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this is not strictly a server admin problem, but one I (as an admin) am tasked to resolve. Marketing wants to send out coupons with our packages. The code I thought up was something along the line: HITS-#MERCHANT#-#COUPONITERATION# So we can track which merchant sends out how many coupons (or at least how many are redeemed) and which iteration performs well. For every combination of the above I will be needing maybe 2.000-5.000 coupons. Unfortunately digitally printing 2.000 coupons is about as expensive as 5.000.

I would like to get 10.000-5.000 blank coupons and print the coupon code on them here in the office. I have several questions:
- is it feasible to run 2.000 coupons and add the codes with a laser printer? is this economical? - are there dedicated printers for this type of thing? label printers don't really work I think (imagine all the peeling) - how do "professionals" do this kind of work?

Thanks for any tips and help!


Thank you for the great advice!

It sounds like this is luckily a common problem, which should be outsourced to a specialist company. I have spoken to a few in the area. The number of coupons I was talking about is not very interesting to them, but they will accept an offer like this to get a new customer.

Regarding the data transfer, as long as the data size allows it I will generate a large PDF, as was suggested here. It is a bit of a waste, not just transferring the text information, but up to maybe 200-300 MB the companies are happier with that method.

Thank you again for your help!

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3 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This is a whole industry, called "variable data printing". yeah, sounds trivial but there are lots of difficult cases. (After all, if you say that a DB just "stores records" it sounds trivial too).

There's a specific markup language for this, called PPML. Being XML-based, you can use XLST to turn your template + DB into a PPML stream that a high-speed RIP would consume.

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I've had more a few years working as a graphic designer/animator, and now I'm a full time system administrator.

I would like to get 10.000-5.000 blank coupons and print the coupon code on them here in the office

Make sure you don't get caught holding this bag. This sounds like a task you will be in charge of if it is even slightly complicated.

You'll also need to think about cutting each coupon if they're not full sheets. This will add up to a lot of work.

How do "professionals" do this kind of work?

They design the basic coupon, and leave a blank area for the coupon code. Then they start shopping around for a good printing company. Tell them your job in detail, and show them a finished example of what you want (a "mock-up"). Explain to them your coupon code needs, most will be willing to help.

Do this several times, and compare the prices/quality of each printer. Then go to press.

Get the printer to do as much work as possible for you. They do this stuff all the time.

If you need pre-press help and more specific advice try the Typophile forum.

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Having worked with printers quite a bit, my suggestion (assuming you don't need amazing graphic quality) would be to get someone (know any graphic designers? Maybe put an ad on Craigslist?) to design the cupon, leaving a blank spot for the code. Turn that into a PDF, and (either by adding a form field, filling it in, and then flattening or by just drawing on the PDF) write a script to create a PDF with as many cupons as needed, inserting the cupon codes. Get a quote from a printer to just run that massive PDF off on a color laser printer.

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