First Impressions of the Conga Composer 8 Beta

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Conga ComposerI should start this with a confession: I unabashedly and wholeheartedly love Conga. Not just because a good amount of my work comes from setting up documents with it. Between its built-in capabilities and some clever usage of document-level automations, you can pull some really cool stuff with it. Moreover, I honestly believe these guys and gals have the best customer support in the history of supporting customers.

Now there’s a new version of Conga Composer on the horizon, and I’ve had some time to play with it. I’ve checked out a few of the features, done a bit of testing, and gathered some first-pass opinions.

Conga Composer 8 Features

  • New Interface – I’ve found myself enjoying the new interface a lot. Being able to search for templates is going to be pretty useful for orgs that do a lot of things in Conga. And having the new checkboxes and picklists is a lot more intuitive than the multiple-button style. You tell it what you want to do, and then you click on the single big friendly button to get it going.
  • Template Builder – Along with a new main interface is a new template builder interface. Instead of a picklist of data sources, you get a single searchable list with expandable sections showing all of the fields from all of your inputs. This is going to save a ton of time when I’m putting together documents. And now you can even start building your template right in the window, with the new Template Canvas. This new feature lets you create the skeleton of a document with all of the fields you want, which you can then export to continue customizing. It even includes your TABLESTART/TABLEEND tags. I think beginners are going to really appreciate the leg up, while pros like me will find it useful to have all of your fields in a single page that you can tab back and forth to when working.
  • Tags – Conga’s also done some work on their tags. For one thing, you can now have the template builder generate exactly the tag you need for the type of document you’re creating, be it Word, Excel, or otherwise. Also, the new document engine has support for plain text tags. Creating the old mail merge tags in Word was always a bit more cumbersome for us Mac users, but now we can just put some brackets around the field and we’re off to the races.

Speed Testing (Wherein we do SCIENCE)

One of the big features that’s being touted with this release is an increase in speed. We don’t have a lot of intense document generation going on in the Red Argyle org, but one of our clients was gracious enough to let me do some comparisons with a document we built for them. The merge operation for this doc pulls in data from 17 reports, 13 queries, has some merge field math in the template, and I even built an integration with the Google Charts API to generate charts when the document is built. This thing is a beast, and should serve as an all-around test for the new system’s speed.

My testing method was pretty simple: Push the go button, start a timer on my cell phone, and stop the timer when I saw the document start downloading to my system. I did five runs each in the current Conga Composer and the beta. The current Composer was fairly consistent; the average time to generate was a bit over 24 seconds, with the quickest run being 22 seconds and the slowest being 28 seconds.

Things with the beta were a bit more interesting. Of the five runs, the quickest clocked in at just under 16 seconds, noticeably faster than the current version. But another two runs were noticeably slower, coming in at 33 and 35 seconds, to put the average pace at just over 27 seconds. That makes the average time for the Conga 8 beta just over 10% longer than the current version, but because of the variability in my numbers, I’m not entirely confident of that result.

What does this mean for overall performance? Because the document I used had so many different parts and sources, it’s hard to tell why numbers came out the way they did. I’d love to be able to see a breakdown of which parts of my document took the longest to process, but I’ve always been a nerd for optimization.

Looking Ahead

Even if the overall performance is a wash, I’m still excited about this release. The changes to the interface and tags are going to make creating and maintaining Conga operations faster, easier, and more intuitive all around. I’m looking forward to working with the new system on a day to day basis.

Have you tried the Conga Composer 8 beta? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

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