We spoke with Roberto Anzola, VP of ISIS Papyrus Software, about AFP’s capabilities and how the AFPC helps the print industry.
Q: What do you see as the single most important value AFP capabilities bring to an organization?
Roberto: Since its origins, AFP has become the de facto standard for transactional documents. It’s hard to focus on one single value behind it as a winning format, as the market considers a wide range of factors. From my perspective, the most prominent (and strategically influential) factor in AFP’s favor is its architectural simplicity in the complex document composition environment. Along with that simplicity comes reliability, backward compatibility, and speed in handling, both with converters and printers. These are the major factors that bring large corporations to use AFP for their high-volume document management needs.
As the number of alternatives on the market today suggests, there are many different approaches to architecting a page layout. Each approach has its own merits and issues.
In the case of AFP, the architectural simplicity that inspired the original designers was a top-to-bottom description, with no forward links or the like: a linear and well documented file structure. At the time when AFP was conceived, simplicity was needed to cope with limited computational capabilities. Today, it is a recipe for unmatched performance and archiving compactness.
Q: Why do you feel the AFPC is important to the print industry?
Roberto: Over time, evolution is necessary to a format like AFP, considering how long it has been around. Evolution aims to embrace new technologies (for example, fonts technology or new image formats). The AFP Consortium is driving this evolution process with a solid strategy to keep and improve quality and the flexibility of AFP over time. The print industry is aware that AFP standards, being defined by the AFPC, are forward-looking changes that at the same time protect and foster quality and compatibility in both new and old documents.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest value the AFPC brings to the print industry?
Roberto: In simple terms, investment protection: to ensure a well-defined, strategic evolution of the AFP format for the years to come.
Q: Do you see AFP becoming more broadly deployed beyond transactional print? If so, in which types of output?
Roberto: As far as my personal experience goes, at ISIS Papyrus, we set AFP at the core of our documentation platform. Because of that, we see AFP used not only as a transactional print format, but also as the basis for document-centric business processes. For example, Papyrus Adaptive Case Management makes heavy use of AFP to display formatted artifacts and display transactional data to ACM Users.
Q: How do you see the marketplace in ten years? How will AFP and PDF work together? Will there be more options for organizations to look to?
There are actually two questions here. In terms of marketplace, ten years is a very far-reaching horizon. It’s hard to say, but the evolution is certainly pointing to mobile platforms for creating documents and triggering print processes. We foresee users picking up their documents from a wide range of devices and platforms; with paper documents shifting from centralized printing to localized- and cloud-based printing.
As for PDF right now, AFP supports PDF as “contained” objects, therefore the two formats are already working together. Looking to the future, the AFPC has a long-term strategy that aims to provide the foundation for the next generation of transactional documents. From a worldwide perspective, I see promising developments dealing with promotional materials and full-color statements.
Q: In your opinion, what was the most important evolution of AFP you’ve seen over the years?
Roberto: Well, definitely the Color Management, the definition of an Interchange Set (IS/3) and the Metadata containers, however this last one we are just at the first level of definition. With the next level, we will be able to transport much more powerful information with an AFP stream, such as extending the accessibility of AFP to differently abled people, text-to-speech systems, and the like.
Q: In what industries do you see AFP being leveraged the most today? Where do you expect its adoption to increase in the next five years?
Roberto: By and large, any industries dealing with transactional printing use AFP. So finance, insurance and telecom are the largest consumers. I expect increased adoption in the area of full-color documents, due to the very high fidelity of color definitions in AFP through the dedicated AFP tower, CMOCA (Color Management Object Content Architecture).
Q: What, in your mind, sets AFP apart from other presentation architectures?
Roberto: Several points, as you can imagine. For one, it provides a well-defined architecture for resource reuse and invocation. Another is the fidelity of its results across a wide range of platforms and printers, due to AFP’s dot-by-dot definition format. The compactness of AFP’s output for archiving and file transfer helps it stand out.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts with the AFPC?
Roberto: Well, speaking as someone on the Board Of Directors, we have a coherent strategy in mind to keep AFP moving into the next generation of transactional data process requirements and needs. As a member of the Board and vice president of ISIS Papyrus Solutions, I strive to bring constructive contributions to the process based on the unique vantage point that grants me. Ultimately, the latter helps me achieve the former.
Q: What would you like to see AFP do that it isn’t doing right now?
Roberto: The AFPC has no secrets. [laughs] Again, despite being made up of competitors, we work to form a strong consensus when looking to the future, so the projects we’re working on are well-known, and you can already see their beginnings in our recent work.
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