I've just started looking into building a template based document design facility. This needs to be a Web based solution as opposed to a fat desktop application. Right now I'm investigating possible approaches to investigate/vette/consider.
Essentially the document would read very much like a MS word document. The document would contain a list of tagged fields which would be mapped/bound to data. The fields could be single words, text blocks, tables and perhaps some images. Additionally the document would contained free hand/formatted text. The system would need to keep track of it's tagged fields. Updates to database fields would be pushed out to the application which would update the bound document fields.
From a user stand point, I think the design piece has to be very idiot proof to use. From a usability standpoint, it should look and function an awful lot like MS Word. If the UI is familiar to users, they will be far more likely to embrace the application.
The easiest thing (from a user's standpoint) is to let them create some basic document templates.
Think of this model: you have your display/document area in a panel on the left, and on the right you've got a series of predefined templates, which users can click, drag and place with the report/document design panel.
I know Microsoft Word has some level of support for this somewhere (Mail Merge).
We really don't want to have to write and support a fully functional home grown report
designer (we shouldn't have to). I've got to think that there are some customizable open source solutions or control/component libraries that would come close to what we need.
Do any ideas come to mind in terms of approaches/technologies?
(custom solutions, open source, 3rd party controls, et al)
Has anyone done anything similar?
I got think there's something out there thought aught to be close.