Planning and automating your first interview with the Assembly Line Framework
To automate a form using the Assembly Line framework, you must:
- research and understand the context of your form
- identify the template that you will use: either a PDF or DOCX template
- add digital field labels where the information the user provides will go
- run the labeled template through the Assembly Line Weaver
- download the "weaved" form and refine in your Docassemble playground
- test, respond to feedback, and iterate
- deploy to a production server and add links on your public website
For more information about the process of researching and planning your completed interview, refer to Planning and building your first expert system.
Selecting your template file
In many cases, you will be provided a template that you need to automate. Ultimately, your form should be either a PDF document or a Word DOCX file.
If your document is a PDF already, consider whether to switch to a DOCX template file.
Reasons to use PDF files:
- PDF files may be the best choice if you are automating an approved court form that already exists as a PDF
- PDF files are good for heavily formatted content that includes columns and multiple fields on a single line
Reasons to avoid PDF files:
- PDF files are rigid, and may not contain enough room for real-world information
- conditional logic must be appplied field by field
- lists and repeated data must be labeled one at a time for each field
Reasons to use DOCX files:
- DOCX files will grow or shrink to accomodate as much or as little information as the user has to provide
- DOCX files allow you to use lists and repeated groups naturally and with little extra effort after labeling the first item
- DOCX files allow you to easily make whole sections of a document contingent
- DOCX files work well with linear content that is read by scanning down the page, not across.
Reasons to avoid DOCX files:
- DOCX files work less well for content formatted into columns or that require precise layout
- DOCX files can be formatted, but content may flow unexpectedly if it is longer than expected
Do some advance work to draft questions and a question order
The automation process will go better if you have planned out a basic structure for your interview, as well as thought through the information that you need to gather. Focus on a rough sketch of the process that your form enables as well as the questions that you will ask to fill it in.
Preparing your template for automation
Once you have decided on the template file that you will use, you need to add labels to each empty space on the form that will be filled in to match the user's specific situation.