AutoPrice™ FAQs

Q. Is there a description of the basic concepts utilized within AutoPrice?

A. Sure. A few AutoPrice concepts and associated operations are detailed below. There is also a partial glossary available here that includes terms that apply to our software, including but not limited to AutoPrice.

Delimited-File Format
Database-Definition Setup

Tagging the Document

Batch Update Session

Updating the Document
Bi-Directional Issues

Making the Exchange of Data Easy and Reliable
Undocumented Features

Working with Database Definition Sets

Delimited-File Format

A text file is a document comprised of ASCII data. The term delimited indicates that the data in the lines of the file is broken into columns by the presence of a delimiter character, such as a tab or a comma. The lines in the ASCII file comprise the different records of the database, and the delimiters delimit the fields of data within a record. This data could have been mastered in a table-format within an application such as Excel, or tabled and exported from within a SQL database. Any database application that supports the import and export of ASCII-data can be used to produce files compatible with AutoPrice.

ASCII characters below 128 are consistently mapped across Macintosh, PC/MS-DOS, and Unix systems to the alphanumeric and composition characters that are most commonly used. Characters 129 and above are referred to as high-ASCII and include symbols like celsius and copyright marks. High-ASCII characters are mapped differently across the three operating systems and must be specifically converted by the database operator at the time the delimited file is produced, if the file is being transferred to a different system for producing documents. This could apply with information hosted under a Windows database application being exported to update documents with AutoPrice on the Macintosh.

Database-Definition Setup

One Database-Definition is created for each different delimited file being accessed by a set of documents. Many Quark documents reference a single DDF, and the DDF in turn references a single delimited file.

The basic concept is to setup the DDF to access the delimited file that will be periodically rewritten with updated information from the database. When the content, but not the column-format, of that delimited file changes, the new version of the file is referenced from within AutoPrice, and the documents are updated with the new information.

If the column-formatting of the delimited file changes after the DDF has been setup, then the specific settings within the DDF must be revised to reflect the new layout of the delimited file.

Steps for setting up a Database Definition (DDF)

Tagging the Document

Tagging the document is accomplished using the AutoPrice Placeholder Palette. In version 2.60 of AutoPrice, the command to Show and Hide the AutoPrice palette is available beneath the View menu on the menu bar from within the QuarkXPress application.

Each placeholder on the document will be associated through the controls on the floating palette, with at least two pieces of information. Each placeholder must have a Search Key Value assigned to it, as well as an Extraction Record setting. If your DDF uses Price Styling or Search Criteria then those options will be assigned through the settings on the floating palette, as well.

For convenience sake, it is easier to tag a document when the Search Key Value for the item is visible on the page. Once the placeholder has been tagged, the Search Key Value is hidden within the cyan underscore that appears below the tagged text, along with any of the other AutoPrice characteristics that are assigned from the floating palette.

Standard tagging placeholders is accomplished by 1.) Selecting the text where the placeholder is going to be encoded. 2.) Entering the Search Key Value associated with that element at the top of the AutoPrice palette - by either typing it in directly, or pasting previously-copied text. 3.) Selecting the appropriate Extraction Record for that element. 4.) Selecting the appropriate Price Style or Search Criteria for that element, if necessary. 5.) Clicking the Assign button on the palette. 6.) You should see the cyan underscore that indicates the presence of an AutoPrice placeholder appear below the selected element on the page.

The palette will always display the last settings used to assign a placeholder. In this manner, elements can be successively selected and assigned very quickly once the operator is accustomed to working with the program. In addition to these methods, a couple of shortcuts exist to make the standard tagging go a bit quicker. Select and copy the Search Key Value and then select the text where the placeholder will be assigned. By clicking the words Search Key Value at the upper-left of the floating palette, whatever has been copied into memory will pasted down at the top of the palette. By holding down the Command key on the keyboard, the value copied into memory will be pasted down at the top of the floating palette, and the Assign button will be clicked automatically, effectively saving a couple of keystrokes, a drag, and a click on the time it takes to assign a placeholder.

