Common Questions: Data Merge

This week’s topic: Data Merge 

Data Merge is an interesting way to jump start your documents.  It’s also a great way to keep your content accurate and up-to-date while reducing the amount of work that you need to do to maintain it both short- and long-term.

Our sales team loves Data Merge. It reduces the amount of effort they need to put into developing quotes. They use the Universal Business Language (UBL) XML DTDs to develop their quotes for customers and data merge makes it easy for them to include pricing and product descriptions from our partner price list. A simple Compose->PDF command, and their work is done! Earlier this week, Dave Lorenzoni wrote up his thoughts about his favorite feature; last April, the Arbortext User group had a presentation on it; and today, we share several questions that we’ve gotten about it as well.

Remember:  send us your questions or add them to the comments!

Question: Incorporating data from external systems

Is it easy to create interfaces with other systems by pulling content from another system or pushing content to another system, such as Oracle’s Universal Management System or SAP?

In otherwords, can you create automated query-based content assembly?

Answer:

Yes. This is called “Data Merge”. With Data Merge, Arbortext lets you incorporate references to external data sources into a document. These references can be resolved at editing time,  publishing time, or both.

Question: Aggregation by batch

Can you aggregate as part of a production batch job or does it need to be run during regularly timed activity?

Answer:

Both options are available in both Arbortext Content Manager or Arbortext PDMLink.

Question:

Does the CMS include support for virtual/compound documents that are assembled to a publishing event/request?

Answer:

Yes. In fact, the ability to create map documents directly in Arbortext Content Manger or Arbortext PDMLink is coming in the Pine release. It will also be part of the the Service Information System application.

How to solve your Data Merge challenges

Data Merge feature in Arbortext lets you integrate live data in your content source

By David Lorenzoni

Have you ever had a need to copy information from a database report, spreadsheet or any other source into a document such as a price list or specification document only to find that once you copied the information the source of your content changed? Or even worse, you made an error?

So maybe you thought you could just cut and paste the entire spreadsheet. That might work for small amounts of information, but when the information is variable or changes frequently that might not work or it might make it difficult for the end user if the information you copied is not published correctly. And what if the data you want does not exist in a database?

This is where a very cool feature of Arbortext known as Data Merge comes into use. Arbortext lets you incorporate references to external data sources in a document, and to then resolve those references. A reference to external data is called a query and the result is called merged data. The merged data can automatically populate a document. Errors that would otherwise be introduced by re-keying, or cutting and pasting old data or incorrect formatting are eliminated.

There are also considerable time-savings through automation workflow review. One customer used Data Merge to incorporate engineering changes into the documentation so that the writers who were developing the content had the most up to date information rather than relying on outdated hand written notes. In this case, the information provided by the Data Merge feature was not used in the final output but as a starting point for the content developers.

The next time your documents or published content requires information that is already validated and maintained in another file, turn to Data Merge and eliminate errors and reduce content development time.

Questions from Customers: File Format Support

Questions about file formats range from what any particular product supports to what formats can be converted by the Arbortext tools

This week’s topic: File Formats

Questions about file formats range from what any particular product supports (editing, illustration, publishing, cms) to what formats can be converted by the Arbortext tools. Today, we’re talking about both of these and where each falls into the bigger picture.

Question: Supported formats in CMS

What file formats does Arbortext Content Manager import into XML?

Answer:

There are no limitations on file type storage in Arbortext Content Manager.

It does not convert file formats. Another module within the Arbortext suite of products, can import/export the following file formats: Word, PDF, XML, RTF, Framemaker, Interleaf, text, and anything that can handle regular expressions.

Question: Batch operations

Can you import files in batches, including metadata?

Answer:

Yes

Question: Graphic Formats support in Arbortext Content Manager

  1. Does Arbortext Content Manager support the Visio format (vsd) as a source graphic file?
  2. Please list all graphic formats that the Arbortext Content Manager supports at this time.

