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How the Cloud is Revolutionizing the Document Automation Process

Techie

The cloud is changing not only how we store documents, but how we create documents as well.  Many companies are sending documents to their customers faster than ever before by implementing cloud storage into their company’s IT portfolio. And with the world’s recent adoption of remote working en masse, having templates and documents stored at your employees’ fingertips is more crucial than ever.  So, let’s take a quick look at cloud based document automation.

What is the Cloud?

“The cloud” is actually a bunch of servers that are accessed all over the internet, as well as the software and databases that run on those servers.  Cloud servers are located physically all over the world. This is super convenient because companies no longer need to manage physical servers themselves or run apps on their own machines.  Users can therefore access the same files and software from any device because all of the computer power takes place on remote servers instead of on a local device.

To go deeper, cloud computing relies on tech called “virtualization,” which creates virtual machines—simulated computers that behave as if they were physical computers with real-life hardware.  You can even run many virtual machines at once, making one physical server act like many servers.  Cloud vendors are able to serve many organizations’ storage needs at a relatively low cost.

Why Use Cloud Based Document Automation?

One of the biggest reasons to switch to managing documents in the cloud is about integrating with the rest of the globe.  Simply put, the more your business works internationally, the more your business needs the cloud. Utilizing the cloud means that your employees can share document templates among the team wherever they are on the planet.

How often have you thrown a Microsoft Word “template” on a shared drive and asked your coworkers to only use that template going forward?  And how often is that template being used correctly?  And can that template pull accurate, up-to-date info from your company’s datasources?

With the best document automation software, you’re ensuring that your documents are 100% compliant to your company’s standards, and that there are no human errors from copying and pasting. Within the template designer, you create tags that will pull information directly from your company’s datasource, even from apps like Salesforce.

Like some on-premise solutions, the cloud is a scalable platform that can grow as your company grows.  However, using cloud and SaaS technology together is typically cheaper upfront than on-premise, and the monthly operating costs are lower. Switching over to a cloud based solution reduces IT costs and overhead because there is no more need to update and maintain their own servers—the cloud vendor handles that.  Many businesses find cloud based solutions much more affordable, and make it so much easier for employees to access all of the company’s files wherever and whenever.

Security No Longer a Cloud Concern

As cloud-based solutions become more advanced, hacking and security breaches become much more of a concern.  However, the economy of scale makes those concerns almost obsolete.  Cloud vendors like Google are huge, meaning you can utilize their cloud storage at minimal or even no cost.

And big companies like Google have the world’s best security experts working on their software to keep you and your data safe.  Instead of your IT department rushing to install many security patches on their systems, your cloud vendor does this work for you, with less risk of human error.

In essence, storing your data on the cloud may be safer than storing it on a physical machine!

Furthermore, if a cloud vendor has one server go down, your cloud storage should still be online and available.  Vendors typically utilize several machines over multiple regions to backup your data, so there is never a break in your usage!

Document Automation Plus the Cloud

Store and manage your templates in the cloud so that your employees can access and edit them at any time.  Cost-effective, efficient, and easy-to-use!

Check out Windward Hub, a comprehensive, hosted solution for generating, managing, and sharing all your documents with the click of a button.  Hub is a SaaS solution that works with Salesforce and other CRM apps.  You can even store templates for your entire team to edit and use.

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.

Written by:_
Cassie Hottenstein

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