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Auto Book: User Manual

1. Introduction

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System requirements
- Software:
MS Windows 10/8/Vista
- Hardware:
Effective FullHD resolution (for Extraction Wizard and Data Viewer)

Primarily, Auto Book is a tool to automatically extract and book purchase order (PO) information from emails.

It is meant to be a more efficient, free and open alternative to ubiquitous cloud-systems which require users to log-in via a Browser and burden them with downloading the data from a number of different systems (as each client tends to use a different system) and manually combining them in a local database to keep track of their accounting.

With Auto Book, PO information is simply transmitted by email and automatically – simply by pressing a hotkey – added to a database both on the client computer and on the vendor computer.

However, Auto Book can also be used unilaterally – it does not require the other party, client or vendor, to use Auto Book as well. As long as you receive data in a consistent format, you're good to go.

With Auto Book, you can:

  • Automatically capture data from emails or other text content and save these data to a database in a structured manner.
  • Create templates for emailing PO data to vendors and automatically booking these data to a database.
  • Automatically create and open local folders based on the data captured from emails.
  • Define patterns to rearrange data stored in a database for outputting them in a format tailored to an external (e.g. cloud) application.

Auto Book is a light-weight application with minimal memory/CPU footprint. Installation is not required and all data are saved within the program directory – once you delete the program directory, no traces of Auto Book will remain on your computer.

One of the main motivations to develop Auto Book was to avoid vendor lock-in. All Auto Book data are saved transparently – mostly as tab-separated text files – and can be viewed, imported and edited with third-party software at will. Auto Book keeps all your options open by design.

Auto Book does not send any information from your computer to external servers. It is designed to operate solely within its program directory.

1.1 The Use Case

Using Auto Book to capture information makes sense only if you receive similar sets of information repeatedly. A typical use case is purchase order information which your clients send you using a consistent format. For example, each time your client places an order with you, you might receive an email (created manually by the client or generated automatically in a cloud system, or generated using an Auto Book template) detailing information such as PO number, deadline, remuneration/payable amount, etc.

After you have set up an extraction scheme tailored to the format in which the data is displayed, you don't need to copy-paste these data manually into your local booking system anymore. Instead, you simply press a hotkey and Auto Book extracts these data automatically into a database. In other words, Auto Book is designed to keep you from wasting time with repetitive copy-paste operations. The more repetitive the information, the greater your benefit will be.

If both parties – sender and recipient – use Auto Book, it is recommended to use the Standard Format to transmit data for maximum ease of use. Extraction schemes for data displayed in the Standard Format can be created with a single mouse-click (see Standard Schemes).

If, however, you are the recipient and the sender does not use Auto Book, you can use the Extraction Wizard to set up your extraction scheme, provided the data are presented in a consistent format. The Extraction Wizard allows you to define the data to be captured based on their relative position within the text, based on keywords, based on symbol types (numbers, letters,…), or based on their data source (email subject, date, body, etc.), for example.

For detailed instructions on how to capture and store data, see Capturing Data. If you are acting as the ordering party that sends purchase order information to suppliers, please also read chapter Sending Data.

2. The User Interface

Auto Book offers a user interface in three different sizes – large, small and tiny. The size can be switched via the small buttons in the top right corner of the window.

2.1 Large User Interface

The large user interface offers 5 tabs titled Home, Configuration, Folders, Hotkeys and About/Help.

In the top right corner of the window are three additional buttons:

▲/▼: This button switches the always-on-top-setting. Note that this setting is separate for each interface size. That is, you can set your small and tiny interface to stay always on top, while allowing the large interface to be hidden, for example.

Small: Click this button to switch to the small interface.

Tiny: Click this button to switch to the tiny interface.

2.1.1 Home Tab

The Home tab is divided in four quadrants.

Home tab

The top-left quadrant contains dropdown menus for selecting the default database and default extraction scheme as well as the Manage Columns button.

The top-right quadrant shows a list of your extraction schemes.

The bottom-left quadrant shows a list of your templates.

The bottom-right quadrant shows a list of your databases.

Right-clicking into any one of the 3 panels will open a context menu with related functions such as opening, editing, renaming, creating, etc.

2.1.1.1 Templates panel and context menu

⯈ Double-click a Template to open it. See Using Templates.

⯈ Right-click into the Templates panel to open the context menu.

The following options are available:

Open: Opens the Template. Same as double-clicking a Template.

Copy to Clipboard: Copies the Template into the Clipboard for pasting with CTRL+V. Use this if you prefer to fill in the Template in the target application (e.g. your email client) instead of in Auto Book.

Edit: Opens the Template Wizard with the data of the selected Template for editing. You can make the same edits as when creating a new Template.

Show in Folder: Shows the selected Template in its folder on your hard disk.

Refresh: Refreshes the list of Templates in the Templates panel. Use this, for example, after manually copying a new Template into the Template folder on your hard disk.

Delete: Deletes the selected Template.

Rename: Allows to rename the selected Template.

Duplicate: Creates a copy of the selected Template. Useful if you want to create another, similar Template. You can edit the copied Template by selecting Edit from the context menu.

Create New: Opens the Template Wizard to create a new Template.

2.1.1.2 Extraction Schemes panel and context menu

⯈ Double-click an Extraction Scheme to open it for editing. See Manually Editing Extraction Schemes.

⯈ Right-click into the Extraction Schemes panel to open the context menu.

The following options are available:

Edit (Internal Viewer): Opens the Extraction Scheme for editing in Auto Book's Internal Data Viewer. Same as double-clicking an Extraction Scheme.

Edit (Internal Viewer): Opens the Extraction Scheme for editing in CSV Quick Viewer. Whether you use this or the Internal Viewer (see above) is a matter of your personal preference.

Show in Folder: Shows the selected Extraction Scheme in its folder on your hard disk.

Refresh: Refreshes the list of Extraction Schemes in the Extraction Schemes panel. Use this, for example, after manually copying a new Extraction Scheme into the Schemes folder on your hard disk.