Anytime a change is made to a placeholder on the document, the change must be encoded into the placeholder using the Replace button on the floating palette. If you are attempting to make a change to a placeholder that already exists, you will see that the Assign button on the palette changes to Replace when you select an existing placeholder.

The Table-Tagger is a more automated way to assign the links within a document, but does rely upon the material being properly formatted. Clicking the small graphic T at the upper-left corner of the floating palette will switch the palette into Table-Tagger mode, and you will see a number of column settings appear. The column settings that are referenced on the palette are only concerned with the text that is being selected on the document page, and have nothing to do with the columns within the delimited file. The Table-Tagger relies upon columns within the text in the document being indicated by the presence of tab characters. Tables built with vertical text boxes or other means will not tag correctly with the Table-Tagger.

To use the Table-Tagger to tag a text table on the document page: 1.) Select the table of text completely and totally. 2.) At the top of the palette, set the Search Key Column setting to reflect the column within the selected table that contains the Search Key Value. 3.) Set the Placeholder column on the palette to reflect the column where the placeholders are going to be assigned. 4.) Set the appropriate Extraction Record for the Placeholder column that is to be tagged. 5.) Hit the Assign button on the palette. 6.) You should see the cyan underscores appear beneath all entries within the column indicated by the Placeholder column setting. 7.) Change the Placeholder column to reflect the next column to be tagged, and change the Extraction Record, and Assign. 9.) Repeat this as necessary until all of the columns to be tagged contain placeholders.

If placeholders are assigned in incorrect spaces on the table, or they do not seem to be assigning properly within the material, then the formatting of the individual lines is usually in question. When working with the Table-Tagger it is usually advantageous to have any invisible characters shown, so that the tab and return characters on the lines of text can be seen. This is done by accessing, from the View menu for QuarkXPress, Show Invisibles. The Table-Tagger requires orderly lines of text with tabulated columns and a return character at the end of each line in order to assign the placeholders properly within a selected table.

The placeholders can be cut and pasted between documents, as frames or groups or text. If the machine is not running a copy of AutoPrice, the placeholders will not be visible within the document. Please install the AutoPrice Tag Display XTension, shipped with all copies of AutoPrice, if a machine that does not have a full license of AutoPrice needs to display the tags within the body of the Quark documents. That separate XTension will allow operators to be aware of the presence of the placeholders, but not actually encode or change their attributes. Any copy of Quark should only be running either the full-copy of AutoPrice, or the Tag Display Filter, never both at the same time. Placeholders are a non-printing formatting within the Quark document, and can be shown or hidden from the first entry on the AutoPrice menu.

Updating the Document

When updating documents with AutoPrice, the new version of the delimited file must be indicated by using the Sync Database command from the Setup Database Definitions dialog, or from the pull-down menus under AutoPrice on the QuarkXPress command bar. When the Sync Database command is accessed, a file-selection dialog will appear. Select the new version of the delimited file. A progress bar should appear while the contents of the new delimited file are indexed. Once the progress bar has disappeared from the screen, the document is ready to be updated. Select Price Document from the AutoPrice menu. The Price Document dialog will appear. There are specific settings that can be adjusted, such as page-ranges to update, whether to update all text or images or both, etc. This dialog will always retain the last settings indicated when a Price Document was done, so in most cases the Price button at the lower-right of the dialog can be clicked immediately. The document will then update, and you should see any new information flowed into the placeholders within the document.

Batch Update Session

With no documents open within QuarkXPress, the AutoPrice menu command Batch Session will be activated on the menu. Access this menu item to open the Batch Session dialog. This dialog has many options on it. The basic idea is to hit the Select Jobs button at the lower-right. This will open the document selection window. This consists of two file listing sections. Select the documents in the upper portion of the window and double-click or add on their names to add them to the list in the lower section. If a folder is selected in the upper section, then the Scan button to the right will activate. If the Scan button is clicked with a folder selected, all of the Quark documents within the selected folder will be added to the job list. It can also recurse through folders within the selected folder and add all the Quark documents that it finds to the job listing. The idea is to list all of the documents formatted with AutoPrice, and then click the Done button on the right.

