Behind the Scenes at ActivePDF: The Making of Compressor Enterprise
Hello and welcome to Nancy’s Corner. Here is a forum where I will discuss topics of interest that have to do with my wonderful ActivePDF family.
In today’s episode I’m focusing on something that’s really got me jazzed. There’s been buzz around our new Compressor Enterprise – software that enables quickly reducing the size of PDF files. I caught the fever and got wrapped up in all the excitement. After doing a hands-on demonstration I got to thinking about what all goes into launching a new product like Compressor Enterprise.
Where does the idea start? How does it go from a concept to building the software? To find out, I interviewed a few key people at ActivePDF (Architect, QA, Product Manager) to get their feedback on how much blood, sweat, and tears (if any) it takes to develop and launch a product like Compressor Enterprise.
Director of Product, Natalie Daukas
ActivePDF has always been a developer shop, but recently the company is moving towards a different type of automation that includes a new type of end-user. Not strictly a developer tool any longer, ActivePDF saw a need to offer no-code solutions across the enterprise for IT Administrators and non-technical end users as well.
Moving from an audience that is mainly developers to an audience that is not code friendly meant creating a whole new experience. The product needed to include new functional requirements and a ton of iterating to tweak the look and feel for a user-friendly experience.
The origin of gathering system requirements for Compressor Enterprise first came from our customers. ActivePDF received multiple requests for an enhancement to our Compressor SDK requiring a solution with a user interface. We know that our developer tools offer powerful solutions to common document automation challenges and needed a way to transfer this functionality into a user-friendly product.
At first the team was prepared to develop a totally new User Interface (UI) but we were able to coordinate efforts with development which allowed us to leverage our existing technology. What a delightful surprise – ActivePDF was able to re-work our existing UI thanks to our Lead Engineer!
Now that Compressor Enterprise is a huge success, ActivePDF is looking to leverage that same technology into our new product, DocSpace, by listening to our customers’ requests for more automation functionality from a different end user perspective. Release coming soon!
Lead Developer, Richard Kim
Historically ActivePDF has used an API and tailored its products towards the developer. Recently we looked at the thousands of companies who want to reduce file size, but this required a UI based product that would not need any special skills to operate and reduce the size of mountains of data. This reduction in data size results in reduced bandwidth, allowing companies to free-up space and save money.
The challenge came from taking a server-based developer product and thinking about how automation would work in this environment. Compressor Enterprise would need to handle workload (via watch folder) and high-volume compression without crashing – downtime is not an option. What’s the point of automation if it’s going to crash the server?
This type of innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It requires lots of discussion among team members and taking a different mindset. ActivePDF needed to think differently and rework ideas with months of weekly meetings constantly changing and integrating new ideas.
Letting go of the traditional SDK and introducing the user-friendly UI was a big project that was accomplished by taking what we already had and revamping to make it better and more intuitive. Compressor Enterprise will only get better with age as new user insights are highlighted and new improved framework technologies are available.
Architect and CEO, Tim Sullivan
Software design has changed as our customer’s needs have changed. We could see the business problem of storage and bandwidth along with developers who were not interested in compressing documents on the fly and wanted to do something about it. The vision was born to offer a solution to many different industries who preferred a “one-shot” bulk compression with a way to periodically maintain compressed documents.
Now that the concept presented itself, ActivePDF had to internally translate from the developer mindset to that of an end-user. Our master software builder knew the way and had a clear mental picture which was translated to the design team then brought back to the table repeatedly. This was probably the most enjoyable process; to take cool original ideas and leverage them into new technology.
Having the final decision is a lot of responsibility: 1. Giving the idea, 2. Creating something, 3. Reiterate with the team, 4. Then deciding to keep, tweak, or toss. ActivePDF is very fortunate to have a team who can translate the architectural vision then adopt a working technology that allows writing automated plug-ins.
Deciding what we wanted the product to do was just the first step, we wanted to go beyond the minimal requirements and create something different or better. Things like being able to integrate into a cloud platform (out-of-the-box) and creating a web interface that allows the user to select multiple compression options all while making Compressor Enterprise as good or better than the competition.
The engineering roadmap for Compressor Enterprise includes leveraging fonts. We are also looking ahead at some industries whose document streams include images as well as text and how to tackle saving text so it’s searchable while compressing images. These are just a couple of examples of what might come next.
People have been compressing PDF’s for as long as the format has been around. It’s so frustrating when I work with a large PDF file that can’t be sent as an email attachment or uploaded to websites. There is a need for an easy-to-use compression tool. Any PDF file above 50 MB is considered a large file, and my email service doesn't allow attached files larger than 25 MB.
When I tried the Compressor Enterprise hands-on demo, the incredibly easy user interface made smaller compressed PDF files with plenty of extra room for storage space and made compressed PDF files archivable and quicker loading online than uncompressed PDFs without compromising quality.
Want to learn more about Compressor Enterprise? Try the Free Trial, then comment below to tell me what you liked about it.
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