F.A.Q.

What in the end does BEAM REPORT® have to offer as compared with usual office automation tools ?

  • A word processor allows to enter data easily and effectively, especially though the use of "templates". But it is cumbersome, remains centred on layout, and does not provide any real possibilities of later processing.
  • A Presentation tool allows for presentations with high visual quality standard, especially thanks to graphic elements. But it is time consuming, and it does not provide any information processing function.
  • A spreadsheet tool allows to introduce qualification elements and re-organisation functions, but it is poorly suited to text entry, to providing attractive layout and to printing text.
  • An e-mail message editor is a quick and easy way to get information out, and indeed it is now the most commonly used way for routine reporting. However, its layout possibilities are extremely basic or even inexistent (raw text).
  • You can use a "Form" (whatever the technology used) to apply extremely precise standards and a variety of processing tasks if it is associated with a database. But its development is costly and requires specialists. It is often rejected because of its rigidity or intrusiveness.

BEAM REPORT® combines the best features in these tools, with a few original ideas thrown in, homing in on your real Reporting needs. It remains easy to use, non-constraining, and fully in line with today's ergonomics standards.

Is it worth adding another tool on your existing desktop toolbox ? Well, just answer this simple question:

How much time do you devote to reporting tasks every week ?

Where and how do you install the product ?

BEAM REPORT® is a simple executable for MS-Windows® systems (all versions). It resides on the workstation, without any dependency. A built-in upgrade mechanism can be configured for automatic updates.

How to customize BEAM-REPORT® ?

BEAM REPORT® is is customized via one or several parametrization files, so called "standard", that contain all elements of the customization : codification of the attributes, summaries and filters, macros, lists of standard titles, initial content, etc. Those files can be defined and maintained with BEAM-REPORT itself. Then they just have to be sent to all users, or installed at a single network location accessible by all users. Please note :
  • The parametrization of BEAM-REPORT is technically simple, it does not require a particular skill and can be done by the customer himself. Yet it requires a careful analysis of the functiopnal needs, and a good knowledge of the tool's capabilities.

  •  The "standard" files can be hierarchised, to implement different levels of needs (for instance : Company, Directorate, Service) in as many different files.

What if my need or my organisation changes ?

Maybe you are using MS-Word® templates, and update those templates according to new needs ... but you realize how it is difficult to have the new template actually used (most people have used the initial template once to create their first report, and now they simply edit their own document regardless of the template).

BEAM-REPORT allows to apply automatically the latest version of a "standard". It also allows to include in the new standard some "upgrade" procedures, so that the content of existing documents are automatically updated according to the new standard (without any action of the end user), for instance to take into account a different title structure or a new codification.

How is a document sent to the recipient ?

The tool produces an XML file, that can be carried or published by all existing means : mail, intranet, network sharing, DMS, ftp ...etc. One can also send it directly by e-mail from the tool (built-in MAPI interface) to a list of recipients defined in the standard and/or filled in by the author. It is then sent in the body of the message (HTML form) and/or as an attached file (XML form).

If needed, BEAM-REPORT can also produce documents in PDF or RTF formats.


What is the difference between XML and HTML forms of the documents produced ?

The XML file is the "source" form of the document. It is a mini-database describing the document content in a structured form that can be read by BEAM REPORT®. It does not contain text layout parameters, these being left entirely to the reader's choice.

The HTML, RTF or PDF file is the "visual" form of the document. Its advantage lies in it being directly publishable : one can display it or print it with commonly used tools, insert it into other documents or show it in the body of an e-mail message. However, it will reflect the layout choices defined by the person issuing it and can no longer be re-processed by BEAM REPORT®.

What about a collective or circulating report ?

The tool keeps track of the authors for each qualified element (you can display their initials in the document margin). Where several authors take part in editing up a document you can protect each element so that only its author can modify it.

"Complete" or "incremental" reporting ?

This is always the same old story where there is strong continuity between successive reports. Should we produce a definitive report (and therefore a bulky document that gives little indication of where changes have been made), or an incremental one (with the accompanying risk of the reader having missed the previous version or forgotten the background) ?

BEAM REPORT® offers an original function so you can highlight differences between two rapports, item by item. This is more effective than the conventional comparison used by word processors as it uses the structure of the document and the qualification fields. You can use it to switch immediately from a "complete" view to an "incremental" view for the same document.

What options do you have for layout? How are they stored ?

As compared with a conventional word processor, BEAM REPORT® offers an intentionally reduced number of layout options. All these options affect the visual form of the screen and the printable HTML document. But they do not change the content of the XML document: recipients will remain free to apply their own choice of layout to it. These options can be stored on the workstation to be applied by default to all documents.

  • choice of character set and spacing for the entire document
  • maximum depth of title numbering
  • display of "priority" and "value" fields by icons or by text code
  • display or not of the signature for each item (author's initials)
  • style of presentation for the header and section titles
  • display or not of the summary and memo pad

During editing, the author also has document re-organisation functions. Re-organisation does not change the content of the final document or prevent you continuing to change it. Neither does it pre-ordain the format in which the recipient will display it.

Can you incorporate graphs and data from outside sources ?

Yes. You can use BEAM REPORT® to incorporate various objects taken from outside sources in the text thanks to the OLE mechanism. This may involve drawings, graphs or spreadsheet elements for example.
Note however that BEAM REPORT® applies no processing to the content of these elements.

Can you use BEAM REPORT® for minutes of meetings ?

Minutes of meetings often closely resemble Activity Reports: they are immediate, structured, codified and intended to be read and processed rapidly. You could, for example, devise a BEAM REPORT® standard that identifies "decisions", "actions" and "open issues" and automatically summarises them at the header or at the end of the document.

Can reports be produced or used by other tools ?

The BEAM REPORT® data model (XML file structure) is published and can be used by external applications.

This means that BEAM REPORT® can also be used:

  • as a distribution/display medium for data generated elsewhere (project manager, activity log)
  • as a data source to supply an outside application (archive reporting, action manager, etc.)

 
 
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