Paperless

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The Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust was making 36,000 photocopies of application documents every year. Today, these documents are collated into an epub file and distributed via the internet to iPads. In the process we’ve saved a forest and many hours of administrative effort, as well as improving accessibility for Committee and Board members. We call the solution Paperless, and we’re very proud of it.
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The project

The client wanted Board and Committee members to view meeting documentation electronically, and had decided on iPads as the preferred technology. ELSEAPPS was asked to design a solution which would convert large numbers of documents in a variety of formats into a single download for offline use.

We proposed epub, which combines multiple documents into a single umbrella file with excellent internal linking and effective rendering on any screen size. We leaned towards a web based solution, but Microsoft Office documents proved difficult. Instead, we developed native Windows software that logs into the server to download the documents and upload the output file.

Paperless converts MS Office documents, all image types, plain text, comma-separated spreadsheets and PDFs. Where extracted content from a PDF isn’t optimal, there’s an option to reconvert it as a single image per page.

Log in

loginThe application uses existing website authentication exposed through a simple API.

This met the requirement to restrict access to administrators, and avoided development of any new registration and authentication structure.

Download

downloadPaperless provides fine-grained control over downloading documents and data for processing. Downloading hundreds of documents takes time, so the application uses that time to convert the downloaded documents from their native formats to HTML in a background process.

Edit

edit-agenda>Each agenda is created from a template into which downloaded application documents are automatically inserted. Agenda items themselves can be inserted, moved, edited and deleted, as can documents and notes.

 

The document viewer allows the user to retitle the document and rotate images, either individually or all at once – this is sometimes required for PDFs. PDF documents can be regenerated as a single image per page rather than as HTML text and images and, if detailed changes are needed, the viewer can open the document in an NVu HTML editor.

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Generate

generate-generateWhen editing’s complete, there’s minimal effort for the user in generating separate output epub files for the Board and Committee. Behind the scenes, however, this is a complex operation. Links are appended to every document in the output file for quick navigation to the start of that section or back to the main menu. Each document in the file needs to be renamed. A cover page and main index have to be created and, finally, the epub file itself is generated. Despite substantial optimisation, each file is well over 100MB.

Generated epub files can be managed from within Paperless – viewed, deleted, renamed and uploaded with an integrated FTP client.

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Epub files uploaded by Paperless to the website are automatically listed for download on the dashboard page of the Committee or Board members. Uploaded files can be deleted from within Paperless at the end of their life.
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Settings

settingsPaperless allows the user to edit the separate templates and headings used for Board and Committee meetings, as well as the FTP server details.

In the event of a problem, a data snapshot can automatically be created and sent to ELSEAPPS. This captures any exceptions with a full stack trace and environment information, and includes a copy of the user’s settings and the internal SQLite database. With this information immediately at hand, an issue can usually be analysed and resolved very speedily.

Help

Paperless has a comprehensive Wiki Web Help instance on the client’s server. The help icon in the top right corner of each Paperless tab takes the user to the corresponding help page.

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