USPS tracking integration?

tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 3rd, 2008, 1:50 am

....whats the possibility of adding this feature that can fetch and print a tracking # and properly formatted USPS label on a thermal printer?

Some of us have no issue with stamps and don't want to pay monthly fees to subscriptions that just run up costs...

http://www.buyolympia.com/software/products/swordfishexpress/v1/

Before they sold out to Endicia - for Mac...

Also:

If you match up your print dialog with the same functions as Preview.app has, where you can get the printer and paper size at the same time you'll never have to bail out of the window where you can paste in addresses directly to the label.

Apple added support for Eltron/Zebra printers in 10.5, so no more $280 driver package from Peninsula .. or having to compile your own CUPS driver. It's included now. Works great too! Truetype fonts and graphics print nicely. Mail Factory worked great with it too!
Last edited by tdiaz on July 3rd, 2008, 2:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Nick
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Postby Nick » July 3rd, 2008, 6:07 am

Hi tdiaz,

Thanks for your ideas and information. We will find out if it is possible to add address verification and USPS label printing in Mail Factory.

If you match up your print dialog with the same functions as Preview.app has, where you can get the printer and paper size at the same time you'll never have to bail out of the window where you can paste in addresses directly to the label.

How can this be helpful to be able to change the paper format in the print dialog?
From our point, paper should be selected at the beginning of the label creation process because it defines the space you can use for placing the information, choosing text and image size.

Apple added support for Eltron/Zebra printers in 10.5, so no more $280 driver package from Peninsula .. or having to compile your own CUPS driver. It's included now. Works great too! Truetype fonts and graphics print nicely. Mail Factory worked great with it too!

Great news! We are going to support this printer in a future version (add compatible papers). Probably, you had to use an existing label template.

Nick
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 3rd, 2008, 1:44 pm

Getting access to the paper size in the print dialog ... because of the wanky way Apple's print stuff works compared to the way it used to work with OS 9.

The current printer is not always the last printer used by said application.

So if Mail Factory was sitting in the background for several days whilst things were going on, at that screen where a label is- where you can either "Paste As Address", but before you hit the "print" icon. Because if you get to the print dialog (past the window where select recipients or print for "just one") and your selected printer is no longer the label printer, your page size is also blown to bits too. So you have to quit back past the recipient selection window and go to file/page setup and reselect the printer there so that you can then select it's associated page size.

Instead of being able to leave Mail Factory at a nice predetermined point. It just adds several more steps, mostly due to Apple's mundane implementation of the print routines compared to the way OS 9 kept printer settings for each app, OS X defaults it to the last used.

This works fine for most folks who have the same printer and can just shove in labels but when you deal with label printers it doesn't work. the printer changes from under the app.


As for the USPS stuff, that app obviously still works. There seems to be a niche where you can't print USPS labels on anything but full sheets of paper. for folks who still use a traditional postage meter setup or just want to stick their own stamps.
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 3rd, 2008, 1:53 pm

The firewall tells me it goes to secure.shippingapis.com - which is the USPS, so they have the API still.

Also, you can change label sizes/documents and forget to go over and change the page size, too.. only to find out the preview is all the wrong size and you have to quit the dialog and go back to change it again.

Workflow stuff..
Last edited by tdiaz on July 3rd, 2008, 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Nick
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Postby Nick » July 4th, 2008, 2:35 am

The issue with the restoring the the last used printer is in our plans to fix.
Changing paperformat or label type after the Mail Factory print dialog is impossible. When OS X standard print dialog appears, the information and images tresent in labal designs are already layed over the page(s). This is a job of the Mail Factory print dialog.

We are finding out if it is possible to get access to USPS databases (API or another way they can offer).

Nick
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 4th, 2008, 4:26 am

I'm not sure what part you're saying is impossible, but Apple's Preview.app has it and it's dynamically displaying realtime results.


This is from Preview.app -one of the many recent applications to adopt this function.

If the selected printer issue were to be solved then this wouldn't be totally as bad for workflow though ...

Image

None the less, USPS tracking # and non-postage formatted labels would be pretty cool. The advantage with these is that if you generate a label that is compliant, you get to use the Delivery Confirmation feature free, a 45 cent savings.

Here are the docs:

http://www.usps.com/webtools/_pdf/Delivery-Confirmation.pdf
Last edited by tdiaz on July 4th, 2008, 4:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Nick
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Postby Nick » July 4th, 2008, 7:46 am

Thanks for the link to Delivery-Confirmation. There are restrictions on using USPS information in third party software. They don't want the service is used for non-USPS labels. Mail Factory prints other types of labels. And the verification service in not free.

