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Ecrion

A SoftwareSuggest Review

“Where Ecrion Design Studio Publisher boasts multiple design functionalities to ease designing document template, the Data Modeler is time-consuming and tough for non-developers to use. Though it has got a drag-and-drop interface, connecting data sources and output options is limited as compared to other document generation solutions.”

 

Are you up to your eyeballs in piles of files?

Well, if you run any kind of business that is reliant on records and documentation, you would definitely relate to my question above. From insurance agents to telecommunication providers, if your business deals with the public in any official context, I can assure you that you will be engulfed with a lot of paperwork.

Your company might be producing more documents than you probably even realize – print documents, digital documents, licenses, contracts, policies, and so on. Imagine the resources, time, efforts, and money that your organization spends behind one document creation. Countless hours and days, isn’t it?

If so, it’s high time you embrace robust document generation software. But the only thing standing in the way of producing colossal documents is choosing the right software.

Document generation software comes in many variables, each with its own set of document generation tools. Some are aligned to specific industries, whereas some offer functionalities to suffice the needs of any company. But how will you determine which one suits your needs the best? Well, in my opinion, comparing your requirements with the software's offerings is an ideal way of getting the right tool. This is what I did while searching the top document generation solutions. After days of demo with different products, Ecrion is what made me stop and urged me to take a detailed demonstration of it. So, I took a tour of the software, and here's what I explored.

Hands-on with Ecrion’s Document Generation Solution

Right from streamlining the design, generation, assembly, and distribution of business-critical documents, Ecrion empowers you with –

  • Intuitive Template Designer that frees up your IT team from a complex coding
  • Batch or On-Demand document generation however and whenever you need
  • High-Performance Generator that delivers simple or complex documents in bulk

Being familiar with some other DocGen tools to date, I decided to explore the most crucial component of a document generation solution – template designer. With Ecrion, what you get to interact with for designing a template is the Ecrion Design Studio suite.

Ecrion Design Studio Suite

It is Ecrion’s best-in-class visual design tool that requires no IT involvement. So, if you or your team also belong to a non-tech background like me, Studio is just for us. However, Studio comprises different components that vary in functionalities and their role.

1. Publisher

If you want to design interactive, professional document templates, Publisher lets you do so. When I interfaced with Publisher, I could easily alter the appearance, content, and layout of the document. To my surprise, this tool is built efficiently to handle every aspect of template creation right from retrieving data to making it print-ready and generating reports.

Getting started with Publisher

The thing that I found annoying about Ecrion is that it requires you to install every component individually, unlike other DocGen alternatives. Thus, to begin with Publisher, you need to first install it.

Once you successfully install the Publisher, the first step towards designing a template is dealing with data sources.

Data Sources

Like most other document generation tools, Publisher supports three data source file types – XML & Schema files, Data Modeler Diagram files, and Spreadsheet Files. Once you assign a data source to your document, you can easily drag and drop the data points you want in your template. This seemed like a time-saving functionality to me.

Ecrion Publisher also enables you to change, edit, delete, save, and reload data source as and when required while designing your template.

Data Source Pane

When you assign a data source to your document, it appears in the Data Source Pane. Hence, you can quickly determine if the data source you need is assigned or not while creating different templates. As the data source comprises a lot of content, it creates difficulty in traversing through it. Users like me do not necessarily remember each time as to which data will be located where.

So, to simplify this, Publisher lets you view the Data Source Pane in two different views – Content View (lets you view individual parts of each element) and Schema View (displays the structure of your data source). Moreover, you can also use the search box to locate different elements in no time. Thus, I found this helpful in navigating across the data source.

Data Fields

When you drag and drop data points from your data source pane to the Design Surface, you automatically create a Data Field. It is represented with a gray-colored background. These data fields help retrieve information from the data source and insert it into your document when you run the template.

Design Surface

The area that Ecrion Publisher provides you to add/remove content, adjust the alignment, insert/integrate items, and perform all the tasks you need to create a template is known as Design Surface. It has the same layout as the page of your document. However, you can scroll and continue by adding page sets or content.

