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Success Story: Encode Uses PDFTron to Create Competitive Advantage for its Marketing Productivity Platform

By Adam Pez | 2020 Aug 26

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Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Odense, Denmark, Encode is a worldwide marketing productivity software provider. Its innovative, adaptable platform solves various commercial and content challenges, to shorten radically the time it takes for marketing and advertising teams to get impressive promotional materials out the door.

Encode clients come from a broad spectrum of industries. And to meet their varied requirements, including for security and privacy, Encode delivers a unique and highly configurable, no-code solution with modules for campaigns, product information, publishing, analytics, creative proofing, and more, customizable to specific retailers, creative agencies, manufacturers, and financial service providers.

Encode Product Director Stuart Lynch stated: “Across all our clients, we’re a foundational system -- the glue that fits many processes and systems together. Whether it’s upstream data in ERP systems or taking data in from suppliers or images from photographers, Encode orchestrates all the data, collects it together, and puts it into media and information to be sent downstream.”

Critical to Encode is its creative proofing module, empowering stakeholders to get on the same ‘digital’ page to review and approve materials for distribution through various promotional channels, from Facebook to broadcast TV. Assets processed within Encode include banner ads, brochures, labels, videos, websites, animations, creative briefs, and designs -- in a wide variety of file formats: PDF, MS Office, HTML5, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, MP4, and more.

Encode previously used four different document libraries, including open-source, to enable viewing and annotation of PDFs, and the complexity of their previous solution made it difficult to update and maintain. "We had too many tools doing similar things, but no one tool doing them all," stated Lynch.

The company decided to consolidate on a single document SDK vendor to reduce time-to-market for new document features and dev time spent on quality assurance and support tickets, caused by issues with the different technologies used.

After careful examination of both commercial SDK and open-source options, Encode consolidated on PDFTron as its long-term document technology partner. Today, Encode uses PDFTron WebViewer and SDK to power professional review & approvals on PDFs, MS Office files, images, and even videos.

Solution & Results

Consolidated on a single technology partner and document platform, the PDFTron SDK, enabling Encode to:

  • Focus dev resources on what’s important and reduce dev costs
  • Improve time-to-market for new features
  • Acquire long-term support for future document feature, file format or platform requirements

Adopted WebViewer SDK for all needs, resulting in:

  • Shift to streaming of documents on the fly, reducing network bandwidth consumption and operational costs
  • Improved user adoption with UI tailorable and themeable on a per-user basis
  • Precise control over security and privacy via granular user roles & permissions
  • Eliminated support burden due to previously experienced rendering issues


Marketing and advertising teams compete to reduce the number of review & approval cycles it takes to get content out the door. And Encode brings together the technology to drive efficiency and success throughout these workflows.

One part of Encode integrates retail pricing and product data for encoding in media assets. Another consists of the content flow used to produce creative proofs: advertising or market materials approved for public distribution.

Within the creative proofing process, various stakeholders, such as internal marketing, brand, and legal teams, and agency clients, may need to view assets, compare different versions and changes at a glance, and discuss and resolve issues with their annotations, comments, stamps, and signatures.

Every step of this collaboration needs to be controlled within Encode, especially for clients in highly regulated sectors, such as pharmaceutical and financial services companies, under immense pressure to get the details just right and protect privacy.

Encode supports these requirements, with granular privacy and security controls, and complete audit histories of each version, every change, and user discussions on top. “It’s the DNA of Encode, where everything is controlled down to very granular levels, including form fields and field values,” said Lynch.

Encode previously used four different libraries to process, view, and annotate documents. But these components were not designed to work together. As a result, the solution was getting difficult to extend and maintain, slowing down the release of new features and adding to the burden of having to perform quality assurance with every update and patch.

Lynch stated,

"The code was getting messy, and we needed to clean up all those areas and consolidate our PDF handling into one place."

Additionally, Encode users would regularly upload large and intricate documents. Encode’s prior solution would need to convert these large documents in their entirety to images server-side, and then ship these over the network for preview on the client.

But this process was not efficient. Sending entire documents as images consumed a lot of network bandwidth, especially with the big designs Encode users regularly uploaded. Users also ran into image-quality issues when zoomed in, including blurriness, impacting their ability to verify fine details like text and graphics, and creating a significant number of support tickets.

Evaluation Journey

When looking for a single document partner and technology solution, Encode evaluated several options and looked at open source first. However, Lynch realized that

"once you get to a certain scale and need, some of the open-source projects aren't suitable even though well-maintained. The time spent trying to manipulate these projects to do what you want, you save by buying a commercial product."

Other commercial alternatives, likewise, didn't quite measure up. One reseller of another vendor's SDK didn't even respond to Encode's questions. Another solution didn't have a client-side renderer to ensure precise, high-fidelity rendering in the browser client. Others had a client-side renderer -- but of low quality.

“We evaluated them, but they struggled with the large files,” said Lynch.

When evaluating PDFTron WebViewer, however, the team was pleased to discover PDFTron could render all their files without issues. Non-standard fonts and brand colors would render accurately and consistently. And Encode could achieve precise clarity in graphics and text up to extreme zoom magnifications of 6400% and more -- now a competitive differentiator for Encode.

Additionally, with files optimized for fast web view at the source using the PDFTron SDK, Encode could stream documents into WebViewer on the fly, similar to Youtube videos, rather than having to render entire files upfront. This ensured a smoother, faster UX and reduced consumption of network bandwidth.

Encode was also impressed with the completeness of PDFTron technology. With PDFTron SDK and WebViewer, Encode could cover all its document processing and PDF collaboration requirements. Images, MS Office files, PDFs, and even videos could be marked up and commented within WebViewer and the creative proofing module, along with HTML5 banner ads, emails, and websites.

Encode also appreciated the new and exciting features released during its evaluation journey -- such as React components using TypeScript.

Lastly, WebViewer delivered the granular level of control Encode and its clients required -- first, over user roles & permissions on documents and on specific form fields and annotations. Next, Encode received complete flexibility when it came to tailoring PDFTron's open-source WebViewer UI to optimize the UX and ensure adoption.

"Our UIs are themeable by the client, with each admin user able to create their own themes. It was imperative that we had complete control over the UI, a deciding factor in choosing the PDFTron SDK,” said Lynch.

Encode Evaluation Criteria

  • Vendor had long-term viability
  • Regular release cycles
  • High rendering performance
  • Library has wide toolset and extensibility options
  • Flexible licensing for a multiple instance environment
  • Good development documentation and resources
  • Reliable support

The Results

Encode installed and built their POC with PDFTron quickly and without issues, migrating 10 years worth of comments and approvals, with PDFTron providing fast and dependable support to accelerate Encode's transition.

“Whenever we had a question and said it was urgent, we always got a good response,” said Lynch. "We're quite a friendly company, and we want partners that are the same.”

Now with PDFTron SDK and WebViewer in place, Encode has reduced its architectural debt and made its review & approval solution much easier to support, maintain, and extend.

"We expect to get back our investment in the next couple of years in terms of improved time to market when developing new features around the PDFTron SDK, and in terms of fewer support tickets,"

stated Lynch.

Likewise, Encode feels confident in supporting all their customer document file format, feature, and platform requirements as its roadmap evolves. "As PDF changes and PDF 2.0 becomes more prevalent, we won’t have to worry because the SDK will support it.”

If you have any questions about how PDFTron SDK can help enable growth for your organization, please feel free to get in touch!

About Encode

Encode is a truly scalable and flexible marketing productivity platform.

Encode’s software creates smart end-to-end functionality that delivers the ability to speed content planning, creation, approval and management. Learn more at encode.eu.

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Adam Pez

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