Generating Word Doc

Hi all,

Does anyone have any suggestions for generating a word doc from a linux rails application? We were using html and just naming it .doc, which works well until you need to embed images into the document. MHT looks promising but the only libraries aren't free (not a deal breaker, but free is better).

Thanks
Simon

I'm working on something similar to this now. I'm writing my own
libraries I will post back when I'm done. Will put it on rubyforge

Simon Macneall wrote:

Hi all,

Does anyone have any suggestions for generating a word doc from a linux
rails application?

Yes: don't do it. Word documents have no place on the Web -- they don't
reliably preserve formatting and they don't play nice with Web browsers.
Generate a PDF file instead; prawn works well for this.

[...]

Thanks
Simon

Best,

That's a fabulous answer.
I wouldn't be asking if I could convince my customers that a PDF would do. They need to be able to edit the document after it is generated.

-1 for helpfulness

Totally off the wall here but .docx files are XML so why not generate
one in Word and then manipulate that from your app?

Another crazy idea is to use OpenOffice, I think they have a Java
interface that you might be able to hook into somehow.

I have not done either of these, just throwing out some ideas.

Andrew Timberlake
http://ramblingsonrails.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewtimberlake

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" - Mark Twain

Well, to be fair, you didn't specify that the file needed to be
editable upon download so Simon's solution is pretty reasonable.

You might look into RTF. Some google searches seem to say that you
can embed images into that format.

Hi Andrew,

Yeah, docx would work, however the customer only has word 2003, which doesn't support that format.

the options I have found so far are:
mhtml - the only ruby lib is not free, and the format looks a bit painful to build yourself
rtf - can't see a ruby lib, but could build a servlet with java/itext
html - can't embed the image, but can make it a link back to the server (which is what we do with our old .net system), but is not ideal

I use OpenOffice here, but the customer has word, and have you ever tried to convince a govt dept to change to open office? Not a quick/easy job :slight_smile:
Thanks
Simon

No I didn't, and I probably snapped a bit more than I should have, but you continually see people answering questions with negatives like that, and it irks me.

Simon Macneall wrote:

No I didn't, and I probably snapped a bit more than I should have, but
you continually see people answering questions with negatives like that,
and it irks me.

You also continually see people asking how to solve a problem in a way
they do not realize is suboptimal. Granted, that may not be the case
here, but that wasn't obvious from your original question.

I would actually say that giving the client an HTML file might be the
way to go here. It's not well known, but MS Word does a beautiful job
of importing HTML files (or did the last time I tried), including
parsing <img> tags correctly. So your client should have no trouble
editing the file with Word, or with just about anything else, and you
won't have to support a Web-unfriendly file format.

Best,

The only problem with HTML is that I can't find a way to embed the image (that works in Word), as opposed to having it link back to our server (which isn't the desired outcome).

Steven,

Cool, look forward to seeing the finished libraries.
In the mean time, I managed to get the embedded images working in an html file.
Using the example here: http://www.htmlcodetutorial.com/help/ftopic5309.html
But for anyone following this, not the white space (ie empty lines) are important.

Cheers
Simon

Have you looked at http://poi.apache.org/. Its a java library but has
wrappers for ruby.

Hasham
http://www.zenofruby.com

yeah, had a quick look, but it is an orphan project at the moment (at least the word module is).

You can talk directly to the OpenOffice back-end, and have it generate
an MSWord .doc file.

There is an antique technique written up by Sam Neff at
http://coldfusion.sys-con.com/node/41604 for ColdFusion. It works, and
you don't need to run Word on your server. You don't have to use
ColdFusion. In fact, you don't need to run Windows. The source code is
still available at http://gemsres.com/story/41604/zip.html

Coldfusion is pretty easy to read, but if you get stuck, I'll be glad
to interpret.

I won't say it's not a PITA, but it does work; I've used it. I think I
did a version of it in VBA out of MS Access. I even embedded the
graphics.

Ron

I didn't think about that. I have html working fine now, but will keep this in mind for when the customer (as is almost guaranteed) asks for a more complex document.

Cheers
Simon

Thanks,

I ended up with something similar, using html and multipart mime

Simon

I am using this approach on a project with success. The only gotcha
is that you have to use the full URL of the image, instead of just the
path that Rails generates.

Here's a helper method I used:

  def image_url(img)
    request.protocol + request.host_with_port + image_path(img)
  end

Hope that helps

-- Brandon