By Benoit Duboc
It all started when we had to replace our contact management system. They system we had was not up to date and we had stability issues due to the number of contacts we had. It was clear we needed to do something. One of the neat features we had in the old application was that, from a contact record, we could start Microsoft Word and start writing a new letter from a company template and the application would transfer contact information into the Word document. Try taking that out of the hands of the end users!
The integration between Notes and Microsoft Office got me thinking: there must be an easy way to integrate both products without having to write tons of OLE (Object Linking & Embedding) code. That's where SWING Office Integrator 3 comes in.
I first read the product description on their Web site (at http://www.swingsoftware.com). In addition to linking Notes to Word, SWING can also link to Excel and integrate all other Office documents, as well as other types of documents. This was great because it offered possibilities for fixing some issues we had in another project. I'll give more details on that later. I then downloaded their sample document library application, which claims to be very easy and demonstrates exactly what the product is doing. I said to myself: "Yeah, yeah, we all heard that one before. We'll see."
A nice surprise
After unzipping the sample document library application and scrolling through the very complete documentation (a PDF file that includes a walkthrough of the sample document library application as well as a complete listing of all the functions/procedures available in SWING), I had my first surprise, and it was a nice one. All elements needed for the integration of Notes and Office were self-contained in a Notes database. This means a client installation on every single PC where the application might be used wasn't necessary. This was a major thing for us, as we have offices across Canada and support varies a lot from one office to another. No DLLs (Dynamic Link Libraries) to install, no additional program running, just plain Notes.
"If you're looking for some integration between Notes applications and Office documents and you want the simplest and fastest solution around, SWING is the product that you definitely need."
I then started working on integrating one of our templates in their sample document library application. The process is fairly simple: you add your template to a Notes document, which resides in a "template" view. Our template was not modified at all, as it already contained the fields needed for a mail merge. In that same Notes document, you match the fields from the Word template and the Notes form you want the data from. Again, all is done in the Notes client, under one Notes document. Could it be simpler? And because all of this is done once in a Notes document, it's a breeze to have "template managers" that will be responsible for matching field names, creating and updating the Office templates. The end users will only have to click the right button from the right Notes document, according to what type of Word document they want to create for a specified contact or list of contacts.