Although computer vendors have been promising the paperless office for more than 20 years, modern business is not even close to eliminating paper in offices. Paper is such a rich business that HP's profits include sales of Hewlett-Packard-branded reams of the white stuff. But the shortfall between dream and reality can be closed with some software built for the HP 3000, as well as other enterprise computing systems.
Hillary Software created a paperless solution for reports that moves PDF versions of HP 3000 output. Connie Sellitto of the Cat Fancier's Association asked about Hillary's byRequest, requesting references. "We'd like to have the ability to generate PDF documents from our HP 3000 and e-mail them to various customers," she asked in a message to the 3000 newsgroup. "I'd like to hear from anyone who has used this product, and what your experience was regarding ease of setup."
While other products such as Sanface's txt2pdf have been bent to serve the HP 3000, byRequest is built to extract and distribute reporting from any HP 3000 application. Kim Borgman of National Wine & Spirits said, "We [use it to] e-mail all our reports now. Hardly any printing happens on the line printer anymore."
byRequest has been tuned up to support secure FTP as well, according to another 3000 manager. Chuck Nickerson, president of Hillary, said the company's 3000 plans are set for the future. "If your 3000 is plugged in, we'll support it," he said. "If it's unplugged, we'll help you plug it in." Hillary will also help move byRequest to a migration platform after HP 3000 use.
Wesley Setree reports the software "does work very well. In fact, we just purchased the portion that enables us to SFTP files automatically, rather than have an operator move them."
Nary a complaint flowed across the newsgroup about byRequest. "We have almost all our reports going to the network or being emailed via byRequest as Word or Excel documents," said programmer analyst Barb Zanotelli of Miller Compressing. "It works wonderfully. Tech support is outstanding and our users love it."
txt2pdf requires that perl be installed on an HP 3000 for a $39 version, but it's difficult to beat on price. (You can try txt2pdf free for 30 days, but it's not freeware.) Five years ago a Montana school district integrated txt2pdf into its workflow, and Bob McGregor reported on how the software was implemented. However, McGregor needed a $990 Pro version of txt2pdf, one that doesn't require Perl installation -- but also doesn't have an MPE/iX version sold as an executable (only Windows, Linux, HP-UX, and Sun's and IBM's Unix are offered). Sanface will take a request to build such an executable for some environments, however.
HP 3000 reports have some quirks. Former HP lab engineer Mark Bixby once posted a paper explaining why the original spoolfile linespacing in an MPE/iX report is not preserved in most conversions to PDF. The HP 3000 business doesn't represent a serious share of the operations at Sanface, which distributes txt2pdf to many PCs. A tool built for the HP 3000 and respects linespacing is what users reported about to the newsgroup. The Hillary Softrware product supports Microsoft Sharepoint with one of its latest features, and an enterprise license gives a company the right to move the software to another platform in the event of a migration. Linux, several versions of Unix, Windows and even the AS/400 are among the environments supported in addition to MPE/iX.
Donna Hofmeister, Allegro Consultants support engineer and an OpenMPE member, summed up the differences neatly. "If all that you’re interested in is making PDFs and mailing them out, that can all be done for free," she said. "However, if you’re also needing multi-host, centralized-viewing, viewing-privileges -- then you’re into software like byRequest."
And if your goal is to move toward the paperless office -- and turn off that line printer like Borgman has -- there's nothing like a solution engineered for the special skills of the 3000. Don't worry about HP's profits. There's still plenty of paper to be sold to other businesses.