How to get PDF from IBM AS/400 or iSeries cheap and easy


If you run anything on AS/400 (iSeries), for example Mapics or JDE ERP or anything else, you will find out one day it would be fine to get reports as PDF file and save it for future reference or to send it somebody by email. Maybe you would like to keep hardcopy of purchasing orders or you would like to send them to your vendor by email. There are many reasons why we would like to get PDF file from AS/400 spool. I personally hate dotmatrix printers especially when there is color LaserJet available in the office :)

Update Feb 2013
Bellow mentioned solution still works even I wrote this article few years ago. I received many emails from you, it works and you are happy. Anyway since that time I did the next small step for me but the big one for my customers ;-)
Based on requests from my customers I developed modern Windows style applications working on AS/400 data. Users do not see green screen anymore (wow!), they works instead in very friendy applications, they have data displayed in very convenient way. They could print, export to Excel or PDF,  analyze, change, mass change, import prices etc. from external text files ... In fact they view and work on many datasources at the same time. Some data comes from AS400, some from another systems like MES or accounting IS or WMS. Users do not take care, they just need to see "the situation" to do the correct action, and do it simply and with no space for mistake.
Some my apps just work as very modern viewers to data, some apps work as full featured frontend to AS400.
I created dashboard style application with a lot of gauges and charts to provide overall views. Managers can see now simply what they didn't dream before (e.g. estimation of future inventory levels, material shortages warnings highlighted by different colors depending how serious the shortage warning is, perfomance of each individual buyer, how he manages his orders and inventory, ...).

As an eample of full featured application I created planning software. Planners for some strange reason love to work in Excel and then they retype plan ERP just to give MRP the "food", you may well know that ;-) And any plan change means hard work. Now they works in my Excel like application, which is very easy for them to use. But this is not Excel in fact :-) Many various information is picked up from AS400 like customer demand, onhand, itemmaster etc, to give to planner all relevant info he needs to know to create and tune production plan. Immediately as he types qty into "Excel-like planning sheet", such info is saved back into AS400. Very easy to change/postpone the plan, very easy to see overall plans, very easy to see capacity usage, easy to check if the plan was produced yeasterday..., if you are planner/scheduler you know.
Another example is EDI and WebEDI. No need to buy expensive EDI software desinged for AS/400. There is another much cheaper even more flexible way. The same is true for WebEDI portal for smaller vendors. Another example is MES solution working on AS400 data but looks like state-of-the-art very modern Windows application using ribbons, pivot grids, multilevel grids to simply drill down, charts etc.

Not sure if you need more details about that. If yes, let me know (see contact info on the bottom of this webpage) and I may write other articles dedicated to such solutions giving to users more info, saving time, saving money, saving headcount.

When you need PDF, you will usually ask your IT staff to provide such solution.
IT guys have basically three ways how to reach the target:
1/ they will ask your AS/400 supplier to give them quotation for pure "AS/400 spool to PDF" solution. I could bet the quotation will be expensive, but if you are rich company, no problem.
2/ or they will try to look at web and search themselves for PDF conversion tool. Pretty easy to find such software, but usually it is not cheap, anyway cheaper than solution no. 1. Mostly solutions are designed to run only on AS/400 with all those pros and cons.
3/ or they will use their brain and will try to install cheap, flexible and user friendly solution. And many companies already have such tool but nobody think it could be used for this purpose.

Cheap, flexible and user friendly solution

I've met the problem "how to get pdf file from AS/400" when customers asked us to send them debit notes by email. The traditional way would be to print out and put inside the scanner and scan it. And there are many companies "converting" AS/400 hardcopy reports into electronic version this way. Maybe you know that from you office, right?  :)
Some of them don't use PDF yet, they are at the stage when they print out from the spool and scan to TIF, oh great photo version of your report,just 4MB but who cares. Nobody explained to users what is the difference between TIF and PDF.

Well, I have checked the website and ask our IBM consultants for any advice or solution. As I already mentioned above, their solutions were cumbersome or expensive. But usually cumbersome and expensive :)
A few days later I was asked to set up to my colleague network laser printer as AS/400 printer. I was easy job. Just to create new "AS/400 desktop icon" and set up properties. At that time when choosing proper network printer I could see as an option in the list of available windows printers our virtual PDF printer driver as we use pdfFactory.

pdfFactory is cheap software its price is about $30 for licence depends on total number of licences you buy. The biggest advantage of pdfFactory is that it seems to be usual printer in your Windows. What do you print to that "virtual printer" is converted to PDF file and could be saved or sent by email. Easy for users, easy for IT admins. There is local version running on singlePC or you can buy network version looking like network printer.
We are users of pdfFactory Enterprise edition, it is network version. Therefore when installing to my colleague his printer via AS/400 desktop icon I could see pdfFactory printer as one of choices.

