PDF generation tip

Watermarking is a meaningful refinement to end-users for PDFs

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We generate scores of reports. One of our easiest wins has been production of customized signature-ready agreements. Watermarking is striking almost as strong a chord.

End users seem to understand workflows much better when work-products such as draft reports or partially-approved designs are decorated with appropriate watermarks. We've experimented with a variety of different annotations; watermarking has proved much the most meaningful to new users. It seems to get across messages like, "there's another step before you're done", in a way none of our other mechanisms--including textual phrases like, "there's another step before you're done"--was achieving.

Technically, watermarking is an easy win. Our watermarks arise in applications that already automate generations. There's an abundance of utilities and libraries available that handle at least one aspect of watermarking. We most often use pdftk. While its original author has moved on to other pursuits and apparently no longer maintains pdftk, and it doesn't recognize several enhancements in recent releases of PDF, pdftk remains a robust, open-source, cross-platform tool that applies to many of the requirements we encounter.

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