Today, enterprises and governments seek to empower remote teamwork and productivity by transforming the collection of disconnected apps teams typically rely on to power their virtual collaborations.
Bluescape, a Silicon Valley-based SaaS company, founded in 2012, delivers a way to make this digital transformation not only possible, but easy.
Bluescape integrates teleconferencing, presentation, and annotation in a single persistent virtual workspace. Inside the Bluescape platform, teams lay out their projects visually and engage in lively, free-flowing discussions. Data is secured end-to-end, while every idea, change, and comment is captured and recorded.
For users to collaborate successfully in Bluescape, their communication must be seamless, with every detail in shared materials presented quickly and with crystal clarity.
The company had previously relied upon an in-house solution, using open source, to enable interaction on documents. While this worked well initially, users from strategically important enterprise accounts started to upload extra large files, including huge Excel tables and architectural plans. The existing solution could not handle these files gracefully. This led to support tickets related to blurriness in documents and customer requests for better rendering.
Bluescape decided it was time for an upgrade and it chose PDFTron to achieve scalable, high-fidelity rendering. With PDFTron under the hood, Bluescape ensures an unlimited number of users can securely explore and collaborate on all their content, across each document file type, device, and browser.
Bluescape Product & Platform Leader Saurabh Agarwal stated:
- Meet the demanding rendering requirements for large files with enterprise customers
- Accelerate time to market for powerful and secure document collaboration capabilities
- Achieve cost-effective rendering scalability for hundreds of users interacting on the same content
- Reduce support tickets tied to image quality issues and rendering errors
- Secure a long-term technology partnership empowering Bluescape to constantly innovate with new document features and capabilities
Bluescape switched to the PDFTron SDK as its single, long-term document technology partner, enabling:
- Reduced time to market for new document collaboration features by an estimated 6-8 months minimum
- Increased satisfaction of strategic enterprise accounts with support for all their documents with scalable, cross-platform, client-side, high-fidelity rendering
- Elimination of support burden tied to rendering errors and blurriness in content
- Coverage of all future document file format and feature requirements
Bluescape is a virtual work platform, enabling teams to interact with applications, content, and colleagues in a single expansive workspace. It has a virtually endless array of possible use cases, from whiteboarding to onboarding, strategic planning, design collaboration, and more.
In addition to powering visual collaboration on desktop, laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices, Bluescape provides the Bluescape Wall, a software solution to power large, interactive displays for conferences, executive briefing centers, control rooms, and digital war rooms. The Wall supports touchscreen capabilities for whiteboard, annotation, and tactile manipulation of digital content to match the demands of the situation.
It’s not unusual for design teams of 30+ people to use Bluescape to interact with the same content. Whether these teams work together in the same or across different offices, on their work devices, or the Wall, the Bluescape experience must be frictionless and responsive end to end. Any obstacles, such as a rendering issue, could disrupt a presentation’s flow or a group jam session on an idea, provoking teams to default back to their disconnected apps and desktop tools.
Bluescape goes through great lengths to remove any barriers to exploration and collaboration within its platform. The team had previously built a solution using open source to power interaction on documents. While sufficient for smaller files, this solution had pre-existing problems with malformed text and non-standard fonts due to unresolved issues within the open-source text parsing engine. More problematically, the solution would serve content as static images.
Bluescape Head of Product Management, Saby Agarwal stated,
“We did have solutions for documents in Bluescape, but we had to draw lines in terms of the size and fidelity of content.”
Users from strategically important enterprise accounts started to upload large files to Bluescape–including massive Excel spreadsheets and PDF-based architectural plans. As users explored and zoomed in on content, Bluescape’s previous solution would resize their content from static images, resulting in blurred text and graphics that made it difficult for users to read or view.
As a result, Bluescape began processing an increased number of support tickets tied to blurriness in content and rendering errors. Requests came from enterprise clients asking to support all their documents.
