IMPORT YOUR OWN DATA FAQ

Can I build my own data file to import into Catalog-on-Demand?

Yes. Here is the documentation explaining how to create your own data file to import to Catalog-on-Demand.

Can I set up the data import to happen automatically?

Yes, you specify the URL where the data file will be available. You also specify the time of day for the import. This is explained below.

Can my data file be created manually?

Yes, many of our customers use Excel to edit and manage their content. For this purpose, we give you an easy way to manage your attributes in separate Excel columns, as explained below.

Can my data file be created programmatically?

Yes, that is the way most data files are created. That is because the original source of data is usually an ERP, ecommerce, or other corporate database. Plus there is often an image repository involved. For handling attributes, we provide a programmer-friendly way of loading all attribute label/value pairs into a single field of a product record (in contrast to the separate field approach that is suited for manual editing). The same applies to multiple product images and multiple categories.

Can I use the data file to specify that a product must appear in multiple categories?

Yes, as documented below, there are simple and advanced ways to do this.

We prefer to run a daily export from our corporate database, and have you handle the details of importing the data into Catalog-on-Demand. Can you do that?

Yes, we have created custom imports from many different types of systems. Please contact us for a free consultation.

We need different product data, images, and category hierarchies for different countries, languages, market segments, etc. Can you accommodate such requirements?

Catalog-on-Demand can accommodate as many different and separate product databases under one account as you need. Please contact us to discuss your requirements for an enterprise solution.

For some publications (such as niche catalogs) I want to be able to add or override attribute values and prices. Is this possible?

Yes, you can do this and more with the "Override and Supplementary Data" capability, documented here. Here are the available features:

  • Price overrides — Publish a price that is different than the price contained in your database
  • SKU number override — Publish with a SKU number that is different than the SKU numbers in your database
  • Attribute value override — Publish attribute values that are different than the attribute values in your database
  • Attribute supplements — Publish attribute labels and values that are in addition to what you have in your database

Is there a way to automatically strip out, replace, or otherwise change content before publishing?

Yes, by using Catalog-on-Demand Plug-Ins. This is a powerful capability to apply JavaScript in just about any way you can imagine to transform your content for publishing. You might use it to publish or suppress prices, combine attributes in a separate field, pull data from another source, or almost anything else. You can create your own Plug-Ins, or we can make them for you.

I have extensive formatting and HTML in my product descriptions. How is this handled?

Catalog-on-Demand supports simple HTML for print publications, such as bullets and some styling. Other HTML, such as complicated embedded tables or extensive styling, does not transfer well from web to print. Such HTML may be easily stripped out with simple checkboxes.

In addition, Plug-Ins can be created to handle just about any other clean up or formatting replacement that you can imagine.

The product images in our repository vary in size and shape. Will they work for print catalogs?

Yes. Catalog-on-Demand automatically handles all the sizing, positioning, and text wrap issues associated with having different shape images for different products.
 

How to Automatically Import Product Data and Images from Your Own Spreadsheet and Image Repository into Catalog-on-Demand

Part I: Make a Simple Data File

Do you need a quality print catalog or brochure for your top-selling products? Getting started is a lot easier than you think. 

Begin by making a simple data file. It can be either Excel (sample here)*, tab-delimited (sample here), or XML (sample here). Here are the most basic 7 fields:

  1. itemNumber — Your SKU number. (required)
  2. itemPrice — Do not include the currency symbol. (optional)
  3. productName — Up to 100 characters. (required)
  4. productDescription — May be plain text, or contain simple HTML, including lists (bullets). (optional)
  5. productGraphic — URL to your product image. You will get best results if you link to your zoom image. (optional)
  6. productLink — URL to the product on your store. This is needed for the QR code and online clicks. (optional)
  7. Category — Each category level must be separated by #$#. For example, Toys#$#Games#$#Board. (required)
    (If you want your product to appear in multiple categories, separate each category path with the pipe symbol. For example, Toys#$#Games#$#Board|Family#$#Activities#$#All Ages) 
     

Note — If you use Excel, save it in the 97-2003 format.

Connect Your Data Feed File to Catalog-on-Demand

First you must create a data feed file that is compatible with Catalog-on-Demand. See above.

  1. Post your data file to a public URL. Dropbox* is often used for this purpose.
  2. Sign up for the free trial of Catalog-on-Demand. 
  3. Go to Account > Data Import Setup.
  4. Choose "Catalog-on-Demand data file".
  5. Paste the public URL from step 1.
  6. Leave "Custom code" blank unless otherwise instructed.
  7. Check at least one of the "Auto Start Days of Week" (most users set it to run every night).
  8. Click Create Data Import Setup.
  9. Test the import.
    1. Click on Import Now.
    2. You will be taken to the Import History page.
    3. After a few minutes, click on Refresh. The first import may take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours, depending on how many product images you have. Future imports will run much more quickly, because most of your images will already be cached.
    4. When the import is finished, click on Download Report. You should see a value for "Items created" that is the number of SKUs in your database.

