X Marks The Spot For CYBRA’s Forms Software
December 14, 2020 Alex Woodie
When it comes to creating forms and labels on the IBM i server, CYBRA’s MarkMagic is one of the most frequently used products in the market, and is used by the biggest companies in consumer goods and retail. With the latest release of MarkMagic X, the company is finding new and creative ways to get additional functionality into the hands of its users.
MarkMagic X, which is also called version 10, introduces a host of new features that have been requested by CYBRA’s sizable installed base. With over 30 years in business, CYBRA has amassed 2,700 customers, including nine of the top 10 apparel companies. For a good idea of who these customers are, consider that CYBRA develops a special version of MarkMagic just for customers of Manhattan Associates, which develops the top-rated warehouse management system for IBM i.
Here are top features in MarkMagic X available for IBM i, as well as new features exclusive to the Platform Independent (PI) version.
Arguably the most compelling new feature in MarkMagic X is the new SQL generation functionality. CYBRA customers can now use SQL to pull data from other databases into a label or form, which is then created and printed from the IBM i server (or the Windows, Linux, or Unix server, if they’re using the PI version of MarkMagic).
CYBRA’s new ODBC database connector can pull data from remote Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server databases into the MarkMagic forms at print time (or when it generates the PDF, if the form or label is to be distributed electronically). That gives MarkMagic customers more freedom and control over how they assemble their forms and labels, says Chuck Roskow, vice president of operations for CYBRA.
“Customers always come up with new ideas,” Roskow says. “We’ve had accounts come to us over the years and say, even in shipping labels, there’s other information – vendor information or manufacturer information — that’s running on a totally different server. If there’s a key, you can go out there and get it based off the order number. But there’s no way to automatically get that without programing.”
MarkMagic X introduces a new drag-and-drop development environment that allows users to create their own SQL statements, which are embedded directly into the form in a non-printable field that is hidden from view. Users don’t have to be technical geniuses to define these SQL statements that get executed at print time. But if they have SQL skills and want to get into more difficult jobs, such as JOINS, they can do that within MarkMagic, too, Roskow says.
“It kind of opens up the world to get data onto your forms [or labels] without any programming, which is a big deal for people like me, because I’m not a programmer,” he tells IT Jungle. “Now all of a sudden, you can do it instantly.”
In a related enhancement, CYBRA has increased the number of fields that a given form or label can have on the IBM i version of MarkMagic to 5,000. Some of its IBM i customers were starting to hit their heads on the previous limit of 1,000 (technically 999). Users of the PI version already had 10,000 fields at their disposal.
“We increased the maximum number of fields to 5,000 fields per format,” says Sheldon Reich, CYBRA’s chief solutions architecture. “Now obviously that’s a critical thing on labeling side. But actually on the form side is where we see the demand.”
It would be rare for a single form to need that many fields, which can hold all sorts of information, not all of which ends up on the actual form or label. Some of the fields can be used for conditional printing, to give the forms software specific instructions about how a particular form or label should be printed.
Where the field expansion will really make a dent is with a master form, which some MarkMagic customers use like a data dictionary. “It contains every possible field you could possibly ever need on any label or form in your company,” Reich says. Whenever a user has a need to print to a particular Zebra printer or a laser printer, it’s already been defined in the master form and the user can simply just call it up.
The new SQL statements that MarkMagic creates also go into these fields. By expanding the number of fields, CYBRA is helping users to get more creative in stringing together the different pieces of data that are needed to support different jobs.
MarkMagic has also expanded the size of text fields in the form or label to 350 characters, which will be useful for including product information or legal information in labels or forms. It also expanded fields sent to PCL5 printers to 350 characters. Previously, the limit was 30 characters, which could be doubled to 60 by assembling two text fields side-by-side (or doing other things with PCL5). In any event, customers won’t have to futz around with any of that anymore.
CYBRA has also added a new PDF merge function to MarkMagic, which will help primarily with collated forms and shipping labels.
It’s not unusual for users to string together multiple forms or labels in a single print job, Roskow says. For example, there could be a packing list and a shipping label included in one print job. But sometimes users ran into problems when the shipping label originated from an external system, such as FedEx or UPS.
“What we’re finding more and more now with COVID and with more e-commerce going on, is where they’re getting the shipping label from FedEx or UPS,” he says. “It’s a beautiful shipping label . . . but there’s no way to combine that with a packing list and make one of these collates.”
So with MarkMagic X, CYBRA is introducing a new feature that allows the user to take that PDF shipping label and convert it to a variable graphic (a PNG file), which is then converted into the target format (usually PCL5) in the printed packet.
“So now you’re combining regular MarkMagic packing list data that you’ve been using all along, along with this outsider PDF of a shipping label that’s now being printed there as part of the format,” Roskow says. “You have one document with everything on it, along with the shipping label that you got from the cloud or from FedEx.”
New Search Functionality
MarkMagic X also includes a new search functionality that will it easier for customers to manage large and complex printing environments.
“People come to us all the time and say ‘I’ve got a couple of hundred label formats and I need to know what’s the impact if I we increase our field length from eight to twelve. Where is this field referenced?'” Reich says. “The system can search across libraries, and it will give you a list of every time you define that field and what its field length is.”
For example, the search function will quickly identified all formats that include a specific PO number or any format that has a particular part number. “This feature lets you find all fields in all formats that contain a character string or an attribute across user libraries,” the company says.
MarkMagic has long been able to watch for a specific spool file to hit the output queue, or to monitor the database for a specific database file, and generate actions (such as kicking off a print job) based on those activities.
With MarkMagic X (or version 10, if you like), the product can now automatically watch the IFS and trigger actions based on what it sees.
Enhanced History Logging
MarkMagic X now keeps a log of what’s going on with the product across, and it tracks, well, everything. “So everything that was printed, the quantity of the label, who called it to print, which library it was coming from,” Roskow says. “That’s all part of the history that can be turned on an off, so you have a granular detail of all the printing that was going on.”
The software also tracks who made changes to formats. It keeps a before-and-after image for each field that is changed, which could be important for compliance purposes.
The PI version of MarkMagic saw several enhancements too. For starters, there’s a new Fusion function that enables users to centralize their form and label database. If they’re running 1,000 instances of MarkMagic to support fast localized printing of labels, for example, now they don’t have to manually update all of those databases when a label or form changes. Those forms can be housed centrally.
CYBRA also bolstered encryption for print jobs sent via the REST API in the PI version. “We’ve enhanced our REST API for printing to encrypt the data, so you can cross system boundaries in a secure fashion,” Reich says. “Again, this is in response to global demand.”
There are several other new items in MarkMagic X. CYBRA covered them all in a webinar last week, which you can replay by visiting the company’s website at www.cybra.com.