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  1. #1

    Reporting tool: open source or charge?

    After making reports for a long time, I found something strange recently. Various reporting tool vendors advertise by all means to attract users' attentions; however, programmers show great interests in Jsper report + ireport, the representatives of free and open source Java tool. You can find that it is discussed in full swing in almost all the forums with Java report board, and there are always a lot of questioners.

    Why?

    Jsper report + ireport are pure Java reporting tools. I believe that the reasons for users to choose them are as follows:
    1. They are free, and this is the most important reason.
    2. They are professional reporting tools.
    3. They are pure Java.
    It means that most people have realized that they should make reports with professional reporting tools, not coding, and this is a progress. Now, there are many pure Java reporting tools available, such as JATOOLS, RAQ Report, and Style report, etc. According to users' choice, you will find that free is the deciding factor.

    Free and chargeable, which one is better?

    It is obviously that free Jsper report + ireport bring us a lot, reporting tool with certain usability, open source code with flexible customization capability and complete control, and the most important, low cost.
    But is this really the case?
    1. In my opinion, the tabling capabilities of Jsper report + ireport are not very good.
    2. Written too minutely, the Help documents of Jsper report + ireport are hard to read. And more important, all of them are chargeable.
    3. The tabling logicalities of Jsper report + ireport are not very strong. Sometimes, you may find it very hard to make a complex report with them. For example, if there is a report can not be made directly, you have to write SQL statements troublesomely or ask your clients change their requirements unreasonably.
    You can find a great number of consultation posts in forums, and the questioners usually have to wait for answers on line. However, maybe there is no answer to their questions, or there is no one to answer their questions by coincidence. You can count the time and labor cost spent on it. Then, whether it is advisable to buy a chargeable reporting tool?

    The advantages of buying a chargeable reporting tool are as follows:
    1. The tabling capability of a chargeable reporting tool must be better than a free one.
    2. The Help documents are free.
    3. When you have a question, you can consult the technical support directly; even ask them to come to help you.

    Judging from the social trend, labor division will becomes more and more detailed, and work will becomes more and more professional. In report industry, the optimal condition is that professional reporting tool vendor is the peripheral R&D Center of other companies. Each company gives some money to the vendor for using the reporting tool, while the vendor is dedicated to solve the report problems of all the cooperators.
    To sum up, making report is a professional job, and it is advisable for you to buy a chargeable reporting tool. With it, you can do your own job better.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are also welcome to refer to my blog.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    20,002
    Quote Originally Posted by freezea
    For example, if there is a report can not be made directly, you have to write SQL statements troublesomely or ask your clients change their requirements unreasonably.
    life's a bitch, eh

    rudy.ca | @rudydotca
    Buy my SitePoint book: Simply SQL

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Lost in Translation
    Posts
    946
    Will I have to use babelfish to detroublesomely your blog or can we decode it less chargablely? I am not sure that my labor division would be open to your optimal condition.

    As making report is my professional job, I'll have to consult my cooperators as to their social condition.
    "Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    12,592
    To be fair, its not as useless as Certus' blog.
    If it's not practically useful, then it's practically useless.

    blindman
    www.chess.com: "sqlblindman"
    www.LobsterShot.blogspot.com

  5. #5

    The Integration Solution of WEB Report

    Report development is only a part of application program, therefore, the integration of Web reporting tool is of great importance.

    All the traditional Web reporting tools provide an independent report server without exception.

    The disadvantages of an independent report server:

    ● The independent report server communicates with application program via network protocol, and this degrades system performance seriously.

    ● It is unable to use all the advantageous functions of application server, such as the cluster capability, the management capability of connection pool, etc.

    ● Report server has an independent management mechanism of user permissions, which can not adapt the requirements of particular user role management from various industries and applications. It is insufficient, while it force application program to obey its rules.

    ● With too few APIs and weak control, it is hard to integrate.

    As a professional Web report solution, RAQ Report provides integration as Jar package to programmers. Without independent report server, application infrastructure, and independent management mechanism of user permissions, it can help programmers to implement integration conveniently.

