Online Printing & File uploading:
At the most basic level, Web to Print involves tools such as emails and FTP servers that allow print consumers to deliver originally designed files to print suppliers via the web with online printing and file uploading. Early initiatives online printing and file uploading were undertaken by the major manufacturers of printing machines to their print shop customers by facilitating the delivery of print files to print shops, from their customers. However, most of the technologies created within this space were “closed” and limited to work exclusively with the machines provided by manufacturers. These basic forms of “electronic delivery” eventually evolved into the print driver concept where printers would distribute disks to encourage the installation of “print drivers”. With a print driver installed on your computer, you would be able to send files directly to your preferred print supplier by opening the file you want to print in its native application (i.e. Photoshop, InDesign, Adobe PDF reader, Word, Excel, etc.) and then select the print driver from your list of printers to send your files to the print company for processing. Where as most machine manufacturers tried to limit the ability of the drivers to interact solely with their machines, the technology providers in the market ultimately prevailed. Today, many universal and even branded pdf print drivers are now available to communicate with any machine without being limited by a particular machine manufacturer.
It is worth noting, that all of the above are still in wide scale use, each one with its strengths and weaknesses. Emails are generally limited in the file sizes that they can either send or receive. FTP uploads can take large files, but unless the file is expected, there is little information related to the file sender nor is there any indication or record as to when the file was sent if the sender does not personally follow up. Lastly, both email and FTP will send an original document, but due to the broad range of documents being created around the world across various technologies, it is possible that the printer will not have the required application to read and accept the document. The optimal file format is PDF. There are many PDF conversion solutions. There are some efficient branded Web to Print pdf print driver solutions that bundle all the mediums of file sending into one eliminating the barriers to file sending. GoPrint2, for example, is a preferred solution.