iSeries IPDS printers

One of our programmers came to me and asked if I could set up one of our printers as an IPDS printer so that he could print bar codes.

I haven't ever done this before and I am not sure what is involved with it.

Is there something that must be done on the printer itself to be IPDS compatible? Is there a specific setup that needs to be done on the iSeries side?

Any help would be much appreciated.

Matthew RoessnerSenior Systems ProgrammerAsked:
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Gary PattersonConnect With a Mentor VP Technology / Senior Consultant Commented:
Do you have any IPDS-capable printers?  If you don't know, just look up the specific models online or call the tech support number for the printer and ask.  If IPDS isn't listed on the specifications, the printer isn't IPDS-capable.

IPDS printers can be twinax attached, or LAN attached.  You'll generally be working with a LAN-attached printer.

Configuring a LAN-attached IPDS printer:

For other connection methods:

Let's back up and talk about IBM i printing a little bit.

When your developer creates a printer file (CRTPRTF), the developer specifies the data stream to be generated when that printer file is used on the DEVTYPE parameter.  There are a number of options.

IBM i supports 3 different print data streams natively.  When you print to a printer file configured for one of these data streams, the OS generates the actual underlying data stream based on with o-specs or DDS printer file specifications.

*SCS - SNA Character Stream.  This is an EBCDIC printer stream used to print text only to SCS-compatible printers.  The printer must support SCS, and that means choosing from a limited number of printers.  Line printers in IBM i shops are SCS printers.  Your average off-the-shelf HP printer doesn't support SCS directly.

*AFPDS - Advanced Function Presentation Data Stream.  AFPDS is a complex device-neutral data stream like PostScript and PCL that is designed for page printers (laser printers), and for storing data for on-screen rendering (like a PDF) and supports downloadable fonts, overlays, graphic elements, and barcodes.  AFPDS is typically converted to device-specific IPDS at the time a document is printed.

*IPDS - Intelligent Printer Data Stream.  IPDS is a page-oriented printer page description language and control language, and is the protocol or language used to communicate from a host to an IPDS printer.  Usually, the application generates AFPDS, and PSF converts AFPDS to IPDS on the fly when the document is prnted to an IPDS printer - though it is also possible to encode simple IPDS usng o-specs in RPG or DDS, or manually generate low-level IPDS in your application.  IPDS support is only found on specific printers.  your average off-the shelf HP printer doesn't do IPDS (but some have IPDS as an option).

Beyond native

In addition to printers that natively support SCS or IPDS, some  printers have add-in cards or optional software features that enables SCS and/or IPDS.

IBM i also offers a build-in printing feature called Host Print Transform (HPT).  HPT a translation service that can translate SCS or AFPDS to an ASCII printer language - generally PCL and PPDS, and you can also create custom transformations by creating Workstation Customization (*WSCST) objects.  Not all AFPDS features can be translated through HPT, but, and this may be useful to you - barcodes can.  If you don't have IPDS printers, this is the first route you probably want to try.  Here are instructions for using HPT:

*USERASCII - User ASCII.  Finally, if you enjoy the intricacies of low-level printer language programming, you can write programs that manually encode print data directly in whatever printer language you choose.  In those cases, print writer jobs just send the data straight to the printer with no processing or transformation.

The key question is:  Do you own IPDS printers and license PSF already?  If not, then you probably own PCL-compatible printers, and you'll want to look at HPT first to see if it meets your needs.  For basic barcoding projects, it is usually adequate (or if you are using a tool like TL Ashford's excellent Barcode/400, which handles barcoding encoding for a long list of specific printers for you).  

- Gary Patterson
Jon SnydermanCommented:
Yes.   The device type and setup on the iSeries is different but there are two more important factors.

1) The printer has to support IPDS and the only printers that have good reliable support for IPD, IMHO, is the Ricoh WORKGROUP line and the Lexmark line.   This is because they are both very tightly related in one way or another to the early IBM IPDS printers.

2) The iSeries must be licensed for PSF (on V6R1 it is 5761SS1 option 36,37 or 38).   This licensed program adds support for AFPDS which is the data stream that IPDS uses for its content.

This adds some cost to supporting IPDS, but the payback is definately well worth it, ESPECIALLY if you are coming from the twinax world and expecting that sort of printer control on your laser printers.

Since bar-codes can be generated without needing an IPDS printer, does your developer have a reason for needing IPDS? Only a *AFPDS printer file definition is needed. The IPDS data stream is usually applicable in more sophisticated networks. Note that a purchased PSF license isn't required for *AFPDS.

Gary nailed the nuances, if you can do this on a PCL laser using HPT, that is the way to go. If that doesn't work ... this is another vote for TL Ashford. I have it deployed at over 100 clients  in the last 10 years - low relative cost, very good software, superb support, all around great company. If you don't have the licensed pre-requisite items for IPDS or other issues - I would suspect you can deploy TL Ashford software quicker & cheaper than IPDS.

Just remember technician hell is a place filled with printers.

MurpheyApplication ConsultantCommented:
in some cases, we first create a PDF (to archive) and print that PDF instead of the spoolfile.
then alomst every printer can do the job.
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