, and after I printed something else, I walked over to the network printer, and there were dozens of identical print jobs there! Print2Flash was somehow passing all the print jobs through to the default printer! Since I had been toying with custom page sizes, the print queue had stalled while the printer waited for someone to load the custom paper. More time and paper wasted while I straightened out the mess. Thankfully no one else was waiting for a critical print job.

It is off my hard drive now. No thanks.  thumb down

I'm sorry to hear you are having so much problems.

What I did after reading your post was to try printing from a whole string of programs that I had, even from those that I would not normally print from.

I have had absolutely no problems at all except for Treepad which simpy refused to print to Print2Flash. I will probably have to reinstall Treepad to see if I could identify the problem.

Programs that I successfully printed to Print2Flash include:
Microsoft Powerpoint 2003, Excel 2003, Access 2003, Outlook Express 6. Others include Screenshot captor, Corel Draw, Corel Paint, Phatnotes, Listpro 3, Ewallet, Firefox 2, IE7, My Life Organized, Acrobat Reader 8, Windows Notepad, Ecco Pro. And that is virtually all the programs I could conceivably ever want to print from.

Please note that in all instances, I'm printing to a local printer, whether Print2Flash, a Canon printer, Fineprint etc although I'm in a local area network. I do not have a network printer.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2007, 09:46:54 PM by patteo » Logged
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