Export fields from list of multiple things to a single, printable file

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:

  1. Create a New Print Batch.
  2. Search for and create a list of all Outside Letters where the field OL Print Batch is empty
  3. Assign the letters on the list to the new/current Print batch.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!!)

Have a look at PrintFriendly, perhaps? They have a very simple API and it sounds like they may have good pricing options for non-profits/edu accounts.

ALSO, it looks to me like you MIGHT be able to use their api to create a rather large single document each week that is a bundle of individual letters like you describe.

In that case, this would cost you $10 per month (as the base plan let’s you create 200 PDFs per month and you’d be creating 4)…

Worth investigating I think.

(This Service is designed around printing from webpages, but of course Bubble is very good for that [creating dynamic web pages]… and depending on the volume of letters you create each week — or heck just do it every day — I bet you could construct a single page that represents all of that periods letters and fire that off to their API.)

I’ve not used this service, but it seems VERY interesting vis-a-vis Bubble…

Url: https://www.printfriendly.com/api

thanks… I’ll check it out!

Was just trying to mess around with the API and I’ve not got it working just yet… It’s a little funky… I’ve not been able to get it to throw an error, but the way it acts is like it’s throwing an error. (Basically, it always seems to return something even if it’s called without authentication… it’s a bit odd.)

Really interesting service, though! (BTW, the file size limit on PDF generation is apparently 2 Mb.)

Brainstorm: Would it be simpler to ‘export’ to a very simply-designed html page that could be printed from the browser? If I could code in some kind of page-break signal to make sure each letter printed individually and didn’t run together… hmmm…

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