< Back to Blog

Don't Pick a Side—Work Side-by-Side


Usually when a company’s development team seeks to replace their existing reporting or document generation software, they are so frustrated with their old methodology that they want to “rip” out all of their old software and replace it with an entirely new system.  Let’s call this the “rip and replace”method.  Ripping out and replacing legacy software is typically acknowledged by developers as one of the best ways to handle software changes, as older systems are typically complex and unreliable.  While the rip and replace method is disruptive to the development team as it’s being set up, once the new software is completely installed, it and the team are ready to go.

But despite all of its advantages, you will never, ever rip and replace your old docgen software. Here’s why.

Usually, customers in need of a solution are just researching docgen software for the first time, and do not realize the time and resources required to implement a new solution.  Sticker shock (which is not necessarily about cost, but with time and dev manpower) is an incredibly real reaction when we discuss the magnitude of the project.  Simply put, converting old templates and preparing data for a new system is a huge project.  Many companies will not purchase a solution right away, despite needing an overhaul of their current system.  The rip and replace method is not easy or cheap, despite how fantastic of an option it is.

But dev teams don’t have to continue suffering with their old methodology.  While not as initially appealing as the rip and replace method, the “side-by-side” approach is still a valid way of upgrading your docgen software without putting strain on your company’s finances or resources.

The side-by-side method involves integrating a new piece of software into your old system and having them run reports, as the name suggests, side-by-side.  Now, many developers will talk down about the side-by-side method, and it’s true that the method needs standardization across the software engineering field.  But it generally shouldn’t be viewed so poorly.  Think of this method in terms of your kitchen: you have a stove, an oven, and a microwave, all of which preform similar functions but for distinct purposes. You can cook an entire meal side-by-side.  For a dev team with lots of reports and little time, the side-by-side method is a great place to start improving upon old systems.

A company that implements the side-by-side approach will run both new and old reports simultaneously. Existing reports are grandfathered into the old reporting system, while the new system runs the new reports.  The company has the choice of moving over old reports needing major changes into the new system, and also has the option of slowly converting over old reports to the new templates as needed, such as for large accounts.

Implementing the side-by-side approach takes less resources than the rip and replace method, and while it doesn’t totally upgrade your systems at once, you still have the freedom to transition your data over to new templates as needed.  This allows you time to make sure the new software works exactly as you want it to, and to workout any problems before full implementation (Go to Production 4 Weeks Early). It also allows time to design and create new templates, as well as train your employees on its usage.  And you can already begin to save time and cut through your workflow by having a new system in place while evaluating whether a complete overhaul is right for your company.  You may find that the side-by-side approach is great for different reporting projects, using the new docgen software to efficiently generate mass reports while using the old software for reports that still need a human hand to finalize.

Many companies that initially reject the rip and replace method ultimately decide to try a side-by-side approach with their docgen solution.  This approach might be the right one for you.

If you want to see just how smoothly Windward’s solutions can integrate into your legacy software, here’s a free trial.

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


Got questions about reporting and document generation? We've got answers—let's connect!
Send a note
messaging, phone, or email contact optionsclose out button