Document Views

While working with Ecrion Publisher, you can leverage different document view options to preview your template. This includes:

  • Design View: Well, this is where you can accomplish all your designing work, including adding static/dynamic content
  • XML View: Here, you can review and edit the code behind your template. Again, this is helpful for coders and designers with styling knowledge. Not for people like me who have the least interest to code
  • Print View: You can use this view option when you to want to preview the output without opening other applications
  • Web View: This is helpful to get a preview of the output without opening any browser

Though they boast about these, I found it quite similar to what other Microsoft Word also offers. So, with this functionality, it is equivalent to other DocGen products based on Word.

Designing Document Template

For me, designing attributes that a system offers are crucial because they are the ones that help in building stunning templates. And I must say I was pretty overwhelmed with Ecrion’s offerings. I could seamlessly have images, barcodes, tables, charts, stylesheets, forms, widgets, grids, dynamic content, and more incorporated in my template. Depending on the items you choose to insert, Ecrion Publisher draws value from either your data source or by applying values conditionally when needed. Besides, you can also create responsive documents by utilizing various options that Ecrion gives. You can create a responsive design based on the type of devices – smartphone, tablet, laptop, or TV.

Leveraging Widgets

If you are an Ecrion BI Server user, widgets empower you to link your Business Intelligence Dashboards to your templates. These widgets can be included directly into the reports, which in turn, can be synced with the dashboard to generate reports on the fly. Unfortunately, this feature is a bit complex and of no use to users who don’t use Ecrion BI Server.

2. Data Modeler

Publisher lets you create amazing document templates only when you have a well-structured data source linked to it. Ecrion’s Data Modeler offers you the capability to design a unified data source. This component of Ecrion Design Studio Suite manages every aspect of the document automation solutions.

Data Modeler provides you with a simple way to connect data sources, undergo transformations, and also preview the output.

Designing Data Diagram

A Data Diagram utilizes several data sources to connect multiple data connections, available functions, and the desired output object to fetch the data, perform operations on, and build a well-structured data source for your use. It represents the source of each data point and also the transformations performed on it, as shown below:

But, before you begin designing your data diagram, Ecrion requires you to select the diagram type from the New Diagram Wizard.

New Diagram Wizard

This wizard lets you choose your diagram type from the following options:

  • Reporting and Mass Printing
  • BI In-Memory Analytics
  • Data Transformation and Ingestion

Each of these diagram types is accompanied by a short description and scenario to help you select the better one. Well, this is what I somewhat liked about Ecrion Data Modeler.

Once you choose your Data Diagram type, it asks you to select your input data sources. It can be –

  • Use File – take .xlsx or .csv file
  • Database – explore database objects
  • Salesforce – connect data directly from Salesforce

Whatever information you put in the wizard, gets displayed on your Design Surface.

Designing your Data Diagram

To structure the output data that you are looking for effectively, it is vital to plan your Data Diagram. Again, the steps of mapping data from input data sources to your designed structure vary for each Data Diagram type. However, it appeared time-consuming and really complicated to me.

3. Analyst

Ecrion helps you create intelligent documents that provide valuable insights for your customers. When you have a huge volume of data to present, Analyst helps you. For instance, you have generated a document with thousands of transactions on it. Now, your customer wants to sort the transactions by date or amount. This is where an Analyst helps.

A Quick Glance at Ecrion

When viewed closely, I found the Ecrion Solution divided between two – Design Time Components & Run Time Components.

Design Time Components

1. Studio

You can leverage Ecrion Studio’s different tools to create engaging and stunning documents, mapping data, and getting valuable insights.

i. Publisher: Design document templates to produce outputs from custom data sources

ii. Modeler: Map, retrieve, process, and describe data models for data aggregation

iii. Analyst: Visualize, filter, analyze, and predict insights for your customers within the document

