Get started quickly with our free, open source Autolynk plug-in for WordPress.
Welcome! Want to turbo charge your small or medium sized e-commerce website in Ireland? The “VGP Import Export for Autolynk in WooCommerce” (Autolynk plug-in for short) should allow you to do just that. By bridging the gap between An Post’s Autolynk software and WooCommerce, you can vastly speed up the shipping of customer orders and avoid manual data entry for tracking numbers. All this while taking advantage of An Post’s great national and international postage rates for smaller packages.
What is Autolynk?
Autolynk is a software package provided by An Post, the national Post Office of the Republic of Ireland, to small and medium businesses. The software runs on a Windows PC and allows for the creation of shipping labels, either by manual input or, more commonly, by importing comma separated (CSV) lists of customer orders.
How do I get Autolynk?
You will need to contact your account manager at An Post. If you don’t have a business account yet, the staff at most post office counters will be able to put you in touch with someone who can get you set up.
Prerequisites for the Autolynk Plug-in
- Autolynk software installed on a Windows PC
- A WordPress website running WooCommerce
- Autolynk configured to use this import sequence file (more information below).
Download and install the plug-in to your WordPress site the usual way. Typically you do this by opening your WordPress dashboard and going to Plugins->Installed Plugins->Add New, and then searching for “vgp import export for autolynk”. Once installed, activate the plug-in.
The plug-in has two core parts, the importer and the exporter. You use the importer to import tracking numbers from Autolynk once you have finished the post for the day, and the exporter to get the data out of WooCommerce into a format Autolynk can understand.
Setting up Autolynk to Work with our Plug-in
In order to export orders successfully to Autolynk, you first need to configure the software by using an import sequence file. This file basically tells Autolynk how the fields are mapped in your export file. So for example, if the customers first name was column A, second name column B etc, you need to let Autolynk know this.
For version 1.0.0, please use the import sequence file you can download here. Download the file and put it somewhere convenient.
Now, open Autolynk and log on. From the menus at the top, choose “Utilities” and then “Database Maintenance…”, or press the F11 key.
The options shown below should then appear.
Ensure that “Import_Sequence” is selected, then click the last button on the right of the toolbar. The window shown below will then appear.
Click on the “…” button and browse to the CSV file you downloaded from the link above. Make sure “Append Data to database table” is NOT selected, then click on “OK”.
Autolynk is now configured to use export files as generated by the Autolynk plug-in.
As we add more functionality to the plug-in, this export file will be changed and updated, so please check the release notes and come back here and repeat this process if necessary.
Setting up the Plug-in to Work with Autolynk
The plug-in requires a small amount of manual configuration before it is ready to use. Autolynk uses three letter codes to determine the service required for a given letter or package. For example, EXP denotes a package sent by Express Post, a next day service for Republic of Ireland addresses only.
Your account manager, or Autolynk support, should be able to give you a list of these codes that are applicable to your service contract.
You need to assign these codes to your shipping options. If you ship internationally, we find the Table Rates shipping plug-in to be particularly useful for setting up these options.
Adding the codes is easy. With the Autolynk plug-in installed, open the admin area on your WordPress site and using the sidebar, navigate to “WooCommerce” and then “Settings” and then select the “Shipping” tab. Here is an example from our site.
Click on a shipping zone, in the picture below we’ve clicked on “Ireland”.
Now, set the shipping code for each shipping method you use. Let’s click on “An Post – Express Post ROI (Tracked & Signed)”.
You should see a box labelled “Shipping Code” (you will need to scroll down a little until you can see it). Enter your three letter code in here and then don’t forget to click “Save changes” at the bottom of the page.
If the exporter cannot find the three letter code it will use the code “UNK” for unknown. If you import this code into Autolynk it will send the order to the exception queue, where you will need to set the shipping service manually yourself. If you use multiple couriers (e.g. DHL and An Post) you may need to manually strip some entries from the export file, or simply delete these orders in Autolynk.
Using the Exporter
Now that the configuration is done, you can use the exporter to export your WooCommerce orders by selecting “Autolynk Orders” under the WooCommerce menu, and choosing the “Export” tab.
There are some basic filters you can set such as date and changing the sorting order, but if you just want to export all your outstanding orders, just leave the options as the default and click “Export”.
