Magazine article Information Today

Document Cloning Software: The Kiss of Death for Microfilm

Magazine article Information Today

Document Cloning Software: The Kiss of Death for Microfilm

Article excerpt

I have never been an avid user of microform, simply because of the inconvenience. I fiddled with microfiche and microfilm only when I was in dire straits and had no alternative. I know that they represented the only viable solution for keeping back issues of important newspapers and magazines, but I just found them too inconvenient and not worth the trouble.

The latest software developments give me hope that we do not have to put up with microform for long. Currently there are three new software products available that offer what microform does and at a better price and convenience level. They are primarily meant for facilitating the distribution of documents in their original formats without the need to have the original document creation software available at the receiving end. They are not tied to CD-ROM, but the thought of using them with CD-ROM files is quite obvious. There is no generally accepted term for this new category of software, so I will use the term document cloner, or document cloning software.

The three programs that represent this software category are Adobe's Acrobat Exchange ($195), Farallon's Replica ($99), and No Hands Software Common Ground ($99 until June, then $190). The common denominator is that all the three programs allow the distribution, display, and printing of datafiles preserving their original formatting, layout, and typography, even if the recipient does not have the software used to produce the original document.

You know that this is a big deal if you have ever wanted to send a word processing document, a spreadsheet, or a presentation graphic to someone. Chances are that the recipient did not have the same program, or she had it but not the same version, or she had the very same version but didn't have the same fonts. The typical compromise you reached was to send the file in plain ASCII or WK1 format and thereby lose the formatting, the layout, and the typographical niceties--i.e., the look and feel of the original document that you so carefully prepared.

Sure, the content remains, but, deprived of the formatting and presentation bells and whistles, it is like getting your Four Seasons dinner delivered to you in a doggybag instead of being served by a fabulous cuisine artist who makes Martha Stewart eat her heart out and look like an apprentice in a fast food restaurant.

With these software packages, it does not matter at all what software you used or fonts you applied as long as the application runs under Windows or System 7. All you have to do is to install one of these document cloning packages that act as a printer driver when you "print" your file onto disk. The cloning programs work differently, but the process is mostly transparent to you in any case. In essence, they make a bit-map facsimile copy of the document produced and deliver it with almost all of the styling and trimming preserved. It is like wrapping up, in a hermetically sealed, see-through plastic crate, the dining room table, the chairs, the table cloth, the napkins, the bowls, the plates, and the food nicely arranged and fixed to prevent slipping and mess-up during delivery.

What about the silverware, i.e., the viewer program? Two of the products deliver it together with the document, lockstock-and-barrel, without extra charge. In the case of Adobe, however, the receiver must have Adobe Reader (for about $50) to view, browse, and print the document. All the viewer programs can be used with subsequent documents produced by the creation module of the cloning software, so even in the case of Adobe this purchase need be made only once--i.e., the silverware is yours to keep.

These programs have instant appeal because they provide instant gratification. They are easy to install and use, and, except for some extreme fonts, work with high fidelity. (I have only tested Acrobat and Replica with some really fancy fonts, and the quality was quite satisfactory. Note, however, that some of the early reviews reported problems, particularly with Replica. …

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