< Back to Blog

Drag & Drop Doclets: A Document Design Must-Have


Looking for a new document automation solution?  Drag and drop elements are an absolute must for any template designer in the document design process. Creating templates with drag and drop elements are perfect for employees with little to no programming experience to design stunning data-powered documents exactly how your company needs them.

Do your programmers have time to code and design templates for your business team? Most likely not. Therefore, it’s essential that your template designer is completely low-code/no-code for the rest of your employees.

The Basics of Drag & Drop Doclets - Powerful Document Design Elements

A document design with Windward PODs.

One user can create and save content to use in a future template.  Later, other users can drag those saved doclets and drop them into a template during the document design process.  This allows template designers to create very complex templates easily by just dragging the needed components.

When evaluating a document automation or document generation application, you’ll want to evaluate their drag/drop features on the following criteria:

  1. How do you create a doclet in the designer?
  2. Does it bring the full formatting of the doclet into the document it's dropped into?
  3. What exactly can be saved?
  4. After you drop, is the operation complete? How many steps are there?
  5. Can doclets in a template be updated?
A cartoon ice cream cone with 3 scoops.

3 Approaches to Drag & Drop Doclets

The dropped doclets typically come in several “flavors.”  The best are linked doclets where the content of the doclet is automatically displayed in your template in full, already laid out and formatted.  And when the doclet itself is revised, that change immediately appears in your template and is used in every generated document thereafter.

The second approach is when a dropped doclet is just inserted into the template.  You now have the doclet as a part of your template and can adjust it however you wish: from formatting to content tags.  But with this approach, if the original doclet is changed, that change is not applied within your template.  However, this is preferable in some use cases when you don’t want changes applied to already existing templates during document design.

The third approach is that there is a tag that will import the specific doclet.  That means you don’t see the doclets’ content within the template design.  But when the template is processed, it will pull from the live copy of the doclet.  This is helpful for use cases when you need to pull in content based on the State the recipient of the document lives in.

The best document automation software will include all three flavors available so that you can use each as you deem appropriate.

Streamline Duplicate Work with Drag & Drop Capabilities

A cartoon construction crane.

When working on your document design templates, you don’t want to waste time performing the same work over and over.  So when evaluating new document automation software, make sure the designer can encapsulate commonly used elements into easy-to-use components so that anyone in your company can drag and drop them into any template they wish.

For example, Windward’s Portable Object Doclets (PODs) are portable snippets of Microsoft Word objects, meaning they can be moved, dragged, and dropped throughout a Word template.  You can encapsulate items such as your company’s logo, common headers and footers, input parameters, and any other common elements your company uses in its documents.  More on PODs later.

The whole point of document automation is to save time on redundant and repetitive tasks, so you really need a solution that can save you and your development team time on proofing, editing, and debugging, as you can be confident that all of your templates contain identical components.

In a nutshell, drag and drop doclets work like the ultimate copy/paste command! It ensures you have the final look of a professional document design.

Portable Object Doclets

When searching for new document automation software, you need to make sure that the designer has less technical users in mind.  For example, PODs is Windward’s system to create complex templates, easily, with just a few drag and drop operations.

One person can create all the needed template building blocks by merely dragging and dropping PODs into the template.  When the content is updated within the POD, every document generated afterwards has the new content.  There is no update step!  The template will automatically update immediately.

Learn how Windward’s PODs work in our new video, and watch our staff create a brand new template in just minutes!

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Know more about Windward and get your 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

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
Windward © 2021 All Rights Reserved.


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