Perl Success Story: The Halifax Herald Limited Project

by Todd Mezzulo

text2pdf PRO is a commercial tool developed by SANFACE Software that allows text files to be easily converted to PDF. Fabrizio Sanface sent me this story written by Paul Williams, Director of IT at The Halifax Herald Limited, which details how this great tool created with Perl helps a metro daily newspaper deal with the thousands of daily invoices and monthly statements it generates for advertising customers.




The Halifax Herald Limited Project



The Halifax Herald Limited is one of Canada's oldest and largest independent newspapers. Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and dating from 1875, the Herald publishes The Chronicle-Herald, The Mail-Star and The Sunday Herald.



The Problem



Like all metro daily newspapers, the Herald publishes hundreds of display ads and thousands of classified ads every day, resulting in thousands of daily invoices and monthly statements. For years we printed duplicate bills so the Accounting Department would have file copies in the event an advertiser had questions or required a reprint.



Obviously, a significant amount of time and space was occupied handling these bills -- separating, filing, finding, re-filing -- all very manual processes. The bills themselves begin as huge ascii files that are printed on continuous pre-printed forms using IBM 6400 line printers.
In 2000, we developed a PERL-based document management system that indexed the ascii files by invoice number. This allowed the Accounting Department to search for a particular invoice or statement and display it on their screen. The system was quite convenient for them but not robust enough to allow us to stop printing and filing duplicates.



It proved that a document management system would save time, money and storage space, and allow us to better serve our customers. Managing, protecting, indexing and cross-referencing all these ascii files was a primary challenge. An Oracle database, fronted by a cgi interface using DBI/DBD and PERL was the answer.



Why txt2pdf PRO?



The other major concern was the integrity of ascii files -- they're easy to alter. This made PDF desirable. Customers, auditors and taxmen could agree that PDFs were exact replicas of original bills.
How to convert our ascii files to PDF? A quick search of the web turned up txt2pdf PRO. Right out of the box it produced perfect PDF versions of our bills. Of course they were still plain text, hard to read on the screen and painful to print on line printers.

txt2pdf PRO's overlay/underlay capabilities provided a perfect solution -- underlays exactly replicating our pre-printed forms, color-matched and complete with the Herald logo. Now the PDFs look just like the bills we print, making them easy to read on the screen and suitable for reprinting on laser printers.



While evaluating txt2pdf PRO we discovered it also converted all our large reports accurately to PDF. These reports are hundreds of pages thick and many are just for historical record.



Summary



Benefits derived from this project:



*No longer printing duplicate bills.

*No more manual filing of hard copy bills and reports.

*Invoices & statements available online for review and reprinting.

*Document database can be searched by invoice number, account number and/or date.

*Significant paper and ribbon savings.

*Large reports are now cataloged and full-text searchable.



Paul Williams

Director of Information Technology

The Halifax Herald Limited




To learn how large and small companies are using Perl to meet their goals, check out Perl Success Stories.



If you have a Perl success story of your own that you'd like to share, please let me know. You can reach me at: todd@oreilly.com.