In order to simplify the user experience of various CMS platforms for Marketers, developers have to stay up to date with innovative ways to use the latest tools. Sometimes, though, it’s not the newest product, but rather the latest and greatest update to an existing tool that lends itself to new and creative uses.
Aspose is a vendor of file management APIs for various languages, ranging from .NET and Java to Android. One API in particular, Aspose Words, recently received an update that made my creative juices start flowing about new ways to use it.
First, some background
In 2007, Microsoft developed and released the Open XML SDK in order to provide developers with a library to modify the components and content of Open XML documents like Word DOCX files. While it provides a nice library of strongly-typed classes for accessing the pieces that comprise the documents, it really provides a lower-level access into these files for modifying the actual XML package and schema. When working with a CMS website, it’s generally more desireable to work with the content and components inside the document.
Aspose realized a need for higher-level interaction and developed its Words API to do just that. Instead of providing a low-level API to modify the components that make up the OpenXML document, they took it up a notch and delivered an API that allows a developer to perform the more commonly requested tasks. How often have you had a customer request the ability to deliver Word DOCs as PDFs to users? What about generating a print view? Or an image snapshot of the document? Or maybe the customer just needs to update some text across all their documents to match the latest revision.
Aspose developed the Words API to do all of this relatively easily, without diving into the Open XML SDK or documentation. Their latest updates, however, made it even easier to use it a little more creatively.
A unique approach
With the release of Word 2007, Microsoft introduced a new piece of functionality called Content Controls. Among other types, these controls provide Rich Text, Plain Text, Picture, and Date Picker controls that can be added to a Word document. They provide a way to make a Word document a template that can be filled out similarly to Form Controls, but are easier to use. Each one supports properties specific to the control type, but all support a title and tag field.
One of the latest updates for Aspose Words updated the support for finding Content Controls by a title or tag, and enabled easy modification of the contents. With this functionality, Word documents can serve as an easy way for a Marketer – familiar with Microsoft Word, but still learning a CMS – to add content to a system. While CMS’ differ, Microsoft Word stays familiar enough, even across versions, to provide a simplified experience for Marketers; a goal CMS developers are tasked with on a continual basis.
To elaborate on this idea, imagine the following examples:
- A Word document could be created with Content Controls in it to serve as a familiar template which any Marketing person could fill out. Then, a service or application utilizing the Aspose Words library could be used to read the content into your system. You could utilize the title or tag properties of the Content Controls in MS Word for the custom service to find the controls and extract the text and other details. Using whatever API is available, that information could then be imported into your CMS.
- Word documents can serve as template documents for a process where a web page visitor fills out various forms for enrollment in different services. At the end of the process, they are presented with an option to print a Terms and Conditions or Confirmation document. The final Confirmation document is customized with an overview of the information the customer filled out and is presented in a PDF format for them to save or print. The document can be created with Content Controls serving as empty placeholders, each with a specific title, and the Aspose Words API can be used to find the controls and fill in the information according to the user inputs.
The rest of the document can contain images, watermarks, and other standard elements for branding purposes. This would allow all users to receive a standardized document from the business with proper branding and required elements, but with information specific to the user interaction that just occurred. Aspose even supports generating an image of the document in various formats, including PNG, in the event a snapshot would be presented to the user first.
Not just a cool toy
While this might all just sound like some cool round-table discussion topic about interesting ideas about things to “play with,” tools like this actually have greater significance. As a CMS-agnostic developer, it’s important to find ways to increase efficiency and provide positive experiences for all parties involved with a project, no matter what system is being used. Developers familiar with various systems tend to overlook the intricacies that new users or beginners to a system often experience. Simplifying this experience is a key task that must be evaluated and tackled by some means.
As a business deploying new functionality in your organization, it’s important to think about what tools your employees are currently familiar with, and how you can provide a smooth transition to any new systems you deploy. Providing an approach that utilizes those tools your employees are already familiar with is a great way to ease the transition from an old system to a new one.
Facilitating change is one of the most challenging management responsibilities, and it’s one of the most important tasks any CMS developer can take on. Tools like the Aspose Words library can help reduce the difficulties experienced with changes between CMS solutions by providing users more standardized approaches to certain tasks. They are also a great way to provide a simplified experience for more complex applications.
A project that takes advantage of something like the Aspose Words library can provide an edge when it comes to efficiency and user experience. As a business, it’s also a great way to provide something unique to your users to enhance their overall experience.