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Author Topic: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?  (Read 4055 times)

superboyac

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Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« on: February 23, 2011, 09:52:31 AM »
Often times at work, I'm using a really great tool to help me do something.  Stuff like InfoQube, Mylife Organized, etc.  These programs have beautiful ways of presenting information on the screen.  However, when they export or print, it looks like shit.  And you usually have to take it over to Excel or Word, and do some manual massaging to get it to look halfway decent.  These programs are business type tools, and there's no way to print directly from the program (one-click) and take that paper to a meeting with "important" people because it looks so bad.

Is there a program that can take these exports from software (csv, tab-delimited text files, xml files, etc.) and create a preset rules for that kind of file, and then once the rules are made, you can have a one-click solution to beautiful reports.  Is there anything like that?

I'll give an example of the problem.  the first screenshot below is what the MLO screen looks like.  The second one is what it prints out (there's no way to change it).  How could I possibly take that to a meeting?
screenshot_20110223074904.pngProgram to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
screenshot_20110223075002.pngProgram to beautify crappy exports from other applications?

When that happens, it makes me really torn about wanting to use the program.  I NEED the program because it can do things no other program can do.  On the other hand, I can't share the data with anyone because they expect reports on paper.  So then I have to massage it in another application like Excel.  But it comes to a point where I say F-it, I'll just do the whole thing on Excel.  And then I stop using the program.  Then, developers wonder why they don't have more users.

skwire

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2011, 09:59:57 AM »
I avoid putting in printing options in my apps like the plague.  From a programming standpoint, it's a huge pain in the arse with very little reward.  Mouser and I were talking and, sometimes, the easiest thing would be for the app to dump its data to an HTML table and let a browser handle the printing.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 10:04:04 AM by skwire »

40hz

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2011, 10:04:47 AM »
You could copy to the clipboard, run PureText on it (which would strip out all the junk) and then paste in back into something like Word.

Once there, it should be relatively easy to create macros or a script to prettify it. I do this with a few things I'm responsible for where it's not worth the effort to pursue a more complex solution.

Not ideal, but it will give you something to use in the interim. Plus, copying to the clipboard gets around the hassles of trying to reverse engineer proprietary file formats so you can get at the underlying data.

timns

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2011, 10:06:05 AM »
If MLO outputs XML, you can use XSL to turn it into any layout you like. With some effort, of course. No doubt there are folks on here who can help. There's also some pretty good software out there that can get you started.

Stylus Studio springs to mind.

If you have CSV I would say some pretty simple regex to split up the lines and add some formatting would not be too bad either.

Lastly of course you could request someone on here to write something for you.

f0dder

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2011, 10:16:01 AM »
Personally I'd rather take #2 to a meeting than #1 - the formatting is less than optimal, but it doesn't have the "color puke explosion" nastiness of #1 :)

Anyway, sure, if you can export to a sane, well-structured format (XML, CSV, whatever) it's definitely possible to write an auto-formatter. For XML, it might be as simple as defining a stylesheet.
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bob99

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2011, 10:22:11 AM »
You could copy to the clipboard, run PureText on it (which would strip out all the junk) and then paste in back into something like Word.

Once there, it should be relatively easy to create macros or a script to prettify it. I do this with a few things I'm responsible for where it's not worth the effort to pursue a more complex solution.

Not ideal, but it will give you something to use in the interim. Plus, copying to the clipboard gets around the hassles of trying to reverse engineer proprietary file formats so you can get at the underlying data.

I have done similar using Notepad++.  Pasted to it, run a pre-defined macro to clean it up and add delimiters if necessary then copy/paste into a pre-defined Word or Excel document/template.  It took a little front-end work setting up the macros and template but from then on it works smoothly.  And the more times I do it the easier and faster it goes.

AndyM

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2011, 10:23:04 AM »
If you want to print what's in a window on the screen, even if it needs to be scrolled, you could use SnagIt.  I think Mouser's Screenshot Captor might do the same thing.  This is far more selective than Prt-Screen but the printing options are still limited.  In SnagIt you can expand the shot and then either print it or print to a pdf.  It has the advantage of being simple and quick, no reformatting even if you want to.

