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Creates Word documents from a template and data file
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README.md

form-letterer

Creates Word documents from a template and data file.

Hosted on local server at iGlobe office (192.168.1.13:5000) but you can run it locally:

git clone
python3 generator.py <data.csv> <letter.docx>

Introduction and motivation

I was given a task to generate twenty-five very similar Word documents. They were letters which meant that each address, addressee, salutation etc. were different. I didn't want to go through and manually edit each one so I built a programmatic solution.

Form Letterer is a programmatic form letter generator. It takes a template word document and a data file and automatically creates form letters.

Explanatory image of how Form Letterer works

Essentially, it's a version of Word's Mail Merge.

Why not Mail Merge?

This solution doesn't need Microsoft Word and uses only free (in beer and in speech) software.

This solution can be deployed on a local server which exposes only a thin GUI client. Multiple end-users can use it without having to configure their machine.

Additionally, this solution allows for things that can't be done in Mail Merge like conditionals and arithmetic. Mail Merge is a simple search-and-replace but here you can do things like

{{`amount1` * `amount2`}} # multiplication of data values
# 'urgency' is a header row in your data file
{{'URGENT REMINDER' if `urgency` == 'urgent' else 'Reminder:'}} 

Setup

  1. build/ folder
  2. data.csv data file
  3. letter.docx template file

Explanatory image of how Form Letterer works with folder layout

build/ folder

First, create an empty build folder in the shared directory, as the letters will be generated there.

data.csv

Create a data.csv in the same directory (not inside build/ !)

The first row of data.csv is a header row, which will be what your template word document refers to. Each subsequent row corresponds to one document to be created.

Here's an example of a data.csv data file.

Image of csv

File names will be generated using the 'name' column of data.csv. The name of the files will be letter_{name}.docx. Please ensure that your data.csv has a column called 'name'!

In this case, the following documents will be created:

1. letter_Poodles.docx
2. letter_Nelly.docx
3. letter_Cuddles.docx
4. letter_Widdly-woo.docx

letter.docx

Create a letter.docx file in the same directory.

The .docx file supports csv variables, delineated with backticks, and arbitrary python code with {{brackets}}.

Image of letter generation

Anything wrapped in `backticks` will be grabbed from the CSV's header row. For example, the program looked up weapon and changed it to 'rocket launcher' for that email.

If you're confused about row[headers.index['type'], it's identical to `type`; just a longer version. You should be able to use the backtick notation rather than doing row[headers.index['XXX'].

Anything in {{brackets}} will be eval()'ed. I often find myself using round() and ternary expressions (x if y else z).

If you don't understand what that just meant, don't worry about it. Otherwise, note that any arbitrary Python3-compatible expression will be eval'd, so use at your own risk.

Running

Once build/, data.csv and letter.docx are created, the software is ready to go.

If this solution is running on a local server, open the index.html file and fill it in. For iGlobe office, I have already filled in the IP address.

Image of index.html

Press 'Go' and voila! If there are no mistakes in your files, you should see letters automagically appearing in the build/ folder. It takes a while for it to show so please be patient.

Troubleshooting

Call Zheng Hong at +65 8288 2107 or email me at lieuzhenghong@gmail.com

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