PlanetPress for Work: Metadata for sorting

I have found many customers who mail high volumes of documents, use inserter machines that automatically fold and insert documents into envelopes prior to mailing. Most inserter machines have the option of an OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) or barcode reader that tells the machine how many pages there are in a document. These OMR marks or barcodes can be easily applied to the documents by PlanetPress. A large stack of documents is loaded into the inserter machine where each document can have a different number of pages. The marks on the documents added by PlanetPress tell the machine when to fold and insert the document. But applying inserter marks is another story…

Using OMR/Barcodes requires investment in the optional optical recognition hardware/software for the inserter. PlanetPress can help when the budget doesn’t stretch to the extras.

Rather than having a stack of documents each with a different number of pages, PlanetPress can sort the documents by number of pages so that all single pages print in one batch, all two-page documents in another batch and so on.

Three huge advantages PlanetPress sorting have for the typical mailroom

1. The customer doesn’t need the optional OMR/barcode reading equipment. By manually setting the inserter machine to a fixed number of pages, all single sheet documents can be run followed by all two-page documents, then three-page documents and so on.

2. Even with the optional OMR/barcode recognition hardware, a stack of unsorted documents will cause the inserter machine to constantly change envelope sizes during the run as a single page followed by three-pages, followed by another single page continually force the inserter to change its envelope selection bins. This can lead to excessive mis-feeding and jamming. By using documents sorted by number of pages, the speed and efficiency and reliability of the enveloping and inserting is increased.

3. If a document in the stack to be inserted exceeds the maximum number of pages the machine can handle, the machine will stop with an error requiring operator intervention. PlanetPress can sort and remove from the batch documents over a max number of pages for manual enveloping.

So using PlanetPress’s ability to sort documents by number of pages before printing can have many benefits for the mailroom by saving time and expense.


How it works

Let’s assume that we have a large PDF consisting of many documents such as invoices, each with a variable number of pages. What we want to do is sort the documents by number of pages so we have a folder with all the single page documents, another folder with all the two-page documents and another folder with three-page documents and so on.

The key to achieving this is PlanetPress Metadata

Whether we have created our document in PlanetPress Design or are processing PDFs that are already created, in order for the metadata to know how many pages each document has, we first need to define the Document Boundary.

Let’s take the first case where we are creating the document ourselves from raw data.

Text data workflow

When we create the document in PlanetPress Designer, we first set a condition which is true when it’s either the first page or last page of a document. Often the text “Page 1 of” works as the first page or the text “TOTAL” which only appears on the last page. This condition is then used in the Metadata tab of the document properties to indicate the start or end of a document.

Now when we create metadata using this document in the workflow, the metadata will tell us how many documents there are and also how many pages each document has. This enables us to apply metadata filters and sorting by number of pages. We put each filter on a right-branch and then use the create PDF plug-in on to create the PDF from the text. Because the metadata has been filtered, only documents that match the filtered metadata will be created on that branch.

When setting the rules for the filter, notice that we have choices of Equal and (#)Equal, Greater than and (#)Greater than. The # is used for a numeric comparison rather than a string comparison.

Note that we use a local variable called DocsSelected and write the “SelectedDocumentCount from the metadata to this. A text condition then branches to make the PDF only if the number of selected documents I greater than zero.

A separate branch is added for 2 page documents, 3 page documents etc.

PDF Workflow

In the second case where we already have a PDF file with multiple documents in our workflow, we create metadata without specifying a document (passthrough) and then use the Metadata Level Creation plug-in to create a document boundary when text such as “Page 1 of” appears at a location on the PDF.

Now we have our metadata we use the metadata filter plug-in on right-hand branches to selectively filter documents by number of pages in the same way as for text data. In this case we will need a very simple Document Design that just takes a PDF job file and recreates a PDF, but this time the PDF will only contain the number of pages specified in the metadata after filtering.

So that’s it! We can now take the PDFs from their various sub-folders and print them as separated jobs.



It’s worth mentioning that even when you do have an inserter machine that reads OMR/barcodes to tell the machine how many pages each document has, it can be useful to sort documents by the number that fit each envelope type i.e. 1-6 pages, 7-12 pages and greater than 12 pages. It is also important to filter out oversize documents that cannot fit a single envelope and require manual handling. In these applications our metadata filters would have a rules such as Greater than or equal to 7 AND Less than or equal to 12. The combinations are endless!
I hope that these ideas will get you started and by experimentation you will achieve whatever kind of filtering you require. And it’s all made possible by the power of PlanetPress Matadata!