Set as Default: Sets the selected Extraction Scheme as the Default Extraction Scheme for data extraction. The Default Extraction Scheme will be automatically pre-selected in the Data Preview, if not overridden by a parameter passed from the calling application.

Connect Database: Allows you to choose a Database which will be connected to the selected Extraction Scheme. The connected Database will be automatically pre-selected whenever this Extraction Scheme is selected in the Data Preview (either automatically or manually). In the Data Preview, the connected Database takes priority over the Default Database, but can be overridden by a parameter passed from the calling application. Connecting a Database is also possible in the Data Preview.

Disconnect Database: Disconnects a Database previously connected to this Extraction Scheme.

Delete: Deletes the selected Extraction Scheme.

Rename: Allows to rename the selected Extraction Scheme.

Duplicate: Creates a copy of the selected Extraction Scheme. Useful if you want to create another, similar Extraction Scheme. You can edit the copied Extraction Scheme by selecting Edit (Internal or external Viewer) from the context menu.

Create New: Opens the Extraction Wizard to create a new Extraction Scheme.

2.1.1.3 Databases panel and context menu

⯈ Double-click a Database to open it for viewing/editing. See Data Viewer.

⯈ Right-click into the Databases panel to open the context menu.

The following options are available:

Edit (Internal Viewer): Opens the Database for editing in Auto Book's Internal Data Viewer. Same as double-clicking a Database.

Edit (Internal Viewer): Opens the Database for editing in CSV Quick Viewer. Whether you use this or the Internal Viewer (see above) is a matter of your personal preference.

Show in Folder: Shows the selected Database in its folder on your hard disk.

Refresh: Refreshes the list of Databases in the Databases panel. Use this, for example, after manually copying a new Database into the Databases folder on your hard disk.

Set as Default: Sets the selected Database as the Default Database for storing data. The Default Database will be automatically pre-selected in the Data Preview, if not overridden by a Database connected to the selected Extraction Scheme or by a parameter passed from the calling application.

Delete: Deletes the selected Database.

Rename: Allows to rename the selected Database.

Duplicate: Creates a copy of the selected Database.

Check Integrity: Runs a simple integrity check that counts how many columns are in each row. Auto Book databases must have 10 columns per row. If rows with more or less columns are found, a list of these rows is shown, allowing you to fix them manually in an external application (e.g. text editor). Useful if you have edited a Database with an external application and accidentally corrupted it.

Export to CSV: Exports the Database to a comma-separated text file (CSV) for use in external applications.

Create New: Allows you to create a new Database (simply by entering a name).

2.1.2 Configuration Tab

Configuration tab

The Configuration tab contains various controls to modify the behavior of Auto Book. All changes you make are saved automatically.

See below for details.

Start with Windows: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will be started automatically when Windows is started. As Auto Book's memory footprint is negligible, it's recommended to enable it.

Minimize to tray on startup (double-click tray icon to open): If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will stay minimized to the system tray upon startup of Windows. In this case, double-click the Auto Book icon in the tray to open the main interface.

Always save Extraction Wizard settings: If this checkbox is activated (recommended), whenever you save an extraction scheme from the Extraction Wizard, the Wizard settings will also be saved automatically, allowing you to reload and modify the settings if your requirements change. If deactivated, you can still manually save the settings by using the Save Settings button in the Extraction Wizard.

Never show tooltips: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will not show any tooltips explaining the various controls. Recommended after you have familiarized yourself with all Auto Book functions.

Never show news: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book news – for example about major updates or new functions - will never be downloaded or shown on your computer.

Use comma as decimal separator by default: To use by default a comma (,) as decimal separator instead of a dot (.) for calculating sums in the database viewer, activate this checkbox. Defaults will not applied to database columns for which you have manually selected the separator before. To reverse all settings to their defaults, delete the file “database.meta” in the program directory.

Automatically backup databases before editing: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will create a time-stamped backup whenever you open a database for editing. These backups are saved in the backup-folder. This function gives protection from user-errors, but if you are editing databases frequently, you may not want to generate as many backup files.

Automatically backup extraction schemes before editing: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will create a time-stamped backup when you open an extraction scheme for editing. These backups are saved in the backup-folder. Recommended for safety fetishists only.

Automatically back up all databases every: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will create time-stamped backups of all databases in pre-defined time intervals. Set these time intervals by using the dropdown menu and edit field below. The backup files will be saved in the backup folder.

Automatically back up all extraction schemes every: If this checkbox is activated, Auto Book will create time-stamped backups of all extraction schemes in pre-defined time intervals. Set these time intervals by using the dropdown menu and edit field below. The backup files will be saved in the backup folder.

Gui Background Color (RGB Hex, activated after 2s): Enter a RGB (red, green, blue) value in hexadecimal format here to use your own background color for all Auto Book windows. The color will change automatically after 2s waiting time. The Restore button to the right will restore the original background color.

Restore Defaults: By clicking this button, all settings on the Configuration will be restored to their original state. This action cannot be undone.

2.1.3 Folders Tab

The Folders tab shows the folders Auto Book uses for storing various types of files and allows you to change them.

When you change a folder, any contained files will be automatically copied to the new destination, provided there is no conflict (a file with the same name already existing in the destination folder).

It makes sense to keep all folders within the program directory as this will make migrating to a new computer easier (you only have to copy the program directory). Still, you can choose any folder you want, of course.

To change a folder, click the button next to it. To open a folder, click the 📁 button next to it.

Restore Defaults: By clicking this button, all folders will be restored to their original paths. Note, however, that files contained in user-selected folders will not be copied back automatically to the default folders. You will have to this manually.

2.1.4 Hotkeys Tab

Hotkeys tab

The Hotkeys tab allows you to define hotkeys (keyboard shortcuts) for various Auto Book functions.

Click into the respective field and then press the hotkey you want to use.

Note: This method does not work for the Windows key on your keyboard. To use the Windows key as part of your hotkey combination, activate the Win checkbox next to it.

Click Save to save your changes. A tooltip next to the system tray will confirm the changed hotkey.