You're ready to start publishing! If you have any question or problems, please contact support.

Helpful Tip — If you are using Dropbox to post your data file, be sure to modify your URL to "https://dl.dropbox.com/...".  See this article from Dropbox for more information.

Part II: Simplest Way to Make Variants

Catalog-on-Demand offers extensive support for product variants in your print catalogs and brochures. By product variants we mean products that come in multiple colors, sizes, shapes, etc. In Catalog-on-Demand we call each one of these variants an "item".

It is easy to make a data feed file that supports variants.

A. Simplest Way to Make Variants: Add One Column "itemDescription"

print-catalog-simplest-variantThe simplest way to handle variants in your data file is with the itemDescription. This way you add only one column to the data file. 

To show you, we will begin with products from the same data file as in the previous article.

In this example file, you will see only one additional column from the previous article. This column is labeled itemDescription. We have seen that this alone covers a many requirements for variants. A few notes:

  • For each item, the itemNumber must be unique
  • The price can be unique per item if you wish. It does not have to be unique. Often variants are the same price. 
  • The non-item information must be identical for each variant of a product (this refers to productName, productDescription, productGraphic, productLink, and Category)

B. Setting the Sequence of Variants

Often it is important to control the order of the variants as they appear in the catalog. You can do this with an additional field called itemSequence. Place any number you want in that field. The variants will be stored in the Catalog-on-Demand database in numerical order, within each product group. See this example file.

Part III: Make Variants with Attributes

print-catalog-variant-using-item-attributesWe explained in the previous article that the simplest way to make variants is to add just one column, called itemDescription.

However, a more creative and interesting way to make variants is with item attributes. Usually this approach is much friendlier for the reader. They can read the column label to see what the value means.

A. A Data Feed File for Variants That Is Suited for Manual Editing

We recognize that sometimes you will be manually editing your spreadsheets in order to create data for publishing with Catalog-on-Demand. Here is a sample file that illustrates how it is done.

You will see 4 columns that were not mentioned in the first article of this series. They are named ia_Label1, ia_Value1, ia_Label2, and ia_Value2. These are label/value pairs. You can have as many label/value pairs as you want. You just need to follow the naming convention shown here. For example, if you had a third label/value pair, the columns would named ia_Label3 and ia_Value3.

B. A Data Feed File for Variants That Can Be Created Programmatically

This file format accomplishes exactly the same thing at the previous one. The difference is that all the item attributes are put into a single field. This format is usually preferred by programmers.

Each of the label/value pairs are separated by a pipe delimiter. The label and value for each pair are separated by the equal sign. (Here is the same file in a tab-delimited text file format.)

Part IV: Make Variants with Images

print-catalog-variants-with-imagesThere are many types of print catalogs where you need an image to appear with some or all variants. One good example is a parts catalog. 

This is easily handled in the data file. You need to add a field called itemGraphic. A few notes:

  • The value of the field should be a URL to the variant image (same as your productGraphic.).
  • You can have any number of other attributes. They will appear vertically below the image. 
  • You can have any number of variants with images in the product family. 
  • It is ok if some variants do not have images.


Part V:
 Make Product Group Attributes

product-attributesRegardless of whether you have product variants, it is helpful to have attributes at the product group level. The example product to the right shows a product with three product attributes: Country of OriginMilk Source, and Texture. Many catalogers consider attributes to be the most clear and consistent way to convey product information. 

Catalog-on-Demand supports as many product attributes as you want. You can also choose to hide some attributes for certain publications.

The approach for product attributes is exactly the same as for item attributes (used for variants). 

A. A Data Feed File for Product Attributes That Is Suited for Manual Editing

We recognize that sometimes you will be manually editing your spreadsheets in order to create data for publishing with Catalog-on-Demand. Here is a sample file that illustrates how it is done.

You will see 6 new columns. They are named pa_Label1, pa_Value1, pa_Label2, pa_Value2, pa_Label3, and pa_Value3. These are label/value pairs. You can have as many label/value pairs as you want. You just need to follow the naming convention shown here. For example, if you had a fourth label/value pair, the columns would named pa_Label4 and pa_Value4.

B. A Data Feed File for Product Attributes That Can Be Created Programmatically

This file format accomplishes exactly the same thing at the previous one. The difference is that all the product group attributes are put into a single field. This format is usually preferred by programmers.

Each of the label/value pairs are separated by a pipe delimiter. The label and value for each pair are separated by the equal sign. (Here is the same file in a tab-delimited text file format.)

Part VI: Importing Your Category Hierarchy

A. Introduction

All products must belong to at least one category in the Catalog-on-Demand database. This is for two reasons:

  1. You need the categories to navigate the product tree when choosing which products to include in your custom print catalogs and other publications.
  2. The categories are needed to create the table of contents, section titles, and indexes in your print catalogs.

