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Universal Document Converter - A JPG "Printer"

by Alan German

Some of you may know that my day-job is in motor vehicle safety research, specifically with respect to the in-depth investigation of real-world crashes across Canada.  I am currently working on a system for all-electronic collision investigation reports where material which used to reach my department in hard copy will now be produced and stored solely as electronic files. 

To date, we have been using Microsoft Word to produce a printed report, with supplementary pages in the form of data collection forms, output from a variety of computer programs (e.g. CAD, damage analysis software), and print photographs. 

Clearly we could use Word's DOC file as part of an all-electronic report, convert our paper forms to electronic records, and use a digital camera to provide photographs directly in JPG format.  The initial "problem" is what to do about application programs which readily produce hard copy output, but use a range of proprietary file formats for storing data electronically.  The concern is that if we include such non-standard file formats, the resulting E-report package will be difficult to distribute in a way that will be useful to a variety of end users, since the latter would be required to own a number of specific software applications.

Our interim solution is to adopt a quick-and-dirty approach where every page of the previously hard-copy report will be created as a JPG image.  This has the advantage that almost anyone will be able to view the report using image management software or even an Internet browser.  The really quick-and-dirty solution was going to be: print the report pages as usual, and then to scan them to JPG files using a scanner equipped with an automatic document feeder.  However, a novel utility program may save a few trees - the Universal Document Converter from the fCoder Group.

This program is a neat utility which, when installed, provides you with a new "printer".  When you call up the print menu in any Windows' application, you have the option of sending the output to the Universal Document Converter "printer".  The result is that instead of producing hard copies, the pages are produced as individual image files. 

The program will save to BMP, GIF, JPG, TIF, PCX, and DCX graphic files formats.  By calling up the printer's properties, the output can be customized with respect to such items as: image orientation, resolution, file compression, and the desired output directory.  You can even run your favourite image viewer automatically after the print job to see the final results on screen.

You can try before you buy, with a demo version that is more than fully featured -- it places a heavy "watermark" (indicating that the "registered version adds no watermark") on the images that are produced!  If you can think of an application where you would like to produce an image file rather than a printed page, the Universal Document Converter may be the software for you.

Bottom Line:

Universal Document Converter
$44.95 US  (personal license for one computer)
fCoder Group

Originally published: June, 2003

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