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  • Idea for a new concept in reporting

    Generating reports in the windows graphic environment is a pain to put it lightly. In the last few projects customers want more. I have been bypassing the problem by generating the report as html which has a heap of possibilities and solves so many problems. But in a brain storm session the other day we came up with a new idea. Basically all reports should be generated in form that came be used to output the report in any form required.

    Now, my idea is to generate all reports in an XML structure and have an xml file that describes how the xml structure would format for output. Then the XML can be converted to HTML or Word, Excel,etc. So the html format file would describe how to format the file for output as tabular html file. Another would be for outputing the file as a html invoice or a word invoice or excel spreadsheet.

    With the OpenXml specification going to be adopted by OpenOffice and Microsoft Office this is even more possible.

    I would like to hear what other people think.

  • #2
    Saving 'report specifications' in some private format (eg XML) is not exactly a new idea. Its how all the commercial "report generator" software packages (eg Crystal Reports) work.

    It sounds not unreasonable to always generate actual report data to some common format based on those specificatios, then have a series of common functions to convert from that format to choice of 'actual user output.'

    If either common format (specifications or actual report data) is XML-based, sure, why not? XML is as good a format as any, except that it has a lot of overhead; then again disk and memory are cheap.
    Michael Mattias
    Tal Systems (retired)
    Port Washington WI USA
    [email protected]
    http://www.talsystems.com

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    • #3
      After struggling with report generation for years, I finally bit the bullet and invested in a PDF library.

      Reports are easy now, and not one single customer has ever complained.

      PDF has become the 'de-facto' standard for 'generic' report formats. If you need to send a report via email, post it on a web site, whatever, its common. People can read it no matter where they are or what OS they're using.

      Why re-invent the wheel, or start development for a concept that only 'hopes' to unseat PDF as the default? Just go with what is.

      If you've ever used DDOC, you'll find PDF even easier to use once you get the hang of it. Sure, it can be an expense up front, but when your business relies on customer satisfaction, tools are a normal cost of doing business.
      Software makes Hardware Happen

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      • #4
        >I finally bit the bullet and invested in a PDF library.

        May I ask which one?

        I have a "PDF project" I have to bid on this week, and I trust a Real User like you.

        MCM
        Michael Mattias
        Tal Systems (retired)
        Port Washington WI USA
        [email protected]
        http://www.talsystems.com

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Michael Mattias View Post
          >I finally bit the bullet and invested in a PDF library.

          May I ask which one?

          I have a "PDF project" I have to bid on this week, and I trust a Real User like you.

          MCM
          Huh, I thought you were smarter than that

          I'm afraid I have bad news for you. A few years back, I had the opportunity to join a group who purchased "universal licenses" for iSEDPDF. We all got the source and pretty much an unrestricted license to use the software. Shortly thereafter, the publisher simply vanished from the face of the earth...at least the face of the Web

          Since then, there has been an active forum of developers with licensed copies and they have continued to develop the product 'privately'. Someone noticed that the domain name was renewed last month, but that doesn't really mean much.

          Of all the PDF libraries I looked at, this has been the best, but there are a number of others which are probably just as good, not to mention the developer tools available directly from Adobe. There is an open source library as well (libharu) that I think Jose converted the headers to. I used this pretty successfully for awhile, but the iSED library had some additional tools that I liked better.
          Software makes Hardware Happen

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          • #6
            I'm afeered Out of publication ==> Out of support ==> Out of consideration for me.

            Well, I was gonna do a search here anyway, so I'm no worse off than this AM.

            Thank you anyway.
            Michael Mattias
            Tal Systems (retired)
            Port Washington WI USA
            [email protected]
            http://www.talsystems.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Martin Draper View Post
              Now, my idea is to generate all reports in an XML structure and have an xml file that describes how the xml structure would format for output.
              No need to reinvent the wheel, that's what XML was designed for:

              XSD
              XSL

              Comment


              • #8
                >Well, I was gonna do a search here anyway,

                Well,that was easy.

                Today I seached "PDF" in subject, all forums, forever; and there were only four pages of results to check out.

