Wish you a very happy new year 2015

Time flies and before you know it’s time to start working on your new year resolutions for your next year.

I still have few of them from my last year in my ToDo list, so not much to work on that area this year.

Again, wish you world of happiness now, and throughout the seasons of the coming year 2015.

Happy Neat Year

As usual, JetPack release the yearly report for this blog. And to be honest, it’s been a great year specially for my blog. I got some time spend on writing on a range of topics from technology to management.

Here are some excerpts from the report:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Views_2014

That’s 148 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. India & U.K. were not far behind.

Views_Country_2014

Day Light Saving bug in Amazon Order Tracking

According to Wikipedia, Daylight saving time (DST) or summer time is the practice of advancing clocks during the lighter months so that evenings have more daylight and mornings have less. Typically clocks are adjusted forward one hour near the start of spring and are adjusted backward in the autumn.

And how many times we have seen that how this concept has created troubles for not only small software but also for giants. iOS for iPhone and iPad has already been culprit for having some nasty bugs related to this. And it was rumored that they have done the same mistake again in their latest iOS 7 as well.

Anyway, this post is not about Apple so let me come straight to what I found. I ordered a few books from Amazon UK around 10 days back and was expecting delivery anytime. When I checked the order status yesterday (29th March 2014), the status on the web site showed that the package is in transit (Amsterdam) and has been out for delivery on 29 March 2014 9:49:17.

That’s another story that I am still waiting for my package to me received. This triggered me to check the status again today (on 30th March 2014) and this is what I saw.


Basically, the same message but the time stamp was shifted 1 hour back. That is simply a programming error where they converted the time of out for delivery because of DST. But that’s not how it should be, at least in my opinion.

Not something which Amazon needs to take real action on but they might want to look at it.

And btw, @Amazon do I get a free gift card for finding this bug in your system? J

A beginner’s guide to Product Life-Cycle

Introduction

The product life cycle is an important concept in marketing. It describes the stages a product goes through from when it was first thought of until it finally is removed from the market. Not all products reach this final stage. Some continue to grow and others rise and fall. An organization’s positioning and differentiation strategy must change as the product, market and competitor change over the product life cycle (PLC).

Product Life Cycle

The main stages of a product life cycle can be illustrated using a bell curve as shown in the figure below:

Figure 1: Product Life Cycle (Source: Kotler & Keller, 2011)

The first phase of the PLC is introduction. This is the period when the product is launched in the market. There is low level of sales, capital utilization and usually negative cash flow because of the high investment in product introduction. The distributors may be reluctant to accept an unproven product and a heavy promotion is required to create awareness among the consumers.

If the product is popular with in the consumers then the sales starts to increase substantially in growth phase. Along with the high sales, the companies see high level of capital utilization, growing acceptance among consumers and eventually with a positive cash flow. This phase can also see the challenge coming from introduction of competitors with the similar product.

Next phase known as maturity is observed with slowdown in sales growth because the product has achieved acceptance by most potential buyers. Another reason for slowdown is often seen as intense competition for the market share. Profits and price usually fall during this phase of the PLC. Weaker competitors also start to leave the market during this stage.

The last stage of PLC is known as decline where the sales and profile starts to decline. Although more and more competitors leave the market during this stage, the cash flow and capital utilisation decline as well. It is often a signal to start looking for an alternative product or to re-incarnate the existing product to the next level.

Common Product Life-Cycle Patterns

The PLC can be used to analyse a product category for e.g. liquor, software and garments etc. It is important to note that not all products follow the bell curve as illustrated in previous chapter.

Figure 2: Common Product Life-Cycle Patterns (Source: Kotler & Keller, 2011)

A product can follow a pattern known as growth-slump-maturity pattern. This kind of pattern usually encounters a rapid growth in the beginning and after later sales decline with a stabilization at a certain level. One of the examples of such product group is kitchen appliances where the late adopters purchase a new product while the early adopters end up replacing their old appliances.

The cycle-recycle pattern usually starts with a period of growth which is followed by decline. Another phase of growth is triggered by promotion of the product which see a lesser growth as compared to the primary cycle. A typical example of this pattern can be seen in pharmaceutical industry where sales start declining the company gives the drug another push, which produces a second cycle.

Another common pattern is called scalloped pattern. Sales observe a succession of growth periods based on the discovery of new product characteristics, uses, or users. Nylon sales, for example, display a scalloped pattern because, over time, new and a new uses have been discovered -parachutes, hosiery, shirts, carpeting, etc.


Style, Fashion, and Fad Life Cycles

It is important to discuss another type of life cycles. The first one is called style. It is basic and distinctive mode of expression. Once invented, styles can last for generations, going in and out of vogue. This is usually seen in products such as homes, clothing and art etc.

Figure 3: Style, Fashion, and Fad Life Cycles (Source: Kotler & Keller, 2011)

Fashion is currently accepted or popular style in a given field. Fashions pretty much follow the typical bell-shaped product lifecycle curve. The length of fashion cycles is difficult to predict as the consumers soon start to look for the missing attributes.

Fads are fashions that come quickly into public view, are adopted with great zeal, peak early, and decline very fast. Their acceptance cycle is short, and they tend to attract only a limited following who are searching for excitement or want to distinguish themselves from others.

