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Software product idea

I've only seen this done once, and it was great, but the company discontinued it.  It was from efax.

Ability to print from any application and create a distributable self-viewing file. 

So, if I want to show my customer a Publisher file I'm working on, but he doesn't have Publisher, I print to this special format and send off the document with viewer.

Could focus on just Windows 95 and above to begin with.


Allowing people so easily share documents without worrying if the recipient has the right viewer program.

The way efax did it was, I think, you basically print using a special driver (like a PrintToPDF driver) and then they combine that with a small viewer.

You could use a standard PDF printer driver and include a very small PDF viewer.

You wrap all of this up into a nice, easy to use package and you've got a killer product, IMO.

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

isn't that called a JPEG? or PDF file?

michael sica (
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

> The way efax did it was, I think, you basically print using a special driver (like a PrintToPDF driver) and then they combine that with a small viewer.

I once wrote something like this. Given the "efax" name, my guess would be that the file format was TIFF (i.e. a multi-page document), and encoded using fax compression (called e.g. "G4" or "Modified Huffman" or similar).

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, February 11, 2004


There's no guarantee that all users will have PDF or JPEG readers on thier computers.

I know it's quite *likely* that they'll have a JPEG viewer (web browser), but that doesn't let them easily print.

Also, if you have a 100 page document, how do you save that as  JPEG?  One LONG Jpeg (which is going to be difficult to print and might crash a computer.

This is aimed at sending documents to people who are very NON-TECHIE.

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

You can download the Adobe Acrobat Reader for free.  It's on the main page of the website.  I think .pdf format is becoming more common than you would think.  I believe Reader is now pre-installed on most Windows machines.  It is also available in different formats (Mac, PC, etc).

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

So you want to encode the document and view together and have me run the exe on my computer to view your document?  Right.  Never going to happen.  I have spent far too long educating people not to open exe attachements in email.  I would much rather explain how to download and install the acrobat viewer and send PDFs.

Billy Boy
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

"This is aimed at sending documents to people who are very NON-TECHIE."

We currently send .pdf documents to our users via email with a link to the Adobe Reader in case they don't have one.  I have yet to come across someone who couldn't figure it out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Nope ain't going to work....what are the chances that your "exe" viewer will get past corporate firewalls and antivirus? Most users now have it dummed into their heads to never ever open a exe attachment.

What will work though is the print driver taking what has been sent to it, formating it into html/pdf or any other format and then pushing it to some web server. You then send a link to the user who just has to double click and see the document in its whole glory. 

Make sure you give me 1% of your company when you run with this ;-)

Code Monkey
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Sorry, but there are some real downsides to this in practice.  Here's a real life example from a few weeks ago....

My Mum's friend wanted to scan something and send it to her so she scanned her document, chose the email option and entered my Mum's email address.  My Mum then received a 'virus warning' email from her ISP because the scanning software decided to wrap the image in a proprietary executable so that no viewer was required.  Neither my Mum or her friend are very computer literate so it took a while on the phone to get around this 'helpful' feature.  I'd say that I am a lot nearer the other end of the scale, but I wouldn't click an executable that claimed to be an image either...

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

No way people are going to run exe's on their machines.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Why not just post it to your website?

If the user wants a PDF/RTF/whatever version, they can download it from there.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

OK,  let me elaborate a bit:

This is to provide printable instructions with a CD of software.


1.  Including the instructions on our website won't work.

There are enough people (probably only 25% or so of our customers, granted) that don't have internet access from the computer they're trying the software one. BTW, THEY ar the ones who need instructions the most.

Besides, if they could DOWNLOAD, they wouldn't have purchased a trial CD.

2. They're willing to run an EXE because they bought a trial CD.


The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Lots, and I mean *lots* of software ship with the Acrobat Reader on the CD. I can think of a couple dozen in my own closet right now.

It's pretty trivial to write your autorun program to check if the user's got acrobat (or some other pdf reader) installed, and if they don't then install the reader first.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

that does seem like a lot of work for making your own self viewable file.

you could put the training manual into HTML files and then have them all link to each other. you don't need a web server, the pages will just link to each other, and we all know all modern computers have web browsers.

distributing PDF's are good too. if it's an instruction manual the PDF will be better if you want to provide the best possible print out.

michael sica (
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

This might seem hopelessly old fashioned. But since you're sending them a CD anyway, why not send them printed instructions. You know, on a piece of paper...

Tom H
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

That sounds so, I don't know, 1992.  PDF.  Internet.  Problem solved.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I agree with the post about distributing Acrobat reader on the CD.  Quite a large number of applications I own dothat.  In addition, most new PC's have Acrobat reader preinstalled.

Almost Anonymous
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

What is on the CD. Just documents to view or do they need to run some program on the CD.

If they already need to run another program -- just wrap the document in a reportwriter (Activereports, etc...) but if they don't run any programs -- I would go with html / MS help file format or pdf -- depending on document.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I think your best bet is to provide the documentation in html files.  If your documentation has lots of fancy graphics and fonts and whatnot, pdf is the way to go.  For your original question of solving this in the general case, check out  They have print drivers for various graphic formats, including jpeg, pdf, and enhanced metafiles.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Try FlashPaper - this will create a .swf with viewer incorporated and then convert your .swf to a .exe with a SWF2EXE program.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

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