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What Is Document Automation? (Updated for 2020)

What is document automation – documents flying on a typewriter
Think About It

People have been automating documents since the 1990s, but today, the process has reached a fever pitch to the extent everyone needs to know the what and how of document automation. Many people associate automation with robots performing mechanical tasks but, in this case, it is more of software and templates following defined processes to generate documents.

What is Document Automation?

Document automation lets you transform structured and repetitive documents into smart templates that will be used in the process of creating error-free documents according to set guidelines and format. Document automation lets you use parts of pre-existing data or information and even include new data to assemble, create, or generate a document using logic-based flow.

Without document automation software, you would be wasting thousands of hours (yearly) creating repetitive, boring documents with little changes. Whether you’re in the financial, legal, sales, healthcare, pharma, HR, or other industries you can use this software to automate documents in just a few clicks. So, you can close more sales and get approved for new proposals in just a few minutes.

Importance of Templates in Automation

Templates are like an ice tray and documents are the ice cubes. If the tray is triangular, the ice will be shaped the same way. The document automation Word solution makes it easy when creating a particular document in the familiar Microsoft Word. Usually, expert knowledge is used to create the template. For example, if you wish to make a contract template, then a lawyer would help in the process to ensure it meets the strict standards of the legal profession. But, no more when you have the software to do the job for you. You can integrate it into your everyday work applications like Salesforce, MS Dynamics and more to generate and save documents right there.

The Role of Software in Automating Documents

Software is what adds intelligence to the template and the final document. It will follow the guidelines needed to populate the template and prompt the user to answer certain queries necessary to fill dynamic sections of the document.

The better the software, the better the automation process. This is why many users will carry out document automation software comparison to find which software will suit their needs best. There are a lot of factors that go into the comparison of the software. Not all of them are created equal and so users need to be careful when making a choice.

Use Cases for Document Automation

Several industries as indicated above -- banking, finance, pharma, legal, etc. utilize document automation software to improve the creation of documents and adhere to regulatory guidelines. For example, healthcare records are automated for quicker service delivery while finance can avoid costly errors associated with manual data entry in their statements.

When an industry has documents that are repeatedly created, automating documents can be an efficient way to generate them.

Document Automation Amid COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 is putting pressure on health practitioners to find efficient ways of documenting their processes as they work fast to bring life-saving drugs and vaccines to the market. The entire medical field is resorting to technology for various document generation needs.

Document automation frees the scientists and researchers from the task of data entry which is important when generating different research findings as well as reporting a shortage of drugs or handling patient’s records.

On the other hand, as the culture of remote working skyrocketed due to the pandemic, even individual employees with little to no knowledge of programming can automate their documents in just a few clicks.

High Volume Output and A Wide Range of Output Formats

Document automation enables users to generate several documents quickly and accurately. Enterprises with a high document output demand appreciate that they can create thousands of documents and the output is not limited to a single format.

You can choose from different common formats like PDF, HTML,DOCX, and so many more.

What Defines the Best Document Automation Software?

A lot depends on the features of the software but the main trait of the best document automation software is that it should make your job and workflow easier to create multiple customized documents from a single template or use multiple templates (as sub-templates) to create a single document and simplify the process. Know about any possible vulnerabilities and security cracks in the software before you download it.

Organizations that look to serve their customers efficiently trust Windward to produce quality documents all the time. Over 2000 clients rely on our software everyday to create hundreds of thousands of documents. It is easy to use and documents look professional. Users can be sure that all the necessary data will be captured and used in generating documents in a fraction of the time it would take using other options. When you compare the cost with performance, it is indeed total value for money.

Know how the World’s #1 document automation software simplifies and speeds up your everyday process.

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.

Genesis Abel

Written by:_
Genesis Abel
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