When I was writing about ability to change paper in the system print dialog, I was thinking about Mail Factory only.
When you leaving the Mail Factory print dialog, the label content is modified according to the print settings and the label dimensions (for instance, the font size changes). If you choose another label, the program should re-create the content of labels to meet the new label size. This means returning to the previous step anyway.
In the general printing process, when you print text or images with no modification, paper can be changes right before printing.

Nick
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 4th, 2008, 3:25 pm

Are you sure it's not they don't want third party label stock (from other carriers) to be used in conjunction with printing USPS delivery on them? I'm pretty sure they mean "don't use FedEx, UPS, etc provided labels to print US postage on them" much in the same way that they (supposedly) will not take items for shipment that are packaged in FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc packaging similarly to where you can not mail first class mail in packaging that says "Priority Mail" or "Express Mail" on it as these items are provided for these services only.

USPS does not even sell labels other than full size sheets for laser/inkjet printers and at nearly a dollar a label it's absurd when you can buy a 1,000 label roll where it's about 3 cents a label. To say they don't allow third party labels to be used would not make any sense. I couldn't find that in the documentation.

There are quite a few enterprise level apps that print multiple carrier shipping labels including USPS.

Here's marketing information from another, more specific shipping label product:
"CPS postal software also prints document labels, custom labels and other user defined labels. In fact, CPS can print multiple labels for each package processed."


Until now these printers have largely been industrial items. It's rare for anyone to have them- but with more and more small/home bases businesses and self service shipping options, they are becoming more and more commonplace.
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Postby Nick » July 5th, 2008, 5:47 am

Another person in our company discusses the issue with USPS, so I cannot give you too many details. But the idea is that USPS doesn't want someone use for free their data base and then choose another postal service for actual mail delivery. Since Mail Factory cannot be limited to print USPS labels only, applying their service in our program is more complicated than we'd prefer.

Nick
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 5th, 2008, 12:07 pm

Okay, from that perspective I can see an 'issue'.. they're paranoid.

Okay, so there's another way to do it.

Make my own label template as a complaint label,
Get a stack of the tracking labels from the post office .. use the barcode scanner to move the number over to the field on the Mail Factory window and stick the USPS label on my copy of the sales order so I have a reference, and the box has a nice label.

.. seems more and more apps are going to the updated print dialog too where paper size is selectable as well as paper source. But if that printer selection issue gets sorted out I'm onboard. Otherwise there's no real compelling reason to spend money to switch since it does the same as Labels and Cards Pro except that Mail Factory is nicer looking and a bit more flexible.
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 5th, 2008, 4:50 pm

...and you're not printing any other carrier labels right now. How else are you going to mail something? Certainly not FedEx, UPS, etc.

What other postal service are you going to mail something with if you fetch a tracking number from the USPS server? That tracking detail is only good there. you can't use a USPS mail label for FedEx, etc. It says USPS First Class Mail, Priority Mail, Express Mail - whatever- right on it. If USPS is an option, Royal Mail or CanadaPost can't be, likewise the other way around. It's within ones country only.

You win. ;-) I'll order labels from them.
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Postby Nick » July 7th, 2008, 2:20 am

I don't reject your idea, I just telling you that the conversation with USPS is running. It's not easy to come to agreement with a huge company like USPS.

Nick
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » July 8th, 2008, 1:28 pm

Ah, well- the comment gave the idea it was mostly done deal to say "no", when you said more complicated than we prefer, but .. like I said, if the worry is mailing with something else - you don't do labels for other carriers, and there are applications on the enterprise level that print postnet and get tracking numbers - and also print labels for stock, warehousing, etc.

Perhaps it's more on the approach. ;-)

I may experiment more with the demo version and generating barcodes out of that other application for cut/paste over if I can create the barcode in the same format.

Basically, those other guys do it- there is just no database backend on that app, 'cause that was their 2.0 product- that got bought up.
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » December 10th, 2008, 11:57 am

Any changes in outlook with this new release and fetching USPS tracking #'s?

Fetching a tracking # pretty much is useless if your not going to print USPS so I still don't understand the interpretation. Especially since there are apps that do this on the professional level, automation and fulfillment enterprise level. Oh, and such apps print multiple carrier labels.

You would be adding features that are available in items that costs 6 times the amount. Talk about a marketing advantage.
tdiaz
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Postby tdiaz » December 10th, 2008, 8:53 pm

Something else that stands out, the amount of views on this thread vs. the others - it's a lot higher as if there were interest in the subject.

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