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When using open source document management systems, such as Alfresco and Mayan, most of them uses OpenOffice or LibreOffice to do their transformations to pdf in the background. The transformations that are done by OpenOffice and other non Microsoft solutions tend to get the transformations wrong and as such some information might be lost during transformations.
OpenOffice and other solutions are trying their best to do transformations to PDF correctly, but the format and interpretration of the format is not that clear, as such tables and other artifacts within MSOffice documents goes wrong in a lot of cases. Wrong transformations can cause a lot of headaches for clients if they don't expect the wrong transformation of a document.
i-Kno has been working closely with our clients in this area and has developed a robust solution that runs on top of a Microsoft Office server to do such transformations. The resultant PDF is exactly what Microsoft Office would do when the document is saved as a PDF.
Full MS-Word, MS-Excel, MS-Powerpoint and limited MS-Visio and MS-Project transformations are done. The limitations of MS-Visio and MS-Project can be minimised by the correct setup of printing within the document, prior to sending such document for transformation.
The solution uses an open ReST SOA architecture and can be utilised by any system that need to do conversions of office documents and which is able to do a simple ReST call. Calls can be done by PHP, Python, Java and most other programming languages. The solution has been running for over 4 years at various i-Kno clients and has reached a level of stability where such servers run for months without any intervention. A distributed architecture can be put in place for high volume transformation sites, as the solution has been built to be highly scalable.