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I have a page where users will download pdf statements. Historically they must download them one at a time and this is a point of frustration. I'd like to offer a bulk download option. My first thought was to bundle the pdfs as a .zip file, but the client is adamant that their users won't be able to navigate a .zip file. Trying to think of other ideas of how I could potentially handle this.

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    Let's not call them elderly users. Your client certainly has a point that opening zip files not something that every user will appreciate. Many users, even young ones, have no clue what a zip file is. Therefor, this is a great question! – Bart Gijssens Feb 21 '14 at 14:11
  • In Win8 and MacOS a simple double-click opens the zip-file. So on those systems even someone who doesn't understand what a zip-file is can open it. – Kweamod Feb 21 '14 at 14:17
  • I still would have to meet anybody,older than 10, with a computer that doesn't know what a zip file is. Plus the site can offer detailed explanation on how to handle them, with videos and/or screenshots on Linux, Mac and Windows. – PatomaS Feb 21 '14 at 14:40
  • @Kweamod: Windows had the ability to open zips long before Win8. IIRC native zip support was added with XP. – Marjan Venema Feb 21 '14 at 20:08
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    What kind of statements are we talking about? It may make sense to send them to the user via email. – cimmanon Feb 21 '14 at 21:41
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You could offer a tiny downloader app like the ones you get when you download apps from a website such as softonic or google (chrome installer) that essentially pulls rest of the stuff from the Internet. My University provides a huge amount of materials online and there is this small application that downloads all those updates and feeds from their servers.

Another idea would be to provide a pdf reader web-app embodied within the page. This would allow them to navigate quite easily within the site and bookmark them as they go. Offline data saving could make the process much more smooth.

  • The problem with this, is that you are generating more problems than what you solve. First, I have to install it, so one more thing on my system, using space and resources, plus a potential door for problems. Is the app secure? Do you have version? Do I have to update the downloader? Is it running all the time checking for updates? What if the app fails and doesn't give feed back about that? Can I also download files manually? – PatomaS Feb 25 '14 at 0:20
  • The offline option of reading, is not bad, although unncessary if you offer pdf, or plain HTML. – PatomaS Feb 25 '14 at 0:23
  • @PatomaS You don't have to install it; these are usually portable and their size is only within a few KBs range. Plus, I don't think you are talking about the same kind of app as I am. – Renae Lider Feb 25 '14 at 7:51
  • True, we may be talking about different things. I know I dislike the mini app from Google Chrome, few things make me feel worst than installing a program where you want for no good reason, plus not knowing the size of the download, which last time I checked (time ago), It didn't tell you. Not to mention the autoupdate feature of Chrome, which you can deactivate without touching the registry. Softonic manipulated some apps in the past, adding options the creator of the software didn't want, so I hope you don't mind if I don't have a good image from them. – PatomaS Feb 25 '14 at 9:53
  • But still, your option may be good if everything is done correctly. It's not what usually happen, but it may be. – PatomaS Feb 25 '14 at 9:53
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Since they are all PDF's I would combine the PDF's on the server and have them download one PDF. Any other way you go is just going to have some layer of complexity, which seems to be what you are trying to avoid.

Sure, there are some valid reasons why putting them all in one isn't a good idea, but there is no best answer.

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    I would absolutely not appreciate any site combining several distinct pdf's into a single one. They are separate pdf's for a reason. What you are proposing means I can only get them as a single pdf or have to download each as a separate actions. Not exactly a friendly user experience. – Marjan Venema Feb 21 '14 at 20:08
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    I agree, but the OP is saying that "zip" is too complicated for the end-user, anything else is just going to be even more complicated. When you have your arms and legs cut off the only way to dig a hole is with your teeth – TruthOf42 Feb 21 '14 at 20:22
  • We should be able to come up with something better. Starting the download with a downloader that then pulls the selected files, like @user3058846 suggested, sounds pretty good to me. Downloader can even delete itself after it is done. – Marjan Venema Feb 21 '14 at 20:25
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    So you're going to have someone who doesn't know how to work with zip files understand how to install the software (at the very least they have to actively allow it to download/install) and then manage to keep it simple enough to where they know exactly where the files are located – TruthOf42 Feb 21 '14 at 20:33
  • Yes, because if you code the downloader right, it should be able to do its job with minimal interaction with the user, plus any compiled code has ample space to include clear well written instructions. – Marjan Venema Feb 21 '14 at 20:37
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I would suggest a simple approach where users can select which all pdf's they want by using checkboxes. Users can select them and also bulk select them as shown below

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • this doesn't answer the OP's question of how to download multiple files at once – TruthOf42 Mar 4 '14 at 19:49
  • agreed that something like this (perhaps something a little bigger/less fussy, like big checkboxes or toggle buttons, whatever) seems good.As far as technical implementation, that's a different question. Maybe something like this stackoverflow.com/a/29606450/120655 – tobybot Mar 29 '17 at 4:00
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There are a few options.

Individual files

  • You can have a guide explaining how to download an HTML file from the browser which includes images and all related files. Basically a manual for the "save as HTML" option of the browser.
  • You can offer them in word 2007 using, for instance PHP.
  • You can offer them in odt using, for instance, PHP.
  • If you have a license, you can offer .chm
  • Of course you can offer them in .pdf

Combined files

  • You can use a self-extracting zip, which then will be an .exe. This method can be combined with any other one to provide a self-extracting bunch of files. Self-extracting has the problem of being platform dependent, so the most effective option would be to have a self-extracting file for each platform.

  • You can offer them in a compressed, non self-extracting file, like .zip, .tar, .rar, etc.

  • You can offer them in a single, yearly .pdf.

Combination of both options

You can offer the individual files plus one contining all the statements. Or if all the transactions is too much, a year of statements. That way, the user can decide what he wants.

The best option for the user, is to have single files, but the best option for the company, is to have only one. So trying to combine the best of both requirements, is the best option. If you can't have both, offer single downloads. Also, some times, the user may be more interested on having only one large file with all the year information so he can search for items more quickly. I'd be more interested on having the current year by month but past years on a single file.

In any case, there has to be a detailed explanation of what is going to be downloaded, and how to use it, doesn't matter if it is a .pdf, a compressed file or a self extracting one.

  • exe files don't work very well on Mac or Linux. – Bart Gijssens Feb 21 '14 at 14:09
  • no, they don't, but do you have those users? I wouldn't use it as I'm a Linux user, but most people only are about windows. Still, you could offer the selfextract combined with other option if you want. – PatomaS Feb 21 '14 at 14:36
  • Nothing says such users don't exist so we must not draw the conclusion that they don't exist. That's the only thing I wanted to warn for. As long as it is not specifically stated that 100% of the users are windows users, we must assume the users use the most exotic mix of OS'es we have not even heard of. – Bart Gijssens Feb 21 '14 at 14:42
  • I think the solution of offering individual PDF files plus the option for one large PDF with all the other PDFs merged into one is a good one. It allows for the same use case of opening one as opening multiple. You just may have to warn that the file will take longer to download. – Elle_Underscore Feb 21 '14 at 14:56
  • @BartGijssens I have a hard time believing that there are Linux users who don't understand the concept of compressed archives. – cimmanon Feb 21 '14 at 21:38
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What about… HTML pages ? You know, these things that can be opened directly in the browser…

Another idea is to generate a composite PDF file containing all the statements, neatly separated.

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