Oops we did it again

This is not a complete overview of “OL Connect”, just my first impressions as I’m trying it out.

20 years back I was so excited, when OL first launched their PlanetPress software, I just couldn’t hide it. PlanetPress gave customers the ease to migrate from “Line Printer” technology to laser and later on to electronic formats.

In the past few weeks, I had the chance to “play” with OL’s new technology called “OL Connect” which has the same principles. This time, we are allowing customers to migrate from a “physical print world” to a more digital way of communicating. The idea behind the change is to bring customers access to the latest communication technologies without having to overhaul their IT infrastructure and helping them better communicate with their customers.  From what I have seen, it’s doing its job.

THE COMPONENTS

Data Mapper

This is a tool only for data manipulation.  In my opinion, a great idea. We separated the data from the form. Now the data architect just needs to tell the form designer how the data is named  i.e. “firstName”, “invoice#”, etc… The designer worries about efficient design, not where or how the data comes from. The data mapper makes uniform dataset wherever the data originates.  So you can extract from multiple sources or different layouts and output in a single format to be used by one or many forms (documents, email, web pages, etc). I was able to create a personalised email and send it different times, using different data sources with no change to my initial email design.

The Designer

PlanetPress Designer was designed to output “physical” pages and with time it added other output such as email, faxes, PDF, etc.  Though, it was always with a “physical page” mentality, using mostly Adobe format (PS  or PDF). You could email your invoices but they were sent in a PDF format.

So the exciting part is that with “OLConnect”, you can now create a document and format it to print (all legacy PlanetPress output formats) PLUS, publish it on the web or as an email. So unless you like wasting time doing the same things over and over it may not sound that exciting but for the operator, that means you just have to design once and that’s it! PlanetPress now will output natively in Postscript to printers, in HTML for web or email output. All under the same hood!

BRINGING SEXY BACK

The technology underlying PlanetPress was PostScript. That’s because 20 years ago PostScript was innovative. Today HTML, Javascript and CSS are what’s sexy so that is what “OL Connect” is built around (Don’t worry it still has PostScript and PDF)

When I say sexy I mean it is widely used and there are tons of expertise in those fields. Design your forms in our GUI and then bring them to another level with an unimaginable number of support found for free on the net.  Still being an open software you can just plugin JavaScript libraries and existing data sources (including flat file i.e. your invoice run). And that’s my favorite part, you still have full control.

Here are a couple things I’ve seen/done:

I couldn’t wait to use “OL Connect“. Whenever there was a chance, I jumped at it. Here are the two I found most exciting:

    • – An email with a link to a personalised web page. From an excel spreadsheet, with a look up in a database “OL Connect”, I was able to create a dynamic and personalised web page where intended users could confirm the information we had was exact.
    • – We also sent out a blog update newsletter.  The newsletter “would” look up the latest articles from our blog and insert an excerpt and added a link to view the full article.

    But what I really feel is great is that “OL Connect” has the same philosophy as before: Use what you have (existing IT infrastructure, databases, etc.). This time around, you can diffuse it with new communication technologies.

    PlanetPress made life easier for users by easing the migration process, giving them control over their existing situation to step from impact printers to laser printers and electronic formats.  And now “OL Connect” does the same. It enables you to explore new technologies (personalized landing pages, personalized print, HTML content email, etc.) with your existing data and IT infrastructure for a new time.

    I hope I expressed my enthusiasm here (even if it is just a quick overview of “OL Connect“) because I believe this is a great product that will truly help business transition to the new era of communication. Let me know if you want more information or have any questions about what’s coming next. I’ll try my best to answer them.