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PlanetPress Connect 2019.1 new features summary

Original Author: Colin Casey

Introduction

PlanetPress Connect (“Connect”)  2019.1 is the first release for 2019 and whilst it includes hundreds of bug fixes and improvements this article highlights some of the new features  available. For a detailed overview of the new features and enhancements in Connect 2019.1 go over the Release Notes here

Project Wizards

Project Wizards are a new feature that creates building blocks to kick-start your project and provide samples to
explain Connect concepts. A Project Wizard generates a pre-configured Workflow configuration and optionally
deploys the accompanying Connect Templates, Data Mapper configs, Job Presets and Output Presets. The result
of Project Wizard is a folder containing these resources and a workspace folder ready for you to use.
Connect 2019.1 comes with the following Project Wizards:

  • Print Promotional Jobs, see how the All In One step is used to create a batch of personalized letters.
  • Print Transaction Jobs, create print content once and use multiple Create Output tasks to generate various print output variants.
  • Serving a basic Webpage, learn how to serve and personalize a simple web page using Connect Workflow.
  • Submitting data with Webforms, illustrates how to serve multiple web pages using a single Workflow process. In addition it stores submitted data in the Data Repository.
  • Basic email setup, use a Connect Workflow to send a email messages. Attachments are added based on a static PDF stored with the template and pre-rendered PDFs store on disk are attached based on the provided sample data.
  • Capture OnTheGo Timesheets, a set of Workflow processes to deploy and serve COTG Timesheet forms. Additional processes capture the submitted data and illustrate how this information can be stored in JSON, XML and PDF format. The PDF is generated by merging the data with a Connect template.
  • Check out the Project Wizard sneak peek article for more information on these new wizards.

Create multilingual Connect templates

A multilingual Connect template can handle content and static text elements in more than one language. Traditionally this is solved by creating a template or section for each language variants. This approach complicates content updates and template maintenance. Alternatively one can create JSON snippets holding the translated strings and create User Scripts to apply these strings to the sections and snippets. This requires you to implement the required scripting logic and in both scenarios there isn’t an optimal workflow to get the strings translated by a translator.

The Translation feature in Connect Designer 2019.1 simplifies this process and introduces options to export translation strings in a standardized file format known by translators and their software. Connect Designer let’s you import translated string files using drag & drop and applies the translations based on the current locale. The locale can be explicitly set for the template or dynamically defined by the value of a data field. The Translation feature also handles pluralization of strings without you having to write a single line of code.

Read the Creating multilingual Connect templates article for more information about this feature.

Script debugger

When developing complex Connect templates the User Scripts typically grow in number and complexity. You may encounter situations where they not always do what you expected them to do. This means you will need to debug the scripts by tracing script execution and figure out the state of local and global variables.

A common technique is to write information to the Messages view using the logger.info() command or to temporarily write information to the section using for example results.after(). This can be a tedious process and requires you to clean up the code after the debug session.

The Script Debugger feature in Connect Designer 2019.1 makes this process way easier and will save you a lot of time. The debugger provides options to step through code (e.g. execute code line by line), add breakpoints to pause execution at strategic points and it shows the state of local and global variables. The main template editor displays the partially merged document up to the point where the script is paused.

Read the Debugging User Scripts article

Misc enhancements to the Template Designer

  • Misc Send to Workflow/Package dialog enhancements: remember recently used presets, quick filter to the Select Preset dialog.
  • An new option was introduced to disable editing Shared Content items in Design and Preview mode. This prevents the user from accidentally modifying the respective content.
  • Hyperlinks in PDF output can point to locations in the same document (e.g. internal/local links).
  • New barcode symbology: Japan Post Barcode.
  • Copy the location of snippets and images via the contextual menu of the Resource pane, so they can be pasted in scripts to simplify using these resources in scripts.
  • Conditional Scripts now use the ID and classes of an element for it’s selector.

e-Invoicing and PDF/A-3 support

e-Invoicing standards are emerging more and more across the globe, are seeing more use, and are increasingly being required. A number of these require PDF/A-3 with a standards conforming XML attached in a specific way. To play into this field, we have added support for PDF/A-3 to Connect’s Output Creation. In addition, Connect Workflow now has a task for adding attachments to PDF/A-3 files, which can also add the metadata required by some known standards.

The PDF meta data for Germany’s ZUGFeRD 1.0, and the German/French Factur-x 1.0 (also known as ZUGFeRD 2.0) are supported, so, provided you have created a conforming XML file, the task will combine that with a PDF/A-3 file into a file conforming to those standards out of the box. Other standards that are based on the same principle can be handled as well, but will require some scripting or customization.

PDF-a-3
Apart from e-Invoicing, PDF/A-3 attachments can also be used for other applications. For instance, a PDF/A-3 file could have the Word file attached from which it was created. This allows what is known as hybrid archiving.

The PDF/A-3 attachments task requires the Imaging license.
The PDF/A-3 support in Output Creation is a standard feature that does not require additional licensing.

