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Modifying IBM’s Advanced Function Printing Format through AFP conversion

by | Jan 3, 2012

Batch converting and archiving older file formats using AFP conversion

Created in the mid-1980s, the AFP format was developed by IBM to drive and support the firm’s form printing via laser printers. This raster format was created to greatly enhance document formatting and indexing for industries such as financial services, insurance and retail. Employing modern batch conversion technology (AFP conversion) enables organizations to convert text-based documents, and create a secure and searchable PDF archive.

Organizations using AFP documents are able to define not only the content to be printed, but also have much more control over the page layout of this content than was provided via other file formats at the time. For instance one of the more notable features of AFP printers is that output data can be placed at any addressable point on a page. This capability is called all points addressability (APA). APA gives AFP printers the freedom to create output anywhere on a page, as opposed to being limited to just line and character positions*. Plus users of this bidirectional format have instant access to the status of pages sent to the printer making it advantageous for high-volume production printers that print 100 pages or more within a minute.

So why process these files using AFP conversion? Updating these documents to searchable PDF via AFP conversion allows users to search for specific subject matter in stored documents, and then retrieve only the pages that contain that information. Advanced text searching and extraction capabilities are also provided, allowing rapid selection of specific text passages for further processing. These capabilities remove the inefficiency and security concerns involved in locating and downloading a large document in its entirety, as well as greatly enhancing data access and readability.

In the mid 1980s, when storage space was still an expensive commodity, AFP was introduced and designed to create very small file sizes via compression, which is why it is still a very popular format today and used to manage high volumes of documents, such as in banking, telecommunication and insurance companies.

Today, customers who want to take advantage of a turn-key, off-the-shelf solution for AFP conversion, have a solution in Snowbound’s SnowBatch™ batch converter. Organizations dealing with legacy IBM AFP documents can now take advantage of the performance and security of the universal Adobe Acrobat PDF format standard once they convert their AFP documents.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Advanced_Function_Printing_(AFP)