2. Ecrion Web Tools

Similar to Studio, this component has also got different variables. This includes:

i. Online Form Editor

ii. Online Template Editor

iii. Online Workflow Editor

Run Time Components

  1. Ecrion Repository: It stores project assets in a version-controlled repository
  2. Workflows: This streamlines the communications
  3. Data Engine: It accumulates customer data from different data sources; be it database, CRM, or any other
  4. Publishing Engine: With the help of templates in the repository, it converts data to PDF
  5. Distribution: Send documents over email, SMS, or upload them to CMS, CRM, FTP, network share, and more

Final Thoughts

Ecrion Design Studio Publisher boasts multiple design functionalities to ease designing templates. It also has a drag & drop interface. However, the Data Modeler is time-consuming and tough for non-developers to use, and datasource and output options are more limited comparted to other document generation solutions. Ecrion is the best solution if you have a more advanced team of developers using the tool, but if you don't have technical expertise, it may be harder to use.

Features

Windward

Code Behind
No code behind
Generate Code
Yes
Applications
Only supports Word, Excel & PowerPoint for Windows. It neither supports PDF nor any Web-based applications.
Conditional Formatting
Yes
Drag & Drop Doclets
Yes
Query Wizards
It easily fetches data from multiple sources.
Multiple Datasources
Yes
Supported Datasources

Salesforce

MS Dynamics

JSON

OData

SQL

XML

Tag Start & End Locations
Yes
Tags

out

import

bitmap

set

query

forEach

if

else

switch

link

bookmark

chart

Imported Templates
Advanced
Document Locking
Yes
Validation, Error & Warning Handling
Yes
Data Count
Yes
Pros & Cons
  • Pro: Easily integrates with your existing applications
  • Pro: Great for beginners and people with no computer tech experience
  • Con: Only works with MS Office
  • Con: Lacks feature like Digital Signature
Pricing
Visit Windward's pricing page for a detailed price list.

Features

Windward

Applications

Word

Excel

PowerPoint

Supported Datasources

Salesforce

MS Dynamics

JSON

OData

SQL

XML

Output Formats
Everything including direct output to printer
IF Statements
Advanced
Code Behind
No code behind
Drag & Drop Doclets
Advanced
Imported Templates
Advanced
Pros & Cons
  • Pro: Once the datasources are set, it is easy to use
  • Pro: Integrates with a range of business systems and applications
  • Pro: Supports 10+ languages
  • Pro: Prominent clients include Sunkist, Volvo, HSBC, Pfizer, and more
  • Con: Doesn't work with web applications
  • Con: You find it difficult to pick tags if you mixed them with a block of text

Features

Windward

Code Behind
No code behind
Drag & Drop Doclets
It supports drag and drop throughout the platform
Multiple Datasources
It easily fetches data from multiple sources
Validation, Error & Warning Handling
You can easily detect errors and warnings
Time Zone
There's no such functionality available
Document Status
There are no predefined modes, wherein you can put your documents. But you can preview them before finalizing
Conditional Statements
It supports 'if' and 'else' tags along with 12+ other tags
Output Formats
You can have the output in every format you desire
Pros & Cons
  • Pro: With easy datasource set-up, it makes document creation a breeze
  • Pro: It is great for beginners and people with no computer tech experience
  • Con: It integrates only with MS Office
  • Con: Sometimes, you may face a few minor glitches, but the team is quick to handle it

Features

Windward

Applications

Word

Excel

PowerPoint

Code Behind
No code behind
Process Embedded Office Objects
It has all types of embedded objects and also processes the same seamlessly
Supported Datasources

Salesforce

MS Dynamics

JSON

OData

SQL

XML

Tags

out

import

bitmap

set

query

forEach

if

else

switch

link

bookmark

chart

Features

Windward

Multiple Datasources
It can also process multiple datasources simultaneously
Macros
You can create custom macros as and when required in your template
Rendering Barcodes
Windward renders barcodes as fonts, which may not be as effective as images
Validation, Error & Warning Handling
It takes care of each aspect to ensure you get the document as desired
Output Formats
You can have the output in every format you desire
Drag & Drop Doclets
Supports pretty well
Pros & Cons
  • Pro: Easily imports tags from connected datasources
  • Pro: Easy to use within established Microsoft Office Desktop applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • Con: You might encounter problems with reports
  • Con: APIs need improvement