Can you “read” a fax or email/attachment with a program or 3rd party tool?

115 pts.
Tags:
AS/400
Automation
Email
Fax
We are in the beginning phase of a project to fully automate a shift (yes-and get rid of a position). One of the things that the person does is review and compare a fax, email or email attachment to a file that is FTP'd to our SYSTEM.  [o:p][/o:p]

Way back in time I worked on a project that involved "screen-scraping". I created green screens that an outside developer used to "read" back account information to a person making inquiries via an automated telephone system. Of course that required scripts being recorded – That wouldn’t be needed here.[o:p][/o:p]

 It comes to mind because I am looking for a way to read and evaluate the contents of a fax/email/attachement etc. I know if this were possible I would have to find out and make changes if he formatting of the fax/email would change - start reading at line 7 column 15 or whatevs... Anyone know if this can be done?

Thanks[o:p][/o:p]

Answer Wiki

Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.

I believe the GOAnywhere product from Linoma Software can do this.

Here is a link to their website

http://www.linomasoftware.com/products

Discuss This Question: 19  Replies

 
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  • TomLiotta
    Is the question about reading the words from a fax? Or is it about simple reading of a fax image file? I wouldn't expect GOAnywhere to be able to "read" a fax, not in the sense of extracting data from the fax image. It could almost certainly "read" the file in terms of binary image data; but I don't think it can do anything like convert a portion of a fax image into machine-readable characters. But I'd defer to actual knowledge if it can do it. AFAIK, there are no totally accurate OCR readers, which is what this seems to me to be about. What accuracy rate is required for this? Tom
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  • Camcolt1
    Let me try to explain what we hope to accomplish. We currently recieve pricing files via FTP that we process thru a night batch. Prior to processing, we site verify the data in the files against emails from these same sources. These prices are typically email attachments (PDF, XLS, DOC). Due to the importance that the pricing is correct before we start the night batch process, we need some form of checks and balance. Remember, we want to automate the entire nightly process, this step included. Any ideas on a product that will a) identify when email arrives b) detach attachment c) transfer to as/400 as data......not image. Thanks for your help. Do you know of a product that will identify when the email has arrived, detach attachment, and
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  • TomLiotta
    Do you know of a product that will identify when the email has arrived, detach attachment (PDF, XLS, DOC), and {transfer to as/400 as data……not image.?} I would be extremely impressed by any such software no matter what platform it ran on. If anyone has a suggestion for any platform, you possibly should feel lucky. Is there any guaranteed formatting in the various document types? Tom
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  • Camcolt1
    Formats are different for each document type. That's kind of what I expected to hear. Just thought I'd give it a try. We will need to come up with a different approach. Thanks for your help.
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  • RickMe
    Hi. a few years back i worked on a project that relates to this one. The data (fax/email) in question can be emailed to the i5, which puts the email (including attachment) in the ifs at '/qtcptmm/mail/'. the data file in the ifs can them be read/processed with rpg. there are additional challenges involved: for one, the attachment embedded in the ifs data file was base-64 encoded, so i had to write a decoder to be able to decipher the attachment. it wasn't too bad because the algorithm for base-64 encoding is available on the net, and i just had to reverse-engineer that logic. i believe i've since seen that scott klement has a base-64 decoder available from his website (www.scottklement.com), and i recommend using what he provides because his work is excellent. good luck. rick
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  • Camcolt1
    I will take a look at that. Thanks Rick.
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  • Yorkshireman
    So Are you saying that you receive an email, which will have an attachment containing text that is actually data? Further, can you control the format of the attachement? For instance, are you able to provide an XLS object which is to your format, with protection turned on so all the user can change are the fields you allow? Then you should be able to receive the data to an XLS object in the IFS, where it can be accessed and parsed. Conversion from XLS is possible, even if somewhat clumsy. You could set the XLS format to be, say, RTF or CSV if it is only a text file of part numbers/prices or whatever. An RTF file can be read directly via RPGLE, as can CSV, or if you were to 'autopmate' a client access transfer of the received object you can translate even native XLS files - thouygh I'd not want to mess with the XLSx newest rubbish. You could look at Giovanni's site for ideas on XLS construction (I know you need to reverse it) and Scott Klement has tons of stuff about handling IFS objects http://www.easy400.net/ www.scottklement.com mostly though, I suggest you need to look at organising the way the data is received. If you can nail it down to something like a CSV format, the job's almost done. bonne chance .
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  • RickMe
    allow me to expand a bit on my answer. Your questions: "Any ideas on a product that will a) identify when email arrives b) detach attachment c) transfer to as/400 as data……not image." If the smtp server is configured and running on your i5, it will process incoming email and put it in the ifs in directory /qtcptmm/mail. normally, one would have another server (windows, for example) that handles most of your email. you'd just have to have that email forwarded to the 400.
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  • RickMe