    The advantages of no independent report server:

    ● The server of RAQ report is submitted as Jar package or application of application server. Therefore, it can get integrated with application program seamlessly to achieve the peak operating efficiency.

    ● Share the cluster capability and the management capability of connection pool of application server.

    ● Make unified deployment. Use the user role management mechanism of Web application directly to avoid the incompatible problem of two management mechanisms. Provide a unified login screen, and end users need not to log in twice.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are also welcome to refer to my blog.

  6. #6

    Calculate the procurement cost of web reporting tool

    Generally, Web report accounts for about 10% of a software development project. In recent 2 years, it showed an increasing trend. According to my own projects, it can reach 20% at most. However, in calculations below, we still use 10% as a standard, and assume the cost of each man-month as $2,500.

    Take a $100,000 software development project for example. The workload of Web report accounts for 10%, then its procurement cost is $100,000. As the cost of each man-month is $2,500, it needs 4 employees to accomplish the report. In a practical project, there are several ways to split this $100,000.

    1. Integrators' previous code accumulation + Programmers' customization according to project.
    In short, it is pure manual coding. Here, it is can be classified into 2 conditions:
    A. Based on integrators' previous code accumulation, customize according to project directly.
    B. Look for an open source reporting tool, and amend it according to requirement.
    This can reduce programmers' workload and latter maintenance cost to some extent. However, your development will be limited by the open source reporting tool. Besides whether product information and APIs are all included, bugs of the open source reporting tool will drive you crazy.
    These 2 ways do not involve the cost of reporting tool. Its advantage is that developers can control programs completely, and the development cost is intuitively. However, its disadvantages are as follows:
    1) If the report requirement is high, programmers' workload will be very heavy.
    2) Report developing is inefficient.
    3) Latter maintenance cost is higher. If a client wants to modify a report, he has to ask the developer for service. Then, it will involve the problem of money.
    In practice, these 2 ways are usually used in small and medium projects.

    2. Web reporting tool + Programmer development.
    The advantages of using a reporting tool are as follows:

    1) Improve developing efficiency.
    2) Save time, and shorten construction period.
    3) Latter maintenance is convenient.

    There are a great number of reporting tools available in the market now. Then, how to choose a reporting tool which can satisfy the project requirement and control the cost reasonably?
    In my opinion, you should choose your reporting tool according to the principle below:
    It should reduce the workload of report developing for at least 50%, and cut down the total development cost for about 1/3.
    According to the example above, it needs 4 man-month to make the report. With a reporting tool, it only needs 2 man-month to do the job. Add the procurement cost of the reporting tool, you only need about $6,000 to accomplish the job which costs you $10,000.

    You can compare several famous reporting tools, such as Crystal Report, RAQ Report, and BIRT, etc. Then, you can make your own choice.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are also welcome to refer to my blog.

  7. #7

    The Basic Standard of Excel-like Report IDE

    Nowadays, many reporting tools claim that they support Excel-like report design after improvements. Then, what is a real Excel-like report IDE? Today, we will discuss this problem from two sides.
    1. What are the most basic functions an Excel-like report IDE should have?
    2. According to the data characteristics of report, what are the extended functions an Excel-like report IDE should have?
    Generally, programmers and end users are familiar with Excel, and programmers often choose to develop reports in Excel-like style. The main purposes are to realize complex report forms and improve report creation efficiency. For convenience, reporting tool companies should provide an IDE closer to Excel usage pattern as much as possible. In other words, besides the Excel appearance, they need to spend more time on details to improve its service efficiency.

    In my opinion, a report IDE which supports Excel-like design should have the functions below:

    Cell Naming
    Cells in Excel are named according to their horizontal and vertical positions. If set another naming mechanism, on the one hand it is very troublesome, on the other hand it will bring some inconveniences in expression editing.

    Cell's Basic Properties
    The most basic properties are: font, font size, color, border, foreground, background, edit style for whole row or column or table, and format painter supporting, etc.

