A few years ago, documents used to be handwritten. Sometimes, it would take weeks to make sure that the document was written out the way it was intended. Then, companies began typing the docs. With the advancement in technology, the traditional document generation process evolved from typing to copy and paste from a master template to a plain-looking computer-generated document to enabling businesses to design the templates.
The passing of the years has brought about a significant revolution in consumer behavior and their needs. Customers don’t settle for anything less at every touchpoint.
In today’s day and age, document generation software is making the process easier by saving time, money, and resources every time a professional needs a document. It streamlines the document creation process while ensuring increased productivity, efficiency, and even compliance. Right from automating the creation of quotes and sales contracts to giving your teams more time to focus on selling, reducing turnaround times, and producing shorter sales cycle, document generation software is responsible for all.
Because there is a multitude of document generation service providers, many of them demand dedicated resources to implementing and maintaining the solution. This increases your total cost of ownership; thus, delaying the other processes. Therefore, choosing a solution that enables your team to get up and run the software without any need for ongoing support impacts your business operations and, ultimately, the bottom line.
The Rising Need of Document Generation Software
If you are working in the government, healthcare, finance, insurance, or energy industries, there’s a 100% chance that your company needs a document generation solution. Be it producing one particular document or thousands of similar documents at a time; document generation software comes into the role.
Let’s say; a finance company requires sending letters to all their customers, advising them about an increase in interest rates. For each letter, the static content like the company’s name, address, and the new rate will remain the same, whereas the dynamic content, such as the customer’s name, address, account details, and repayments will vary.
Document generation software thus lets you generate, customize, and produce data-driven documents.
Choosing the right Document Generation Software
Generally, when you set out to get a document generation tool for your organization, the foremost thing that matters is its easy-to-use interface. Well, this is actually what I do.
With this, I mean, the tool that you are looking for (here, docgen software) must not only empower your Product Management, Development, or other technically sound teams to design and build documents on their own but also the rest of the staff with little to no developing or coding skills.
Whether the document generation solution offers the ability to create templates that can support multiple business needs and document variations; thus, lessening the efforts to develop and maintain a large number of forms, letters, or contracts.
I have even tried copying and pasting data from other software applications or paper only to get documents that look messy unless I apply additional formatting effort. So, I recommend you choose a solution that gives the document a professional look and supports dynamic formatting. Many document generation software can integrate with CRM tools or other platforms to automatically pull data into your documents. This can also be taken into consideration.
With all these considerations and having surfed the top document generation tools, it’s been quite overwhelming to choose one. However, with the potential to serve different document generation needs across various verticals, Windward Studios stand as the competent, business-grade document generation software. It enables you to create visually dynamic data-powered documents that appear precisely the way you want. Also, it helps individuals and large enterprises generate customized data-powered documents in no time.
Hands-on with Windward Studios
1. Installing the solution
Like all modern docgen solutions, Windward is built on top of Microsoft Office. The good news is Windward supports design in all three productivity apps – Word, Excel, & PowerPoint. But, the bad news is Windward’s designer AddIn only works with the Windows version of Office. So, if you want to design in the Mac or web version of Office – Windward is not for you.
As a part of the setup process, the only difference you notice after Windward Studios’ installation is in the menu bar of your MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint windows. You’ll see there’s a windward function added to it. This means Windward Studios is built within the familiar interface of Microsoft Office Suite. You can easily use it as an add-in for your MS Office applications like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to generate data-powered documents. Thus, it empowers you to synchronize your templates with a host of data sources while still retaining the flexibility and familiar environments of MS Office applications.
2. The Power of Windward Studios
More like its competitors, Windward also designs documents in Microsoft Office. However, I found most leveraging the benefits of Microsoft Word. But, as opposed to them, Windward stole the show with its ability to operate in MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint.
For instance, you want to create a document from your Excel sheet. Windward makes it more than easy for you. It auto-adjusts the range of pivot tables to the generated output. Similarly, it also adjusts the Excel references so that you can have flawless worksheets.
Well, you will also find a few apart from Windward with the same offerings.
3. Collecting data from discrete sources
In an era where companies are moving from on-premise to cloud-based solutions, working with tons of data from heterogeneous data sources is a must. While my trip through this document generation software, it drew my attention to its ability to handle multiple data sources at a time. It not only supports 150+ data sources but also boasts the capability to work with discrete data sources simultaneously. You’ll find this rarely when exploring other alternatives. Thus, Windward reduces the disruption caused by disparate data sources and boosts the efficiency of your organization.
4. Enhancing the template design
In the case of combining data from separate data sources, you can make use of different tags. Whether you need to select a sub-section based on a prospect’s state or include a line graph from a customer’s stock portfolio history in your document, Windward provides the power to do anything with its 16 different tags. Let me name a few tags that Windward offers – ForEach, EndForEach, Import, If, Else, End If, Switch, etc… For example, a ForEach tag guides the template to find all the rows or nodes in a set of data from your data source, whereas helps you conditionally display the content in your template. Different tags function differently. You can use them appropriately to accomplish anything you desire in document logic and output.