B. Simplest Way to Import Your Categories

The quickest way to import your category hierarchy is to enter your categories in the simple data file. This is explained in Part I: Make a Simple Data File

C. Putting a Product Into Multiple Categories

It is possible to publish a product in more than one category. To do this, enter a pipe delimiter (|) between each category path. For example, Toys#$#Games#$#Board|Family#$#Activities#$#All Ages.

D. Simplest Way to Organize Your Categories

If you simply need to organize your categories for a single Catalog-on-Demand database, then your best bet is to use Private Data Editor (PDE). 

PDE lets you manually rearrange categories and products. As long as you use PDE to do further imports, then the category structure will remain intact. Here is an introduction to PDE.

E. Using Import Files to Organize Your Categories

Two additional files must be included in the import in order to organize your categories via file import

  • CatalogSection.txt — This defines the category hierarchy. It preserves the customer's intended sequencing of categories (e.g., pens come after pencils). The file must be named catalogsection.txt (or catalogsection.xls if saved as Excel**)
  • CatalogProject.txt — This marries the products and the categories. The file must be named catalogproject.txt (or catalogproject.xls if saved as Excel**).

*Note 1: If you use these files, then the Category column in your data file will be ignored.
**Note 2: 
If you use Excel, save it in the 97-2003 format.

See the sample set of datafiles contained in SampleHierarchyFiles.zip.

F. CatalogSection File Structure

Column name Description Data Format
sec_Project Project name String up to 100 characters long. These characters may not be used: " = , | ;
sec_Sequence Section sequences Comma-delimited list of integers defining order number for each section in the hierarchy path
sec_HierarchyPath Section hierarchy path "#$#" - delimited list of section names; each section name should be up to 100 characters long
sec_Flag Section record flag "N","U","D" characters or empty

Notes

  1. sec_Project must contain "General" (no quotes) for all rows.
  2. sec_HierarchyPath column is a complete listing of all possible paths in your hierarchy. If you are creating this file manually, it is easiest if you make it in the order you want it to be in your Catalog-on-Demand database.
    The top level category gets its own row (e.g., Electronics).
    If you have sub-categories, the next level must contain the top level category, plus the first sub-category. The categories must be separated by the #$# delimiter (e.g., Electronics#$#Cameras).
    If you have sub-sub-categories, the next level must contain the first two levels, plus the sub-sub-category. Again, each category must be separated by the #$# delimiter (e.g., Electronics#$#Cameras#$#Accessories).
    Your hierarchy can go up to 5 levels.
  3. sec_Sequence column is how you tell Catalog-on-Demand the sequence of each hierarchical path. Each row must contain as many numbers as there category levels in the sec_HierarchyPath column. The numbers must be separated by a comma (e.g., "2,2" could correspond to "Electronics#$#Cameras").
    The numbers place the category relative to other categories at the same level. For example, if you want Cameras to come before Computers, and both to be under Electronics, then you might give Electronics#$#Cameras a sec_sequence value of "2,2" and Electronics#$#Computers a seq_sequence value of "2,3".
    It is ok to use decimal numbers, such as "0.5", "1.5" etc. This is convenient for inserting categories before or between existing ones. 
  4. sec_Flag column indicates the operation you want to happen for the row. Normally you leave it empty.
    "N" and "U" values indicate you want this hierarchy path added or updated. If the path does not exist it will be added. If it exists it will be updated. 
    "D" value requests indicates the path should be deleted. 
    Empty is equal to "U" value (add or update) 

G. CatalogProject File Structure 

Column name Description Data Format
proj_Key Product name String up to 100 characters long. 
proj_ProdName Product name String up to 100 characters long.
proj_Sequence Product order number within the section Numeric
proj_Name Project name String up to 100 characters long, prohibited characters: " = , | ;
proj_HierarchyPath Section hierarchy path Path sections separated by #$#
proj_Flag Product/section link record flag "N","U","D" characters or empty

Notes:
  1. proj_Key column gets the productName value that you use in the datafile. Multiple rows can have the same proj_Key value if a product appears in multiple categories (hierarchical paths). You will need one row per hieararchical path.
  2. proj_ProdName column gets the same value as proj_Key
  3. proj_Sequence is where you indicate the sequence of products within a hierarchical path. These may be decimal numbers. If two or more products have the same value, the last row will get that value. 
  4. proj_Name must contain "General" (no quotes) for all rows.
  5. proj_HierarchyPath is how you indicate the path for the product. The path must match one of the paths in the CatalogSection file.
  6. proj_Flag column indicates the operation you want to happen for the row. Normally you leave it empty.
    "N" and "U" values indicate you want this product inserted in the hierarchy path.  
    "D" value requests indicates the path should be deleted. 
    Empty is equal to "U" value (add or update)  

H. How to Import All Three Files

Create a zip file that contains datafile.txt, CatalogSection.txt, and CatalogProject.txt. Follow the same instructions as for uploading a stand-alone data file. 

Note — If you use Excel, save files in the 97-2003 format.