Over the last few days the ARRL released the long awaited Digital Edition of QST. This digital edition is available to all ARRL members as an additional membership benefit, and is in addition to the print version.

Many years ago when I moved to Iowa, I learned a simple truth: A CD is a lot easier to move than a filing cabinet.

Over my life with computers and electronics, I’ve learned something else equally important. Proprietary data formats, even if not encumbered with Digital Rights Management, are doomed to cause headaches.

So now we have a digital QST all nicely wrapped up in a proprietary format for our viewing pleasure. Thankfully, it’s not heavily DRM encumbered so it’s fairly easy to do something about this issue.

First, you might ask, why would we want to take away the absolutely wonderful reading experience the ARRL has crafted for us and replace it with something as mundane as a PDF?

Here are a few reasons:

  • As it stands it’s pretty much useless for viewing on any Tablet, eReader, or Smartphone.
  • My comment about being an ‘absolutely wonderful’ reading experience should have had sarcasm tags.
  • It’s tied to the Adobe Air runtime. Adobe Air is based on flash, which is a technology rapidly in decline, and thus has a somewhat dubious future. This makes it completely unacceptable for archiving.

Learn how to convert your Digital QST to an industry standard PDF for free after the break!

What you need:

Note: When installing PDFCreator, be careful. It’s a great, and free, software package but it’s bundled with some annoying crapware. You can opt out of installing it during the process if you just read the screens. There’s a point where a second license agreement comes up, simply disagree and the crapware will not be installed.

Now that you have PDFCreator installed, here’s how we create a PDF out of the QST Digital Edition.

 

Start the QST Digital Edition.

Click the Print icon.

 

Select the start “Cover1”.

Select the final page of “25”. The QST Digital Edition is buggy and will crash when it runs out of memory if you select too many pages at once. You can experiment to find the right value, but 25 is what we will use in this document.

Click the “Print” button. Note: After you press Print it will seem unresponsive while the pages are downloaded from the internet.

Select “PDFCreator” from the system Print dialog and press “OK”. Note: After you press “OK” it will seem unresponsive while the pages processed.

Select ‘”Wait – Collect” from the PDF Creator print dialog window.

The PDFCreator Print Monitor window will appear. Do not close it.

Repeat the same process with pages 26-50, 51-100, 101-125, 126-150, and 150-Cover4. After each print operation you’ll notice that the PDFCreator Print Monitor window shows yet another file.

Click the Combine All button in the PDFCreator Print Monitor window.

All the individual print operations are automatically collapsed into 1 large file.

Press the Print button.

Fill out the information in the Print Dialog. I recommend filling it out as follows for easy searching later.

Press the “Save” button and select a location and file name for your issue. You will see the PDFCreator progress bar while it processes the file.
The PDF will automatically open in Adobe Reader. This PDF file is suitable for viewing on nearly any Tablet, eReader or Smartphone. Not to mention Adobe Acrobat is a industry standard file format that will be usable for many years to come.

 

A few comments on the process…

Breaking the print job down into roughly 25 page chunks is required because of poor memory handling in the Adobe Air runtime. Since the file is quite large (pictures of pages) it requires a lot of memory. The more pages we buffer to print, the more memory we need. You can play with this value, but 25 seems to be a safe number for a common PC.

If PDFCreator crashes when you press the Combine All button, it’s because the raw data is taking up too much space once combined. This doesn’t happen with the June 2012 issue, but does with some others from the archive. If this happens break the process in half. Save 2 files, the first 100 or so pages in the first file, then the remainder in the second file. This is a fairly odd bug, but hopefully it will be fixed in a future revision of PDFCreator.

The final file size will be a bit larger than you may expect, for instance June 2012 is just shy of 60MB. The reason for this is the same as the quality issue notes below, raster images do not scale or compress well.

The text is not always smooth when viewing at high resolutions. The old computer adage of “Garbage in, Garbage out” applies here. To break it down into very simple terms, the ARRL publishes the QST Digital Edition essentially as a collection of pictures of their pages. Pictures do not scale well, are not text searchable, and do not compress well without loss of resolution. Due to this choice, the final PDF will be a bit jagged and blurry when viewing on some displays.

Had the ARRL chosen to publish a native PDF, like the fine folks over at Grove Enterprises do monthly with Monitoring Times, it would be a much better viewing experience. In addition, publishing in this manner would significantly reduce the load on ARRL’s servers due to reduced file size. There are some reasons why they wouldn’t want to do this though, mostly centering around loosing control of a high quality copy.

Now that you’re done, enjoy your liberated and portable digital copy of QST!