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Windward Core Architecture Recommendations

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Overview

This post is aimed towards anyone integrating one of the many flavors of Windward Core Document generation products with their own software.

Windward Core at a high level is made up of two “components” the Template Designer and the Processing Engine. The Template Designer is a Microsoft Office Add-In that allows non-technical users to design their data driven/dynamic documents without the need for IT involvement. The Processing Engine is the logic that knows how to interpret the Template and process it into its final output. The Processing Engine is either purchased as an SDK (.NET or JAVA) or a RESTful Web service (.NET RESTful or JAVA RESTful).

The Microsoft Office + Windward Template Designer combine to form an IDE (Integrated Design Environment) for Dynamic Document development. The Templates in combination with the Engine can be thought of something similar to “nano” service platforms like AWS Lambda or Azure Functions. Each Template holds the entirety of the logic needed to define the resulting document and is completely separate from every other Template.

Just like any software development tool, you can make your Document Templates as simple or as complex as you need. The more complex the Document Template, the more technical expertise you will need to develop it and the more processing time the engine will need to create the final document.

Recommendations

Keep in mind that non-functional requirements (NFRs) are every bit as important as the functional requirements you receive from business stakeholders. NFRs regarding : performance, reliability, availability, scalability, recoverability and security are just a few. The overall design of your solution will need to take these and other NFRs into account for your project’s ultimate success.

Very rarely do we run into a Customer who is integrating Windward Core with a monolithic application. Most software projects these days are some flavor of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). The reality is that business needs/requirements change quickly and they want the tools they use to keep up with the pace of business. The current solution to this problem is to divide systems into services with one purpose and have specific teams work on a service or closely related set of services.

Taking the above points into account, our #1 recommendation is to have separation between your software and the Windward Core processing engine. Very rarely do you need to fulfill some requirement by directly referencing the Windward Core SDK in your code base.

  • The RESTful engines are a great example of this separation.
  • You can also wrap the SDK engines yourself if the predefined RESTful engines don’t fulfill all of your requirements.
  • The best approach for most situations is to employ messaging and message queues and have your fleet of engines process the messages following the Competing Consumer pattern. This was the design we employed when we developed the Windward Hub product.

There are many ways to attain this separation. Nothing new here. This is the (S) in the object oriented principles of SOLID.

Advantages of Separation

  • Ability to deploy your solution separately from the Windward engine
  • Lessen the need to schedule releases of your software around releases from Windward
  • Lessen the issues with competing versions of dependencies (mainly a JAVA issue)
  • Ability to scale separately from the client application. This is very important in web server scenarios. Web servers are meant to deal with only processing responses and returning responses, not processor intensive work unrelated to http traffic.
  • Encapsulate the implementation (The D in SOLID) - Not that we want to lose you as a Customer, but it is your fiduciary responsibility to not tie yourself into a specific vendor. Communicating through interfaces instead of concrete implementations helps achieve this goal.

Disadvantages of Separation

  • Need to develop communication between your software and the Windward processing engine
  • Since you are no longer running in the same process you will need a mechanism to communicate with the Processing engine and take into account the asynchronous nature of the communication.
  • We are a big fan of message queues and recommend them for communicating with the processing engine in order to help achieve many of the NFRs listed earlier.
  • Debugging can be more challenging
  • More infrastructure for management is needed with separate services

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.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

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"

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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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

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

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).

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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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

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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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.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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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.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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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.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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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.

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