On Some Aspects of Layout Automation and its Supplementation (Part 1)

Component content management systems solve many problems of automatic document production by separating content, structure and layout. Therefore the layout via templates can automatically be added to the layout neutral XML data. So far so good.

Here at SCHEMA, too, we have been telling our customers for the last ten years: “We create a template for PDF and then your document will be produced at the push of a button 100% automatically by the system.”

That is basically correct and many customers who have used 100% PDF creation for years are satisfied. Especially during the last years, however, since the scope of functions of content management systems has become more and more complete, we have come to face rather demanding customers’ ideas, which might be described like this:

“We are looking for a system to collect XML data media-independent. We would like to be able (after training) to create the templates for the 100% PDF production ourselves on a graphic user interface [1]. In order to do so the system needs to have an integrated WYSIWYG layout preview [2] and also create the PDF documents natively, without us having to buy further tools [3]. Additionally we would like to be able to influence specific layouts – not the content – for certain documents (e.g. page breaks and the like), without having to modify the template. I.e. the document must remember these changes for a new creation [4]. All this must operate as integrated in the system as we do not want to create documents that could be changed completely outside the system.”

When you compare the still valid reality with these expectations, that are partly implicitly (as nevertheless ‘normal’) available, a considerable discrepancy between requirement and reality can be detected.

In the following parts of this article I intend to go into the details of these challenges – and how we at SCHEMA handled them.

Part 2:
[1] Challenge: Creating a template on a graphic user interface without programming. Answer: The ST4 Page Layout Designer
[2] Challenge: WYSIWYG preview. Answer: The ST4 Layout Preview.

Part 3:
[3] Challenge: Native PDF creation. Answer: The ST4 PDF Engine
[4] Challenge: Layout modifications differing from the template with ‘memory‘. Answer: The ST4 Layout Recall.

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