You would then set whether it will produce a Report when the Session is running by checking or unchecking the box in the Report section at the top of the dialog. The specific settings for the Report can be accessed through the Options button within the Report section. Options for the Report include the format of the report file being created, such as Placeholder List or Data Export, and what information is being included.

The Update section is checked or unchecked depending on whether the documents are being updated from the delimited file, or if the tagged-contents of the documents are being exported to a report file. If the documents are being exported, then the update section is left unchecked.

Clicking the Start Session button will begin the Batch Session. Each of the listed documents will be opened and updated or exported, until all of the documents in the job list have been accessed.

Bi-Directional Issues

Documents are tagged in the same manner whether they will be used for update or export. A delimited file produced using a Data Export Report will be the same format and specifications as are configured within the Setup Database Definitions area of the program.

This means that if you Report on a tagged document using the Data Export function - which creates a new delimited file containing the contents of the placeholders tagged within that document, or documents - and that exported delimited file is then indicated as the delimited source by using the Sync Database command and the documents are updated, you should see no change within the placeholders in the document.

The data export delimited file contains exactly what is currently tagged within the document, and running an update from that file updates exactly what is already present within the page. If the exported delimited file is loaded into a database application and written out in a different format (such as a PC/MS-DOS File Origin setting, when the original file being produced was a Macintosh File Origin setting), then the documents will not update correctly and may generate errors across all the placeholders In a situation such as that, the operator would adjust the DDF setting to reflect the new formatting of the delimited file, or a new export from the database would be requested.

If the delimited file being updated from is written in the correct format, then the placeholders within the documents will update with the current information existing in that delimited file.

Making the Exchange of Data Easy and Reliable

If the information that is being given (delimited file being pointed to with the Sync Database command) to AutoPrice is formatted exactly as indicated within the Database Definition Setup area of the program, then the documents will always update in a consistent manner. If the column-ordering, File Origin, Delimiter Character, Text Qualifier, or other changes within the delimited file, then the settings within the DDF must be adjusted accordingly, otherwise the document will update with errors, instead of with the desired information.

When information is exported from AutoPrice, it is written into a delimited file that is exactly what the Database Definition indicates. That means, as described above, that you can Sync to the exported file, Price the document, and see no change within the placeholders within the document.

If the delimited file has been loaded into the main database, and then exported to a new delimited file for pricing the documents, and the documents price incorrectly, it means that the database operator did not export the file according to the specifications of the original delimited file, and the data must be exported from the main database all over again, in the proper format.

The exported file from AutoPrice is always exactly what it needs to update the documents. When in doubt, review the settings within your DDF to resolve questions about the format of the delimited file.

Undocumented Features

Holding down the Command and Option buttons and choosing Hide AutoPrice Palette, and Show AutoPrice Palette from the View menu at the top of the screen will cause the floating palette to reset to a position in the upper-left corner of the QuarkXPress application window. This is useful if the monitor resolution changes, or the palette is otherwise lost within the interface.

Under the AutoPrice Utilities menu item, there is a feature called Search and Replace Placeholders. Since the attributes as singed to placeholders involve each Extraction Record, Search Criteria, or Price Style having a specific name defined within the Database Definition, re-tagging already existing placeholders with differently-named attributes can be very time-consuming. The Search and Replace Placeholders dialog allows for the name of a particular attribute - such as an Extraction Record called 'Price' - to be search and replaced on a document level with an attribute of a different name defined in the DDF - such as 'Current Price'. This is most useful instances where a particular Database Definition has been lost, and the placeholders in the documents need to be reassigned with new attributes defined in a remade DDF. Specific Search Key Values can also be changed in this manner.

Under the AutoPrice menu there is a command called Change Keys. If a text frame containing placeholders, a grouping of frames containing placeholders, or a range of text containing placeholders is selected, the Search Key Values assigned within the selected elements can be changed within all placeholders by selecting Change Keys from the menu, and entering the new Search Key Values. This is specifically for instances where a block of elements would relate to a single Search Key Value. Using Change Keys to reassign a block containing many placeholders with different Search Key Values, would change all of them to the Search Key Value entered in the Change Keys dialog.

