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Best Document Automation Software (Quick How-to-Choose Guide)

best document automation software produce data-driven documents that two people are checking

Now, that you’re here, we assume you already realize the importance of having the best document automation software. What would be the tell-tale signs and how to identify the best one that integrates well with your existing system to start creating documents automatically?

We’ll answer these questions and more here.

Documents are everywhere whether you’re in the legal, retail, finance, or pharma industry among others. You’ll be engaged in creating documents on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis. They could be in the form of portfolios, invoices, contracts, compliance reports, and more. By engaging a good document automation software you can speed up this process and save at least four to seven times the time you would usually spend on doing the task manually.

You might be wondering how to choose the best document assembly software out there on the market. Here are the top features you can look for while scrutinizing:

#1 The Best Document Creation Software Needs to Have a User-Friendly Interface and Low Training Curve

The first thing you need to look for in the document automation tool is if it has a user-friendly interface. You already have a lot of things to do on your plate and the last thing you want to deal with is a new interface that looks too technical and difficult to learn.

In fact, most users who look to create documents are non-programmers and would like to use a document creation tool that is quick to learn and simple to use. So, while looking to get the right document generation software for your company then opt for the one with a user-friendly interface that requires a low training curve as it makes your employees’ job easy. They can quickly learn and get familiar with the software to start creating documents in no time.

Better yet, you can opt for a document automation tool that integrates as an add-in right into your existing popular applications like MS Word or Excel. This way, it’ll be a familiar interface and makes it super-easy to use, which brings us to our second feature.

#2 Sophisticated (On the Inside) Yet Simple (On the Outside) Template Designer for Creating Documents

This list will be incomplete without mentioning the need for an efficient template designer where you would spend 90% of your time creating templates (that has 100% information) required for creating documents. If you can integrate the document template software right within your existing applications as discussed above, then creating and editing templates will become quite easy. In essence, the layout and formatting of templates in familiar environments will be a breeze. Moreover, if it has drag-and-drop options along with the ability to pass the required parameters within the templates in just a few clicks, then automating documents will be a lot easier.

Also, check if the software has pre-approved and pre-defined templates that you can customize and use quickly to create your documents. Ensure the whole process require no-coding, especially if you plan on engaging users who are non-programmers. And, find out if it will be easy to save the templates for future use and ensure you can import the templates effortlessly wherever and whenever needed to populate them with data, which brings us to our third feature.

#3 See if the Automatic Document Generation Software Can Connect to a Wide Range of Datasources

The next big thing to look for in a document automation tool is whether it can connect with an extensive range of datasources (especially the ones that you already have). If you’re dealing with multiple datasources or different databases and want to create a single document out of two or three of them, then you need a document creation software that can quickly integrate with them to populate the templates with the relevant (common) data elements you need to create the documents.

Now, businesses and companies are moving out of monolithic to multiple database structures, it is vital you choose one that can connect with an extensive range of datasources seamlessly.

#4 Lookout for the Output Formats and Digital Signature

Once you’re done creating the template and populating it with data, it is time to output it in the required format to access it as a document. Ensure the software can create documents in a wide range of output formats like PDF, Word, Excel, among others. Also, ensure it can do automated batch processing so you can output hundreds and thousands of documents in just a few minutes and clicks. Check if it can easily integrate e-signing capabilities into the document for easier verification and approvals.

#5 The Cost of the Software & Customer and Technical Support Matters

The cost of engaging the software needs to save you at least three to five times in terms of the time and money it would cost you if you were to do it manually on a yearly basis (as informed in the second para above). You can find online calculators that can help you assess if implementing automation for your current manual tasks like document creation among others can be beneficial monetary and resource-wise.

Also, you’re dealing with a high-tech product when it comes to document automation. You need to ensure the company that offers the software can provide timely technical support when needed. See if they offer easy-to-understand guides, training videos, and other knowledge guides to make your learning phase easy and quick.

In Conclusion

You need to compare and read reviews thoroughly before you pick the right software for all your reporting needs. Opt for a free trial if available to test it firsthand and make sure it fits all your document generation and creation needs before you buy it.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Genesis Abel

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Genesis Abel


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