Hence, Windward makes designing a document more comfortable. Moreover, you can play with these tags to produce more appealing documents. Place them in the text boxes, shapes, or smart art, pass them in any number of parameters, and import them from a particular file. These tags play a crucial role in guiding the layout of the template. You can start and end tags anywhere in the template. For example, you can start a ForEach tag in the middle of a table and end it two pages later after paragraphs of text, images, etc.
Windward also offers you an Import Tag. Whenever you insert an import tag in your template, it imports a sub-template. What I mean to say here is just like other tags and queries, the imported template also gets processed along with all the tags in the imported template.
Additionally, Windward gives you a Tag Tree that displays all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. Thus, you can easily see the structure of your template. You can even go to any of the tags, see their properties, and edit them if required. With Windward, I found that there is no limitation to how you want your data to guide the layout of your output.
5. No more writing queries
Tell me, what is your most common activity while creating templates? Writing queries to select the data, isn’t it? You do this to select blocks of data such as all stocks you hold for a portfolio statement. You do this for conditional logic in the template such as adding insurance requirements for an offer letter if they reside in California. You do this when placing their name in their loan papers. In fact, you will do this hundreds of times in complex templates and thousands of times across all the templates. But, don’t you want this to be quick & easy?
Well, with Windward, you can enter the query by hand if you prefer through it’s tag editor. It also displays the datasource metadata where you can click to add columns/nodes to your handwritten query, and see the result of your query.
But, where Windward really shines is their query wizards. They have distinct wizards for SQL, XPath (XML), JPath (JSON), OData, & Salesforce. Each wizard helps you write very complex queries by selecting what you want from the metadata tree by clicking it.
Windward make it easy for a business user to write their own queries easily with no need for a developer. With the appropriate subset of the metadata as a dropdown to select from at each part of the select wizard, it makes it easy for the user to navigate across their data structure. In the case of the SQL wizard, it automatically writes the joins for the select.
On one side where the user can pull any data they need with no changes to an underlying program, on the other hand it requires the user to have entire metadata of their application, and a developer if it is too large or complex.
6. Eliminating redundant processes
When it comes to creating letters, forms, documents, or templates, there will be a couple of things that you’ll require using repeatedly. Well, I’m talking about those things, let’s say; you created in Microsoft Office and will be reusing them later. Windward provides you the competence to save such things. They have named it as PODs (Portable Object Doclets) – a term specific to Windward products. PODs in Windward are portable snippets of MS Word or Excel objects. You can move and use them in any templates.
For content – be it a single character or multiple pages, charts, tables, or bitmaps – that you need to use over and over across various templates, you can create a POD and save it. Windward allows you to save as many PODs as you want to a POD collection file. Also, you can have multiple collection files. Now, whenever you find the need to use these PODs in your template, simply drag and drop. That’s it; you’ve got the content you want!
7. Producing the Output
Once your template is ready, you can save it. As it holds all the crucial information – whether content, conditional logic or queries – required in generating the document, you neither need to write any code nor create specific data for each template. All you need to do is connect the template to the data and pass a couple of parameters to generate another document.
Well, Windward has also got some additional tools that I found quite useful. This includes Verify Template, Generate Code, Error & Warning Handler, Select Debugger, Datasource Connection Debugger, Data Count, List Imported Templates, Template Debugger, and more. One helps to determine the flaws in the failing connection, whereas the other provides information on what is wrong. All these handy tools individually ensure that your document generation is going the right way.
8. Getting Started with Windward is more than easier
For more than a decade now, Windward has been developing reports and documents for application developers and businesses worldwide. Its embedded solution empowers your users to create beautiful and professional reports online right from the comfort of their devices.
Getting started with Windward is easy-breezy. All you require doing is embed the Windward .Net or Java Engine into your product. You can then design templates with the MS Office. Add in auto-tag and deliver the report or document in whatever format your users require. Just like all the modern document generation systems, Windward’s solution is composed of the following steps:
Step 1: Designing Your Smart Documents
- You can design your template within the Microsoft Office with Windward’s layout and formatting capabilities.
- It lets you connect one or more data sources to your template.
- You can personalize your template with different tags and conditional logic.
Step 2: Generating the Documents
- You can pass the template, data sources, and output destination to the engine, and watch Windward merge your template with the data to create a document you requested for.
Step 3: Delivering your Output
- Windward enables you to create documents and reports in multiple formats.
- It produces the documents as specified by you – a saved file or email to the recipients. Moreover, it can distribute the generated document via your application.
When there’s a lot to worry about – right from the generation of documents to organization to security to management, it takes a lot of time away from other jobs. Instead of having a group of programmers generating documents for the organization and customers, Windward can do it all for you while keeping the information safe in the process. This is a significant saving, not just in lowering costs but also availing quicker turnaround.
Windward has a simple formula – “If you are able to think it in MS Office, you can create it using Windward.”
Deploying any document generation software that requires your team to put the efforts in developing the desired templates won’t be worth the investment. Again, the tool will of no use to team members other than your technically-skilled teams.
What mesmerized me about Windward is its ability to design, customize, and edit documents within the familiar MS Office Suite. It seems as if it is specially developed to make document generation experience frustration-free right from the start till the end. Moreover, its intuitive drag and drop interface, along with smart document logic and eye-catching layouts, make it a tremendous time-saving and cost-effective tool.