June 10, 2009

PDF Thumbnail Image

We are working on updating the PDF section of the website and creating a daily feature on the homepage. Part of the design process is to have a thumbnail snapshot of the PDF on the homepage. The idea is to show a small image of the PDF to catch the attention of visitors to the site. It's a pretty cool design and we are looking forward to launching the PDF control.

There are very few tools to batch process PDF files to images on Mac OS X. There is a built in functionally in Apple's Automator tool, but the problem is that it converts all PDF pages into an image format, which isn't what we wanted to do. We only wanted the first page to be a PDF format.

While we could have used the Automator functionality or just open each file and just saved the first page, this seemed to be a lot of unnecessary work. As Steve Jobs would say, "There has to be a better way to do this."

So we searched various Macintosh shareware/freeware sites and came up empty handed., It looks like there was a tool called Kunvert, by Kualo software, that might have done the trick, but the website no longer exists. The reviews were pretty good, but I think that Automator's free functionality might have overstepped this commercial application.

We decided to look at some of the tools we had on our own computers. The only tool that we found to perform the task was Picturesque 1.0 by Acqualia. Note: this doesn't work in Picturesque 2.0 which was release in May, 2008. For some reason they took out the functionality to manipulate PDF images in version 2.0.

Picturesque is a great tool to manipulate images to have a cool Web 2.0 type effect. The application makes it easy to add drop shadows, round corners, 3D perspectives and refection effect. The application takes great use of Apple's Quartz Composer technology. It's a very cool application and it's no surprise that it won Apple's Design Award in 2007. I highly recommend buying the application; it's the best $34.95 you'll spend today.

Using Picturesque 1.0 we were able to run a batch job on all 150 PDF files in a very short amount of time. We were even applied a drop shadow and round corners to each thumbnail. We also used iWatermark to add a PDF watermark. We were happy with the resulting images.

Our lesson learned - always backup applications when upgrading! You never know when a developer may remove functionality that you may find useful. We we happy that we had a solution to meet the needs to cover 150 PDF files to thumbnail format.

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June 10, 2009

FireFox Error at Microsoft

Nice little at Microsoft.com:

Steps to reproduce:

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