I'll do my best to explain what I'm trying to do! I use InDesign to create and maintain a library of industrial equipment data sheets and manuals. These documents have lots and lots of tables with ratings and performance data. We are constantly tweaking the products, adding new ones, adding new features, etc which makes it a nightmare keeping the literature up-to-date, but it's manageable.
However, we are now adding an online tool for customers to create a submittal document which is really just a filtered data sheet with only the specifications for the exact model and configuration they are interested in. This online tool will be run from a database containing all of the various optional and standard features along with the many ratings tables.
The problem we're going to have is that this means the data to maintain will be effectively doubled. We'll have to keep the data sheets updated manually by opening the document in InDesign and making the necessary edits. Plus, the online database will need the same changes. We deal with tens of thousands of data points and there will definitely be mistakes and accidental ommissions, with really no way to verify data integrity.
Ideally, I'd like to find a way to have InDesign get its data from the online database. That way, I only have to maintain one data set and the InDesign files will always be updated. But this does mean that I'll still have to generate a new PDF and distribute it.
So, in a perfect world, we'd be able to dynamically generate a data sheet on-demand. In other words, if a customer wants one, they can go to our website, select the product, then click a button and the website will generate a PDF pulling from the database to "build" the document in real time.
Is this even possible? If so, where would I start?
I have attached a sample of one our data sheets to show what we have now. Extrapolate that over a dozen product lines to get a sense of the scale of the problem.
it's possible by implementing an XML workflow - but it's quite involved and depends on the database setup etc.
But it can be done.