The software will then generate a CSV file. You can import this into Autolynk by going to the “File” menu in Autolynk and choosing “Import Data…”, or by pressing the F2 key. The window shown below will then appear.
Under “Import Information…” Make sure “Custom Import File” is selected and that “Delimiter” is set to a comma “,”.
Now, click the yellow folder button at the top of the window. This will open the standard file requester. Make sure that you select “Files of type: ALL Files” at the bottom of this window.
Now simply browse to the file you exported using the plug-in and double click on it. Remember that Autolynk will delete this file once it has imported it. If desired, Autolynk can be configured to watch a folder and print labels automatically as soon as an export file is placed in a designated folder, but that is outside the scope of this tutorial.
The Autolynk window should change and resemble the one shown below.
Notice the “Number of detail records” at the bottom, this should match the number of orders you exported. Click on the button in the very top left corner, with the green arrow on it, to import the file. If everything goes successfully, the window shown below should appear.
Once the file is imported, resolve any orders sent to the exception queue and print your labels as normal. If you configured shipping codes correctly there should be no exceptions.
Using the Importer
The importer will read a file generated by Autolynk and import tracking numbers and mark your orders complete. It has a couple of options you need to configure before you start using it. The options are shown below.
Tracking URL – This is the URL/web address that will be sent to the customer, to allow him or her to track their order. The default value here should be fine, if An Post update their website in the future then this will need to be changed to reflect whatever changes they make.
##TRACK-NO## will be substituted for the tracking number as found in the import file.
Customer Note – Put a simple message to your customer here, and then use ##URL## to insert the tracking link you defined in the first step.
You can also add the tracking number on its own using ##TRACK-NO## if you want to.
Exporting Tracking Numbers from Autolynk
To generate an export file in Autolynk, first ensure that dispatch has been closed for the day. The easiest way to do this is to simply exit the program and then load it again.
Now, select the “Reports” menu and choose “Print Predefined Reports”. You should see the window shown below.
Make sure that “Report1” is selected in the top box. In the box below, you need to manually type a path for the file, as well as the file name. For convenience, we created a folder on the C drive called “Reports” for all exported files. Autolynk will remember the path and file name next time you export. Don’t forget to change the file-name every day with the current date.
When you’re ready to export, click the “Export” button at the top. You’re now finished in Autolynk.
Importing Tracking Numbers
To import the report you just created in Autolynk, go back to your web browser and your WordPress dashboard. On the sidebar, navigate to “WooCommerce” and then “Autolynk Orders”. Now, choose the “Import” tab at the top of the page.
You then simply need to click the “Browse…” button at the top of the page and using the standard file requester, browse to the file you just created. In our example it would be called “Report-22-09-20.csv”. Locate the file and click “Open”. Then, click on the “Import” button (below the “Browse…” button).
The Autolynk plug-in will parse the file and add tracking numbers to the orders it finds and mark them as complete. If there are any errors it will generate a log file which can be reviewed.
Congratulations, you’ve now set up the plug-in and streamlined your An Post WooCommerce orders!
I don’t understand something, or something did not work as I expected
Please use the support forum here to request support. Please post as much detail about your WordPress installation as possible.
The plug-in is offered for free so support cannot be guaranteed, but we will do our best.
I’m a developer, can I port the plug-in to other platforms (e.g. Shopify)?
Heck YES! If you want to do this please drop me a message just to let me know you intend to do that, but we would absolutely welcome this.
Version 1.0.0 of the plug-in currently imports and exports orders only, it does not handle order contents. The user must still manually match printed shipping labels with packing slips generated manually.
Autolynk has poor support for special characters such as diacritics, accents and characters from the Russian, Hebrew or Japanese/Chinese alphabet. The Autolynk plug-in will try to strip any non-standard characters from the export file, replacing them with the equivalent standard character. If it cannot find a substitute character, a ? is used.
If a customer from e.g. Russia makes an order, you may need to manually print a shipping label with the correct characters and place it next to your automatically generated label. This is largely a limitation of Autolynk rather than the plug-in itself.
Any required customs labels or aviation security stickers must be made manually.
Future versions of the plug-in will include functionality to generate lists of package contents, values and import harmonised system codes, which should satisfy future requirements for electronic customs declarations.