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Document Lifecycle and Maximizing its Efficiency (How-to Guide)


Regardless of your industry or the size of your company, documents are the lifeblood of your workflow. Certain industries like sales, legal, insurance, and pharmaceutical can produce thousands of documents each day!

When you produce a document, it goes through several different stages, referred to as the document lifecycle. You can take advantage of technology to assist with management and archiving, and even automate their creation (using the best document automation solutions). Let’s take a look at the document lifecycle and what your business can do to improve it.

The Standard Document Lifecycle

These stages are relevant to all documents, regardless of your industry, company size, the technology you use, and the type of document it is. The usual steps an employee takes are as follows:

  1. Open Microsoft Word and start typing the document's basic content.
  2. Look up the customer's contact information in their datasource, and add them to the document.
  3. Look up any additional information from their datasource and add them to the document.
  4. Send the document for review, and make the changes.
  5. Archive old documents over time when they become less useful.

You can see how tedious this process can be without the right document automation (docauto) software.

The document lifecycle is made up of document creation, active documents, and inactive documents.

Document Creation

Usually using Microsoft Office, the document’s creation involves creating a template or typing up a letter to your clients, for example.  Documents are created from “scratch.”  This is a pretty simple stage, comparatively.

Active Documents

After the document has been created, it begins its active life.  The document will  be accessed by various employees, perhaps edited, or stored with other related documents. Usually documents are stored in the user’s or organization’s document management system, like via the Cloud or a shared drive.

There are many benefits to using a document management system, including:

Inactive Documents

When a document is no longer useful for your organization, it becomes inactive. The information in the document might be no longer correct, or there might be a new version that’s superior. Regardless, once a document is no longer in use, it becomes an inactive document. Record management systems archive these documents, and protect your organization’s intellectual property.

So, How Can Document Automation Help?

Document automation can supplement your document management system to allow better collaboration and easier document design. Docauto software can also help ensure that each document created adheres to the company’s standards, and that they are completely compliant.

Instead of going through a lengthy editing and review process, and possibly needing developers to add code to the document, document creation software puts document design right into the hands of the business users.  Docauto with a really easy-to-use Designer component allows business users to create templates without sending it to the development team for help.  And some of the best docauto solutions are built upon familiar apps such as Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and even PowerPoint) so that no additional training is required to get started with the program. (Though, of course, a fast and helpful support team cannot be understated!)

Some docauto solutions include a document management component. For example, Windward Hub allows users to manage templates, schedule future reports, and even generate documents on-demand.

Docauto software is sure to enhance the entire document lifecycle by allowing for easy template creation, data-connected documents, fast output, and even maintenance and scheduling.

Data-Powered Document Automation

Most document generation software connects a datasource to a template so that the data generated into any document is fast and up-to-date. For example, Windward Core allows users to insert tags into their templates that pull data from a connected datasource. This means that documents can stay in their active stage longer—there’s no need to create an entirely new document when a template can pull fresh data every time it is output.

Overall, document automation is now an important part of the document lifecycle, and a key to the success of creating documentation. If you’re looking for a new docauto solution, take a look at Windward’s guide to document generation and automation features.

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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