APEX is well known for his RAD solution and the no-extra cost factor: APEX makes it possible to build on time and within budget your database application for the web. But an application is more then building pages for CRUD operations. Very often you also need to generate well looking documents. And this is standard not possible with APEX. A pity! Within the Oracle world, Bi Publisher is by far the best solution. But from the pricing point of view, it does not really fit in the ‘cheap’ philosophy of APEX. Further, you can also look for Open Source solutions like Jasper Reports and Birt. Both have a community version that you may use for free.
Nevertheless, we decided to build our own tool. During the presentation at APEX World of last week, organized by OgH, we explained how we came to this decision. On different projects at the Flemish Government we always had the business requirement to generate output for MS-Word (.docx). We first tried to solve this requirement with Jasper Reports. This was fine for simple letters. But the end-user also wanted to change some of those documents after generation … and that was not so easy to do with the output created by Jasper.
So the idea for an own “document generator for Oracle” was born. The main objective was trying to bring some of the better features of other tools together in one solution:
- Separation of data retrieval and document layout. The layout is template driven: your template is a MS Word document (.docx). This leaves the possibility open to involve business users in the design and build of the desired output.
- Simple, easy and light: we want the solution to be as much as possible in the database, in PL/SQL, with no extra software on a middle-tier
- Metadata driven and nice user interface to manage those data
- Integration in your application via a PL/SQL API. This application may be developed in the technology of your choice. We use it initially in APEX projects, but it can be integrated in any tool that can do a PL/SQL call (Oracle Forms, any java solution, Formspider, …)
Our custom solution evolved well: we already used it successfully in different projects. Therefor, we decided to make it available for the world and packaged the solution in a tool with the name Docufy. You can find more information on the Docufy-site or you may always send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
we proceed on the APEX philosophy,
there where APEX it self stops:
easy and quick generation of operational documents.