Es una satisfacción para Albalia nuestra inclusión como Case Study de éxito en el desarrollo de soluciones en ambientes Microsoft.
Albalia Interactiva is a Spanish software development company which responded to new electronic invoicing standards in Spain by building an invoicing solution in Microsoft Office 2010, using the powerful Open XML standard. The free OffInvoice solution has won praise from the Government and users alike who laud it as an innovative and complete product.
Albalia Interactiva is a Spanish legal and technical security software development company founded in 2003. Its President Julián Inza said: “We wanted to build a bridge between the technical and legal worlds. Legal developments can benefit from technical solutions. This area has advanced markedly in the last few years.”
Albalia, a 20-person company, began with a specialty in digital signatures, as a consultant to large firms. It grew rapidly into electronic invoicing solutions and worked with issues such as electronic evidences.
In 2007, the company’s work came to the fore when Spain established a legal framework to boost the use of electronic invoices nation-wide. This led to nationwide cost-savings for legal forms processing using cutting edge technology. Albalia developed a solution based on the Spanish Facturae XML format, allowing it to be included in an Open XML file (ECMA-376) so an electronic invoice can be viewed in Microsoft Word.
In 2008, the company contacted Microsoft and examined the possibility of using Microsoft Word to view invoices created in formats like Facturae, or “Factura Electronica”, a key and forward-thinking format for the transmittal and digital integrity of forms in the Spanish government. The first product of this collaboration was a converter that allowed Facturae documents to be inserted into an Open XML node, enabling the document to be opened in a conventional Microsoft Word program with no further modification.
The company used Microsoft Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) as a development tool. Using some examples and prototypes provided by Microsoft, it established the FactOffice invoicing project.
In Inza’s opinion, the most difficult part was the installer, and even after its release, the community detected a few errors which were corrected. Albalia was thankful for their feedback. “We have had many questions from users who found errors and improvements – all solved – and it is still available as free software on the Codeplex platform,” he said.
Albalia chose to develop the solution using the Open XML format over other alternatives. Inza explained: “The Open XML standard has two generations of advantage over ODF. In fact, ODF is also an ISO standard, and we have tried to work with some public administrations to offer them the same type of development that we created with Microsoft for other platforms, such as OpenOffice.org and StarOffice, and we are still open to collaborating in that environment. It is a futile controversy: Some formats are better for some things, and others for other things. So far, I think the most elaborate, complete and complex format is Open XML. It allows more developer flexibility and innovation.”
He said the choice of the Open XML format was also justified by its enormous power: “We have been able to insert an invoice, as is, into one of the Open XML nodes, without modification. The remaining nodes of the standard have allowed us to modify the appearance of invoices, logos, etc. We see many advantages to the use of this Open XML format.”
Open XML is also recognized within the ISO standardization frameworks, not only those of ECMA – that means a warranty for third parties for protection of their investment in standards.
Inza added: “The project was done initially on the Microsoft Office 2007 platform, not only because it was the most widely used application platform in the market, but also because of how easy it has been to develop with. The quantity and quality of the information available for developing with Microsoft Office is quite a bit better than for other tools in the marketplace with similar features, such as OpenOffice.org.”
FactOffice, which is free software, was released to the public at the 2009 ASIMELEC eInvoicing Conference. It had more than 9,000 downloads and is considered a success by Inza. The company later used Microsoft Office 2010 to develop a newer version of FactOffice called OffInvoice. Among other features, OffInvoice integrates with Microsoft Office Excel, demonstrating the versatility of both Microsoft Office and the tool. In Microsoft Excel, some items were changed on the internal design level, and row management was used to store information from invoices issued and received.
As a matter of fact, FactOffice and its newer version, OffInvoice, was the integration of three standards: The Spanish electronic invoicing standard, “Facturae,” ISO 29500, which was implemented in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010, and TS101 903, which regulates electronic signatures (XAdES) and uses the XAdES-XL modality.
The release of OffInvoice coincided with the launch of Office 2010, and is available in all official EU languages, utilizing Microsoft’s platform translation capabilities. This new version also supports Facturae, the UBL (Universal Business Language) format and CII 2.0 (the United Nations CEFACT Cross-Industry Invoice standard). It was the first implementation of the CII 2.0 draft specification.
OffInvoice is available under two different licenses: MSPL and EUPL for the European Union. Under the first license, users can utilize the software without restrictions. The second license imposes certain limitations, but allows for aligning the software with some initiatives of the Public Administration.
