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Recent happenings: Ruby on Rails and Github

I have a half-written post about how you can auto-populate a PDF from a spreadsheet. I confess that it’s been that way for over a week now. I promise, I’ll make a solid effort to get to it this week!

So, what’s taking me so long? Ruby on Rails.

I remember hearing all the hype about RoR several years ago, and I’ve had a book about Rails on my reading list for a few years now. I re-discovered the book a few weeks ago, and decided to spend some time scanning through it to finally see what all the hype is about. Well, before I new it, I was firing up Aptana on my Linux box and working through tutorials. Learning Rails has been like reading a really good book that you just can’t seem to put down. If you aren’t reading it, you are thinking about reading it. And if you aren’t thinking about reading it, it’s only because you’re thinking about trying not to think about it.

I’ve also started using Github.com for the most recent set of tutorials that I’ve started. If you aren’t familiar with Github, the best way I can explain it (as a newcomer) is that it’s kind of like social networking for programmers. Instead of sharing photos, you share blocks of code. Pretty cool.

By the way, if you’re on Github, you can follow me by doing a search for fw-coder (my github username), and then click follow. There’s nothing on there but tutorial codes, and a couple of test repos at the moment. Maybe I’ll be inspired to do something more interesting soon.

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Automatically Completing Your PDF Forms – Part II

This post is a continuation of Part I, which you can find here.

As a quick recap, in Part I we took a look at how Adobe Acrobat and Reader import and export data to and from PDF forms. We also discussed how you can export sample data from any given form in order to determine how data should be formatted for importing.

So, now that you know what how your xml file should look, it’s time to figure out how to get your data into that xml file so that it can be imported into your form.  If you are following along from Part I, you can go ahead and close the xml file if you still have it open in a web browser. Okay, let’s get started.

Part II: Creating a Mail Merge Document that can be imported into a PDF Form

As the title suggests, what we are going to do is create a mail merge document that will take our data and merge it with the xml framework we exported from our form. As with Part I, I will still be working with the declaration form for a patent application that includes an application data sheet (SB01A). Once we have created the mail merge document for the declaration form, we can use it each time we need to fill out a new declaration.
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