    Cell Content Editing
    The writing method of expression should be the same with that Excel. For example, "=sum(A3+B5)". When insert or delete row or column, expressions are supposed to transform automatically without manual updating.
    When the content/expression of a cell is too long to display in it, the entire content/expression can be referred in the edit box in the toolbar.

    Custom Functions
    Provide a great number of common functions, and retain some interfaces for users to add their own custom functions.

    Import and Export Excel files
    Commonly, users have Excel report forms, and they are accustomed to export report to Excel after statistics. Therefore, it is requisite to allow users to import and export Excel files.

    Take RAQ Report for an example. It provides a pure Java report IDE. As a real Excel-like enterprise class reporting tool, it inherits all the advantages of Excel.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are welcome to refer to my blog.

  8. #8

    Can we make Java Report just by Drag and Drop?

    Many Java reporting tools, especially those have some BI characteristic, often claim to end users that their products are simple to use. These reporting tool often promise that they can make a report just by drag and drop, and even allow end users to make various statistical reports follow their own inclinations.

    Has report development become so easily?!

    The fact is that programmers are still struggling against various reports. Both reporting tools and OLAP products seldom allow end users to use them directly, therefore, end users are still using Excel.
    For end users, making a simple Web report (with row grouping or simple cross) with these pure technical tools is ok, as they can do with the wizard and the semantic layer. However, end users can not make most complex reports by dragging and dropping the relations of data structure which they do not understood. Therefore, it is impossible for end users to make all the report with these pure technical tools.
    Drag and drop can only set the positions of data items, but they even can not do this very well. As current reporting tools' editing styles are commonly based on controls, and it is a general editing proposal of graphical primitive, it absolutely does not show the regularity of table. However, real successful table products like Excel are not based on controls. For summary conditions, grouping rules and operation formulas, which have to be dealt with in complex reports, drag and drop can do nothing at all. Therefore, end users have to understand the operation model of report first, and then, write abstract expressions. This is not much easier than coding.

    Then, is it impossible for end users to make Web reports by themselves? Yes, it is possible of course! However, they can only make those simple reports with universal reporting tools. In order to make complex industry reports, they must use reporting tools with industry characteristics. In other words, programmers must add industry experience into some technical reporting tools, and set the styles and templates of report. Then, end users only need to input parameters and indicators to make various complex reports. The degree of difficulty is determined by the functions and integration of the reporting tool.

    To sum up, it is not easy to make complex reports by drag and drop as others said.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are welcome to refer to my blog.

  9. #9

    How to design report with high efficiency like Excel?

    Have you ever seen a reporting tool which has a more suitable interface to design static reports than Excel?

    I believe that those who have made or read a certain number of reports will say no to this question. Exactly, Excel's interface is the best choice for static report design, as it has incomparable advantages in efficiency, operation and setting.

    Then, drag and drop style and Excel-like style, which is better?

    This dispute has once appeared in the professional reporting tool industry. After all, those senior reporting tools are using the drag and drop style. However, RAQ Report gives a resounding answer by releasing an Excel-like reporting tool: Even in professional reporting tools, the efficiency of Excel-like style reporting tool is much higher than that of drag and drop style reporting tool.

    Even for non-professionals, Excel is a reporting tool easy to use. It only needs a little time to grasp the basic knowledge, and everyone can make a table with beautiful interface from scratch quickly. Next, with an example, we will see RAQ Report inherits the characteristic of Excel to what extent.
    The main design interface at the left side is the most common Excel-like spreadsheet. If you set format there, you will find that RAQ Report is totally same with Excel in static style setting.

    1. Cell's width, height, background, foreground, display format, line break, gridline, etc.
    2. Content’s font, font size, bold, italic, and underline, etc.
    3. Data’s horizontal alignment and vertical alignment.
    4. Format painter.

