Automate your documents with XML

XML

To the layperson, it may sound like the latest dance craze, but to seasoned IT pros, the term ‘XML’ is nothing new. In the computer world, XML has been a commonly used markup language for years, and it's a handy tool for sending different kinds of data (especially in large volumes). But let’s start from the beginning! What is XML, and why should you work with it?

XML: what is it?

XML is short for eXtensible Markup Language. Quite a mouthful. But if you ask us, that information isn’t really important. What do you need to know about XML? You need to know what it does and how it can help you in your work life. Trust us, once you see what it can do, you’ll never want to use anything else ;).

XML is a markup language used to retrieve, transfer, write and export data. Put simply, XML lets you export and use large files full of data in a variety of ways. XML is platform-independent, so any program can read the data (if it’s designed to). This means you can use XML to merge all kinds of information from different channels into a single source. When you generate and format data in your own system with XML, it’s easy to integrate this data into other systems, regardless of the operating system. This is ideal because then you have all your data in a single location.

An example: the electronic health record

One good example of XML optimization would be an electronic health record. Practically every medical specialist works with them. What is distinctive about these electronic records is that the information can come from just about anywhere. With your permission, your GP enters your visits and medical developments to your record, but any specialists in hospitals that you're referred to also add their findings and developments. The purpose of this record is to allow medical specialists (who have permission) to view each other’s information so that they can provide you with the best possible care. We could delve deeper into the technology, but we won’t do that here. It’s just good to know that it’s XML that allows all of your data to be merged in an electronic file.

The most popular kid in class

It’s for good reason that XML has become one of the leading technologies for exchanging data. The technology is widely deployable with a variety of uses in all sectors. It has now become the most commonly used standard for data exchange between systems. It's no surprise, then, that SmartDocuments has welcomed and deployed this technology with open arms. After all, document automation can’t manage itself ;).

XML for document creation

XML plays a major role in document creation. It's the XML feature that ensures document automation. The software uses XML to allow you to personalize documents. At SmartDocuments, we put XML fields in our templates. These fields contain a ‘question’. The answers to these questions are available in the organisation’s database. With the push of a button, the XML technology links these answers to the right fields in the template. This means you don’t have to manually enter the fact that Ms Smith lives at number 55 and was born on 6 October 1975. XML automatically fills all of this in for you. This greatly reduces the error-sensitivity of your document creation process. Does this mean that you'll never have another error in your outgoing correspondence? While we can’t answer that with a simple ‘yes’, an error can only pop up in your document if the data in the database are incorrect.

The XML module from SmartDocuments

You get it now—at SmartDocuments, we know how to use XML. We couldn’t do without it, and we wouldn’t want to either. It makes communicating with others that much quicker and easier, making life a little less complicated. Okay, that may be stretching it a little. But we do believe in the power of XML. Our XML module is one of the most popular modules we offer. It automatically integrates data from outside sources into your documents. This could be basic details like your client’s name, address and date of birth, or information such as the current rent arrears for that client, or other personal details stored somewhere in a database.

Want to chat about what XML could do for your organization? We'll be happy to hear from you. Please contact us for a free consultation!

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