⚠ Note that before clicking Save, the old hotkey is still in effect. That means that if you have changed a hotkey and not clicked Save, you cannot select the old hotkey again because when you press it, it will be triggered. To change back to the old hotkey in this situation, first click Save, click into the hotkey field again and press the old hotkey. Then click Save once more.

Main Window Hotkey: This hotkey will open the main program window, e.g. after Auto Book has been minimized to the tray. Note that it will not start Auto Book if it is not running already in the background. If the main window is already open but minimized or hidden by other windows, this hotkey will bring the window forward.

Clipboard Concatenation Hotkey: This is the hotkey for concatenating data in the clipboard: If you select text and press this hotkey, the selected text will not replace the text already existing in the clipboard, but will be appended (added) to it. This function is useful if you cannot capture all needed text with only one copy operation.

Extraction Hotkey: This hotkey triggers the extraction of data for adding them to a database. This hotkey will work in either of the following cases: (1) You only select the text from which you want to extract data and then press this hotkey, or (2) the text from which you want to extract is already in the clipboard when you press this hotkey.

Email Source Extraction Hotkey: This hotkey works the same way as the Extraction Hotkey above. However, the selected text/text in the clipboard is assumed to be email source data including header information such as email date, subject, sender address, etc. These header information are automatically captured and assigned to the sources defined in the extraction scheme (Date, Sender, Subject, Address, Text; for details, see Extraction Wizard). Furthermore, the email source is automatically decoded (Base64, Quoted-Printable, etc.) and interpreted (in case of HTML).

Restore Defaults: This button restores all hotkeys on this tab to their original settings. This action cannot be undone.

2.1.5 About/Help Tab

This tab shows version/licensing information and Auto Book news, if any. If you have purchased a license, enter your data here.

2.2 Small User Interface

Small Interface

Click the *Small* button (or S button when using the tiny user interface) in the top right corner of the window to switch to the small user interface.

The small user interface offers the same functionality as the Home tab of the large user interface. The other tabs of the large user interface are not accessible.

The 4 tabs of the small user interface correspond to the 4 quadrants of the large user interface. That is, the DF tab shows the default settings, and the TP, ES and DB tabs show the lists of your templates, extraction schemes and databases, respectively.

The triangle button in the top right corner switches the always-on-top-setting. Note that this setting is separate for each interface size. That is, you can set your small interface to stay always on top, while allowing the large interface to be hidden, for example.

Everything else works the same way as in the large user interface.

2.3 Tiny User Interface

Tiny Interface

Click the Tiny button (or T button when using the small user interface) in the top right corner of the window to switch to the tiny user interface.

The tiny user interface offers the exact same functionality as the small user interface. It's just even smaller.

As with the small interface, the triangle button in the top right corner switches the always-on-top-setting, which is separate for each interface size.

Note that the window is so small that you probably won't be able to grab the window title bar anymore in order to move the window. To still be able to move the window, simply click the Auto Book icon in the left corner of the title bar and select Move.

To switch back to the small or large interface, click the S or L button in the top right corner.

2.4 Data Preview

The Data Preview window is shown automatically as soon as you trigger data extraction (via the Extraction hotkey, the Email Source Extraction hotkey, direct transmission of data to Auto Book, or a template).

Data Preview with selected $Generic scheme and Auto Folder pattern

2.4.1 Data Fields

The central part, titled Extracted Data, consists of 10 data fields showing the data that was extracted from your text. The data are automatically updated when you click on an extraction scheme in the panel to the right.

You can also manually modify these fields before saving them to a database.

The left column, titled Scheme Headers, shows the column headers corresponding to these 10 fields of data. Normally, these column headers are the headers set in the (pre-) selected extraction scheme. The only exception is the scheme $Generic, with which no headers are associated; instead, the headers themselves are also extracted from the source text in this case. (Thus, if the $Generic scheme is selected and no keywords are found in the source text, this column remains blank.)

When you select a new scheme in the Extraction Schemes panel, the scheme headers will be updated automatically.

To the right side of the 10 data fields is another column of headers, which are the database column headers found in the (pre-selected) database.

2.4.2 Extraction Schemes panel

Further to the right, the panel titled Extraction Schemes shows all available extraction schemes. If the pre-selected extraction scheme is not the one you want to use, select another scheme by clicking on it. The data in the data fields will be updated automatically.

2.4.3 Databases panel

Still further to the right, the panel titled Databases shows all available databases. The extracted data will be saved in the database selected here once you click the Add to database button at the bottom of the window.

The selected database's column headers are shown to the right side of the 10 data fields. Note that these are for informational purposes and do not limit the database to accepting certain type of data. In principle, all databases can accept data using any extraction scheme. The header names are meant to merely help you decide in which database you want to save your data.

Thus, to facilitate choosing a database, databases with header names exactly matching the headers of the selected extraction scheme are preceded by an asterisk (*).

2.4.4 Connecting a Database

Connect Database checkbox

Databases can be connected to an extraction scheme. When an extraction scheme is (pre-) selected to which a database a connected, the connected database will be automatically pre-selected. Thus, if you are using a separate extraction scheme and database for one particular client, for example, you can connect this database to the respective extraction scheme so that next time you are processing data from this client, the database will be automatically selected.

To connect a database to the selected extraction scheme, activate the checkbox below the Databases panel. The connection will be established when you click the Add to database button.

Alternatively, you can also connect a database by selecting Connect database in the context menu of the Extraction Schemes panel on the Home tab.

2.4.5 Auto Folder

Below the 10 data fields are two more fields titled Auto Folder.

Auto Folder controls: Auto Folder pattern (top) and Auto Folder path (displayed green)

The Auto Folder function allows you to set folder patterns defining paths on your computer based on the data extracted from your text. You can then automatically create and open the folders defined in this way.

Type the folder pattern into the upper Auto Folder field, or alternatively click the button next to it and select a folder. This pattern has to conform to the usual rules applying to Microsoft Windows and must start with a drive letter. Thus, the pattern will be of the format “C:\MyFolder\…”

However, the Auto Folder pattern can also include references to the data extracted from your text.