    In format definition, RAQ Report and Excel have no difference. Moreover, besides these inheritances in static format, RAQ Report also inherits the cell expression of Excel. For example, in Excel, if you want to make a summary of the data of A3-D3 in E3, you should write "=SUM(A3:E3)" in E3. Then, if you want to do this in RAQ Report, you will find that it is similar with that in Excel.
    Like Excel, RAQ Report also can automatically adjust the expression in the cell whose position changed. If you insert a new column between B3 and C3 in the table above, then the expression in F3 (original E3) will adjust to "=SUM(A3:E3)" automatically. Similarly, if you insert a new row or column in RAQ Report, corresponding expressions will also adjust automatically. Moreover, flexible expressions, such as "A2+B3-A4" and "(A1+E2*D4)/C3", can also be operated correctly.

    Besides inheriting the design style of Excel, RAQ Report realizes dynamic data extension which Excel can not realize.

    In terms of efficiency, RAQ Report is certainly a powerful reporting tool to make reports like the one above. Due to the advanced Excel-like design style, RAQ Report can improve the efficiency by 90%. Compared with traditional reporting tools, RAQ Report exactly can improve the efficiency of Web report design, and shorten development cycle, and reduce development cost. As a result, RAQ Report is so popular with large report designers, programmers and project managers.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are welcome to refer to my blog.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    59
    good information.......

  11. #11

    The Excel-like Design Style of Reporting Tool

    Designing reports with traditional reporting tools of control drag and drop style, we are often troubled by the alignment of gridlines. Especially when the report has a multi-level complex report header, it has a huge workload and usually can not achieve a perfect effect.
    With its unique spreadsheet design style, Excel avoids the trouble of the alignment of gridlines. Therefore, wide end users have a special liking to it, and ask for a reporting tool with an Excel-like design interface.

    As a result, many report companies emulated Excel, and they thought the only thing was to add a table control.
    However, end users are not so easy to be satisfied with only a table control, and they ask for various design capabilities of Excel. Such as merge/split cells, word wrap, shrink to fit, format painter, etc. Then, cell properties are even more, such as border, background, foreground, font, size, etc.
    The ideal requirement of end users is an Excel-like reporting tool with a complete set of report operational models. With it, they can easily make all kinds of reports, no matter simple or complex. Simple report means linear report, such as freestyle report, grid report, group report, cross report, etc. Complex report means nonlinear report, such as multi-source report, irregular group report, symmetrical row/group report, etc. With operational capability, Excel design models will really become end users' favorite design style.

    As end users like Excel so much, they may have made a great number of Excel templates before. When they are making reports, they hope that they can import these templates directly to avoid the trouble of designing again. Similarly, they also hope that they can export reports made with reporting tool to Excel templates to make a second operation conveniently.

    Above is the relative perfect standard of Excel-like reporting tool. Perhaps some people will say that it is too hard, and there can not be such an ideal tool. Luckily, RAQ Report meets all the requirements above and becomes the leader of the new generation of reporting tools. Of course, besides the perfect Excel-like design style, RAQ Report has many revolutionary functions, such as strong correlation semantics model, multi-source input model, etc.

    This post is from freezea's blog. You are welcomed cc it anywhere, and please indicate the source.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are also welcome to refer to my blog.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by freezea View Post
    For example, in Excel, if you want to make a summary of the data of A3-D3 in E3, you should write "=SUM(A3:E3)" in E3. Then, if you want to do this in RAQ Report, you will find that it is similar with that in Excel.
    Like Excel, RAQ Report also can automatically adjust the expression in the cell whose position changed. If you insert a new column between B3 and C3 in the table above, then the expression in F3 (original E3) will adjust to "=SUM(A3:E3)" automatically. Similarly, if you insert a new row or column in RAQ Report, corresponding expressions will also adjust automatically. Moreover, flexible expressions, such as "A2+B3-A4" and "(A1+E2*D4)/C3", can also be operated correctly.

    Besides inheriting the design style of Excel, RAQ Report realizes dynamic data extension which Excel can not realize.

    If you would like to read more articles about reporting tool, you are welcome to refer to my blog.
    This is very useful, as people are more familiarized with Excel nowadays. I practically grew up with it. Thank you for the inside info. I am somehow newcomer to this topic and try to find online as many resources for data sourcing as possible. Thank you.
    Last edited by Martin_Cage; 04-26-13 at 12:32.

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