DataMapper: not the Top 5 list!

So the other day Nancy comes up to me and asks if I’d like to write a new article about the Connect DataMapper. Something like ‘the 5 reasons why the DataMapper will change your life’, you know?, she said.

Only 5?!?, I replied somewhat brashly as she turned away, already running off to some other exciting adventure in Objectif Lune land. She briefly glanced back at me with a smile: that’s the spirit!, she said. And then she was gone. That’s what she does, incidently: poof, she appears, says something, then poof and she’s gone again.

Five reasons… Piece of cake! I’ll be done with the article in 20 minutes and I then can run off to my own next exciting adventure.

Now here I sit 4 hours later, no closer to having a blog article. It’s just impossible for me to pick out the five killer items that make the Connect DataMapper the best invention since sandpaper (some people still wrongly believe Man’s greatest invention was the wheel, but back in 20,000 BC, someone first had to invent sandpaper in order to smooth that big chunk of rock into what would eventually become the first wheel, right?).

Because there are just too many great things

It’s not that I’m lacking in arguments, mind you. In fact, it’s just the opposite: I have too many that come to mind. But Nancy said 5 reasons. Easy for her to say… I mean, if I just limited my article to analyzing and extracting data from PDF files, I would already have trouble singling out the features that make the DataMapper stand head and shoulders above anything else. This thing can literally jump from one occurrence of a specific word or mask to the next, extract chunks of data as whole paragraphs or as single lines, determine if PDF/VT metadata is present and use it automatically, loop through side-by-side columns, and what not.

Data is only one aspect

But if I only stick to PDF files, that means I won’t be able to explain how the DataMapper loves XML files and how impossibly easy it is to loop through items and extract the relevant pieces of information, regardless of the encoding, regardless of the structure.

And what of basic text files? How can I NOT mention that preprocessors can be used to massage their contents into a palatable form or remove unwanted binary escape codes from them? And what about database queries? And Excel files? And PCL files! Oh, and I almost forgot: you can even feed the DataMapper an AFP file and it will allow you to extract its data AND its metadata.

For the Automation junkies

But those are just file formats, right? It could be argued that I may be the only person alive who gets excited about those. Fine, suit yourself, you don’t know what you’re missing. But perhaps I should look elsewhere for my top 5 features. Maybe I should target the automation experts and tell them that any information they want can be passed from the Workflow tool to the DataMapper in addition to the file to be processed, allowing the DataMapper to tailor its extraction process according to that information.

Is it just me or is JavaScript the bestest?

Or maybe I should focus on the geeks like me out there and explain that standard JavaScript programming can be used anywhere in the data mapping process, that a series of Connect-specific API objects and method are published to the JS engine, that pre/post processors can be full JS applications?

*sigh* … What am I supposed to do?!?

You know, my good friend Erik is in charge of the Designer portion of Connect and I think it’s safe to say he’s at least as childishly excited about it as I am about the DataMapper. But Erik’s got the easy job: his module is sexy. He will woo you with colors and fonts and images and styles and wraparound features and widow/orphan stuff and thingamajigs that go whizzz, paffff, bang! He’s like a movie agent for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie while I work for Woody Allen and Meryl Streep.

Would anyone in their right mind mandate Erik to single out the top 5 features of the Designer? I think not! So why ask me then? He probably already said no and I became Nancy’s only alternative. *sigh again*

Yup, just as sexy as the Designer

And by the way: the DataMapper can also do some pretty fancy visual stuff of its own, you know. For instance,  it can easily extract – or create – HTML code and store it into a variable field; so later, when you map that field onto your document template, it will already be formatted. So your design could conceivably be embedded inside your data. Now how’s THAT for sexy?

Still, would that specific feature alone make it into my top 5? Probably not.

So that’s it. I give up, Nancy. I will not be writing the next blog article about the DataMapper’s top 5 features.

Go ask Erik. HA!

P.S. I am adding this after Nancy reviewed and accepted my submission. The text is mine, the headlines are hers.

Notice how she added exactly five of them. I’m just saying…