Direct off site printing from a web based form

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I would like to know how to set up a web based form that will be filled out at location A and when submitted will print a completed copy of the form on a printer at location B. These locations are on the company net connected by 24/7 T1 line. Each location has its own firewall that allows basic internet access. The printer is IP addressable within location B's facility. Can I print from email if I have a rule set up? We use IMAP on iPlanet servers. Local client is Netscape. It might be possible to use Outlook or Outlook Express if necessary. Location A represents about 60 company sites in one extended metropolitan area surrounding Chicago. I hope that is enough info, write back if you would like other clarifications. Kevin
ASKED: January 27, 2005  8:25 AM
UPDATED: February 2, 2005  9:51 AM

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I’m not clear if you want automated printing, or printing via user email intervention.

In the first case, there’s no rule that says a web page can only submit data back to the server that hosts it. You can serve up the page from A and have the form submission go to B. Just use a server side process to send the data to the printer.

In the second case, if you want the user to be able to print the HTML form exactly as it appears, then you can either a) print from a captured page using a web browser, or b) print from email.

a). When the form’s submitted, save the form data server side and report back an ID to the user. Provide a second page that accepts that ID, and that recalls the form with the filled in data in place. Then the user can chooseFile|Print.

b). Just make sure the user’s email (Messenger) preferences include ‘view HTML pages as HTML’ and then choose File|Print.

It sounds like your platform is windows. Why can’t the printer at B be exposed to all locations, using Windows File & Print sharing / Samba. That solves a fair amount of the problem?

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  • Kthutcheson
    Nigel: I was offering up two options I wasn't sure which would be easier to implement. I do like option A the direct printing from web form. This automates the process and leaves less human error chance. I do like your suggestion of housing the data with ID for backup retrieval. Most of this data is not needed after 2-4 days but you never know when the printer might hiccup or the network might have an outage. We are working in a Win2000 environment so yes the printer can be shared. But I think I can just set up the printer with IP printing as the printer would be accessible to the server via TCP/IP port. Do you, or anyone, know of a pre-made forms application/code that can do this kind of work? It does not need to be super robust, just the basics? Kevin (kthutcheson)
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  • Kthutcheson
    Nigel: I was offering up two options I wasn't sure which would be easier to implement. I do like option A the direct printing from web form. This automates the process and leaves less human error chance. I do like your suggestion of housing the data with ID for backup retrieval. Most of this data is not needed after 2-4 days but you never know when the printer might hiccup or the network might have an outage. We are working in a Win2000 environment so yes the printer can be shared. But I think I can just set up the printer with IP printing as the printer would be accessible to the server via TCP/IP port. Do you, or anyone, know of a pre-made forms application/code that can do this kind of work? It does not need to be super robust, just the basics? Kevin (kthutcheson)
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  • Kthutcheson
    Nigel: I was offering up two options I wasn't sure which would be easier to implement. I do like option A the direct printing from web form. This automates the process and leaves less human error chance. I do like your suggestion of housing the data with ID for backup retrieval. Most of this data is not needed after 2-4 days but you never know when the printer might hiccup or the network might have an outage. We are working in a Win2000 environment so yes the printer can be shared. But I think I can just set up the printer with IP printing as the printer would be accessible to the server via TCP/IP port. Do you, or anyone, know of a pre-made forms application/code that can do this kind of work? It does not need to be super robust, just the basics? Kevin (kthutcheson)
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  • Freejack
    You may want to look at a tool called ActiveReports from Data Dynamics (www.datadynamics.com). They have versions for classic ASP and ASP.NET. A designer is implemented so that you can lay out reports. You can render them in quite a variety of formats (HTML, PDF, etc.). We've used it and some other tools under ASP.NET to build a quite sophisticated document system for one of our clients and it works great. As far as allowing printing direct to the printer just make sure that you have the firewall rules set up to properly restrict the printer. It's quite a nuisance if some script kiddie finds it and decides to print a million copies of trash on your printer. Also, make sure that there's a way to hold the print data if the job fails and retry it later. I don't recommend client side printing for this kind of thing since it's too easy to lose the document and you have no good way to track it. Especially don't use client side printing if the users filling out the form are external to your company. James. http://www.market-sense.com/
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