Columns 1-10 can be referenced using number tags <\1>, <\2>, … <\10> or literal tags such as <ColumnTitle1>, which are simply the column headers shown in the Scheme/Source Headers columns enclosed by <>. Note the when using numbers, a backslash (\) has to precede the number; when using literal tags, no backslash must be included.

These tags will be automatically replaced with the data extracted from your text, and the resulting path is updated on the fly in the lower of the two Auto Folder fields.

Try it out using our sample text:

Auto Book Data:
Date: 2021-12-01
Client: Sample Company, Ltd.
Email: noreply@autobook.leininger.de
PO: ABC20211201
Task: Data entry
Deadline: 2021-12-31
Amount: 1000
Currency: USD

Select all of this text and press CTRL+SHIFT+E to open the Preview Window. Select the $Generic scheme if it is not already preselected. Now, type <Date> or <\1> into the Auto Folder pattern field. You will notice that this tag is automatically replaced with the date extracted from your text in the lower Auto Folder field, i.e. 2021-12-01 in this example.

If you activate the Create folder checkbox below, the folder shown in the lower field will be created automatically once you click either Add to database (in which case the data will be added to the selected database at the same time) or Process Auto Folder (in which case the folder will be created and/or opened, but no data will be added to the database).

Thus, the Auto Folder function allows you to automatically define folders based on the data you have received. For example, you could specify something like “C:\Clients\<Client>\<Date>.<PO>” to automatically create a folder in your client directory including the extracted date and PO number.

💡 You can override the path generated based on the Auto Folder pattern in the upper field by directly typing or selecting a folder in the lower field. The folder that is generated and/or opened is always the folder in the lower field.

💡 You can also save the Auto Folder path in your database by including the <AutoFolder> command in your extraction scheme (so that each database record shows the associated folder). Furthermore, if your extraction scheme includes the <AutoFolder> command and you manually modify the Auto Folder pattern or path, the path inserted for <AutoFolder> will be updated automatically and on-the-fly.

💡 You can include an expression like “AB” for “Auto Book” in your Auto Folder pattern so that you can tell in File Explorer which folders/projects were processed with Auto Book and are already saved in your database.

2.4.6 Confirmation Window

After your data was saved to a database, by default the database's last column is read out again and displayed. This is meant to give the user additional confirmation that the data was correctly saved. It's merely a matter of convenience, however, and safely can be switched off – either be deactivating the Show confirmation window checkbox in the Data Preview window or by activating the Don't show this window again checkbox in the Confirmation Window.

2.4.7 Buttons

There are 3 buttons at the bottom of the Data Preview window:

Add to database: Adds the data shown in the 10 data fields to the selected database and processes your Auto Folder settings (creating/opening the folder, saving the folder pattern, if necessary). Also, if you activated the Connect this database to the selected extraction scheme checkbox, the selected database will be connected to the selected extraction scheme.

Cancel: Discards the extracted data and closes the window without doing anything.

Process AutoFolder: Processes your Auto Folder settings (creating/opening the folder, saving the folder pattern, if necessary) without adding the extracted data to the database. Useful if you sometimes want to use Auto Book simply for creating folders.

2.5 Data Viewer

Auto Book's Data Viewer will open in a number of situations, e.g. when database column headers need to be selected or when editing databases or extraction schemes. Its controls, located in the bottom ribbon, vary depending on the purpose the Data Viewer is opened for.

Sorting is possible by clicking on the column headers. Sorting is normally done alphabetically; however, if you activate any of the summation fields (see below), the respective column is interpreted as numerical and will be sorted by value as long as each cell contains only a number.

To edit a cell's value, double-click the cell.

In the following, all controls are described.

Bottom Ribbon of the Data Viewer in Database Viewing Mode

2.5.1 ∑ button, Summation Fields and Separator/Activation Buttons

These controls are only shown when the Data Viewer is used for editing/viewing a database.

The summation fields will show the sum of the values in each column.

Summation Fields of the Data Viewer using dots (D) as decimal separator

The separator/activation buttons are the buttons immediately to the right of each of the summation fields, showing either a D or a C. With these buttons, choose whether a dot or a comma should be used as decimal separator for the numbers in each column. (In most countries including the USA and England, a dot is used, as in “3.14”; however, Germany, France and some other countries use a comma (,) instead.) C means “comma” and D means “dot”.

When you click the button, the C changes to D and vice versa, and the sum, if activated, is automatically updated to reflect the change. A change of the decimal separator also automatically changes the separator used for grouping digits in large numbers (e.g. 1,000,000.00) – that is, when the decimal separator is dot, the grouping separator is comma, and vice versa.

To activate or deactivate summation for all columns, left-click the button on the left side. To activate summation for one particular column, right-click onto the corresponding separator/activation button button. The separator setting is not affected by activation/deactivation and will be remembered if you re-activate a field.

The contents of columns for which summation has been activated are automatically right-aligned.

If you changed any of the numbers in a column, simply single-click into the corresponding summation field to update the total.

Your settings – which summation fields are activated and which separators are used – will be saved and remembered automatically.

2.5.1.1 Filtering

Auto Book v1.0 does not offer advanced filtering functionalities. However, to quickly calculate the sums for a selection of rows, you can simply select these rows (in the usual manner, by holding down CONTROL to select several rows or SHIFT to select a range of rows) and then update the total with a single click into the summation field. Thus, if you need the sum for, say, a single month, sort the database by date, select all rows belonging to that month and then click into the summation field you wish to update.

To cancel any filtering and show the sum for all rows again, deselect all rows by right-clicking somewhere outside the area of the data cells, for example onto the bottom ribbon. Then, single-click again into the summation field you wish to update.

2.5.1.2 The Summation Algorithm

Auto Book's aim is to make the user's life as easy as possible. The algorithm looking for numbers in a column's field therefore is designed for a degree of tolerance: Summation works even if fields contain text in addition to pure numbers, and the numbers that are summed don't need to be exactly in the same format, as long as they correspond to the choice of separator (dot/comma; see above) and are unambiguous.

