[NTLK] Newton Printing to PDF? -> YES!

Sylvain Pilet sylvain at pilet.net
Thu Apr 11 21:00:03 EDT 2019

Hi everyone, 

Martin, I like the idea of being able to “print“ directly in PDF format from the Newton.
So since you mentioned that, I've been thinking about a solution…

A very long time ago (at the end of the 90s) I worked in DTP for magazines, but I also provided assistance to printers (the real ones, those who print books, magazines…) At that time there were professional software such as QuarkXpress, PageMaker Scribus... And then there were all the others, like, Microsoft Publisher (the worst of all), CorelDraw!, Word, Excel, Claris… in short, all. And there were more and more private customers coming to printers with documents from all these non-professional software. The printers did not know how to print these documents, because each time the printing was different at the printer. Also I had concluded with several printers to convert their customers' files to PDF, so that printers could print correctly. 
For that I used what is called a “virtual printer“. I was using a NeXT (a NeXTCube and its NeXTPrinter printer to check the output). I was using the integrated PostScript driver & display, and I was sharing this NeXTPrinter printer on my local network. But I had modified the spool so that the document would not be printed, but would be saved in .ps (Postscript). From there I used Acrobat distilled on a Mac to batch convert the page. The advantage of NeXTStep is that it was compatible with Macs, & PCs, I could even connect the clients' PCs directly to the network for PDF printing (because sometimes they used software that I didn't know!) The trick to make the NeXTPrinter work with everything was to define it as a generic PostScript printer, and that was it!

Anyway, after sharing some memories with you, let's go back to today, and the Newtons. We could of course use the same method with a NeXT, but finding a NeXT is not very simple ;-)
Grant's idea of using an online service via email is also an alternative, but I prefer to have a permanent and local solution, a little based on the previous story.

Three days ago, I thought to myself, that we could use a Raspberry Pi, it costs almost nothing, and we can certainly do it. As I already have Raspberry at home which is only used to make NPDS Tracker server, it can also make print server. :-)

And here we are three days later… the result:
I can print PDF documents from any Newton application, simply by using Newton's Print option. The only condition is that the Newton is connected to your network, by cable (because the modern Wifi Router are not AppleTalk compatible (except Apple Airport Base). The whole trick is in the Raspberry. 
But I still have a few more details to review before I present this solution to you. 
The advantage is that the document can be as many pages long as you want and can contain anything you want (not just text).
The second advantage over an external solution, is that the PDFs generated are identical to a print made directly with the Newton on a printer. And even more importantly, the text remains text in the PDF! I have at home, an HP LaserJet 4000 printer with a network card, which I have been using with my Newtons for years. And I checked, it's the same, unlike the online service, that gives random results when there is more than just text.

The other good news of this "NewtonToPDF" tip is that you can also use any current printer, to print for real, from the Newton (via the Raspberry.) Of course, if the printer can work natively with the Raspberry. I'm not going to write pilots anyway! :-)

How is it going?
It's very simple, we use the Print function of the Newton, in the printer selector we choose (the first time) the network printer (LaserWritter) shared by the Rpi (Raspberry). Choosing LaserWritter is mandatory, so that the Newton can send the data in the correct format. The Rpi receives the print, and converts the print directly to PDF. Then makes available in a shared folder on the Rpi (or elsewhere on your network if you have a NAS for example).
Et voilà!
But as I said, I still have some adjustments to make because for the moment, for example, each new PDF overwrites the previous one in the folder! Then I'll have to clean it up and simplify the installation procedure for everything that's necessary, and the settings.
When all this is ready, I will make a short video and an article to explain everything in detail.

See you soon…

Sylvain Pilet

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