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PDF to XML Conversion: EDI the easy way

EDI or Electronic Data Interchange, has been around for quite a while. In the 1990s it promised to be the way the world would exchange their business information. Well here we are in 2013 and that world has yet to be realized. Why? It’s certainly not because technology didn’t allow EDI to be readily available. It was also not for lack of any standards for companies to use.

So what was the problem? In a nutshell, the problem was that the world just changed too fast and there just didn’t exist a simple and effective way for companies to get into EDI without a large and ongoing investment. One standard has certainly made life easier – XML – most companies and software will accept XML to exchange data. The trick is getting your business data converted to XML.

Over the last year a new option has begun emerging. It promises finally to allow almost everyone to get into EDI. This time it doesn’t involve hiring expensive consultants and IT personnel. It uses what most companies already have and use every day – PDFs.

Most people don’t realize that the PDFs they receive every day contain a wealth of information waiting to be used. Take for example a Purchase Order or Invoice PDF. Most companies receive these documents every day by email from a variety of customers and suppliers. If only you had a way of automatically pulling the data off the PDF and putting it right into your in-house software. After all, you can cut and paste individual bits of information like part numbers and addresses off PDFs and paste them into your software, why not the whole document?

Unfortunately it’s not as easy as it sounds. Every company produces a PDF that lays out the data differently. So what is needed is a tool that will do this automatically and is flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of documents.

If you do a web search there are a lot of tools available that will pull data off a PDF and save it in a text file. This would certainly be the first step to getting XML from PDFs. From there you will need to write a program that will extract the individual bits of data you need out of the file and reformat it as XML. Unfortunately that is easier than it sounds.

The other option is using a PDF to XML service provider. This is more than just using an off the shelf converter tool. It has to “know” how to deal with your documents individually so that the XML it converts to contains all of the information and can also scrub the data so everything is exactly the way you need it.

A few of my favorite tool are EDI Link (http://ecdynamics.com/pdf-conversion.php) as well as ChimpKey (http://chimpkey.com) and PDF to XML ((http://pdftoxml.com)) . They are all cloud based tools that perform a very simple but effective service for any size business. They convert your PDFs to XML or other EDI and deliver it back to you – that’s it. Essentially each PDF you give them, they create a one-time mapping or template that understands the logical layout of your PDF. Once this one-time mapping is done you are ready to use their service for any volume of conversion continuously. They have a few different options depending on how you want to interact with them. If your customers email you PDFs then you simply have them forwarded to their server and within moments they are converted and emailed back to you as useable XML. If you wish to integrate XML into your procedure closer then they will upload XML file to your FTP site.

Using a service like this promises to finally allow companies to get into the EDI world without the complexity and investment that has traditionally come with formal EDI implementations. And, at a fraction of the price and time. Implementation time is usually days instead of months.

Maybe soon we can finally start seeing EDI in widespread usage with a tool like this.

Happy e-commercing…
John.

Importing PDFs into Quickbooks,Simply Accounting or Excel

If you’re like me, you hate data entry. If I can avoid it I will. I make lots of mistakes and its time consuming. One of the most time consuming tasks for a lot of businesses is entering their Invoices and Purchase Orders into their accounting software or Excel.

I’ve used Quickbooks and Excel for quite some time now and could never understand why with everyone in the business world creating their documents with some kind of software (even the same software in a lot of cases!) why the world can’t agree on one format to exchange data. There has been many attempts but they all seem to fail because something new/better comes along before the old standard gets adopted.

Early versions of Quickbooks and Simply accounting created a interchange format (IIF for Quickbooks and TXT for Simply). This seemed like it would solve the problem but neither were fully supported, nor did they gain widespread appeal due to the complexity of creating the formats.

To solve this problem a handful of companies came up with some utilities that would allow you to enter or cut & paste your information into an Excel worksheet and then it would create the correct Quickbooks/Simply format for you. These work reasonably good but the problem is still double entry which doesn’t really solve the problem entirely.

Recently, a friend showed me a service that shows promise as being a true solution to this problem. It’s called EDI Link Connect for Quickbooks. They also have a version for Simply,Excel and possibly other software. Thinking this would finally solve my hatred for data entry I figured I’d give it a try.

I was impressed right off the bat that the software is not software at all but rather a service. I didn’t have to install anything. I only had to sign up and then wait for my account to be created.

Once I received the email letting me know I was ready to start I gave it a try, and here is what I found.

To use EDI Link connect, you simply send an email to the EDI Link Robot (known as Eddie…clever), To this email you attach either the PDF or Excel files that you would like to import into QuickBooks,Simply Accounting or Excel.

Email sent to “Eddie” the EDI Link Robot

Within 5 minutes, I received an email back from the “Eddie” robot with my QuickBooks IIF file attached. It also attached my original PDF invoice which makes sense because the service can also be used by customers emailing a special email address they setup for you so you can have all of your documents come in automatically delivered as the original PDF plus the IIF/TXT/Excel file. If you want a PDF file turned into an Excel file, then that’s even easier because it will email you back a working Excel file.

