How to: Document Assembly with Google Docs (autoCrat Edition)

Microsoft Word users have a number of options for great document assembly programs. (And if you’re not using document assembly to automate some of the routine tasks, you should be.) Unfortunately, because of the structure of Google Docs, options for automating the creation of documents are slim. Thankfully, there some really good processes and some add-ons that can boost your productivity.

docassemblywordcloud

Simple Document Assembly with Google Sheets and Forms

For the most simple document assembly process, you’ll want to try using a Google Sheets Add-on called autoCrat.

Step 1: Build your templates

Before beginning adding autoCrat to Google Sheets, I suggest that you build a Google Docs template, just to simply for your upcoming tasks.

Open a new Google Doc (or you can modify a present file) that you’ll use to enter text and code. For instance, I created this personal injury demand letter from one of my old files.

google-docs-template-doc-automation

Create the document by adding your wording. When it comes to coding, autoCrat will recognize <<>> and [], and probably others. I tend to use uniformity in my coding and bold words for the you-have-to-enter-this-later portions. (I screwed up on the demand template and broke my rule with “[Description of Liability]”.

Your Docs template can be as long or as short as you need, and the same goes for each coding portion. But remember, at some point you will need to enter that information.

Step 2: Build your Google Form

In this step we’ll create a Google Form to input our data. Here is why I try to stick with simple inputs such as names, addresses, dates, and short description. You (or someone else) will physically input the information to replace the code in your template.

You’ll simply transfer your coding triggers — e.g. <<Adjuster First Name>> becomes a text box Adjuster First Name — into your Google Form. You’ll only need one form field per trigger, so don’t go crazy.

Here is the Google Form for our demand letter.

google-form-template

Google Forms recognizes a variety of input methods — date, time, text, multiple choice, checkbox — so don’t be afraid to experiment with input fields. And remember you can embed a Google Forms, so you may want to use this as a way to capture “contact us” information on your website and transfer to a new client engagement letter.

When you’ve completed your form, it’s time to link the final output with a Google Sheet and automate the process.

Step 3: Google Sheets to automate

Please remember this factoid in order to save yourself some frustration: each Google Form is associated with its own specific Google Sheet. To access the corresponding Google Sheet, click the Responses tab next to Questions.

responses

Here is where Google Forms summarizes your data entries into neat charts, graphs, and counters. That’s not important right now. You’re looking for the green Google Sheets link in the corner.

responses sheets link

This will initiate your spreadsheet — since you probably don’t have any response yet. In the future, you’ll just be able to click on the spreadsheet in Google Drive or on your Google Sheets home screen. Note: you can also change your response destination, if you need by clicking the menu buttons on the right.

response destination

Click the Google Sheets link to whisk yourself to where the magic happens. Select Create a new spreadsheet and click Create.

response destination popup

Google will generate the link and reveal a blank spreadsheet.

Here is where you’ll need to add the autoCrat Add-on discussed earlier (if you haven’t already).

Launch autoCrat from the Add-ons menu link.

launch autocrat

autoCrat will launch with the merge job menu appearing on the right side of your spreadsheet. Click New Merge Job to begin creating the merge template.

new merge job

Choose Drive to pull up the template from your Google Drive account, or Create to push out a new template. In our case, we’ll choose Drive.

drive create

Locate your template in your Google Drive directory.

autoCrat will load the template. The program will now ask you to “map” your entry tags. Simply select the corresponding tag and Sheet header to create the future merge.

merge tags

Click Save to finish the process. If you have any special file saving protocols you can create those now. Type the tag into the line and click Save. You can schedule the process to run automatically by using the Advanced Settings.

file saving format

Your new merge template will appear in the menu box on the right side of the sheet. Now click Run Merge to start assembling the information in your sheet.

run merge

Happy Docs assembly

At this point, you’re ready to create a bunch of documents to assemble together. Document assembly can save time and hassle, especially on easy tasks. autoCrat helps simplify the process and extends the power of Google Docs.

2 Responses to How to: Document Assembly with Google Docs (autoCrat Edition)

  1. Hello,

    I have a job set up and it runs ok. However, as selected items are added to the doc, from the choices in the form, there are spaces where unchosen items would be. Is there a way to eliminate these spaces?

    e.g.

    Choice 1

    Choice 4

    I want it to be:
    Choice 1
    Choice 4

  2. Hi Jeff, I’m just wondering about the security and liability issues that may arise for users of add-ons like this? I’m in a school context using free Google Suite for education and we are not wanting to pay the level of Smart sheets? How do we checkif autocrat will secure and protect our data other than simply taking their word for it. If we use an add-on and obviously give access to certain files and folders can this be a back door to some 3rd party getting our data? Appreciate this article.

Let's discuss this (you can use Markdown in your comment)

Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.