To satisfy these clients and reduce support tickets, Bluescape decided it had to switch to a more powerful, client-side rendering solution -- one that could render content on the fly at the level of detail required.
Extending open source for this purpose was initially considered, as Bluescape had in-house engineers from Adobe and Blackberry with direct experience building document handling solutions.
Bluescape quickly rejected this notion, as they estimated it would take up to a year to deploy “baseline” rendering features -- an eternity within the highly competitive SaaS market. Moreover, going in-house again would redirect critical resources to maintaining and supporting such a project. These resources were needed elsewhere to improve capabilities that would further distinguish the Bluescape platform and brand.
Bluescape turned to the document SDK market to acquire improved rendering capabilities off the shelf. They cast a wide net, considering various and sometimes radical alternatives during its search, said Agarwal, adding that they even looked at Microsoft.
When evaluating each of their many options, Bluescape kept a few key criteria in mind.
First, the vendor would need to support Bluescape’s existing document file format and feature requirements, including annotations, as well as further innovation with new document features and capabilities down the road.
Next, the SDK would have to be adaptable to Bluescape’s cloud, on-prem, and hybrid deployments, including enterprise customer requirements for encryption and air-tight security.
Lastly, the SDK’s rendering would have to be cost-effective, high-fidelity, and cross-platform, even on the web, across all types and sizes of files, and all sizes of collaborations, as dozens of users would be expected to interact on the same content at the same time.
Bluescape found PDFTron through internet search and decided to take a closer look at its toolkit due to the comprehensiveness and maturity of its cross-platform SDK, and the scalable, high-fidelity rendering offered via PDFTron WebViewer.
Bluescape SVP of Engineering Rupen Chanda stated,
PDFTron ultimately delivered on what was promised: a complete document solution supporting high-fidelity, scalable rendering across all of Bluescape’s products, including on the web, along with a mature, constantly growing toolkit to support future innovation.
In terms of building a POC, the support proved excellent.
Bluescape Product Manager Alexy Agranovsky stated, “With PDFTron, we found really responsive and supportive engineers who could help us work through some of the issues. The openness we got was very well received and the APIs provided us with a lot of valuable resources. The documentation was also great. We worked closely with PDFTron to implement some caching strategies so we could have many people collaborating on the same workspace and same document, and create a better user experience whereby not every user has to load the entire document.”
Working with PDFTron, Bluescape developed a solution where documents would be optimized at the source for fast web view when first uploaded. These files, including 500-plus-page PDFs, could then be streamed in on demand like YouTube videos, regardless of file size.
With WebViewer’s client-side rendering engine, a modern WebAssembly port of the powerful native PDFTron SDK, users could interact on all their MS Office and PDF files in their browsers as they would natively, with graphics and text rendered precisely on the fly, even at extreme zoom factors exceeding 6000%.
Lastly, Bluescape found the open-source PDFTron UI appealing, as it was easy to tailor to their UX and brand elements, ensuring a consistent cross-platform experience.
“PDFTron’s model of separating the UX elements from the actual document parser and processor is the right architecture and an excellent model for enabling customization,” Chanda said. “We were able to build our very early POC rather quickly, and compared to the alternative of building our own in-house, we saved at least 6-8 months.”
Today, Bluescape uses PDFTron to power its entire document experience across its various products. “What PDFTron allows us to do is have a catch-all,” stated Agranovsky. “Regardless of where a user’s document lives, users can always upload it into Bluescape.”
He added that PDFTron’s rendering proved cost-efficient and powerful, enabling them to remove previous limits to user interaction on content in terms of file size, fidelity, number of concurrent users, and platforms. “In terms of company-wide meetings, we‘ve gone over 100 users that have been able to view documents by leveraging PDFTron.”
Bluescape now looks forward to a “flourishing and trusting partnership,” stated Chanda, wherein PDFTron can support any future document requirements that should arise as Bluescape’s roadmap and user requirements evolve.