The headline for this week's blog entry was inspired by a poster we saw today. It extended the now classic "If a tree falls in the forest ... " idea posed by philosopher George Berkeley (yes , we did look that up in Wikipedia) to:
"If a man speaks in the forest and there is no woman there to hear ... is he still wrong?"
We got a good chuckle out of it, but were ultimately sobered by the realization of how well it relates to the IBM i. How often have we been asked in e-mails or at conferences "When is IBM going to add xxxx to RPG?" Our answer is "Um ..., well actually they did that n years ago at release. ..." Makes you wonder just how many good new features in the OS and the languages go unnoticed by the vast majority of IBM i users simply because they never hear about them? In the "good old days" your friendly neighborhood SE would tell you about all of the neat new stuff in each upcoming release. But these days it's rare to hear much from IBM about anything except speeds and feeds.
Case in point. We try to keep up with the majority of new stuff, particularly in as much as it affects application development, but we missed this one. It concerns the ability of an RPG program to directly create PDF files. This topic is near and dear to the hearts of many of our clients and often comes up in internet lists. Yet we've seen nothing about this--it is buried in the "What's New" documentation and even once we knew that it was there it still took some time to find it.
The only reason we even know about the existence of this new feature is that in conversation with IBM's Barbara Morris a few weeks ago, she mentioned that she'd been testing a new printer option that was rather cool and asked if we knew about it.
So, for those of you who (like us) have not heard about this new PDF option, here's a quick summary. Basically, when you write to an AFPDS printer file, you now have the option to specify *PDF as the value for the Workstation customizing object (WSCST) parameter on the Override with Printer File (OVRPRTF) command. When you use this value you also specify the to stream file (TOSTMF) parameter to identify the file name and path of the file system where you want the resulting PDF to be stored. That's all there is to it. As long as the printer file in your RPG program is set to user controlled open, you can issue the OVRPRTF from within the program before opening the print file. Then simply print as normal, close the printer file and your PDF is ready to be e-mailed or FTP'd or whatever else your little heart desires. How cool is that!
We don't expect IBM to bring back the SE (nice as that would be and as profitable as it would undoubtedly be) but IBM does need to find a much better way to let customers know all of the good work it has been doing. The current "What's New" in the Info Center just doesn't cut it. Maybe it is all out there in the Internet somewhere, but like the tree in the forest--if we don't hear about it we won't use it. And if we don't use it, you just wasted your development dollars--and perhaps helped push one more customer toward an inferior "solution" because the customer just had no idea that their system could do all of the "modern" things they needed.
BTW, watch the blog comments section for our responses to some of the great comments on the COMMON and i community needs threads.