Using Spire.Doc to convert documents

Some time back, I wrote an article about my first thoughts on Spire.Doc for .Net. For those who are not familiar with the product, Spire.Doc for .NET is a professional Word .NET library specially designed for developers to create, read, write, convert and print Word document files from any .NET(C#, VB.NET, ASP.NET) platform with fast and high quality performance. As an independent Word .NET component, Spire.Doc for .NET doesn’t need Microsoft Word to be installed on the machine. However, it can incorporate Microsoft Word document creation capabilities into any developers’ .NET applications.

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Background

This article is intended to demonstrate and review the capabilities provided by the Spire.Doc for converting documents from one format to another. We have long passed the days when many developers would install Microsoft Office on the Server to manipulate the documents. First, it was a pretty bad design and practice. Second, Microsoft never intended to use Microsoft Office as a server component and it wasn’t built for interpreting and manipulating documents on the server side. This gave birth to the idea of having libraries like Spire.Doc. And when we are discussing this, it is worth to mention about Office Open Xml. Office Open XML (also informally known as OOXML or OpenXML) is a zipped, XML-based file format developed by Microsoft for representing spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents.Microsoft announced in November 2005 that it would co-sponsor standardization of the new version of their XML-based formats through Ecma International, as “Office Open XML”. The introduction of Open Xml has given more standardization to the structure of Office documents and using the Open Xml SDK developers can perform a lot of basic operations pretty straight forward, there are still gaps such as converting the word document in to different format such as PDF, image or HTML to name a few. And this is why libraries such as Spire.Doc comes to rescue us ‘developers’.

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Document Conversion

I will use rest of this article to demonstrate various scenarios which can be covered using Spire.Doc. All the example demonstrated in this article are available under the project at Spire.Doc Demo and you can download to get your hands dirty. The project I have been using for the demonstration is a simple console application but it supports other platforms such as Web or Silverlight as well.

In their own words, Spire.Doc claims following which we will see in rest of the article.

“Spire.Doc for .NET enables converting Word documents to most common and popular formats.”

The first step you need to start using Spire.Doc is to add reference to your project to their libraries Spire.Doc, Spire.License and Spire.Pdf which are packaged in the Spire.Doc component.

You will need a valid Spire.Doc license to use the library otherwise an evaluation warning would be displayed on the document. To set the license, simply provide the path to the license file location and the library takes care of the rest to apply and validate the license information. There are other way as well to load the license such as dynamically retrieving it from the location or to add it as an embedded resource. A detailed documentation is available here.


 FileInfo licenseFile = new FileInfo(@"C:\ManasBhardwaj\license.lic");
 Spire.License.LicenseProvider.SetLicenseFile(licenseFile);

To validate the basic feature, I am using a word document with simple text, an image and a table. Looks something like this and you can find the original document in the Spire.Doc Demo.

The crux of the library is of course the Document class. So we start by creating the Document object and loading the document information from the file. The simplicity of Document object is that with just three lines of code, you can convert quite a complex word document with differ elements such as used in this document to a totally different document, in this case Html format.


//Create word document
Document document = new Document();
document.LoadFromFile(@"This is a Test Document.docx");

To Html


//Convert the file to HTML format
document.SaveToFile("Test.html", FileFormat.Html);

So, by now we should already have the converted document ready for use. Let’s see what it had done behind the scenes. What you would observe is that the new Html document has been created with additional files and folder. These files and folders are nothing but retains the additional information which is present in your word document. In this case, the folder contain the Test Image we added to the document and the style sheet contains the styling for the table. Thus, the conversion not only makes sure that your data is converted but it keeps the additional information such as styling intact as well.

The style sheet would look something like this:

Just a single different parameter can help you to convert the document to other format such as PDF as shown below. What I like about this is that it’s just one framework which can do multiple conversion without any additional styling and configurations for different format. And note that this is all done in memory, so that you don’t have to touch the file system rights etc. I remember in the past when in a project we wanted to the conversion and ended up passing the data from one component to another for conversion to Pdf and still you would not be able to retain the same layout across different formats.

To Pdf


//Convert the file to PDF
document.SaveToFile("Test.Pdf", FileFormat.PDF);

Few lines code and you see the PDF document as shown below. The license warning is just because I am using the trial version. Once you have the valid license file, it will disappear.

To Xml

A quick peak at the FileFormat class shows that it supports as many as 24 different formats. My personal favorite is Xml. It expands the possibility of what you can do with the data in the document. For e.g. you can just consume a word document and create an xml file out of raw document.


//Convert the file to Xml
document.SaveToFile("Test.Xml", FileFormat.Xml);

To Image

And what about converting the document as image file. Spire.Doc supports the conversion of document to the Image class and that can be used to save the image file in any supported ImageFormat by .Net framework.


//Save image file.
Image image = document.SaveToImages(0, ImageType.Metafile);
image.Save("Test.tif", System.Drawing.Imaging.ImageFormat.Tiff);

Conclusion

Spire.Doc is a very capable and easy to use product for converting Word documents to any other format. If you also use the reporting capability, then it’s even better. As with any 3rd party product, there’s usually other ways to do the same thing, and you need to weigh up the benefits against the cost involved in buying the product or in replicating another way.

From a license and pricing overview, it’s not very expensive compared to other products in the markets which are offering the same functionality. Thus, a real value for money in my opinion.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe my readers will enjoy.