Email received with IIF file.

I immediately fired up Quickbooks and tried the IIF file on a sample company that I have for testing and sure enough, the invoice was posted! I simply choose File|Tasks, import IIF file. I was quite impressed to say the least. So now that I saw this working I thought I’d find out how this little piece of magic worked.

I talked to EC Dynamics, the creator of EDI Link and first asked them if they had little elves (named Eddie) quickly entering my data into a program and emailing me back. He said he gets that question a lot and assured me that no Eddie was a very smart robot. As it turns out, they create a “template” for each type of PDF you submit. Once Eddie learns the PDF, then you can submit that PDF over and over. As well, I’m told the Eddie understands Excel documents too for conversion to IFF/TXT.

So there you have it, with this tool you can finally turn all of those PDF and Excel documents into something that can be imported into Quickbooks, Simply Accounting or Excel with no re-keying.

I also learned that EC Dynamics also has a “pro” version that gives you a control panel allowing you to manage the Invoices & Purchase Orders coming in and it pushes them directly into Quickbooks or Simply. They say that it has more flexibility because Quickbooks & Simply limits what you can post and they are not going to change the IIF format.

You can check out more info at this link:

http://ecdynamics.com/pdf-conversion.php

Thats all for now.  Check back soon for more e-commerce tips.

Happy e-commercing!

John.

Importing PDFs into Quickbooks,Simply Accounting or Excel

If you’re like me, you hate data entry. If I can avoid it I will. I make lots of mistakes and its time consuming. One of the most time consuming tasks for a lot of businesses is entering their Invoices and Purchase Orders into their accounting software or Excel.

I’ve used Quickbooks and Excel for quite some time now and could never understand why with everyone in the business world creating their documents with some kind of software (even the same software in a lot of cases!) why the world can’t agree on one format to exchange data. There has been many attempts but they all seem to fail because something new/better comes along before the old standard gets adopted.

Early versions of Quickbooks and Simply accounting created a interchange format (IIF for Quickbooks and TXT for Simply). This seemed like it would solve the problem but neither were fully supported, nor did they gain widespread appeal due to the complexity of creating the formats.

To solve this problem a handful of companies came up with some utilities that would allow you to enter or cut & paste your information into an Excel worksheet and then it would create the correct Quickbooks/Simply format for you. These work reasonably good but the problem is still double entry which doesn’t really solve the problem entirely.

Recently, a friend showed me a service that shows promise as being a true solution to this problem. It’s called EDI Link Connect for Quickbooks. They also have a version for Simply,Excel and possibly other software. Thinking this would finally solve my hatred for data entry I figured I’d give it a try.

I was impressed right off the bat that the software is not software at all but rather a service. I didn’t have to install anything. I only had to sign up and then wait for my account to be created.

Once I received the email letting me know I was ready to start I gave it a try, and here is what I found.

To use EDI Link connect, you simply send an email to the EDI Link Robot (known as Eddie…clever), To this email you attach either the PDF or Excel files that you would like to import into QuickBooks,Simply Accounting or Excel.

Email sent to “Eddie” the EDI Link Robot

Within 5 minutes, I received an email back from the “Eddie” robot with my QuickBooks IIF file attached. It also attached my original PDF invoice which makes sense because the service can also be used by customers emailing a special email address they setup for you so you can have all of your documents come in automatically delivered as the original PDF plus the IIF/TXT/Excel file. If you want a PDF file turned into an Excel file, then that’s even easier because it will email you back a working Excel file.

Email received with IIF file.

I immediately fired up Quickbooks and tried the IIF file on a sample company that I have for testing and sure enough, the invoice was posted! I simply choose File|Tasks, import IIF file. I was quite impressed to say the least. So now that I saw this working I thought I’d find out how this little piece of magic worked.

I talked to EC Dynamics, the creator of EDI Link and first asked them if they had little elves (named Eddie) quickly entering my data into a program and emailing me back. He said he gets that question a lot and assured me that no Eddie was a very smart robot. As it turns out, they create a “template” for each type of PDF you submit. Once Eddie learns the PDF, then you can submit that PDF over and over. As well, I’m told the Eddie understands Excel documents too for conversion to IFF/TXT.

So there you have it, with this tool you can finally turn all of those PDF and Excel documents into something that can be imported into Quickbooks, Simply Accounting or Excel with no re-keying.

I also learned that EC Dynamics also has a “pro” version that gives you a control panel allowing you to manage the Invoices & Purchase Orders coming in and it pushes them directly into Quickbooks or Simply. They say that it has more flexibility because Quickbooks & Simply limits what you can post and they are not going to change the IIF format.

You can check out more info at this link:

http://ecdynamics.com/pdf-conversion.php

Thats all for now. Check back soon for more e-commerce tips.

Happy e-commercing!

John.