Answer:

  1. Yes.
  2. There are no limitations on file type storage for the CMS.

Question: Digital Asset Management (DAM)

  1. Does Arbortext Content Manager support specialized capabilities that can deal with rich media, such as film and video?
    1. For example, can it support formats, such as wav, mpg, etc.?
  2. Can it integrate with specialized content creation programs such as Adobe desktop and server applications, Quark XML Author, Flash, and 3D applications?
    1. Can it manage huger files and apply metadata at varying levels within a file?
  3. Can it display visually rich display results, including the “looks like” requirement?
  4. Can it recognize and manage/adapt to/use specialized metadata formats, such as ITPC?
  5. Can it output a wide variety of formats
  6. Can it seamlessly hand off data to programs that can easily perform the transformation?
    1. Therefore the CMS must be able to provide the correct variant of a file, such as RealPlayer, QuickTime, MediaPlayer, NTSC, PASL, based on included metadata in real time?

Answer:

Arbortext Content Manager supports storage of multiple objects. The usage of the end object is more a function of the editing or viewing software to be used than the CMS itself.

Question: Conversion of file formats

  1. Can you convert a MS Word file or an unstructured Frame file or any other formatted document and convert it to XML?
  2. In other words, does the Arbortext Content Manager support conversion of content?
  3. If yes, what formats?
  4. How clean or problem-free is the converted document in your opinion?

Answer:

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes
  3. Import/Export supports FrameMaker, RTF, Word, Interleaf, other XML
    NOTE: You can also copy/paste directly from Word and Excel into the Arbortext Editor
    NOTE : You can use Data Merge to directly interact with Excel or other OODB-accessible applications
  4. That depends on how rigorous your authors were in the original source documents. The conversion pipeline can be interacted with to improve converted output.
  5. To see it in action, watch the “Fuel Injection: Creating Dynamic Documents with Arbortext Data Merge” video in the Arbortext Monster Garage

Question: Assembly/DITA Maps in ACM

  1. Does the Arbortext Content Manager include support for virtual/compound documents that are assembled to a publishing event/request?
  2. Can you create automated query-based content assembly?

Answer:

Creating map documents directly in the CMS is coming in the Pine release and is already available in the Service Manual Information System application. Arbortext Content Manager is starting to blur and challenge the lines drawn in the sand by traditional, separate, stand-alone vendor products (CMS, Editing, Publishing).

Question: Format Support in IsoDraw

  1. What graphics formats does IsoDraw support?

Answer:

Arbortext IsoDraw CADprocess renders standard graphic formats including: WebCGM, XCF(XML), CGM versions 1-4, SVG, PNG, JPEG, DWG, IGES, DXF, HPGL, Adobe Illustrator®, WMF, EPS, TIFF, PICT, PCX, BMP, CALS Raster, Text excerpt, Interleaf ASCII, and FrameMaker MIF.

Additionally, 3D files may be exported as IsoDraw .iso, .wrl or .obj files, and intelligent graphic object content is provided in text formats or XML in support of interactive graphics standards. Arbortext IsoDraw CADprocess exports to PDF, 3D PDF and U3D, with no additional software required.

The software supports native Pro/ENGINEER and ProductView files, as well as other standard 3D CAD formats that include: IGES, DWG, DXF, VRML, OBJ, STEP, VDA, SAT, or Parasolid. Using the PTC ProductView Adapters, Arbortext IsoDraw CADprocess also supports UniGraphics, SolidWorks, CATIA, JT and IDEAS formats.

Question: Format Support in Arbortext Editor

What graphics formats are supported in Arbortext Editor?

Answer:

Supported graphics formats for Arbortext Editor include:

  • Bitmap *.bmp
  • Graphics Interchange Format *.gif
  • IsoDraw Graphics *.iso *.isoz
  • JPEG *.jpg
  • Portable Network Graphics *.png
  • Product View Graphics *.edz, *.pvz
  • Scalable Vector Graphics *.svg
  • Tag Image File Format *.tif, *.tiff
  • Vector Graphics *.cgm, *.eps