Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint

Executive Summary:
Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint provides enhanced printing options that you can integrate into your SharePoint sites. It requires Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Office SharePoint Server 2007. Although it adds functionality, Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint doesn’t supersede Print Spooler services, meaning the product doesn’t replace or fix problems with your base printing resources.

Recently, SharePoint was deployed at your company. Soon after, the Help desk receives a call from the CEO’s assistant, asking, “How do I print the different versions of a document without restoring and opening each version?”

The Help desk tech says, “I’m not sure. I’ll have to look that up.”

Then Harry from sales calls and asks, “Do I have to open each document in order to print it?”

Once again, the Help desk tech isn’t sure and says, “Well… I’ve never tried that. Let me take a look and call you back.”

After looking through the SharePoint Help menus and doing a few Google searches, it becomes clear to the Help desk tech that these functions aren’t part of the standard SharePoint deployment. So then the tech has to call the users back and tell them “You can’t do that with SharePoint.”

SharePoint utilizes network and workstation print resources. Therefore, when u open files from a document library, you can print only one document at a time. Often, there are more expanded printing needs with documents. Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint, a product from Unbounded Solutions, enhances SharePoint’s printing abilities by integrating print features into the SharePoint site itself. (Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint is available in three versions: Small Business Edition, Standard Edition, and Enterprise Edition.) The product doesn’t create a print service that supersedes the Print Spooler services, but rather adds the printing abilities that are often requested by users.

Print Services
I found the installation of Printing Services for SharePoint to be straightforward. This product requires Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 or Office SharePoint Server 2007, Windows Server 2003 or later, Internet Explorer 6.0 or later, and the .NET Framework 2.0 or later. In addition, end users must have Microsoft Office 2007 software locally installed on their workstations to process the file types. The product’s features aren’t deployed throughout the SharePoint farm by default, so you must enable the designated print services on each site, which gives you control over the printing abilities within each site to which the services are deployed.

I realized while working with the product that a good deal of thought was given to the structure of the print services. Printing Services for SharePoint provides both granular and bulk control over data at the list level, folder level, and item level. With regard to document properties, Printing Services for SharePoint lets users print out the properties of a file from within the document library (as shown in Figure 1) and the version history of one document or even all the documents in the library. This feature lets user track the changes to key business documents, such as in a biotech project where complex processes are documented, with contributions being made to the document by a project team. Often a SharePoint list will receive email messages with attachments. Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint lets the SharePoint list users print some, or all, of the attachments without having to open each one. This product also lets users print single or multiple InfoPath forms without having to open the forms one at a time.

With Printing Services for SharePoint, users can print only documents and versions that they have access to, so site security isn’t compromised by the power of the printing features. In addition, users can create snapshots of SharePoint libraries and lists. It also offers enhanced calendar printing that lets users print event properties and views without manually opening each event.

Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint
PROS: Great way to meet specific printing needs in SharePoint; increases productivity
CONS: Relies on existing print infrastructure
RATING: 4 stars
PRICE: Starts at $2,275 for Small Business Edition
RECOMMENDATION: I recommend this product for midsized to enterprise SharePoint deployments.
CONTACT: Unbounded Solutions • www.unboundedsolutions.com

Because these print services let you more easily print and offer quicker access to items, it seems clear that this product can contribute to a quick adoption of SharePoint by users throughout the enterprise. Some things should be considered before implementing this product in your environment, though. Printing Services for SharePoint doesn’t supersede your network’s print services; it still depends on them for printing. So if there’s a problem with your organization’s base printing resources, Printing Services for SharePoint won’t replace or improve them. This product also doesn’t speed up printing. So you need to take your print infrastructure and the bandwidth of your network into consideration. This is particularly true if end users are planning to bulk print SharePoint items from a remote office.

Increase Productivity
When I reviewed this product, I was immediately reminded of how my enthusiasm for SharePoint was dulled by its printing limitations. If your organization intends to make extensive use of InfoPath forms, calendar events, list item attachments, and reports, then I suggest giving Unbounded Printing Services for SharePoint a try. SharePoint can potentially increase business productivity, but it shouldn’t be taxed by an insufficient printing environment. This product provides printing options that mitigate that oversight.

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