Common misconceptions about Arbortext APP (3B2)
Here I aim counter balance or correct some of the common misconceptions and unfounded points we hear about 3B2 (Arbortext Advanced Print Publisher).

APP is for newspapers and magazines right?
APP was once used for many news papers and some magazine, but this was in the years after it first emerged in the late 1980s. The early product was based on a PI and basic scripting language driven formatting engine. It handled tag delimited mark-up to give native handling of the then quite new SGML and custom tagging. Things have changed a bit since then!

We have seen many implementations of 3B2, then APP over the years, starting from version 5 in the mid 1990’s right up to the present version 11 in 2014. These include areas such as:

• Scientific journals, journal articles, books, scholarly publishing
• Higher education: textbooks, training materials, reference books.
• Financial publishing: annual reports, shareholder reports, filings.
• Aerospace, defense, automotive, aviation.
• Legislation and legal documentation.
• Parts catalogues, medical catalogues, product listings.
• Codes & standards documents.
• Pharmaceutical publishing

See more info in technical details on our APP product page.

But who is still supporting it and what is APP’s future?
There are a number of experienced PTC partners and independents all capable of providing support and APP based solutions around the world. Many of whom have experience with or connection to the original developers Advent Publishing Systems ltd in the UK, before it was acquired by Arbortext and then PTC in 2005-2006 respectively. Most of the original APP developers and the Product Manager are still working on the product suite with PTC today and still based in the original home of the software in Swindon, England.

APP is now the default PDF and print engine for all Arbortext products and Arbortext PTC solutions as an integrated and embedded .dll engine, as well as being maintained as a standalone product for development of advanced solutions and the historical user base. Much of the core functionlity of APP and configuration of many stylesheets/template can now be done through the Arbortext Styler GUI development interface.

The engine has been continually developed since its acquisition and completed a major Arbortext integration with the introduction of a new JavaScript based formatting object model API in 2010. This has been greatly expanded and enhanced since, along with other new core features and major updates being released twice a year.

There are also at least 5 PTC partners around the world who have knowledge with and support APP including us. We have run an international APP and Arbortext users meeting in Europe for the last 5 years and plan to continue doing so to coincide with major releases or developments.

It is hard to learn!
APP is a large toolbox of features developed over its lifetime for core functionality, custom functions and vertical specific areas and a lot of documentation to go with all this.

Most applications will use a core set of features involving around 20-30% of functionality which all template developers will need to know. Beyond this learning should be tailored to the type of publications, vertical specific features and/or solution requirement specific learning.

APP used to be almost all proprietary script and processing instructions (PI’s), but since the introduction of the many standards such as XML, XPath, XSLT, Perl and especially JavaScript Formatting Object Model API this learning curve has become much easier. The foundation for the core skills can be acquired through generic means even before APP specific knowledge layers are taught on top of this. A good level of scripting, programming and pagination/typesetting knowledge will be a major help to any new APP developer.
This is why good solution implementation partners and/or training/support partners are important to virtually all installations.

So ‘is it hard to learn’ I say not especially, with the right people and the right partners it should not be harder than any other comparable system.

It is hard to master all of it!
Yes it would be hard to master all of it coming as a novice to a large toolbox with many different tools. However, even if you wanted to develop highly complex solutions, you would never need to learn ALL of it anyway and very few people do. See also points above.

It is costly!
There are different licensing options and packages available through good resellers. It is not a cheap quality product no, but also not as expensive as some of its competitors such as XPP. Entry pricing for the standard Arbortext APP desktop version starts at $4,000, depending on the scale of the solution its being used for. And increasing in cost when you start to consider the Batch Server and Scalable/high volume, Enterprise/APE options.

APP is not an ‘off the shelf’ or ‘shrink wrapped’ product, where in many cases for other products, features can be fixed or limited in the way they work and in capability. If you need to publishing simple to medium complexity layout documents, then you buy a low to medium capababilty and appropriately priced product!

If you have a set of medium to complex requirements to fulfill and want the best available toolbox to deliver them, with scope to code your way out of difficult areas. Then your budget will likely match the medium to high level system you need and then the solution price of APP is focused on the return on the investment for your business not initial outlay. If you can automated even complex tasks you save time in repetitive tasks and maintain consistent quality.

It is a desktop not a batch product!
Not true, it can be used as both! With the added benefit of being able to re-open batch composed document files for manual interaction and content corrections.
APP Desktop: DTP, Manual and Semi/Fully Automatic composition with volume automatic printing restriction. Also used for template development to be used on the desktop and batch versions.
APP Server: Same composition engine as Desktop but with black-box/lights-out command line driven capabilities and no volume auto print restriction.
APP Enterprise: Comprises of 1 or more APP agents (APP Servers) along with job management, job queues, failure detection, logging systems and scalability (soon to be migrated within Arbortext PE).

It is not at trade shows!
It is true that PTC are at very few tradeshows especially with Arbortext products, they leave this to the specialist partners such as us. We have been at tradeshows in the UK and Europe in particular over a number of years to varying degrees. It is important to mention in our experience very few people come to a trade show these days looking for in-house systems on the scale of an end-to-end Arbortext solution.

Old files will not work on newer versions!
Not correct, old files will open on newer versions. If your old file was created on the non Unicode version and uses non Unicode type 1 converted .fnt fonts it should be opened in the standard non-unicode newer version. The standard vs Unicode version option is maintained up to the current version for V6 (1998) legacy users. New documents should be created only with the Unicode version and Unicode compatible fonts. Migration of files from standard to unicode version is possible with some simple scripting.

It is an extra cost for Arbortext users
The APP-dll is in fact built into the Styler/PE products and can be driven by Stylesheets built in styler with no extra cost or licenses. Stylesheets can also be ‘plugged-in’ as standalone APP templates created in the desktop version of APP, but only if there are complex requirements for features not available within the Styler UI or source edits. The standalone APP desktop, license should it be needed, is an extra licence and therefore separate cost.

What’s better in Arbortext, APP or FOSI
Like most things, it depends on what you want to do and how. Similarly if you are choosing between other engines/technologies, for example: PE, APP, AH-Formatter/XSL-FO/CSS which is why we offer all of these.

FOSI is good for many requirements and has been for a number of years. It is however a slowly retiring technology and will soon (Dec 2014) no longer receive maintenance enhancement releases. After all, there is a reason why Arbortext wanted APP and that it is now the default print/PDF engine!

Not forgetting APP is more than just a PDF/Print engine also. Its powerful toolbox of features enable many more uses from things like outputting structured data from non structured output (XML/XHTML/ePub etc) to providing an a dynamically augmented DOM tree dump, to name a few.

(These are personal views and understanding from many years of using, training, implementing, selling and supporting 3B2/APP and not official statements on behalf of PTC. © Chris Western, tformat ltd. 2014.)