I’m building an app that allows our volunteers to submit letters that we print and mail to people in ICE detention centers (You can check out our grassroots project at OtayAllies.org)
Trying to figure out the best way to allow letters to be downloaded and printed in bulk. Need some help figuring out the best (and least expensive) workflow and tools to do this with. (I’m already using Zapier, so that’s a good route)
Needs: Each week, we need to 1) identify new letters, 2) generate a single, multi page document (PDF, gDoc, docx, whatever!) with a page break between each letter (i.e., ‘mail merge’ style), 3) Download/open file and print.
Data structure: Currently, there are 3 Things interacting with each letter: Sender (Users), the Recipient (“Detained Friends”) and the Letter (“Outside Letters).
Outside letters exist as individual Things in the data structure, with fields that assign matching Users & Detained friends. So, there are several fields that will need to be pulled into the merge document from each of those three things (or, i’ll need to update the data structure and letter creating workflow so that all the needed fields are copied over to the Outside Letter field.
Right now, the system is set up so that each letter, when submitted, generates 2 emails. The first email sends a copy of the letter to the person who created it. The second email replaces the public ID information with detailed ID information for the recipient (we mask full names and ID numbers of detained individuals to keep them private from our general letter writers) and sends it to our central email account. This mirrors our prototype system where volunteers just emailed their letters to us each week. The app solves the problem of having to redact sender emails and ending up with multi-page prints when people reply to old emails each week. But, we still have a system where a volunteer has to go in and print individual emails. It’s cumbersome and really not scalable.
So, my thinking is this:
I’m creating a new type of Thing called a “Print Batch). Each batch will have meta data on when it was created, by who, etc. Each batch will have a field for a list “outside letters”
I’m adding a field to the Outside Letters called “OL print batch” so each letter can be assigned to a single print batch. This also allows me to run a search for all new letters because the OL Print Batch field will be empty.
So, i want to design a workflow or series of workflows that will do the following:
- Create a New Print Batch.
- Search for and create a list of all Outside Letters where the field OL Print Batch is empty
- Assign the letters on the list to the new/current Print batch.
- Create a merged file (top choice is pdf, but i’ll take anything printable and free) and safe that file as a field for the newly created print batch.
- Download/open and print the merged file. (if this needs to happen outside the app, that’s fine.
Steps 1-3 seem straight forward enough, and i think i can program all of that pretty easily.
But, no idea how to make #4 happen without lots of jumping between different apps and need some ideas or suggestions. (Again, cheaper/free is best!)
Any brainstorming thoughts? (A million thanks in advance!!)