Friday, December 16, 2011

New PDF Conversion Options

We are seeing an increasing number of reports of issues with converting PDF documents for faxing.

First, there is the increasing bulk and complexity of the latest Adobe Reader X.  Although you can be reasonably confident that any valid PDF can be opened with Adobe Reader, including the ones that Adobe actively prevent other software from processing, the principal problem we have seen is its habit of popping up message boxes asking you to check for updates.  Not a good idea if your system is doing lots of document conversions on an unattended server!  Adobe do an excellent job of shading colored pictures and logos, but this also creates a problem for faxing: it creates good quality TIF files but they are huge, and so take a long time to transmit.

For many years, our recommendation for users who had problems with Adobe products in Document Converter has been to try Ghostscript.  Although a little klunky to install, and subject to some variation from release to release, this at least does not attempt to 'phone home' for updates, and generally does a good job.  We have also added a few specialist options, such as the ability to create high-res faxes (300x300 and 400x400) from PDFs.  However Ghostscript also suffers from issues that have proved to be dealbreakers for some of our users: font rendering can be of less than perfect quality, half-tone and colored images and logos can easily become blocked white and black, and Ghostscript cannot handle a document which contains both portrait and landscape pages: the latter are truncated and occupy only part of the page.

To solve some of these issues, we have now added a built-in PDF converter to CVSINGLE, which requires neither Adobe or Ghostscript software to render PDFs to TIF.  And like Ghostscript, it does not need to use the Document Converter printer driver.  As well as creating compact and high-quality TIFs from text-based PDF originals, it is also highly customizable for optimizing color and gray-scale images, with many options which are selectable using the QPDF_OPTIONS variable. You can adjust the brightness or gamma of the image before dithering it to monochrome, choose various dithering methods, and force selected background levels to white. There is also edge-sharpening capability, and a de-speckle option. Mostly, these optimizations will more useful for fax 'applications' where you need to handle specific styles of PDF: for these, you can tune the parameters to balance readability and speed of transmission. But for all PDF document conversions, you will find that the new option is simple to use and provides a high-quality result. Customers have used these options to create faxes which are not only easier to read in TIF format but can also be transmitted in a fraction of the time taken by Adobe output from the same original PDFs.

So how do you select the new built-in PDF conversion?  There are basically three ways:

  • You can select it globally by adding an environment variable CVTOPTS with a value of 'Q'.
  • For use in job administration jobs or for general document conversion applications, add a  $convert_options QPDF  command to the UJP or USR file controlling the operation.
  • Finally, for single conversions, you can use a -Q command-line option when you run CVSINGLE.  

You can use the third method to experiment with different conversion methods: and using -G instead of -Q will select Ghostscript if you have it installed.  The renderer options can be selected with a CFG, UJP or USR variable QPDF_OPTIONS.

For complete documentation of the CopiaFacts built-in PDF converter, refer to this topic in the reference manual.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Text-to-Speech support

Technical Note #2

From COPIAFACTS build 8.062, Text-to-Speech is supported as an optional feature for voice calls. Currently this uses Microsoft Speech Server, which is a free download for Vista, Windows 7, and Server 2008. Microsoft Speech Server supports over two dozen voices in various languages, including several voices for different national versions of English and Spanish. We also support the original ‘Microsoft Anna’ voice used by the Microsoft Speech API (SAPI) although this is not of the same quality as the voices provided with Microsoft Speech Server.

Text to be spoken can be directly included on a new $tts_text infobox command, or can be included in an external file referenced from a $tts_file command. These files can either contain plain text or can use any of the SSML markup supported by Microsoft Speech Server.

The power of the new text-to-speech feature comes from the ability to include CopiaFacts variables in the text to be spoken, making it easy to set up an IVR session which is responsive to earlier entries by the caller, or to variables in a voice-broadcast list. Spoken text can also include conditional text, controlled by $if, $else, $endif commands embedded in the text to be spoken.

We recommend that when a voice application uses text-to-speech, you should replace any of the CopiaFacts Standard Voice Prompts that you need with matching prompts spoken by the same voice. To do this, run the FFTESTTS utility, which can load either individual phrases or a list of text files, and convert them to WAV files spoken by the selected ‘voice’. There is a set of XML files available for installation which contain the texts of all the standard voice prompts, which you can use with this utility.

You can find technical information about using Text-to-Speech in CopiaFacts here. This topic has download links for Microsoft Speech Server and links to the commands you will need in your infobox logic.

To evaluate or add the text-to-speech option to your CopiaFacts license, please contact Copia Sales. For help with implementation, please contact Copia Support.

Scheduling calls by ‘Time at Destination’

Technical Note #1

CopiaFacts now allows automatic scheduling of calls based on the time at the destination. This feature has obvious applications for broadcasts, where a list may have numbers in a variety of different countries and time-zones, but even for single transmissions you may want to have a call made in office hours without having to look up and calculate the times.

The scheduling is controlled by new parameters on the $fax_send_time command, which you can find described here.

As an example, for a voice broadcast which you wish to spread over weekday mornings only, all you need to do is add to your template the command:

$fax_send_time 09:00:00 12:00:00 12345 DEST

Here the 12345 selects days Monday to Friday, and DEST indicates that you want to use the time at destination. Time zones in the USA and in Australia are determined from the area code in the phone or fax number, and for other international destinations from the country code. Daylight saving time is automatically taken into account.

For Job Administration broadcasts, there is a dialog on the Schedule/Priority page which makes it easier to set up these parameters:

Please contact Copia support if you have any questions about using this feature.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 2011 - Tax Credit

TAX CREDIT - Invest in Copia Software Now 
In order to stimulate business, Congress enacted Section 179 Extension for US customers. The Section 179 Extension gives you the option of not having to wait for your purchased assets (such as computer hardware and software) to depreciate over time, but allows you to deduct the purchase price in full, thus getting a tax break from your assets immediately. "Small businesses can expense up to $500,000 of the first $2 million of certain business property placed in service during the year." 

 A business that acquires Copia software and places it into service before January 1, 2012 can now claim a depreciation allowance of 100% of the cost of the software. This allowance is an additional deduction you can take after any Section 179 deduction. 

 So, Take advantage of these credits, purchase Copia software and/or hardware, and: 
 1. Expand your system before the end of the year; 
 2. Purchase that spare fax and/or voice board;
 or 3. If your business relies on your a CopiaFacts system, build a redundant system. 

 For more information on this tax incentive you can view, 

Take advantage of this tax credit. We recommend that you speak with your accountant and then call Copia Sales 800.689.8898 to place your order.

Just a Reminder about Goldmine/OmniRush Users 
Copia offers an alternative to FaxRush/Goldmine users with fax and email support for Goldmine SQL versions, including version 9. Copia also offers faxing from just about any contact manager: ACT, SalesLogix, Microsoft CRM and Open SQ, etc. 

Call 800.689.8898 for more information on how we can help you fax from within your contact manager