CYBRA’s MarkMagic: Not Just for Barcodes Anymore
August 25, 2009 Alex Woodie
CYBRA made its entrance into the world of i OS document management software last week with the debut of MarkMagic 7.0. While CYBRA has traditionally focused MarkMagic on being best-of-breed barcode encoding software for AS/400 shops, version 7.0 sports a number of new features that take aim at users’ wider document needs, including a report writer, a conditional printing component, and a self-service Web portal that allows customers to access pertinent paperwork, all by themselves.
The folks at CYBRA didn’t wake up one morning and say “Hey let’s do document management software.” Instead of revolutionary, the changes in version 7.0 are more evolutionary, and build on past forays into the document discipline, says Harold Brand, president and CEO of the Yonkers, New York, company.
“Over time customers have said ‘We’d love to have the same easy-to-use interface to also do all kind of different forms,'” Brand says. “They encouraged us over the years to add more and more forms functionality. This time we decided to put the bar really high.”
The three major features in MarkMagic 7.0 include FormComposer, a report writing component that’s included with licenses for MarkMagic Enterprise; PrintTransformer, an optional component for conditional printing and dynamic formatting that costs extra; and OnDemand, a Web-based document portal that also costs extra.
As you may have guessed from its name, FormComposer lets the user compose new forms and reports, without programming. The software allows the user to select header and detail files from DB2/400 data, perform basic calculations and field lookups, and define overflow handling, among other functions. FormsComposer runs natively on the i OS server, and is accessed through a graphical user interface.
The primary use for FormComposer is for a circumstance where there is no existing spool file output from an i OS application, Brand says. “Say you don’t have an existing program that produces information, and what you want to do is say, ‘I’ve got a database file here and a database file here. Let me create a brand new report that never existed before.'”
PrintTransformer, on the other hand, is primarily designed to improve upon existing forms or spool file output with the addition of conditional printing functionality.
At its most basic level, conditional printing allows users to control whether the contents of a field are included on a form, label, or report when it is sent to the printer. CYBRA has built upon that core functionality with PrintTransformer to allow any number of cascading events to take place, all based on rules defined in the utility’s graphical user interface.
At runtime, PrintTransformer automatically processes the conditions and rules set by the user. As a result, fields will be dynamically formatted, print instructions will be changed, and print jobs will be burst where each record has its own set of instructions. Even environmental conditions can be factored into the equation, such as time of day or job queue spool file origination.
CYBRA provided several examples of what PrintTransformer can do. Depending on their values, fields can be moved into different areas of the form. Negative values can be printed in red. Graphical elements–such as lines, boxes, graphics, text blocks, barcodes, or even RFID attributes–can be included or excluded, all based on the value of a field. Holiday greetings can be automatically added to business correspondence. Text sizes and fonts can be manipulated–all without programming.
“PrintTransformer is powerful stuff,” Brand says. “We have customers serving multiple companies, or multiple departments within companies, [from the same system]. The invoices need to look a little different depending on this company or that department. Instead of maintaining different, multiple sets of invoices and formats, you can have just one, and that one just transforms itself. Hence the name Transformer.”
Conditional printing has been on CYBRA’s drawing board since Brand started working on MarkMagic in the early 1990s. “I foresaw the ability to do all this stuff, but I knew it would be quite a bit of work,” he says. “We knew how to do the backend. The big challenge all these years was getting the user interface to be slick and simple. About six months ago, the light bulb went on, ‘Holy cow, this is how you do it.’ It gave us the inspiration.”
MarkMagic Version 7.0 also introduces the OnDemand document portal. This Java-based product plugs into WebSphere and Apache, and allows MarkMagic users to set up portals where their customers can search for invoices, purchase orders, and other documents. After entering valid sign-on credentials and finding the pertinent documents, the customer is presented with a PDF version of the document and the option of printing it or having it e-mailed as an attachment. The software can run on the System i server, or any other server that runs DB2, Oracle database, SQL Server, or MySQL.
While the big three features discussed above grab most of the attention with version 7, not to be overlooked is support for double-byte character sets. DBCS support will allow MarkMagic to display languages that require DBCS, including Chinese. With System i sales in China growing, DBCS opens the potential market for MarkMagic.
MarkMagic 7.0 is available now and supports releases of i5/OS up to V5R4. The company simultaneously released MarkMagic 7.5 for IBM i 6.1. Pricing was not disclosed. For more information visit www.cybra.com.