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Document Generation (2020 Updated Guide)

document generation and shelves of documents

As businesses grow and expand their processes and client deliverables, it’s not uncommon to run into a few bumps along the way. One of those hurdles includes the manual building and rebuilding of documents and templates each month. This can start to consume valuable time and money while bogging employees down with sometimes mindless business processes. Is there a better way?

The short answer? Yes, there is!

Whether you’re continually building invoices, expense reports, presentations, or any other deliverable, it’s time to turn to automated solutions like document generation to create powerful deliverables while saving time, effort, and resources. Here, we break down what it is and how Windward Studios’ incredible tools can help you and your business.

Document Generation Vs. Automation

It is the process of creating personalized and unique electronic documents. This process can include creating hundreds, thousands, or even millions of documents from a single template.

While document generation and document creation is technically just a subset of document automation, it often can’t be treated as a separate component of the entire automation solution.

Document automation, which is also known as document assembly, is the design of systems and workflows that help in the creation of electronic documents. These systems use segments of preexisting text and/or data to assemble new documents. For most solutions, this is the first step in determining the documents needed for generation.

How is it Used?

It is an ideal solution for any type of business that frequently uses templates — whether it’s for internal or external use — to input, consolidate, organize, or present data. From reporting to presentations to workbooks, it can streamline the manual development process of building templates, saving you valuable time and money. In fact, Windward customers have saved between 50 to 90% in template design and production costs when they turned to our solutions.

Here are some of the most common reasons it is used:

Document Generation Tools and Software

At Windward Studios, our solutions go beyond just template creation. Once those templates are created, our powerful software gets to work integrating your desired data points. What’s more, you’ll no longer have to rely on others to help create the deliverable you want; Windward’s tools are designed to help you create anything you need independently — and in less time. This also reduces the risk of human errors and speeds up personalization.

Data Connections & Platform Integrations

Document creation and management can be made even simpler but automatically configuring data connections and integrations in real-time. The most common data connectors & hub integrators Windward user take advantage of are:

Windward Designer

Just as the name says, Windward Designer is the solution you need to create visually stunning template designs. Our user-friendly drag-and-drop platform lets you control layout, formatting, and styling — all within Microsoft Word. It doesn’t stop there, though. Once you’ve built and designed your templates for business documents, you can connect your data with just a click of a button. That’s when our Smart Document functionality can help you determine what to keep, what to simplify, and what to eliminate.

Windward Engine

This powerful solution is a set of code libraries you can embed into your new and existing applications. With Windward Engine, integration can happen in as few as 11 lines of code, eliminating the chore of starting over or creating a new application when you begin working with our platform. It only takes a few steps to merge your data with your templates, making this a seamless transition for any business.

Windward Hub

Windward Hub can be used as a standalone solution, or it can be integrated into your CRM and other applications. It helps businesses create, manage, and share documents easily and accurately while eliminating the need to copy and paste data into the same template over and over again. Whether you’re working with contracts, proposals, sales collateral, or anything else that requires a lot of manual work, Hub is your go-to solution to automate and optimize the entire document creation process.

Windward Solo

Windward Solo can be your secret weapon when it comes to reporting. With this powerful desktop tool, you can automate the time-consuming document creation processes of reporting each month without relying on anyone else. And you don’t have to stop at just one report; Solo has a batch-reporting feature that lets you use one template to create as many reports as you need. It can pull data from over 100 applications so you no longer have to manually input numbers for hours on end, saving time and eliminating human error. We can’t forget to mention one of the best parts: You can schedule your reports — ensuring you have the reports you need at the right time and on time. Output formats range from Word docs to shareable PDFs to live HTML.

Your Reliable Solution

Businesses are constantly seeking new ways to optimize their processes, so why should document automation be any different? With Windward software and tools, you can design, generate, and deliver documents that are both data-powered and visually stunning. Because of our seamless integration tools and template creation software, you don’t have to worry about starting back at square one, as is often the case with other software implementation. Instead, we meet you where you are with your goals in mind, so you can spend more time where it matters most.

Want to leverage the convenience and power of our software for your company? See our powerful solutions for yourself by scheduling or a demo, or simply reach out to us to see how we can help.

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.

Maddie Olhoeft

Written by:_
Maddie Olhoeft


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