SpoolFlex's ability to convert spool files into native Excel spreadsheet format with predictable results impresses even the most seasoned IT pros.
SpoolFlex from DRV Technologies is a tool for converting and distributing reports, or spool files, that makes children's play out of formatting report data into Excel. Unlike outputting to a comma-delimited file, when a report is converted directly into Excel's XLS format, report headers are in the right place, lines break where they are supposed to, and output retains the crisp formatting that was always intended.
The fact is, people waste a lot of paper, and pre-printed forms aren't cheap. Developing your own form layouts with FormFlex and mailing them out with SpoolFlex instead of snail mailing them turns out to be fairly easy. A few test runs, and you're developing new forms in the blink of an eye; pretty soon it becomes second nature. The Accounts Receivable department also appreciates having customer invoices, normally sent by regular mail, now emailed or faxed instantaneously. This increases the chance the company will be paid earlier. It also is a more accurate form of delivery.
Apart from offering conveniences to the IT department of not having to load and unload pre-printed forms into the printer, electronic forms distribution is one of the best ways in today's tight economic climate to save your company money. Installations of almost anyone's electronic forms distribution product pay for themselves within the first year. After that, it's all gravy. With the increase in energy costs—and the run-up in the price of paper—everyone today is wracking their brains trying to figure out how to save money and increase efficiency.
SpoolFlex, first released in 2003, has undergone constant updates at a rate of one or more per month since it first came out, according to the company. Currently at V4.98, a major new release—V5—will be released before year end, according to Christopher Burns, DRV sales manager. SpoolFlex is part of a suite of tools that includes FormFlex, ReportFlex, and MessageFlex.
"We hope to release V5.0 of SpoolFlex before the end of the year, and there will be some great new features," says Burns. "As with all previous releases, customers on maintenance will get the upgrade at no additional cost," he says.
Perhaps one of the most intuitive document management solutions for IBM i on the market today, the DRV Flex series suite of tools is also one of the most cost-efficient. "We're not the least expensive product of our type in the market, but we offer among the best value with our flat-rate pricing model that doesn't take into account server size or number of LPARS," says Burns. "It generally ends up costing the client 30–50 percent less with DRV," he says.
Often working hand in glove with FormFlex, which allows business users to design their own invoice, purchase order, and electronic fax forms, SpoolFlex may require the knowledgeable hand of IT for setting up distributions, but even users with limited technical skills can use it, making the IT staff's job just a little easier.
Instead of manually tweaking a report each time to get it to behave for eager users, you can sit back and relax while the report is formatted automatically. Excel reports convert with uncanny predictability and report headings hold few surprises despite an advanced level of complex formatting features including color. Administrators can convert spool files to electronic formats including Excel (XLS), PDF, RTF (Word), HTML, CSV, TXT, and XML. You can email or post reports directly on the server for easy access by users, and no programming is required.
There are numerous options for bursting and routing that require no programming. For instance, you could provide a daily report to the sales department and burst the report into smaller ones for individual users. You could send reports by email as attached PDFs, or you can even include the report in the form of a dynamic link within the body of the email, saving huge amounts of network bandwidth. The latest release will even import the spooled data into the body of the email resembling a spreadsheet.
The 100 percent native IBM i SpoolFlex can be menu-driven and scheduled or, depending on the market, can even be integrated into a custom program with embedded APIs. With it, you can send out invoices and purchase orders in electronic form and then shoot one over to yourself just for good measure.
DRV Technologies prides itself on its excellent technical support, and techs have been known to help users create their own templates in SpoolFlex, of course at no charge. "We put the customer ahead of profits," says Burns, summing up the company's commitment to provide value in a competitive marketplace.
SpoolFlex works on versions of IBM i 7.1 and earlier OS versions back to V5R1. The solution has been picked up by a broad array of industries—from government to manufacturing to distribution to healthcare.
"People rave about its conversion capabilities to Excel, and they are delighted with the company's technical support," says Burns, a comment that may be an understatement as we hear that the support team will provide whatever level of handholding the customer needs to get up to speed.
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