How to Use Document Assembly in Word and FossLook

Using Document Automation in Word and FossLook

Introduction

In today’s world quite often we work with the documents that are becoming more complex in their structure. Even in a relatively small organization, you need to coordinate the work of several people to get desired results. Typically, people need to switch between several platforms throughout the course of the document preparation and then, finally, assemble a multi-page item.

Let's look at how Microsoft Word and FossLook Automation Platform can cope with the task of document assembly (or document automation).

Document Assembly in Microsoft Word

Ok, suppose that we have a "CRM Project" and we need to combine it with two additional reports written by different employees of our company. Each report has a Microsoft Word's docx format.

First thing we need to do, is to open our "CRM Project" and switch to the "Outline" display mode:

Outline mode in Microsoft Word

Next, using the "Insert" button on the taskbar, we connect our reports to the main project file.

Alternatively, we can create a new subdocument in the existing one using "Create" button. The new files will be created in the same directory as the main one.

But in our case we already have our files, so, Word will simply insert their contents into the main document. Additional documents can be located on the same computer as the main one, or on a network share:

Attaching subdocuments to the main document in composition mode

Using the "Expand subdocuments" button we can switch between displaying the path to the file or it's content.

Switching between subdocuments file path or file content

If the attached file is currently being edited, you can't change its contents in a main document. You can only preview what changes are being made to it after toggling subdocuments view mode.

To fixate the final version, you can break the link between the attached documents, and continue to work with the main one and all its subdocuments autonomously.

Automating Document Assembly in FossLook

Unlike Microsoft Word, document in FossLook is not a file, but an object in the database with the set of attributes (fields). Although, a Word file can be the printed representation of a FossLook document. For example, our "CRM Project" will include such fields as: "Client", "Project date", "Description", etc. The values of these fields are specific to each project that we may want to create in the future, but the printed representation of it (a template) will be the same.

Suppose we want to organize the work of our employees so that one was working on the main project and the others on additional project reports. To do this, we need to create two types of documents, - "CRM Project" and "Report". Then we need to link them together and give our employees access to the folder where they are stored.

Our "CRM Project" document type will look something like this:

Main document type 'CRM Project'

Here, the "Additional Project Report 1" field is a link to another document type that looks like this:

Additional document type 'Project Report'

Each user works with their documents, which then can be assembled into the main one and printed out using a template (Word template).

Preparing a printing template for document assembly

You can read more about creating printing templates in our article "Using templates in FossLook".

In summary, the algorithm of assembling a complex document in FossLook looks like this:

  • Create all necessary document types that will then be assembled into one master document. This would require you to define a set of unique fields in each of the documents and then establish all necessary relations between them.
  • Give users access to the folders where the documents are going to be stored. Each user will work with his own document type.
  • The resulting Word template then can be automatically filled in with the data from the document and printed, or simply connected to the document as attachment.

In our case, "CRM Project" with all fields filled in, looks like this:

Finished 'CRM Project' document assembly in FossLook

Conclusions

  • Employees of your company always deal with a large number of standard documents, they need to collaborate on them and fill in many forms manually.
  • Every employee needs to have a special access rights for each folder.
  • The organization needs a centralized storage and secure place to store confidential information. In this case a database is probably a better variant than just store files on a file system.

Alternatively, if you have to work with a small amount of documents and don't need a secure storage, you can just simply use Microsoft Word, and that would be enough for your tasks.

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