OOW Thursday & Label Printing
By Tim Dexter on Sep 29, 2008
I know, it's Monday, what happened on Thursday? A hectic morning on the demo grounds is what, lots of folks wanting to know more about BIP for Apps and lots of 'follow the leader' to get the folks interested in standalone or BIEE BIP through the demopod maze to get to the standalone pod and vice versa.
Here's what I mean, you can see the BIP for Apps pod on the right hand corner (great location, thanks Nadia) and the BIP Standalone pod circled on the left.
Do you take the easier route 1 or go for the more scenic route 2? Route 2 is more fun, but fraught with the imminent danger of losing the 4 people trailing behind you, as you move through the crowds of people around the intermediate pods. We should have had a sign on a pole that we could carry above our heads to ensure folks knew where we were and could not get lost. OK, I have beaten that train of thought to death but you get the picture - it was busy!
During the week, Wednesday I think, I bumped into Rick Pollina from Arrow Electronics. A hot topic recently has been getting BIP content to label printers, whether they be Zebra, Intermec or others. Im hoping to get an entry out on a more 'conventional' approach soon, but Rick came up with a neat solution - eText templates.
For those of you that have not come across eText templates yet, they are another template type, built in MSWord but are for 'electronic' output e.g. EDI messages or EFT - basically position or delimited based content. In recent months I have seen folks using them to generate flat file output - not what they were designed for, but they work.
I'll let Rick explain the problem and their final approach:
The first approach the team was working used BI Publisher loaded with the proper barcode fonts and would generate a PDF that looked exactly as the label would print. They were then going to use a PASTA driver to convert the image to postscript and send it to the ZEBRA printer that accepts postscript.) Basically this approach eliminated the need for ZPL coding and just send an image to the printer. For some reason they were not able to get this to work, not sure why as it appears the old ZEBRA printers seem to accept postscript. (Tim: this is the conventional approach, I had not heard that Zebra could accept PS, the solution we have worked on finally generates a Raster image of the label that Zebra supports)
The alternative approach and the one we ultimately chose was to build the template with the ZPL code's embedded in the template and send the RAW text image to the ZEBRA printer. On a Linux/Unix platform you define the printers as RAW and you can run it through CUPS or local define the printer. On windows you can probably setup the printer as Text, although I did not try this.
Attach find the sample template I built using etext format supported by BI Publisher. I choose this over native XSL-FO template (also supported by BI Publisher), because the development team was already using ms-word for the development of all their other templates.
To view the template as it would be created you need to install the BI Publisher desktop (free download from Oracle) and use the template viewer--but you probably new this already :)
The advantage to this approach is that the new ZEBRA printers are Accepting XML and the old ones like we have still require ZPL so you can account for both types with the same SQL and a different Template.
I also noticed that ZEBRA got an award here this week along with presenting. It looks like they already have a nice design tool that they could probably extend to produce the XSL-FO that can be used for the template. (looks like they already support SAP through there smartform client tool to design labels.
You can get the sample files Rick kindly provided here.
To fill in the gap you might have spotted, 'how do I know the ZPL format?'
Rick used the label creation application that Zebra provide with their printers to build a label layout, more information available from Zebra - I'll try and get more info on this for you. He then exported it to the ZPL format and then built the eText template to create the skeleton of the ZPL and filled in the data items. not for everyone I know but it was a quick and straightforward solution and still leverages the one data source, multiple layout templates mantra that I keep pushing to all of you.