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Bill Meyer

Report components: good, bad, ugly

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Over the years, I have used several different report products, and none of them have been what I would consider excellent. I would be curious to hear from others about their experiences. The product I currently use focuses too much on static designs, and we tend to need dynamic construction, instead. My primary concerns would be:

  • Product in active and continuing development
  • Responsive customer support
  • Well suited to dynamic report construction, use of subreports, good graphing, support for RTF, graphics
  • Good documentation, meaning the basics are covered, but real depth on more complex operations

At present, I am battling some defects which are a) very hard to reproduce consistently, and b) aggravated by breaking changes across versions. It's hard to clearly identify all the aspects I might call essential, but any of you who have built reports with embedded subreports, user options which affect layout, and dynamic construction are likely to recognize the challenges.

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42 minutes ago, haentschman said:

which? :classic_huh:

Crystal Reports, ReportSmith, Rave Reports, QuickReports, ReportBuilder, and one or two others whose names do not come to mind now.

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We have used Report Builder by Digital Metaphors for 10+ years, we also have the TRichView component for great RTF support in and out of the reporting engine. The one time  I had a problem they sent me a hot-patch to fix the issue within 24 hours and version to version I cannot think of an upgrade issue we have had, and we started using it in Delphi 7...maybe it has been a little more than 10 years 😮  We have not installed the included reporting software that comes with Delphi since then.

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Regarding dynamic construction: I only know FastReport and List&Label. Both have DOM-like APIs. And FastReport has scripting.

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1 hour ago, uligerhardt said:

Regarding dynamic construction: I only know FastReport and List&Label. Both have DOM-like APIs. And FastReport has scripting.

HTML Report Library has scripting, DOM API, dynamic construction and unlimited interactivity.

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TMS Flexcel is a great tool that is often overlooked by people wanting report tools, but it's great for the job, with the advantage that most users are already used to the "template designer" which is Excel. And it fits very well your requirements.

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We can recommend ReportBuilder from Digital-Metaphors. We're using it since 20 years now. We have total dynamic reports including "creating your query components for current report" in "onBeforePrint" so we have >40 dynamic report pipelines which can be used within the reportbuilder itself to query the database + a lot more.

 

You get very good support + bugfixes if they were reconstructable within 24 hours. 

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1. HTML Report Library - i have not tried or used it at all but from the "sniff" it looks like a rather cool product. You have to judge if the way it's managed suits your needs. It seems to be a one man-shop and as i personally usually prefer the quality from such setups (the best libs are written by one soul up to a point) there are other concerns.

 

2. About the corporate stability of FastReports i know nothing. Technically however; FR (i could be wrong) originated in the Delphi world. When i switched from CrystalReports (it was chosen sooo long ago there was no actual alternative that met the needs at that point) i was completely baffled by the ease of integration into my Delphi desktop applications. The benefits regarding "seamless" integration, forms, threads, details (the devil is in the details) wow. FR has been maintained since. Some learning curve (the name comes from the quirqy "formulas" that was quirqy probably because they were so fast to execute (parse, rather) in deployment) and off you go.

 

I believe that FR + sources (if linked into your project) is a very posh solutions. You have complete control. If you then start to add too many "fool prof options for end users" (i.e. options w/o implementing the designer and selling courses to end users using that - not sure it's good idea) that maintain some other rules that in turn breaks some other visual rule you will have some coding to do with any report library.

 

I have not actively developed with FR for some time, clients are happy with the already implemented reports. But i'm soon going to get at it again. From way back at version 2.5x their support was a bit contrite. At version 4 things started to look up but there was problems with exporting. In the end of the 4.x cycle and in version 5.x (implemented ATM) it is impressive.

 

Regarding your well defined list of needs FR (please remember i have not implemented the last couple of years new features yet so they might have fixed things) RTF had some problems especially in lieu with exporting. However, if you look at each subversion's fix-list a lot off work have been put into the export components.

 

Regarding your last bullet-point - generally i would say the docs was ok, but the boon is you can debug the FR sources in your IDE. Just calling API's implemented in a DLL will not give the same insight. At one point i was very familiar with big part of the sources and that always feel good.

 

[We have discussed DX "printing system" in other threads - i do use that too, but not for the kind of reports you refer to. DX is mainly used for controllers and executives to print/export analysis sourced pivot grids - this way i eliminated over 150 designed "banded" reports some 7 years ago].

 

HTH

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I have used Rave for years and the reason is because all my printing (reports) is done by code. I can print anything exactly where I want it to be printed, not where some template wants it.

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10 hours ago, Dany Marmur said:

1. HTML Report Library - i have not tried or used it at all but from the "sniff" it looks like a rather cool product. You have to judge if the way it's managed suits your needs. It seems to be a one man-shop and as i personally usually prefer the quality from such setups (the best libs are written by one soul up to a point) there are other concerns.

I use HTML Components Library too, and its working flawlessly (considering its a little between HTML4 and 5), but the big advantage for me is that its cross-platform.
Also HTML reports are pretty much interchangeable everywhere, you don't need a special reader.

 

Updates come out regularily also Alexander is fixing bugs and even adding some reqested features very fast.

I only can recommend these tools.

Edited by Rollo62
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5 hours ago, TigerLilly said:

We used it, because we had the need, that our users were able to edit the report after generation.

FastReports generates a file when you create a preview from "template" + data. This file can be loaded in the editor and it is possible to change field values.

 

It is, however, not the same as exporting to a word-processing format and having the end used edit that. Generally, banded reports tend to result in problematic word-processing exports because of the different paginating "idioms".

 

IMHO if, for example, this is a bout a "massive" agreement-kind of report and it is important for the end user to be able to edit the resulting document, working with word-automation or the docx format (that you can manipulate and create with your own code or a good library since it's xml) to create these "reports" will make your clients happy and you competition impressed.

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On ‎8‎/‎26‎/‎2019 at 3:43 PM, Markus Kinzler said:

In FastReport you can export into other formats like excel, word etc. also.

Of course. But this is one more step + usually there are layout problems when doing so. At least when the report structure is complex.

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WPReporter (included in WPTools "Bundle")

 

that is a mail merge based reporting solution which also supports groups and sub groups. It does not work with a fixed page layout but creates a real editable document. The data is inserted into mail merge fields while the groups allow it to repeat certain areas of the document. So lists and tables can be created easily. It is event driven and so independent from datasource components.   It does not do any calculation, chart creation and such, but if you need a reporter which creates a document which can later still be freely edited it is ideal.

 

Export to RTF or HTML, optionally DocX and also PDF.

 

The brand new V9.1 just came out. It also includes a solution to display contents of a datasource in table, right in the word processor (WPTableProducer). 

 

WPTools is a powerful word processing component developed in native Delphi code. WPReporter is an addon to it.

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On 8/26/2019 at 9:53 AM, TigerLilly said:

We used it, because we had the need, that our users were able to edit the report after generation.

 

HTML Report Library produce plain HTML which can be edited using WYSWYG HTML Editor.

Unlike some other report engines, elements are in normal flow (absolute positioning can be used but is not required), so editing will not break document layout.

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