Posts Tagged ‘OOXML’

Alternate OOXML Document Generation Approach

March 31, 2011

Eric White has put out a document generation example which uses XPath and Word Content Controls.  I applaud Eric for the amount of work he has done with his exploration of different ways to perform template base generation.  This is a subject that is challenging and we need as many ideas as we can get.  There are a couple of areas that I see room for improvement in this XPath design that I would like to bring up. 

The first is that Eric has chosen to put his document generation in the document itself.  I see this as a maintenance and reusability issue.  Architecturally I would prefer to have my code external to the document so that I can write and maintain it centrally in a generic fashion and tie it to a rules engine.

Another place I see that this approach falls down is that it is good for simple text replacement, but it doesn’t handle formatting, replacing images or working with charts.  This doesn’t mean that it can’t handle them, but I think it would lose the simplicity which looks to be it’s appeal.

Lastly, Content Controls are currently a Word only feature.  It would be great if we could come up with a mark-up technique that was universal to all Office document types.  Hey, we can dream, right?

Personally, I prefer a more meta data driven approach based on my experience with solutions which had output that was more marketing material quality.  That being said, but approach is an interesting idea to add to the design arsenal.  Thanks for the thoughts Eric.

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Update Since Microsoft/PSC Office Open XML Case Study

December 16, 2010

In 2009 Microsoft released a case study about a project that we had done using the OOXML SDK 1.0 for Research Directors Inc.  Since that time Microsoft has released version 2.0 of the SDK and PSC has done significant development with it.  Below are some of the mile stones we have reached since the original case study.

At the time of the original case study two report types had been automated to output as PowerPoint presentations.  Now that the all the main products have been delivered we have added three reports with Word document outputs and five more reports with PowerPoint outputs.

One improvement we made over the original application was to create a PowerPoint Add-In which allows the users to tag a slide.  These tags along with the strongly typed SDK 2.0 allows for the code to use LINQ to easily search for slides in the template files.  This allows for a more flexible architecture base on assembling a presentation from copied slide extracted from the template.

The new library we created also enabled us to create two new Word based reports in two weeks.  The library we created abstracts the generation of the documents from the business logic and the data retrieval.  The key to this is the mark up.  Content Controls are a good method for identifying sections of a template to be modified or replaced.  Join this with the concept of all data being generically either scalar or two dimensional and the code becomes more generic.

In the end we found the OOXML SDK 2.0 to be a great tool for accelerating document generation development and creating happy clients. 

Dealing With Table Borders In OOXML

April 5, 2010

Formatting tables in a document programmatically can be a very complex task.  This is the major reason which we start our document generation projects with templates instead of building components in a document by hand.

Borders are on aspect of a table that you may want to fomat.  Borders are used to make certain content in a table stand out.  If you need to conditionally set and remove borders there is something that you need to be aware of.  Even in OOXML you have the concepts of styles, inheriting styles and overriding styles.

When Word defines a table it will reference a global style such as “TableGrid”.  This style will include the borders for the table.  Specifically the InsideHorizontalBorder and InsideVerticalBorder define the borders for the cells.  These can be overridden by the TableCellBorders collection of a particular cell.  Adding a double right border on a cell is as easy as the couple of lines of code below.

wordprocessing.TableCellBorders borders = new wordprocessing.TableCellBorders();

borders.RightBorder = new RightBorder(){Val = BorderValues.Double, Color = "000000", ThemeColor = ThemeColorValues.Text1, Size = (UInt32Value)4U, Space = (UInt32Value)0U };

cell.TableCellProperties.Append(borders);

If I want to revert back to the table’s style for cell borders I simply need to remove all children from the TableCellBorders collection.  It is like removing a class identifier from a TD tag in HTML.  The style in the parent object takes back over.

With the knowledge of how the borders work you can take the concept and apply it to other effects of styles.