Albalia expects to see a return on investment from the open standards-based software built on Microsoft technologies. While it is free, support is provided by the community. The Premium version is designed for more advanced purposes and will be available for purchase. The company has established itself as a leader in the area of electronic invoicing by the release of both versions of its software.
The idea of solving a practical problem for any small or independent business, such as creating and managing invoices, within a general-purpose word processing program like Microsoft Word seemed at first glance to be a daunting challenge.
There were many ERP environments that used Microsoft Office to create reports, print documents and store invoicing records, but not vice versa. However, Inza explained: “One of the topics we emphasized most is that Microsoft Word or Excel, with VSTO, are authentic programming environments with embedded tools that let you do practically anything. One of the advantages of this selection is that invoices are managed as one of the special areas in Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel, from a menu on the ribbon Facturae, with its own unique functions. The use integrates seamlessly into the Microsoft Office environment, with a negligible learning curve. The other orientation forces you to learn and adapt.”
Therefore, a user already familiar with Microsoft Word using Albalia software to create invoices would find it easy to learn to use the program. All the user needed to know was the invoicing information and concepts, the only change was importing or exporting a Facturae document into a Microsoft Word document. The FactOffice add-on acts as a repository of invoices issued, received and drafted, with options such as collection follow-up, searches or using one invoice as a template for another. Inza said: “It’s not an ERP, but it does a good job of meeting the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. It does this within the Microsoft Office 2010 context, which is what our customers have on their desktops.”
Accessible Free Add-on
FactOffice is free for use. The free version has been downloaded by over 9,000 users. Albalia worked closely with Microsoft on this cutting edge solution. Inza said: “At Microsoft´s request, this software has been made available to the entire community as open source software. It shows that Microsoft has a real free software strategy that is compatible with its own interests, as well as those of its partners and the community.”
Expanded Capabilities Based on Office
The world of Microsoft Office and electronic signatures is not limited to invoices, since new markets, such as electronic banking and document exchange among government bodies, are being developed. Albalia develops innovative solutions in the areas of fraud prevention, data protection and digital authentication. It plays a leadership role in the relationships of individuals with public agencies and companies.
Office 2010 incorporates a variety of new features which accompany the desktop applications – such as Office Web Applications -which are the online version or the cloud version of the same Office packages used at the desktop. Albalia considers cloud applications very important, and has developed solutions for that environment.
Albalia extends Microsoft Word for online editing purposes, allowing new uses of the Microsoft Office products for such purposes as electronic signature management by the service provider EADTrust, either as the provider of digitally signed files, or as a “trusted third party” for digital transactions.
A new world is also opening up via Office Mobile and the use of electronically signed documents on portable devices. According to Inza, the improved screen view and access to broadband Internet access facilitates the exchange of signed documents. For instance, a document created in the Microsoft Office environment can be signed from a mobile in another location.
Inza said that OffInvoice had also been tested outside of Office. So far, with the collaboration of other companies, tests had been done with BizTalk Server, SharePoint Server and Microsoft Dynamics. One of the most important upcoming projects is the Digital Signature Services (DSS) Server, the first implementation of a DSS server on an .NET platform. Inza strongly believes in the possibilities and future development of electronic signature technologies, in collaboration with Microsoft.
Microsoft Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 gives your people powerful, timesaving tools to do their best work from more places. With new capabilities and insightful updates to Excel, PowerPoint, Word and Outlook, Office 2010 offers the complete package — with familiar, intuitive tools. Now you can express ideas, solve problems, connect with people, and create amazing results — in the office, at home, or on the go. For more information about Microsoft Office, go to: http://www.office.com
For More Information
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For more information about Albalia Interactiva’s products and services, visit the following web sites at:
Organization Size: 20 employees
Albalia Interactiva is a software development company that focuses on technical and legal security and which creates solutions to integrate and apply standards and norms.
The Spain-wide release of the Facturae electronic invoicing standard warranted the adoption of a series of electronic signature and encryption technologies into invoicing software.
Albalia Interactiva developed the OffInvoice add-in Microsoft Office 2010, which allows invoices to be created in the Facturae format. This add-on was offered as free software, and is considered one of most innovative and complete products available in this sector.
Accessible Free Add-on
Expanded Capabilities Based on Office
Software and Services
Microsoft Word 2010
Microsoft Excel 2010
Microsoft Office 2010 Suites
Microsoft Visual Tools Suite
Microsoft Office Mobile 2010
Open XML Formats
Microsoft Dynamics components