CYBRA Completes Forms Journey with MarkMagic 8
July 24, 2012 Alex Woodie
The general availability of MarkMagic 8 this month marked the end of a journey for CYBRA, which several years ago had embarked on an ambitious plan to overhaul its label and forms management software for IBM i and open-system servers. The Yonkers, New York, company has implemented all of the features it originally set out to develop when it began its “black-belt challenge of conditional printing,” say company executives, who may next tackle world peace.
It all started years ago when two CYBRA employees called on one of the biggest AS/400 customers at the time. “We dreamed up the world’s most unbelievable labels/forms document possible,” the customer told the CYBRA developers, according to CEO Harold Brand. “If you can do this, you’d own the marketplace.”
Since then, that three-page document has been the blueprint that guides development of MarkMagic. “Some of the stuff was about as impossible as you can imagine,” Brand tells IT Jungle. “It took us a few years, and we’ve done it piece by piece. But in every one of the versions we’ve implemented over the last four to five years, each one has had a piece of that blueprint. The last finishing touches are found in this version. We’ve completed the blueprint, finally.”
Components of the blueprint were evident in previous versions, including the 2009 release of version 7, which added the PrintTransformer option and the Print Monitor, which debuted with version 6.1. With the launch of Mark Magic version 8 features such as calculation groups and floating footers, the blueprint has been completed, the prophecy fulfilled.
“It was the black-belt challenge of conditional printing, the Holy Grail,” says vice president of solutions Sheldon Reich. “Not only are we throwing in some data and merging it, but we’re doing lookups from other places, doing all the substitutions on the fly–substituting the design, substituting the graphics, with all these nested conditions. That’s where this new version shines.”
The new software will make it much easier to manage today’s complex labeling requirements, the company says. Instead of trying to juggle all of the different labels that a company might have to deal with–such as packing slips, return labels, carrier-specific labels–the customer is able to work with a single label with borderline supernatural powers.
“It’s one label, and we are able to make the fields appear and disappear and move around just by conditioning whether these fields appear or not,” Reich says. “Now all the customer has to worry about his UPS label, and that UPS label can support 2nd Day, Ground, or whatever the different classes of service are.”
The days of spending thousands of dollars developing dedicated form overlays for every possible combination of labels are over, according to CYBRA.
“With MarkMagic 8, it does it on the fly,” Reich says. “The real leap, which was in version 7 and enhanced in version 8, is to be able to have a spool file, and do a lookup based on information in the spool file, and pull data from a physical or logical file. We’re crossing every data type and platform.”
The new calculation groups and floating footers (or “clamped footers”) functions put more power in the hands of the forms designer. Even if the original spool file didn’t include an order total, for example, the calculation groups function allows that to be added, without programming. Similarly, the floating footers function lets designers add just about any data type to any part of a label or document. PrintTransformer also gets a new “last page” parameter that adds an extra page to the end of a print run, which is an easy way to add legal terms.
One of CYBRA’s biggest challenges while fulfilling its blueprint requirements was keeping things simple. Other forms management vendors (like JetForm, Brand says) offered very advanced capabilities, but the level of technical skill and training required were major turnoffs to the customers. With the enhancements to the JMagic designer with version 8, even advanced tasks can be completed relatively easily.
“The real struggle over the years was that, even though we felt we could do the programming, the UI would get so complicated that it would mess up what had been the elegance of our design all along,” Brand says. “We didn’t want to mess up that UI and to do powerful stuff, and we didn’t want to end up with a product that you had to go to class for three days to learn. We wanted it to remain intuitive and be powerful at the same time.”
Those twin goals were successfully achieved, says CYBRA vice president of operations Chuck Roskow. “You can take the most simple spool file or database file–anything that the customer has been using for the last 15 years–and you can do anything you want to it, seriously, without any programming,” he says. “It’s amazing. I get excited every time I talk about it. There’s like nothing you can’t do with it, and there’s zero programming.”
To top it all off, MarkMagic 8 includes several other significant features, including new RFID capabilities, Java-on-IBM i performance enhancements, generation of QR (quick response) labels, and support for a new two-sided printer.
On the RFID front, the new Quick Comply RFID option is designed to help manufacturers start generating item-level RFID tags in a jiffy. Presented with just a UPC code, MarkMagic will parse that code, and automatically generate a unique serial number for each product. It will do this, automatically, without programming, Roskow says. It doesn’t offer the full lifecycle RFID tracking of CYBRA’s EdgeMagic product, but it’s a good start for those companies that are unsure how to begin.
On the Java front, Mark Magic now automatically keeps the JVM loaded in memory whenever the product is working, which will improve the product’s performance in batch runs, particularly on older IBM midrange machines. In past versions, the JVM on the IBM i version (CYBRA offers two versions: a pure Java version for open systems and an IBM i version with Java and RPG bits) would continually start up and shut down during batch runs, which hurt performance. Keeping the JVM on all the time will speed Java-based tasks, such as generating PDFs.
MarkMagic version 8 is now available. CYBRA offers two IBM i versions: one that runs on the IBM i 6.1 and 7.1, and one for older releases of i5/OS. The company recently recorded a webinar on the new release, which can be accessed on its website at www.cybra.com.