    sorry, i hit the GO key too quickly. allow me to expand a bit on my answer. Your questions: "Any ideas on a product that will a) identify when email arrives b) detach attachment c) transfer to as/400 as data……not image." the answer to part c: If the smtp server is configured and running on your i5, it will process incoming email and put it in the ifs in directory /qtcptmm/mail. normally, one would have another server (windows, for example) that handles most of your email. you'd just have to have that email forwarded to the 400. this will put the data (not image) in the ifs where you can process it with rpg. to answer B (detach the attachment), i don't believe this needs done at all. an attachment to an email is really just a part of the email itself: client software (like outlook) separates out the attachment and makes it look like an "attachment" that comes separately from the email, but it really is embedded with the email itself. therefore, the attachment will be sent to the i5 with the rest of the email. it just needs to be parsed out. each (there can be multiple) attachment's beginning and end is delimited within the email, so you can pick it out. the answer to A (identify when email comes) is to monitor the particular ifs folder, and when a new file arrives, you know you have email, so process it. i hope this clears up my prior comments a bit. rick
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  • TomLiotta
    ...you know you have email, so process it. And therein lies the whole problem -- "process it". How do you process something that might be a Word document in one e-mail, a .PDF (from unknown origin) in the next e-mail, an Excel document in the next e-mail... The base-64 decoding can be standardized. That's going to be the same for every attachment. (At least, for every attachment that is identified as being base-64 encoded.) But then it's necessary to "parse" each decoded potential file type and interpret what it says. A human can pretty much just use whatever program is appropriate -- Word or Excel or Reader or whatever -- to put a readable image on a screen; and then "read" it. It's easy for people to figure out that an amount is on some part of the screen and that some product identifier is on another part. Every kind of file can be different, but we still have little trouble interpreting what we see. But the Word document from Customer A might not look at all like the Word document from Customer B. And the .PDF from Customer C might not have a format that looks like either of the two Word documents. And the Excel document from Customer D turns out to be in ODF (OpenOffice .ods) while the one from Customer E was generated by Excel 2002. Even Excel has trouble reading Excel files when there are version differences. And none of that even comes close to the problem of trying to process the binary data from a fax file, which has no "data" to read at all. It's pretty much just a series of probably compressed pixel items. A fax file is practically the same as a scanned document that you might have somewhere in a PC. Open a scanned document in Notepad and try to make sense of it. The handling of attachments is fairly easy. But "reading" them to understand what they mean is a whole separate issue. Tom
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  • Camcolt1
    Thanks for your responses. I guess we need to take a good look at the options you have layed out for us and determine if it's a route we want to pursue. Thanks again.
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  • RickMe
    Tom's comments are absolutely correct in that reading/understanding a great variety of attachments is a whole separate issue. if i would be attempting to tackle this project now, i would do my utmost to avoid that issue completely, if possible. this would greatly simplify this process. Camcolt1 stated that "These prices are typically email attachments (PDF, XLS, DOC).". i would try to eliminate that situation if possible, and if not possible, i wouldn't know how to do this, and in agreement with Tom, would be very impressed by any software that could. In the case of the aforementioned project i worked on a few years ago, the format of the incoming email (and attachment) was tightly controlled. a very specific string had to be embedded in the email subject, which i scanned for to determine whether the email was one that i was supposed to process. the type of attachment was also tightly controlled, in my case a .txt file, which was about as simple to parse as one can get. i would have no idea how to overcome the problems Tom has brought up, but if you can control the format of the emails that need to be "processed", you could make this work. and the simpler the better. not only would i require that the attachment be a specific file type (in my case, .txt), i'd also specify the layout of the file so that it matches what my rpg program is expecting. my preference a few years ago was .txt because is's simple and i knew how to handle it. if i had to do it now i'd want it in .xml. rpg now has xml parsing capabilities built in to the language. .xml is also now a common format for passing data across various platforms, and can be created directly thru Word or Excel, and indirectly thru Adobe Acrobat. rick
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  • CharlieBrowne
    Even though the input is in many different formats, Are there some formats that are consistent? If so, you may beable to control how you scrape the data base on some keyword in the subject or if it from s specific source.
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  • Camcolt1
    Each day the emails are consistent per provider. Same format and same data type.
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  • Yorkshireman
    This is getting more 'interesting' day by day. Exactly how many differing inputs are we talking? If word or excel or PDF can be used - can you 'invite' your data providers to prefer one over another? What kind of audit trail is involved. ? Have you investigated the fax to text services which will convert a fax to an SMS (text) message for instance? There are products and providers who can do this - and steam all such into some defined port of yours.
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  • Camcolt1
    Unfortunately their format/data type of choice is non-negotiable. We are 1 of many businesses recieving these emails with pricing. They have set up a design that they feel best serves their email base. We are also currently talking about 8 different providers. As they say...'it is what it is' and we just have to deal with it. Thanks.
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  • TomLiotta
    Have you investigated the fax to text services which will convert a fax to an SMS (text) message for instance? This is potentially useful for this part. At least one such service (availability is questionable) uses OCR technology to attempt to provide a text version of a fax. It'd certainly be interesting to know the accuracy. Tom
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  • Camcolt1
    We do not recieve faxes with the pricing from all of our providers and it is not likely that we will in the future. That's why I was pursuing the email route. Thanks for your input.
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  • Camcolt1
    [...] 2. CharlieBrown, TomLiotta, and RickMe gave several suggestions on how to read a fax or e-mail attachment with a program. [...]
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