For example, if the decimal separator is set to dot (default), all of the following numbers would be included in the total:

-20.50Negative numbers are allowed
5,000,000.001Grouping separators (,) are allowed when spaced correctly (3 digits each)
USD 70.1Additional text is allowed; the number will be extracted and summed
Cost:+40$Plus signs are also allowed.
5000000Grouping separators are not mandatory for large numbers
0010Leading zeros are allowed

However, the following cells would not be considered numbers (as they don't conform to any valid format):

30,30,60 (grouping separators, commas in this case, must be spaced by 3 digits!)
50,2 (comma is not allowed as decimal separator when set to dot)
60 and 50 (multiple numbers are not allowed)
5000,000.00If grouping separators are used, they cannot be omitted in some positions

Whenever there are multiple possible numbers in one cell, this cell is excluded from the sum to avoid ambiguity.

2.5.1.3 Display Format and Additional Information

Sums of activated summation fields are always rounded to 2 decimal digits and displayed without grouping separators (no matter what format the numbers in the column's cells have).

Sums can be displayed in one of three colors:

Black: No anomaly detected – exactly one number was in each cell.
Purple: A sum was calculated, but some cells in this column were excluded (because either no number or multiple numbers were found).
Red: No valid numbers were found – summation was not possible.

Additional Information: If a sum is displayed in purple, long-click (more than 1s) into the summation field and then release the mouse button to open a window with detailed information about which rows were blank, did not include any numbers, or included multiple numbers.

2.5.2 Special

The Special group of controls is only enabled when the Data Viewer is used to display sets of column headers. Such sets of column headers are used for creating new Databases or Extraction Schemes.

Special group of controls in disabled state

Generate Standard Scheme: After selecting (clicking on) a set of column headers, click this button to generate a Standard Scheme based on the selected column headers. That is, the generated scheme will use the selected column headers as keywords for data extraction, such that any text following the keywords (and a colon+space) will be be extracted. If “Date” is one of the column headers, then “2021-12-31” would be extracted in the following example:

Date: 2021-12-31

You will find the Generate Standard Scheme button enabled when you click on Manage Cols on the Home tab. After clicking the Generate Standard Scheme button, enter a name for your extraction scheme and you're done. The new extraction scheme will show up in the Extraction Schemes panel on the Home tab and is ready to use.

Reload Defaults: If you have deleted or modified any of the pre-configured sets of column headers, this button allows you to reload the default sets.

2.5.3 Output Masks

The Output Masks group of controls covers all functions related to output masks. Output masks in Auto Book refer to patterns used to output a database's content in a different format.

Output Masks group of controls

The larger box on the left side is the Output Masks Listbox. This list shows only those output masks that have been saved for this database (or for all databases - see below). If you click on an output mask, it will be automatically loaded and shown in the Output Mask field (see below).

[Enter Name] field: When saving an output mask, enter a name here.

Delete: Click this button to delete an output mask selected in the Output Masks Listbox.

Save: Click this button to save an output masks after entering a name in the [Enter Name] field.

Save for all: By default, output masks are specific to a database and won't show up when opening other databases so that the listbox doesn't become cluttered. In order to create an output mask for all databases, activate this checkbox before clicking the Save button.

Output Mask Field: This field will be filled automatically when you select one of the output masks shown in the Output Masks Listbox. When creating a new output mask, type your output mask here. Enter arbitrary text plus references to any number of database columns, which will be replaced by the corresponding column's value in each row when the database is output. Refer to a column either by a its number preceded by a backslash, e.g. <\1> for column 1, or alternatively by its name, e.g. <Date>. Furthermore, you can insert the row number using <\row>, line breaks using <br>, <\br>, or <enter>, and tabs using <tab> or <\tab>.

Control Code Overview
Control CodeMeaningComment/Example
<column name>The value of the referenced columnIf the column is named “Date”, enter <Date>. The value of that column will be output, e.g. 2021-12-31. Alternatively, use the column's number preceded by a \ (see below).
<\column number>The value of the referenced columnTo output the value of column 1, enter <\1>. Alternatively, use the column's name without preceding \ (see above).
<row> or <\row>*The row number1
<br> or <\br>*A line break (same as <enter>)
<enter>A line break (same as <br>)
<tab> or <\tab>*A tabulator

* The control codes preceded by a backslash (\) can be used to avoid conflicts in case one of your columns is named identically. For example, if a column is named “row”, then <row> will be replaced with that column's value in each row. To insert the row number instead, use <\row>.

Test Output: This read-only field is updated on-the-fly while you type your output mask. It shows the output your mask will generate for the row shown in the Test Row field.

Test Row: To test your output mask using a different row (default: 1), type a new number here.

Descending Rows: By default, when outputting a database using an output mask, the rows will be output in ascending order; i.e. in the same order as shown in the Data Viewer. Activate this checkbox to output the database in reverse order.

Output Database: Click this button to output your database in the format shown in the Output Mask field (see above).

2.5.4 Database Operations

The Database Operations group of controls contains four buttons:

Database Operations group of controls

Add row: Blank rows without row number (in the leftmost column) don't exist yet. To enter data into a new row, first click this button (as many times as you need rows).

Delete: To delete rows, select the rows and then click this button. (To delete multiple rows, hold down CONTROL or SHIFT while clicking the rows.)

Exit: Exit the Data Viewer.

Save: Save your data.

3. Capturing Data

3.1 Understand: The Basics

Auto Book's primary intended use case is extracting data from emails. However, it may also be used to capture information from any other text content, for example data displayed in cloud systems. It's also possible to extract data from PDFs by looking at how the text content of a PDF, when copied into a text editor, is displayed, and then tailoring a Custom Scheme to these text data. Since different PDF viewers may lead to different results, however, extraction from PDFs is a bit a matter of luck and should be considered “off-label use”.

To extract data, Auto Book allows you to define extraction schemes, which are sets of rules telling Auto Book which data to extract and how to store them. Extraction schemes are easily created with the help of a Wizard based on mouse clicks.

The extracted data is stored in tab-separated plain text files which are called databases in this documentation.