 

Filtering in Job Creation

Filtering in Job Creation has been enhanced with more features, and its user interface has been overhauled. New
functionality includes:

  • filter content items by number of sheets (instead of pages) – which is better suited for filtering what fits an envelope or inserter machine than using the number of pages,
  • the use of content item properties in filter rules – allowing more flexibility because these properties can be set during content creation, or from Workflow, and they can be set after data mapping has taken place.

The user interface now uses the same rule builder as used for finishing in Job Creation, Dynamic Print Control, and Dynamic AFP metadata.

Output Creation

PDF
New features for PDF output creation can be found on the PDF Options page of the Output Preset/Print Wizard.
These features are explained below.PDF Options

To make room, the user interface for digital signatures was adapted as well.

PDF/A-3 support

As already mentioned in e-Invoicing and PDF/A-3 support, Output Creation can now produce PDF/A-3b conforming files. Compared to PDF/A-1, PDF/A-3 allows things like transparency (basically all PDF 1.7 content), reducing the need for conversions (flattening, rasterization), which is good for performance, file size and quality.

Document properties with dynamic values

For archiving, it can be important to set basic PDF meta data such as title, author, description, and keywords. For instance, our own Digital Imaging task in Workflow needs a proper setting for title. These properties can now all be set from PDF output creation, and you can use variables to set them dynamically. They show up in the Document Properties dialog of Adobe Reader.

Miscellaneous Output Creation improvements

PostScript

More control over PPD options

When working with PPD files to dynamically drive PostScript printers, some printers have fragments called Job Patch Files in their PPD, that are required for the printer to function properly. These are now supported. In addition, certain printers require some options to be in very specific locations in order for them to work properly. To support this, the Dynamic PPD rules now has two groups relating specifically to two of these locations: Prolog, and Setup. These rather technical features allow us to support more PostScript printers than before.

Landscape pages

Although one of the most basic printer operations, PostScript allows one to deal with it in different ways, and certain printers are very specific about what they can and can’t handle. To better deal with these situations, the new Rotate landscape pages feature will rotate the page content of landscape pages, and swap their dimensions to make them appear as portrait pages to the printer while still displaying content in the intended orientation.

Workflow

Office365 Emails

You may now retrieve emails from and send emails through secure online mail servers like Office365 or GMail. Different encryption methods can be specified, with the default (TLS v1.2) working out of the box with Office365 and Gmail. The Input task’s behaviour is slightly different from that of the standard email Input task, but it still allows you to filter messages based on several criteria and access both the body and the attachments of email messages.

More details on the new Secure Email Input/Output tasks can be found here

Data Repository Manager

The user experience in the data repository manager has been greatly enhanced to allow users to easily add, edit and delete Groups, Keys and Keysets. Distinct shortcuts for adding each type of element have been implemented, while deleting items is much less cumbersome.

Initial Configuration
Prevent operator mistakes by setting a new preference that instructs the Workflow Configuration tool to launch without loading the current configuration file. Too often, changes are made to the default configuration when the user meant to make changes to the saved version of the config, in order to test it first before putting it into production. With this option, the operator will have to specifically pick which configuration file is being edited.

Identify tasks at a glance
Personalise your Workflow configuration through color-coding! As Configurations become more complex, highlighting critical tasks is a recommended method for calling attention to them. With version 2019.1, you can now specify a different highlight color for each task. You can define personalised color schemes where, for instance, Scripts are always highlighted in red, or where each Send To Folder task uses a different color, based on its destination folder.

DataMapper

Grouping and sorting the data model
Work more efficiently by personalising your view of the Data Model. Group fields and tables into related sets and subsets, then sort them into any order you want so that important items are at the top of the list, where you can see them instantly, while less important items can be positioned at the bottom. The personalised view can be different in each Config and you can even have a distinct view of the same data model in the Designer.
Find items quickly
Large data mapping configs can be difficult to navigate. With version 2019.1, a filtering option in the Data Model view allows you to quickly search for any field, table or group name. Furthermore, the Steps view allows you to quickly find all the steps whose name contains a search string, allowing you to then navigate from one match to the next.
A fresh – and fast – look
Work faster with the redesigned Steps view. Solid lines have replaced the dotted lines for linking all steps and the display speed of the drawing canvas has been greatly improved. No more jerky scrolling through large configurations: the new Steps view will let you glide from top to bottom with ease.
XML-specific improvements
Displaying and navigating large records in the DataMapper is no longer a tedious experience. The XML Viewer has been completely rewritten to use the same display technology that the Text Viewer uses, yielding the same performance. You can go from top to botton, and then back up to the top in the blink of an eye! But XML performance improvements are not only apparent in the GUI: the actual processing time of XML data streams, particularly those containing large individual records, has been greatly enhanced.

More details on DataMapper improvements can be found here 

Miscellaneous

Update Client
To simplify the management of software updates, a new version of the OL Update Client will be released prior to the release of Connect 2019.1. This update will allow you to see exactly to which version of Connect your license entitles you to upgrade and will take care of automatically retrieving and installing a new license for you.

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