Anyone who has worked with me knows how much I dislike Microsoft. It takes everything in me to install and run Windows on my Macs, which I do using Parallels to test my solutions on that platform. And for years I've been able to avoid installing Office on my Macs, and instead used Pages and Numbers to open the Word and Excel documents that I receive.
So recently, when a client told me that he needed to merge data in FileMaker with Word templates, I cringed for two reasons. One, because it meant that I'd very likely need to buy and install Office on my Mac. And second, because FileMaker doesn't natively "play well" with Word. But I was up to the challenge...
First, I purchased "Microsoft Office for Mac Home and Business 2011" which was surprisingly affordable ($155 from Amazon). The installation was easy, and for the first time in a very long time, I can "really see" what the Word and Excel documents that people to send to me are supposed to look like. (In the past, I opened these up Pages and Numbers, which, while doing a great job of translating Word and Excel documents, sometimes runs into problems.)
Next, I downloaded a trial version of the 360Works "Scribe" plug-in (http://www.360works.com/filemaker-pdf-plugin/). 360Works describes the plug-in as "the ultimate text processing plug-in." Scribe does a lot of very cool things. It can be used to read and write text from Microsoft Office and PDF files, search for things, highlight keywords, make substitutions, and more. It's been around for a little over a year, but this was the first time that I had a need for it.
In about an hour I had a prototype of the FileMaker / Scribe solution that I had envisioned. I was able to take a Word document, load it into FileMaker, substitute tokens in the document with data from FileMaker, and save the "merged" Word document. The documentation for Scribe is very well written, which made all of this as easy as possible.
I then began adding the Scribe functionality to my client's solution. For the most part, that went very well. However, I did run into a few "gotchas," the biggest one being with carriage returns. If you have carriage returns in the data that you are trying to merge into a Word document, they are ignored. After doing some research, I found that this is really an issue with the way that Word (and other Office document types) handles returns. My work-around, which is admittedly a little clunky, was to substitute carriage returns in the data being merged with a token. I then open the merged Word document, and replace the token with breaks. Again, not elegant, but it works.
I haven't had a chance to use Scribe with PDF documents yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so. I have a lot of clients who make heavy use of PDF forms, and with Scribe, they would be able to read the data stored in completed PDF forms and easily add it to their databases.
My overall impression of Scribe is that, like all of the other 360Works plug-ins that I've had the opportunity to use, it is very well done. The plug-in's functionality is useful, it is easy to use, and the documentation is both easy to follow and thorough.
So if you're looking for a way to integrate FileMaker with Word, Excel, and/or PDF documents, check out 360Works Scribe.