Each database consists of 10 columns with freely customizable header names (e.g. “Client”, “Date”, “PO”,…). These header names are only meant to tell you what type of information is contained in each column – they don't restrict the database's function in any way and can be changed at a later time.

Of course, you don't need to make use of all 10 columns should you need to capture fewer pieces of information.

3.1.1 Configuring Column Headers

⯈ On the Home tab, click the Manage Columns button.

The Auto Book Data Viewer will open and display several rows of pre-defined column header names. These are the column header names you can choose from when creating a new database. To edit a name, simply double-click it and type a new name. To create a new set of header names, click the Add row button in the bottom ribbon and then type your header names into each column of the newly created row. Don't forget to click the Save button if you want to save your changes for later use.

⯈ Click Exit to return to the main window.

For the moment, we are done here. In fact, you can perform exactly the same operations when creating a new database. Let's try it.

3.1.2 Creating a New Database

⯈ Right-click within the Databases panel in the bottom right area of the Home tab. Select Create new from the pop-up menu.

The Data Viewer appears again showing the available column header names. Make edits, if necessary, or simply click the row of header names you wish to use to highlight it. Then click the Select button to the very right of the bottom ribbon.

Auto Book prompts you to enter a name for your new database. Enter your desired name and click OK.

Your new database will appear in the Databases panel in the bottom right area of the Home tab.

That's it. Your database is ready to accept data.

3.2 Transmitting the Source Text to Auto Book

To capture data and store it in your newly created database, the source text must be transmitted to Auto Book for processing.

To do this, either (1) select the source text manually and use Auto Book's extraction hotkey (default: CTRL+SHIFT+E) or (2) send the source text as parameters to DataInput.exe (recommended when using The Bat or another compatible email client).

3.2.1 Selecting Text Manually

In the simplest case, all you want to do is extract data from a single piece of text, e.g. the text body of an email.

You only need to mark the text part from which you want to extract data (e.g. the email) with your mouse or press CTRL+A to select all text. Then press Auto Book's extraction hotkey (default: CTRL+SHIFT+E).

The Data Preview will appear and show the extracted data based on the pre-selected extraction scheme. If this is not the scheme you want to use, select the desired scheme in the Extraction Schemes panel. The Add to database button then allows you to store the captured data in the database selected in the Databases panel. For more information, see Data Preview.

If this is your use case, you can skip to the next chapter (Creating an Extraction Scheme) and try out the extraction hotkey with the example data shown there.

If you need data from several pieces of text—for example from the text body of an email, and in addition from its Subject, Sender, Address or Date line—you can concatenate ("glue together") the required text parts using Auto Book's concatenation hotkey. In the case of emails, instead of concatenating the needed components, you can alternatively process the email source.

3.2.1.1 Concatenating Text

To concatenate text in the clipboard, first copy the first needed text part normally, that is by selecting it and then pressing CTRL+C. Then select the next needed text part and glue it to the previously copied text by using Auto Book's concatenation hotkey, which is CTRL+SHIFT+C by default (changeable on the Hotkeys tab). Continue as many times as needed.

Once you have collected all needed text in this way, press Auto Book's extraction hotkey. The Data Preview will appear - proceed in the same way as described above.

Note: Each time you use the concatenation hotkey, the text should be deselected automatically. Auto Book does that by virtually clicking your mouse at the cursor's location. It's a feature, not a bug: The reason is that when you use the extraction hotkey, Auto Book will first look for selected text to copy, which would replace your concatenated text if found; that is, only if no text is currently selected, the extraction hotkey will use the text previously placed in the clipboard.

3.2.1.2 Processing the Email Source

If you are going to extract data from emails and want to avoid having to concatenate several emails parts such as text body, subject, etc., you can also process the email source. The advantage of this method is that all email data is contained in the source, so a single copy operation is sufficient in any case. Auto Book will decode the email source, recognize the relevant parts (text body, date, subject, sender address, and sender name) automatically and apply your extraction scheme to the resulting data. Sounds a bit complicated, but really isn't (for the user):

1) Open the email source. How this works depends on your email client. (In The Bat, select the email and press F9.)

2) Press Auto Book's Email source extraction hotkey (default: CTRL+ALT+E).

Potential disadvantages of this method are: Depending on your email client, it might take a moment to open the source if there are large attachments embedded in the email. This shouldn't be relevant, however, if you're using web email such as gmail. Try it out. My caveat is based on testing with The Bat, it might not affect any other clients. Secondly, there is some variability in how emails are displayed, and Auto Book's decoding algorithm might not “see” your email in exactly the same way as your email client. So in certain cases an extraction scheme tailored to the email as it looks in your email client might fail when applied to the email source. Therefore, when setting up an extraction scheme for use with the email source, you should first open Auto Book's Email Interpreter and copy the source of a sample email to the clipboard. The interpreter will then show how the email looks to Auto Book, and you can create your scheme accordingly.

3.2.2 Direct transmission of Email Data to Auto Book

In order to directly transmit email data to Auto Book, your email client must be able to pass email data as parameters to an external application.

I am not aware of any other email client than Ritlabs' The Bat that is able to do that. If you know any, please let me know and I will include detailed instructions in this manual.

If you are using The Bat, it is strongly recommended to use this method - all your email data - email subject, sending date, sender name, sender address and of course the text body - can be transmitted to Auto Book by pressing a single hotkey, or even fully automatically based on filter settings. In addition, you are able to associate the extraction scheme and database you want to use with a hotkey, i.e. you can set up different hotkeys to pre-select different extraction schemes/databases in the Data Preview, for example depending on the client that sent the email.

While the other two methods are not necessarily significantly slower, direct transmission is the most elegant approach. Consider switching to The Bat if you are interested in a highly configurable (although not free) email client. I am in no way whatsoever associated with The Bat's publisher, Ritlabs (really), but I have been using The Bat for over 20 years and counting. It's one of the applications most central to my overall IT setup, and its ability to pass parameters to external software gave me the idea to develop Auto Book in the first place. You will find detailed instructions on a separate page: Setting up The Bat for Auto Book.