                It "seems" if I am looking for an "API" product which can do mixed text, with multiple fonts, images, and drawing primitives (lines, circles etc), I have my choices of...
                • iSedQuikPDF... no longer supported
                • pdflib GMBH, which apparently is an Active-X thing meaning it would be tough for me to port
                • Two links referenced in posts from the 2000-2001 time period which return "404 Not found"
                • Libharu - Free, documented, and for which there are samples in PB and all the header files are converted.


                Gee, tough call on this one. The libharu calls look a lot like the ddoc P&P calls... and since I've been using ddoc P&P for a long time it shouldn't be too tough for me to figure out.

                MCM
                Michael Mattias
                Tal Systems (retired)
                Port Washington WI USA
                [email protected]
                http://www.talsystems.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  i am sure it depends on what kind of reports you are doing.
                  for me, give me something i can easily read, and a report that has a lot of useful information on one page.
                  we do financial type work, and it is mostly all for in house.
                  but i do like the way pdf files print and you can easily search the documents too., but the printing of pdf files are the best.
                  if that floats your boat, you may want to try http://www.adultpdf.com
                  they have a freeware program for converting text to pdf and it even will run from a command line.
                  there are other programs they have too.
                  if ever you do some web stuff, pdf reports will be a great way to go also.
                  after running adobe for years, i just about taken it off all my computers and replaced it with foxit pdf readers.

                  also now is a good time to look into a the abiword processor, if you load it up and then unload, it leaves very little in the registry file by which you can remove easily. it can read and save word files and uses xml files by default on saved files.

                  paul
                  p purvis

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                  • #10
                    Don't discard iSedQuickPDF

                    Michael

                    I use this product even though it is no longer supported because it still does the job extremely well. I use a template file with a predefined list of form field variables that the user can use to modify the template. (Invoicing application) When new form is created by the user I flattent the form fields and save the font, location, width etc. My templates need 2 pages... a front page and a continuation page. I prefix field names to determine if they are static or if they float at the point of insertion.

                    Now if the user wants to change look and feel, content etc, I don't need to get involved. They just need to purchase FormMax and do the job themselves.

                    Another plus is that any invoice emailed can be encrypted with a random password so it cannot be modified by PDF utilities without going to the effort of cracking the password.

                    Cheers - Carlo

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                    • #11
                      Now if the user wants to change look and feel, content etc, I don't need to get involved.
                      Hmm, are you interested in licensing that technology?
                      Michael Mattias
                      Tal Systems (retired)
                      Port Washington WI USA
                      [email protected]
                      http://www.talsystems.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Don't discard iSedQuickPDF
                        While I completely agree, there is just one problem.

                        The owners have disappeared and you can't get a license any longer.

                        I agree that its a great library, and why the owners suddenly disappeared is anyone's guess. For those of us who got a license when they were available, well, we're lucky to have a group of dedicated programmers willing to improve on, and share, the basic code.

                        To be honest, if I had the time and knowledge, I would love to develop a PDF library like this. I think there would be a great market for it, but its no simple task. Perhaps the Libharu project will take off and be a better replacement ?
                        Software makes Hardware Happen

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                        • #13
                          I think you can still get a license

                          From this address:

                          https://secure.shareit.com/shareit/c...[168179]=1

                          Hmm, are you interested in licensing that technology?
                          Not much technology.... just a few functions and .ini file to manage table borders and shading. If you are not in a big rush I will put a documented sample together when i get a few hours of free time. If there is a rush I will mail you a stripped down working program and you'll have to read the code!
                          Last edited by Carlo Pagani; 8 Mar 2008, 04:08 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Carlo Pagani View Post
                            Seeing as how the company's web site is gone, for all practical purposes, I wouldn't risk trying to buy a license from a 3rd party that isn't responsible for generating/distributing the licenses. Likewise, I don't believe these sales agents have the ability to send you the code (they just link to the vendor's supplied download locations) so the chances of getting the library are highly in question too.

                            Places like Share-it, etc don't actively verify the vendor's business status. If they're gone, these purchasing vendors don't usually find out about it until a customer complains....then the research begins. 90 days later, you'll probably get your money back

                            Of course, if someone has purchased a license via Share-it recently, I'd love to know. There are a lot of people who would be interested. If you can obtain a valid license, then the support issue really isn't an issue at all since there is a HUGE user base who not only gives free (and quality) support, but are also enhancing the package with bug fixes (rarely needed) and new features (done pretty regularly!)
                            Software makes Hardware Happen

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