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Mike Schuett

Mike Schuett

Director of Marketing

TL Ashford

Mike has been involved with sales, support and marketing for over 20 years in the IBM i industry with TL Ashford.

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Third-party solutions are changing the way forms are being produced on the IBM i. These form solutions are providing more flexibility and functionality than ever before to modernize forms applications.

Not long ago generating a form using an SCS spool file was the norm. Creating lines and boxes within the spool file limited the possibility of what could be done. Programmers started outputting data positioned in a spool file to overlay the design of preprinted form stock loaded into a tractor feed-line printer. Printing forms this way is still fairly common—and expensive. When AFP/IPDS came along, it provided some functionality to enhance the forms, such as adding bar codes and utilizing overlays, but still limited the form to black and white.

Forms generated from the IBM i today lack the quality one might expect. It’s easy to understand why forms are begrudgingly changed. It’s a cumbersome process that’s easy to overlook. But there is a value to producing high-quality forms. Forms project an image of the company to its employees and business partners. Companies understand this, but the tools available, and the cost to modernize forms, hinders progress.

Third-party solutions have been developed by several companies to make enhancing forms a much simpler and more effective process. Some third-party solutions provide features, such as an intuitive design tool (no more green-screen messing), that work directly with spool files already being produced from existing applications. This means that integration time of the solution is minimal.

The design tools offer full color, expanded font selection, a full complement of bar codes usually including 2-D bar codes, images, etc. These solutions offer the capability to print to myriad printer types, and eliminate the need to purchase and maintain inventory of preprinted stock. When thinking of forms, it’s common to think only of printing, but the capability to archive the form as a PDF document, or even automatically email the form, further eliminates costs.

There are many indications that companies would like to modernize forms and project a positive image. Acquiring the right IBM i solution will modernize forms and can save money by eliminating preprinted stock, reducing printer cost, and providing functionality and quality to project the company brand. Ugly forms, your days are numbered.