3.3 Creating an Extraction Scheme

Text data transmitted to Auto Book is processed using extraction schemes. Extraction schemes define which data is extracted and stored in a database.

There are 3 types of extraction schemes – the Generic Scheme, Standard Schemes and Custom Schemes, all of which are explained below.

For these instructions, we'll assume Auto Book's primary use case, i.e. capturing (purchase order) information from emails.

3.3.1 The Generic Scheme

The Generic scheme is a pre-defined scheme meant to facilitate capturing data independently of the used keywords.

The Generic scheme extracts data from a list of arbitrary keywords followed by a colon and a space and then the information to be captured.

The Generic scheme is shown as “$Generic” in the Extraction Schemes panel on the Home tab. (The “$” merely indicates that it's an internal scheme that doesn't exist as a separate file on your hard-disk.)

As an example, take the following list of data:

Auto Book Data:
Date: 2021-12-01
Client: Sample Company, Ltd.
Email: noreply@autobook.leininger.de
PO: ABC20211201
Task: Data entry
Deadline: 2021-12-31
Amount: 1000
Currency: USD

⯈ If you have Auto Book running, try it out: Select the list above and then press CTRL+SHIFT+E. If you haven't changed the default scheme setting, the Generic scheme will be preselected and the extracted data shown in the preview window. (If you have changed the default scheme setting and the Generic scheme is not preselected, select it manually in the Extraction Schemes panel.) You can then add these data to the sample database or just cancel the operation for now.

The data to be captured by the Generic scheme have to fulfill the following conditions:

  1. No empty lines are allowed between consecutive keywords.
  2. Keyword and data to be extracted must be separated by a colon. (Keyword and data are allowed to be blank; so strictly speaking, a single colon in each line is sufficient.)

It's recommended to tell Auto Book that a keyword list begins by starting off the list with a “trigger line”. The content of this trigger line must be “Auto Book Data:”, as in the example above, or alternatively just three slashes, as shown below:

///
Keyword: Data …

If you omit the trigger line, Auto Book will analyze your text to determine the longest section of consecutive lines of “keyword: data” and extract the data from this list. For example, if you are processing an email and the first line is “Dear Sir or Madam:”, this line will be ignored if further below is a longer list of several keywords followed by colons.

Note that the keys are only for informational purposes. They show up in the leftmost column of the Preview Window, but have no other function. So in principle, you can also simply start each line with a colon, like this:

Auto Book Data:
:2021-12-01
:Sample Company, Ltd.
:noreply@autobook.leininger.de
:ABC20211201
:Data entry
:2021-12-31
:1000
:USD

If you select the text and press CTRL+SHIFT+E again, you will notice that the keys on the left side of the extracted data are missing. Everything else works the same way.

3.3.2 Standard Schemes

Standard Schemes are standardized schemes based on the Standard Format. In the Standard Format, keywords which are placed at the beginning of a line, followed by a colon and a space, designate lines of data, with the wanted data following the colon. In other words, these lines, in the following referred to as (colon-separated) keyword-data lines, look like this:

keyword: data

Note that term “line” in this documentation always refers to the whole string until a hard line-break is met. That is, the data can be longer than what is displayed in a single line in an email client or other viewer.

Unlike in the case of the Generic Scheme, the position and order of the keywords and data within the text don't matter. That's because the keywords are determined in advance (i.e. when setting up the Extraction Scheme) so that the data can be extracted based on these keywords. (In contrast, in case of the Generic Scheme, the keywords are not known in advance and instead also extracted from the text by searching for the longest block of keyword-data lines and assigning these to the database columns in the order in which they appear. In other words, the Generic Scheme generates identical extraction results to a Standard Scheme if and only if the keywords (1) are arranged in a single block of lines with no empty lines, (2) are arranged in the order of the columns defined by the Standard Scheme, and (3) no longer block of keyword-data lines (lines containing exactly one colon) is found elsewhere in the text.)

Thus, when using a Standard Scheme, no matter where the keywords appear in the text, the corresponding data will always be stored in the same Database column.

Example:

Date: 2021-12-01

Client: Sample Company, Ltd.
Email: noreply@autobook.leininger.de
PO: ABC20211201
Task: Data entry

Amount: 1000
Currency: USD

Important! The following deadline must be kept under all circumstances. [This line won't be captured because there is no key.]
Deadline: 2021-12-31

⯈ To try it out, select the text and press CTRL+SHIFT+E again. Assuming the Generic scheme is still preselected, you will notice that not all data were captured. That's because the Generic scheme only processes the longest uninterrupted keyword-data list in the text. However, if you now select the scheme “Standard-Sample” in the Extraction Schemes panel, the extracted data are automatically updated and you will see that all wanted data are captured. Moreover, their column is determined by the scheme, not the position within the text – that is, the deadline, for example, is shown in column 6, not in the last column.

Apart from the differences noted above, Standard Schemes are also computationally more efficient than the $Generic Scheme, although you won't notice the time savings in typical usage scenarios (a few milliseconds, likely).

3.3.2.1 Creating a Standard Scheme

To easily create a standard scheme:

⯈ On the Home tab, click the Manage Columns button.

Generate Standard Scheme button of the Data Viewer

⯈ Select a set of column headers matching the keywords you want to use with your extraction scheme. (Enter a new set of headers if none of the existing ones fits your needs.)

⯈ Click the Generate Std. Scheme button.

⯈ Type a name into the input box that opens and click OK. Your new scheme will appear in the Extraction Schemes panel on the Home tab.

Alternatively, you can also create Standard Schemes via the Extraction Wizard. This way, you can use the Standard Format only for some columns in order to use other columns for other methods, fixed text or commands such as <Time> or <AutoFolder>.

Finally, if you already have a template based on the keys you want to use for your extraction scheme, another option is to right-click into the Templates panel on the Home tab, select Edit from the context menu and then click the Create Extraction Scheme button. (For more information, see Creating a Template: Template Wizard.)