I have tried to set up pdfFactory printer as printer visible in AS/400 writes and after some effort it really works and we are using that method long time

How to set up, almost step by step how-to

I will not explain in details how to install pdfFactory to your PC and how to set up. It is easy, but you should ask your IT staff to avoid any discussion with them later :)
If you do not have pdfFactory simply go to and download trial version (download size is about 2MB). And install it to your PC with Windows operating system.
Then restart your PC to make sure your PC will save configuration and load all libraries needed to operate. After restart try to print anything from any application to pdfFactory printer which is now available.
It should work so I will skip details.

After installation, new printer "FinePrint pdfFactory" will appear in your printers list.

Now we will set up pdfFactory to operate as AS/400 printer. If you know how to do, skip following section

Simply create new AS/400 desktop icon by right clicking anywhere on your PC desktop and from popup menu select New -> AS/400 desktop icon (I assume you have installed IBM AS/400 Client Access)
Set in the combo box "PC5250 Emulator" option like on the screenshot bellow.

Select "PC5250 Emulator" option

Click Next and select AS/400 system address or name. Usually it will offer to you the same AS/400 system name used by your Client Access. If you see IP address or name, simply click Next. If not, ask you IT staff for AS/400 name or IP address.


Dialog to set up which system to connect to, usually it will show the correct name. Do not take care and click Next.


Type icon text of your choice, something like PDF printer, this text will be displayed a caption bellow the AS/400 icon on your desktop. Of course, you can change it later.

Simply click Finish

That is all for icon configuration. After you click "Finish" new icon should appear on your desktop. If you also use "PDF printer"as icon text (we set up that in the step 3) you may find something like me. See the screenshot bellow.

New AS/400 desktop should appera after you finish steps described above.

Now we will configure printer setting. Doubleclick the icon and "Configure PC5250" dialog  window should appear. In this screen input "Workstation ID:". Workstation ID will be the printer name visible in AS/400. You can name it for example as MYPDF.
Select "Printer" as a "Type of emulation". You can change "Host code-page" setting but usually it is setup automatically.

Input "Workstation ID:", for example MYPDF.
And select "Printer" as a "Type of emulation".

Then pls. click OK. Dialog window should disappear and you may see AS/400 logon window. In that case input your logon name and password. In some cases no logon window is displayed. And you should get AS/400 screen lookingh like following screenshot.

We need to configure the page and set up printer settings. Click to STOP button.
Now we have to set up pdfFactory driver as output printer for AS/400. Open File menu and click to "Printer Setup". New dialog window will open.Click to "FinePrint pdfFactory" printer name and click to the button "Setup"

Click to "FinePrint pdfFactory" to highlight and click to "Setup" button

In Properties dialog set paper size of your choice, usually letter or A4. Checkbox "Emulate printer" and in the combo box on the right select any printer you usually use. Like HPLJ2300. If you do not check box "Emulate printer", then you may face problem with margins on exported PDF file.
And you have to change "Show dialog" to option " no - no view, no send". It has to be set this way as AS/400 cannot raise usual pdfFactory print preview window

Now we have to set up folder for storing PDF file created automatically by AS/400. Let's move to "Settings" card - simply click to "Setting". And click to  "Folder locations" button.

Type or browse your favorite folder for storing PDF files. It could be for example C:\Pdf or G:\Pdf or any folderon your local PC or even on your network. Then click OK

Type folder for storing pdf files created by AS/400 and click OK

Now click to the button "Save all settings now". And close dialog window by clicking OK buttun.

Save all settings by clicking to "Save all settings now" button

Open File menu again and select "Page Setup" as we need to set up paper size used to calculate PDF virtual paper size.

Set up everything to by same as on the screenshot above. Later you can try to change

Set up form size. I set up A4, but in US or UK you may prefer letter or even different format

No need to change anything. But you can later try to change some setting like to switch on using raster fonts or printing bold as normal.

Well, that is all we need to set up. Simply close AS/400 session window and start it again by clicking to the desktop icon.
Try to sign on to your AS/400 application (e.g.Mapics or JDE), go to your spool and print your report to printer named MYPDF.
After a few seconds new document.pdf should appear in your folder you set up in the steps before (I used G:\PDF).


What to do if it does not work?

1. print to pdfFactory printer from any Windows application, e.g Excel. If it works go to step 2, if not try to fix the problem as you would do with usual Windows printer
2. is your PDF printer AS/400 session running; looks like green screen with square window like

Both Ready and On-Line must be green. If not restart the session.
3. If session is OK, check AS/400 WRKWTR, you should see the name of your PDF printer within the other printers installed on AS/400 and the status must be "STARTED"
4. Usually the problem is in report format. PDF printer is set up to use A4 or letter but you print from AS/400 different format. In this case the document raise "Message Waiting" in the spool. Simply type 7 (messsages) and the G as Go and enter. Document should be saved in PDF file.

If you find troubles, let me know. And I would be happy to hear any feedback from you.