AutoPrice placeholders, when being tagged for export, can be directed to copy the information occurring within the tag to more than a single record. This is usually desirable in instances where you have a header or other text that needs to duplicate across many product numbers when an export is produced. These Associated Keys are assigned after the initial tagging of the placeholders occurs within the document. Elements to be exported for multiple records must have a placeholder and base Search Key Value assigned to them before this can occur. Once the tagging is accomplished, it is a matter of selecting the placeholder that is going to duplicate into multiple records, changing the tab at the lower-right of the floating palette from Notes to Keys, and entering the associated Search Key Values into the edit-box to the right of the Keys tab. Associated Keys are entered into the palette in this format: '1000-061, 1000-057, 1000-037' depending on what the Search Key Values in the document are, the idea being that keys for existing placeholders are entered in this area with a comma and a space between each one. Then the placeholder is Replaced after the information in the palette is changed. If this is done correctly, the contents of that placeholder will duplicate into the records indicated in the Associated Keys field when a Data Export is produced from the document. Note that the actual text Keys: showing next to the Associated Keys edit field on the floating palette is another paste shortcut. By copying the next associated key value, holding down the command/apple key on the keyboard, and clicking Keys: the copied text will be pasted down into the edit area, automatically adding a comma and a space, as well as clicking the replace button and saving the added key into the link.

There are notes fields that can be used to store other information within the placeholders. They are edited in the same manner as the Associated Keys. The setting at the lower-left corner of the floating palette should be set to Notes: and then placeholders can be selected, note text added into the field on the palette, and then the placeholder must be Replaced in order to save the changes. Notes fields are not included within the fields of the Data Export report, but are visible on the Placeholder List. Additionally, by accessing the AutoPrice About dialog from the Preferences, holding down the command/apple and option keys, and clicking the Meadows logo on the dialog, an undocumented setting can be accessed where the number of the Notes fields can be set to 1, 2, or 3. Please note that the palette must be hidden and then shown in order for those extra fields to show and to be editable.

Working with Database Definition Sets

Illustrate how the lower-left corner of the AutoPrice Placeholder palette displays the name of the DDF associated with the document. The small disclosure triangle to the left of Current DDF: on the floating palette is a shortcut to the Setup Database Definitions dialog that can be accessed also from the menu above.

With the Setup Database Definitions dialog open, select a DDF from the Current DDF: popup-menu and hit the Select button to the right of the dialog. This will take you back out to the document. The lower-left corner of the floating palette will now display the name of the DDF you just selected. It is the process of choosing the name of a DDF and hitting the Select button on the Database Definitions dialog that makes that DDF current and referenced by a particular QuarkXPress document. If a DDF is missing from the Current DDF: set loaded within AutoPrice, the lower-left corner of the floating palette will display Missing DDF: followed by the name of the absent database definition.

Review the Import and Export of DDF Sets. Go to the menu items AutoPrice - Setup - Database Definitions. Explain that the documents reference a particular DDF that is created and stored within AutoPrice and accessed and edited from this area of the program.

Clicking the Export DDF Set button allows the operator to write out a text file containing all of the DDFs listed under the Current DDF: popup menu at the top of the screen. Saving the DDF set after the DDFs are finalized and working, and then writing the resulting file which is very small to a floppy is an effective and easy means of backup.

Clicking the Import DDF Set button allows you to read in a file written with the Export DDF Set command. Note that all of the DDFs appearing in the Current DDF: popup will be overwritten with the set being imported from the text file.

By Exporting the current set of DDFs and then deleting the DDFs shown in the Current DDF: popup menu, it is possible to then demonstrate how a document will behave if it is missing it's DDF. The names of Extraction Records, Search Criteria and Price Styles will be shown on the AutoPrice Placeholder Palette in outlined, rather than plain, type style. Pricing a document that is missing it's DDF will result in error-strings being populated across all the placeholders in the document. The lower-left corner of the floating palette will display Missing DDF: followed by the name of the absent database definition. Then use the Import DDF Set button from the Database Definitions dialog to reload the DDF set and reprice the document to take care of any error strings that were showing.