3.3.3 Custom Schemes

Custom schemes are much more versatile than Standard schemes and allow you to extract data from text of (almost) any format, provided it's consistent. They are typically employed when the sending party does not use Auto Book, but still uses a consistent format. They can also be useful for grabbing data from a cloud-system or other situations where you want to store structured data in a database.

Custom schemes allow you to define the data to be extracted based on their relative position within the text, based on keywords, symbols, components of words, and more. For instructions on how to create custom schemes, see Extraction Wizard.

4. Sending Data

4.1 Understand: The Basics

Auto Book is useful for receiving as well as sending data. It allows you to setup templates for sending data sets to your suppliers, for example, and automatically add these transmitted data to your own database.

For example, you might want to create a database for tracking all purchase orders you issue, or possibly a separate database for each supplier.

To make this as simple as possible, Auto Book provides the Template functionality.

4.2 Templates

Templates are simple structured text files based on the Standard Format. That is, they contain a list of colon-separated keywords and corresponding data. In addition, they may contain arbitrary text before and after this colon-separated keyword-data list, typically used for addressing the recipient and providing additional information.

Auto Book database consist of 10 data columns. Templates, on the other hand, allow you to include up to 20 keyword-data lines. That's because not all information might be relevant to both sender and recipient – for example, the recipient's name, being obvious to the recipient, would probably not need to be included in the recipient's database, while the sender's name would not be needed in the sender's database. Therefore, Auto Book accommodates up to 20 lines, covering the theoretical limit where the two sets of information used by sender and recipient are non-overlapping.

For each keyword included in your template, you can also define default data. For example, if you include a keyword for your own name, you probably want to enter your name as default data so you don't need to type it each time you are using the template.

These default data also accept <Time> and <Time.Format> commands in the way same way as extraction schemes, allowing you to automatically insert the current date and/or time in a user-defined format. For more information, see Time Control Codes.

Furthermore, it is possible to connect an Extraction Scheme to a Template via the Connect Scheme dropdown list of the Template Wizard. When processing template data in order to add them to a database, this Extraction Scheme is then automatically pre-selected in the Data Preview along with the Extraction Scheme's Connected Database (if any).

4.2.1 Creating a Template: Template Wizard

Template Wizard

To create a new template, right-click into the Templates panel on Auto Book's Home tab and select Create new from the context menu.

The Template Wizard will open.

The two large fields at the top and bottom allow you to enter arbitrary text which will appear before and after your keyword-data list.

In the middle section of the window, 2 x 10 fields are provided for entering keys (left column) and their default data (right column). Default data can be arbitrary text or <Time> and <Time.Format> commands.

If you want to use more or less than 10 keys, enter the desired number into the Number of Keys field at the top of the screen and then click Apply.

Load Column Headers: This button allows you to load a set of column headers you have saved beforehand (for use with a database and extraction scheme) and use these header names as keys for your template. After selecting a row of column headers, their names will be inserted automatically into your template.

The Add Colons checkbox is activated by default. When activated, colons are added automatically between each key and its data. In this case, don't add colons manually, or you will end up with two colons per line. If you deactivate the checkbox, you can enter a symbol different from a colon to separate keys and data by typing directly into the key fields (left column). Note, however, that the Create Extraction Scheme button (see below) works only for colon-separated keyword-data lists. To create an extraction scheme for different symbols, use the Extraction Wizard (Standard Method with Custom String).

Use Trigger Line: A trigger line is a line that tells Auto Book during extraction operations that a block of key-data lines begins. This line will be inserted immediately before the key-data lines when you open the template. The trigger line is optional, but improves performance if the extracting party uses the $Generic scheme for extraction and removes ambiguity in case a text contains more than one block of key-data lines. Apart from that, the trigger line Auto Book Data: informs the receiving user that you are using Auto Book and that your data is formatted appropriately. If you choose the option ///, three slashes will be inserted instead of “Auto Book Data:” – functionally, there is no difference. If you prefer not to use a trigger line at all, choose the option None.

Connect Scheme: This dropdown menu allows you to select a scheme to connect with your template. A scheme connected to a template will be automatically preselected in the Data Preview window when saving a template's content to a database (see Adding Template Data to a Database).

Create Extraction Scheme: This button allows you to easily create an extraction scheme based on your template. This extraction scheme will use the Standard Format, meaning it will extract the data following the colons of your keyword-data list. After clicking this button, you will be given the option to deselect any key you don't want to include in the scheme. This can be useful if you want to create separate extraction schemes for sender and recipient, for example.

Reset: Click this button to clear all text you have entered and start from scratch. This action cannot be undone.

Exit: Click this button to exit the Template Wizard.

Save: Click this button to save your template. After saving, the template will automatically appear in the Templates panel on the Home tab.

4.2.2 Editing Templates

To edit a templates, right-click the its name in the Templates panel on the Home tab and select Edit. The Template Wizard will open and display the template's information. Make edits as necessary. For details, see Creating a Template: Template Wizard above.

4.2.3 Using Templates

Templates provide two basic functionalities:

  1. They make text for inserting into emails easily available and save time for entering data such as the current date.
  2. They make it easy to add the data you are sending out (e.g. to your suppliers) to a database.

4.2.3.1 Opening a Template

Template Viewer showing a simple template

To open a template, simply double-click it in the Templates list on the Home tab. (Or alternatively, right-click and select Open.)

When a template is opened, its content is automatically copied to the clipboard so that you can immediately insert it into your email by pressing CTRL+V. You don't need to select the text and press CTRL+C. The same holds for data you enter after opening the template – the clipboard is always automatically updated to reflect the template's content.

In case you still needed the clipboard's prior content, there is a button (undo) in the right top corner of the window. Click this button to restore the clipboard's original content.

To close the template, click Close.

4.2.3.2 Adding Template Data to a Database

To add the template to a database, simply click the Add to Database button. The Data Preview window will appear, and the extraction scheme connected to the template (if any) will be pre-selected.

Click Add to Database to save your data; for more information, see Data Preview.

start.txt · Last modified: 2021/12/22 05:40 by autobook