Eric White has put out a document generation example which uses XPath and Word Content Controls. I applaud Eric for the amount of work he has done with his exploration of different ways to perform template base generation. This is a subject that is challenging and we need as many ideas as we can get. There are a couple of areas that I see room for improvement in this XPath design that I would like to bring up.
The first is that Eric has chosen to put his document generation in the document itself. I see this as a maintenance and reusability issue. Architecturally I would prefer to have my code external to the document so that I can write and maintain it centrally in a generic fashion and tie it to a rules engine.
Another place I see that this approach falls down is that it is good for simple text replacement, but it doesn’t handle formatting, replacing images or working with charts. This doesn’t mean that it can’t handle them, but I think it would lose the simplicity which looks to be it’s appeal.
Lastly, Content Controls are currently a Word only feature. It would be great if we could come up with a mark-up technique that was universal to all Office document types. Hey, we can dream, right?
Personally, I prefer a more meta data driven approach based on my experience with solutions which had output that was more marketing material quality. That being said, but approach is an interesting idea to add to the design arsenal. Thanks for the thoughts Eric.