If printing a scrollable window is more limited than what you are looking for, then never mind ;)

superboyac

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2011, 11:41:05 AM »
Personally I'd rather take #2 to a meeting than #1 - the formatting is less than optimal, but it doesn't have the "color puke explosion" nastiness of #1 :)

Anyway, sure, if you can export to a sane, well-structured format (XML, CSV, whatever) it's definitely possible to write an auto-formatter. For XML, it might be as simple as defining a stylesheet.
Sorry buddy.  I don't know if you are speaking hypothetically or what, but if I took that to a meeting and showed it to people, I would be "talked to" afterward.  The colors are not for aesthetics.  I've colored things like that so they draw the eye to the appropriate places.  And I wouldn't show that in a meeting either.  I'd use softer earth tones that are more beautiful to look at.

I was thinking that what I really want is like a Crystal Reports type of application.  Or SQL Server Reporting Services.  Or something like that.

kfitting

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2011, 11:45:52 AM »
Quote
the easiest thing would be for the app to dump its data to an HTML table and let a browser handle the printing.

I disagree... I am amazed at how poor IE and Opera printing is.  I know, why would anyone want to print a webpage?  But a lot of PDF converters are just printers... many times I'm not making a hard copy, just saving to PDF and it looks like crap.  Opera's functionality feels like it's going backwards and IE's just never really matured in configurability.

I wish what you said was true, it certainly would make things nice, but I dont see it yet.

cmpm

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2011, 12:02:11 PM »
MyLife Organized says you can Sync to Outlook in the features.
Try printing from there and see how it looks.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 12:13:01 PM by cmpm »

Armando

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2011, 12:34:53 AM »
In theory, I like timns' solution. However, Stylus Studio -- even if great -- is at least 99 $... A tad expensive if all you want is to a few xml exports here and there. I also wonder how much energy and learning it would take to learn XML's basics and design nice templates in Stylus. It doesn't seem that hard, but... all that is very relative.

superboyac

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2011, 12:44:30 AM »
In theory, I like timns' solution. However, Stylus Studio -- even if great -- is at least 99 $... A tad expensive if all you want is to a few xml exports here and there. I also wonder how much energy and learning it would take to learn XML's basics and design nice templates in Stylus. It doesn't seem that hard, but... all that is very relative.
Thanks Armando and timns.  I went to Stylus Studio's and couldn't really tell what it did (too much corporate jargon nonsense).  It sounds it can take xml files, and you can use the program to manipulate it and get it looking good.  Then, I'm assuming you can save whatever configuration you did, and keep using it for other exports from each particular program.  That's cool!  If it can do it, it would be worth the $100, which is not too bad.  I know I'd be more than happy to pay for it if it could do that.

It sounds similar to Crystal Reports.  I just hope it's easier to use, and just not a headache like CR.

Curt

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2011, 05:17:11 AM »
I simply cannot understand why it isn't good enough for you to merely print the screen. It doesn't get more wysiwyg than that. Your first screenshot is my only prove. Please forgive me for being a slow thinker!

Shades

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2011, 08:21:41 AM »
In theory, I like timns' solution. However, Stylus Studio -- even if great -- is at least 99 $... A tad expensive if all you want is to a few xml exports here and there. I also wonder how much energy and learning it would take to learn XML's basics and design nice templates in Stylus. It doesn't seem that hard, but... all that is very relative.

The emphasis is mine. XML does not look that impressive when learning it, but that is deceptive. Proper XML + XSD is a lot harder than it looks...at least when communicating database content with SAP software.

Maybe it is different with beautifying output but I would not get my hopes up too high. Then again, I do not have any experience with both Stylus and CR, so it is quite possible that my fear inspiring text is simply solved by a wizard in Stylus or CR.

timns

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2011, 11:51:57 AM »
Shades: yes, although it sounds like you're doing some pretty hardcore coding if you're dealing with SAP: the very mention of which fills me with terror.

Superboyac - if it's just one or two templates that you need, it would be reasonably easy to create you a sample from which you could get a good kick-start. Once you see how to do the basics, the formatting etc. would be up to you, and very similar to creating an html page.

Armando

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Re: Program to beautify crappy exports from other applications?
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2011, 01:55:39 PM »
Shades' emphasis is appropriate as this is exactly what I meant : maybe too much work for not much result. Certainly not a 20/80 situation.  :)

If it can be  done relatively fast with little XML and features learning and only a few templates, cool, as timns says. Otherwise... Not so sure. of course, I'd be the kind of person choosing the 105/90 solution, but I consider that a problem.

(Note that AndyM's idea could work too, depending on what you want exactly... But you probably already tried that over and over.)