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Create PDFs and Reports from Knack

November 6, 2014
Min Read

If you're looking for an easy way to build an online database application without the need for programming, you need to check out Knack.  With Knack you can get rid of those clunky spreadsheets and build easy-to-use web applications such as a custom CRM, proposal tracker, order management, and more.  Knack allows you to build some pretty powerful apps and we're going to show you how you can easily generate documents directly from Knack using Formstack Documents.

In this example, we are going to show you how to generate a contract and send it to our customer directly from a Knack CRM application. First, we will setup our contract template in Formstack Documents, then we will add a custom button to our Knack application that will send our client data to Formstack Documents to generate the contract.

For our contract, we are going to use a Word document as the document type. In the document we are going to add all of the normal contract terms, and then we will add the Formstack Documents merge fields (ie {$company_name}, {$address}, etc) where we want the Knack data to go.

After we upload our document to Formstack Documents, we need to make sure we update the email delivery settings so that the contract is emailed to our client. You can make these changes under the Deliver tab. You'll want to change the email address to the merge field for the email address. If you don't have an email address merge field setup yet, simply click the <> option and type in {$email}. This will add emailas a merge field.

On the Merge tab inside Formstack Documents, you'll notice there is a merge URL for your document. This is the unique URL that you'll use when sending data to Formstack Documents to populate your contract. Save this for later.

Next, let's jump into Knack and setup the custom button that will be used to generate a contract for a specific client. The setup process is pretty straight forward, but it is a little technical. We've tried to include as many examples as we could to help you, but Knack has a great support team that is more than happy to help with this custom coding.

We're going to use Javascript to customize our Knack application to show a Create Contractbutton on our Client Detail page. To edit the Javascript for our application, we're going to go to the API & Code page in our application settings. Once there, click the Javascript tab and you should see a code editor (text box). This is where we are going to use jQuery to manipulate our page.

We are going to use this code snippet as a starting point for our application. There are a few things that you need to figure out when setting up the javascript:

  1. Which Sceneis your page in
  2. Which View in that scene is your page
  3. What the Field IDs are that you need to send to Formstack Documents

The easiest way to find this information is to inspect the HTML in your browser (either using the built-in development tools or using a plugin like Firebug). You will be looking for elements in the HTML. These IDs will be important in our javascript.

When a new scene loads, an event is fired and we can capture that with jQuery. You'll notice the first line in our code example is looking for $(document) on ('knack-scene-render.scene_3'),  - This event will fire when our scene is rendered. This is when we want to add the button to our view page.

To add the button to our view page, we're going to use jQuery to create a new div container that will contain our button. Then we will attach an event handler on the button that will use AJAX to send the data to our Formstack Documents contract. Here's what our code looks like:

As you'll see in the code above, we add the link to our page, set an event handler that uses AJAX to send the contact data to Formstack Documents (using our Merge URL) and displays a message when complete. This happens behind the scenes without ever having to leave Knack!

Let's click that button!  Everything worked great and here's the document we have generated. All of our data from Knack is in the document, and it has been emailed off to the client. How's that for easy?

Wait, there's more.

Generate and Download Merged Document

Creating a document behind the scenes is cool, but what if you want to open up the document right away without having to go to your email? No problem, here is an updated code example that will generate a link that sends data to Formstack Documents in a new window rather than AJAX and then your document will be there for you

Use Repeatable/Loop Data

Do you have repeating data that is being printed into a table and you want those line items to come through to Formstack Documents? No problem! Check out the example code below:

Automatically Generate Documents

If you're looking to automatically generate documents every time a new record is added to your Knack application, you can automate the process by using Zapier. Zapier will detect new records and send that new data over to Formstack Documents without anyone needing to click a button.  Setup is quite simple and all you need to do is map your Knack fields to the Formstack Documents fields and Zapier will handle the rest.


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Formstack is a SaaS company with a mission to help organizations digitize what matters, automate workflows, and fix processes—all without code. A variety of team members come together to compile posts under Formstack's authorship.
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