Why would I want to create a printer file on AS/400?

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AS/400
Printer file
What benefit do I get from using a printer file on the AS/400?
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The short answer is for printing bar codes, forms or changing the font for printing.

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  • TheRealRaven
    Start by asking yourself "Why would I create a (externally described) display file? Why would I create a (externally described) database file?" Although there are significant variations between the reasons for those two types of *FILE objects, the same reasons apply to printer files (and tape files and any others).

    When first working with files in this system, advantages of external descriptions might not be clear. But after relying on them for a while, how pleased would you be if external file descriptions were dropped in a future release?

    Once you become comfortable with external printer files and learn how they can be manipulated in your environment, it's unlikely you'll want to give them up.
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  • Splat
    Because, as clunky as it is, RLU still beats fire out of laying out output specifications.
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  • TheRealRaven
    RLU isn't required for creating printer files, though it can help in many cases. I don't think I've used RLU for creating more than a couple PRTFs in the past 30 years, and I'm sure I haven't used it in at least 20 years.

    But then, I've only rarely used even SDA in the past ten years or so. Once a couple basic examples are available for any file type in a DDS source file, it's a lot faster for me just to clone and change.
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  • Splat
    Oh, it's not necessary but it's awfully handy for checking appearance & layout.  Besides, by storing compile options in the source it makes it a lot easier to recreate when (inevitably) there's a change to be made to the print file.
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  • mmanley
    By using a printer file you can also include graphic objects, bar codes, and define multiple fonts and character sizes.  Using a printer file with an AFPDS printer type, you can create printouts compatible with almost any PCL compatible printer, and can even create very good looking PDF's (very easy at V6R1 or higher)
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  • TheRealRaven
    @Splat: Yes, good point in favor of RLU. Saving creation parameters in a standard way is one good use of RLU. I've opened/saved/created existing PRTFs w/RLU just to get those attributes in the source. I didn't intend to seem totally negative about RLU, though it could have been much improved long ago. My comment was only wanted to be a clarification for the OP.

    @mmanley: AFPDS (and a couple other elements of PRTFs) is a good example of PRTF uses. Externally-described PRTFs allow manipulation of "file" attributes without needing to modify/compile program source. E.g., an overlay element might be replaced by a new overlay by changing the *FILE and never even seeing program source. Of course, combining AFPDS with the use of RLU takes some experience with both.
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  • ToddN2000
    The PRTF is used when you want to print something other than normal text with the default font. This is a no cost way of printing things like forms without having to buy a package like Optio / Forms Express or Label printing software like that from T.L. Ashford. Granted we use both of those as it makes the design of forms and labels a lot more user friendly.
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  • TheRealRaven
    They're also used just when you want to simplify program coding. As with database and display (and other) files, printer files externalize much of the detail. Your programming can focus on the business logic.

    Also, maintenance might be simplified. Numerous details are held in the external file description. They often can be changed without having to look through any program source. Only the printer file source might be involved.
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  • ToddN2000
    Like Raven mentioned maintenance can be a big help. We have a package we have been using for years. Every time there is a new release, their forms output keep changing. So we would keep applying our custom mods on top of their new code. Do this on 5 separate i-Series boxes and dozens of divisions on each and that is a lot of time applying code. By using a PRTF that we saved a lot of time on future upgrades because our PRTF rarely changes. We just add our PRTF and leave their output specs alone now.
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