'We' are a sales company that produces quite personalised sales proposals for our potential customers. A lot of shared/generic information is used within these proposals, but a lot of information is built from data that is unique to each customer.

At the minute, we use Apple's Numbers app (we're all on Apple hardware), to tabulate and calculate specific (lighting/electrical) cost data. We then manually take the results from certain fields and then drop them into a Pages document. We add our potential customer's logo to the cover and then print to PDF. Once we have a PDF open in Preview, we 'drag-in' the generic content from other PDFs, before saving as a final document to present.

'Building' a proposal is taking a lot of time and I am looking for a bit of software, both on or offline (but needs to work with Apple) that could help us achieve these kind of things.

I have looked at some online offerings, but they seem to be based around design agencies and I can't picture them being useful for our requirements.

This is what I would like to enter in to the front-end:

  • Enter specific information such as cost per kWh, cost of installation etc.
  • Have text areas where I could enter text such as "This is what I think you want us to do…"
  • Choose products and add them to the proposal
  • Calculate return on investment

This is what I would like to happen at the end:

  • I would like everything to be 'packaged' as a PDF that I can send/present to my customers.
  • Welcome to Software Recommendations, Kurt! Could you please edit your question and give a specific list of requirements (and things you don't need/want) in that software? This would help to narrow down the list of candidates, and increase your chances of well-matching recommendations ;) For a raw guideline, you could take a look at What is required for a question to contain "enough information"? Thanks! – Izzy Aug 12 '14 at 9:16
  • You have a lot of options, so it might be good to discuss the merits of offline vs online to narrow down your choices. It might also be good to delve more deeply into your requirements. What does your current process look like? You've identified it is not ideal. What labor intensive tasks would you like to reduce? What inaccuracies do you want to eliminate? In your mind without restrictions, what does the new process look like? I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts to help focus the suggestions. – Sun Sep 13 '14 at 7:53

I would suggest making either a form using or database product like LibreBase or a mail merge using your word processor software like LibreOffice for MAC if you don't have one with this feature. You have a standard template and a second data source and use substitution. You will have to add a bunch of custom fields to suite your needs.

LibreOffice uses <Item> notation. For example <ElectCost> would be used a substitute for the cost of electricity. <CustomerDescription> for that need.

You may need to link LibreCalc (spreadsheet) to do the math calculations. You can Export to PDF directly from LibreWriter. The only issue I see is "Choose products and add them to the proposal" You can add all the products to a single field and have them appear. However, someone else may know a better way.

  • Thank you cybernard. I have created mail merges before using Word and Excel on the Mac so I would be comfortable creating this. It is the selecting products that I would struggle with, coupled with the networking/sync issues for our remote sales guys creating these sales proposals. – Kurt Trew Aug 18 '14 at 9:57
  • Lccally you might be better off designing something in a form in msAccess. If you need it for sales guys then I would use Google Forms. It send data directly to your google drive. Otherwise you will have to setup a website and then you can use php to access a database to display a list of items to check. Then doing math is relatively easy. Obviously securing the website would be an issue. The results would be shown in any web browser and printed to a PDF printer or hard copy or whatever. – cybernard Aug 19 '14 at 4:01

As Cybernard mentioned using Libre Office on the Mac and automation/form filling is probably a great way to go given your requirements. The PDF export is high quality so you are likely to get the results you want. You can set up a "template" with fields and when you need to create a PDF you'd do this:

  1. open your template (in Libre Office / Open Office)
  2. navigate to each field and fill it in
  3. export to PDF

Docmosis (please note I work for Docmosis) has a product called Tornado. It's primary purpose is to provide an engine for applications to do document creation (PDF, DOC etc) by merging data into templates. Tornado also has a test area that you can choose one of your templates, enter data into a web page and create the output in various formats. It's a manual play area which might suit your immediate needs and if you want to fully automate the process later you can call it's API (REST web services) from an application that has access to your data also. It runs on many platforms including OSX.

I hope that helps.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.