A Versatile Threader for Spooled Files - Product Review by John Ghrist, Senior Products Editor, iSeries News
One of the most important functions computers fulfill for people is to provide us with enough information to make informed decisions. In the iSeries world, one of the key interfaces for that exchange is the extraction of meaningful reports from spooled files and that information's distribution in useful forms to those who need it. Document management applications provide that interface, and a good archetype of that application genre is BCD International, Inc.'s Catapult.
Catapult is a PC and iSeries client/server application that lets users print, fax, e-mail, publish to the Web, and archive spooled files directly. It also lets users extract reports, or parts of reports, from those files and convert them into different file formats for a variety of uses.
Maintaining Output Control
Users control Catapult's information-extraction features from the Catapult Console, a Windows PC interface, by building selection criteria called "Grab Rules." Grab rules specify which spooled files to download, the distribution means, the recipient(s), and the report format. Users can define Grab Rules using wild card or generic values for any selection criteria. The Grab Rules enable selection criteria based on user ID, job name, spool file name, forms type, user data value, output queue name, or any combination of these necessary to identify files for selection.
The windows presented by the Console for working with rules also feature context-sensitive help on every available option. Using the Catapult Console, users can also preview spool files and track grab-rule execution progress as the Catapult Poller processes them, and it includes options for working with distribution groups and standardized e-mail headers and footers.
After selecting a spooled file, Catapult can distribute reports in a variety of formats (e.g., Adobe PDF, Rich Text Format (RTF), plain text, HTML, TIF) and download reports in data format (all page breaks and blank lines removed), report format (all page breaks and line spacing included), and rich format (including page breaks, line spacing, overprinting, and format tags). It also lets users override page sizes, orientations, margins, and base fonts as needed and enables definition of hyperlink bookmarks and overlays for PDF, RTF, and HTML files.
In addition, Catapult users can download reports and merge them with existing forms (e.g., letterheads, invoices) and distribute AFPDS reports as TIF files to retain their appearance. Finally, Catapult includes iSeries commands that let users select a spool file to distribute immediately. Users can run these commands from a command line or directly embed them in CL programs.
Extracting Report Data
Catapult lets users parse values from your report, such as an e-mail subject or address, or a fax number. You can also set breakpoints in your downloaded reports to split them into sections for e-mailing to different addresses. The e-mail address (or fax number or printer) for each section can be cross-referenced to a distribution group or extracted directly from the report itself. In addition, users can employ split criteria to save portions of the report in different folders on a server.
Once Catapult selects spooled files or reports, it can e-mail them to one or more e-mail addresses, either within the e-mail body or as an attached file depending on the user's choice. Users can also define lists of e-mail addresses, either within the e-mail body or as an attached file depending on the user's choice. Users can also define lists of e-mail addresses (called Groups) and select one of these as the report recipient. Catapult can also compress and encrypt reports in ZIP format before distribution.
Catapult Console lets users control Catapult from a Windows PC
Catapult includes a direct interface to Monarch for EZ-Pickin's, BCD's report-mining tool, which lets Catapult automatically extract and reformat critical data before distributing a report. EZ-Pickin's lets users filter out any set of data from a report and format it for use in other PC applications, such as Excel. EZ-Pickin's also lets users create new reports, charts, or graphs and apply EZ-Pickin's models to a report as it is downloaded to automatically reformat the data before distribution.
Publishing to the Web and Archiving
Catapult also interfaces to Nexus Web Portal, BCD's knowledge management tool. Nexus helps users maintain and manage corporate intranet or Internet sites, for example, by implementing sitewide security, determining an overall look and feel for all pages, providing a Web portal or common launching pad for all pages and applications, and providing value-added features such as calendars and navigation menu trees. Catapult supports Grab Rules that automatically populate the Nexus Enterprise Content Manager to make reports available to all authorized users via a browser. Finally, Catapult can function as an archiving facility. Instead of (or in addition to) e-mailing reports to a server PC as PC files. Grab Rules are flexible enough to let users indicate the PC file name to assign to the report and support embedding of several different values within a file name to make those names unique. Users can even manipulate the replacement values to create uniquely named folders on the server for different iterations of downloaded reports. With its wide range of tools for administrating, parsing, formatting, distributing, and archiving spooled files and reports, Catapult exemplifies the breadth of possible features in a document-management application.
Solution Spotlight is a feature of iSeries NEWS that provides more in-depth coverage of significant iSeries products. Offerings are selected for Solution Spotlight by iSeries NEWS editorial staff, based on staff perception of the product as either new or innovative, or because the product is the subject of extensive discussions in internet forums on iSeriesNetwork.com