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Think Visual: EFI Brings Interesting Printing Ease-of-Use to Desktops

I remember having a conversation with franchise network Allegra’s Carl Gerhardt a few years ago about the impact of more fully featured equipment in corporate environments on the volumes of work available to his franchisees.

By Cary Sherburne
Published: January 26, 2010

I remember having a conversation with franchise network Allegra’s Carl Gerhardt a few years ago about the impact of more fully featured equipment in corporate environments on the volumes of work available to his franchisees.  At the time, his position was that franchisees should go after what Gerhardt describes as “messy work.”  He said, “With more fully featured copiers and printers being installed in corporations and simpler work being performed in house, we can add value with jobs that have complex front- and back-end needs, including variable data, hand inserting and kitting.  As a result, we are seeing a lot of investment in finishing equipment in the network.”

EFI’s announcement today of Fiery VUE may be a game-changer for Gerhardt and others who depend on “messy” finishing work to bring print into their establishments.  According to product manager Mark McCuen, during a sneak peek at the application last week, “A couple of years ago, as there was growing adoption of 40-70ppm color devices with finishing capabilities in offices and work groups, we wondered what the opportunities and barriers there might be for using more Fiery controllers in those environments.  We did extensive surveys, conducted focus groups and had conversations with customers and resellers, and found that users wanted finished documents but they didn’t want to take the time to learn to do them themselves because the print drivers were too complex.  But they really did understand what they wanted and could articulate it well.”

EFI set about developing a simple, highly visual Fiery interface that can be used as a standalone application or as a Microsoft Office 2003/2007 plug-in that takes the print driver out of the workflow.  The result is Fiery VUE, a slick application that allows users to specify complex finished documents with a few clicks of the mouse and virtually no training.  “Sales reps on the street can do a simple five- to ten-minute demo,” said McCuen, “and the customers really get excited about the ability to create booklets and other finished documents in the workplace.”

Fiery VUE uses plain English and images to allow users to select options. For example, instead of “duplex” it says “print on both sides of the page.”  Stapling and punching options are shown graphically, and users can quickly see if, for example, hole punches are going to infringe on document content. It is also structured to only offer the options available on the specified copier/printer.  Thumbnail views allow you to rearrange pages in a slide-sorter kind of way, and even move pages from document to document, mixing file types at will (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF).

One of the coolest features is the templates and green books.  This allows users to automatically create multiple up pages of presentations and other documents. “About 80% of what the average office worker does falls within one of the templates provided with Fiery VUE, and they can also easily create and save their own templates,” explains McCuen. “Green books allow you to automatically create half-size or mini versions of booklets, taking what might have been as many as 15 pages of slides and publishing them to two 8.5x11” sheets in a booklet format, saving as much as 85% over regular PowerPoint printing.  We also found that when you bring green books into a meeting, people notice them more than typical handouts. And a professional-looking booklet like this can literally be created within three clicks.”

I was impressed with the interface, the ease of use, as well as the extensive work EFI did to address customer feedback and issues in this desktop application. It does seem to be somewhat of a double-edged sword for the already-stressed printing industry, enabling users to bring ever more complex work in-house, although it will surely be a boon for sellers of equipment (and for EFI Fiery sales), as volumes grow on these in-house office/work group MFPs. The application can be downloaded for free, and used on the network as well as offline for later printing when connected. But, of course, it does require a Fiery controller at the other end in order to print.

What this will ultimately mean for smaller printing operations, including independents, franchises, Big Box stores, UPS/FedEx, and even online companies like Mimeo, remains to be seen.  For companies that have fully functional MFPs with Fiery controllers, this will enable them to bring more work in house that might otherwise have gone to smaller commercial or quick printers; however, there is an opportunity for smaller commercial and quick printers, many of whom already have a Fiery workflow, to serve the many companies that do not have these in-house capabilities with a much simpler workflow than they may be using today.

Nonetheless, there is the possibility of storm clouds gathering on the horizon, especially if EFI is as successful with this venture as it hopes to be.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.


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