5 Tips for Choosing the Best .NET Reporting Software

Authored by Mateen Firoz

If you are looking to migrate to a .NET Core platform or replace your existing reporting software with something more modern, you are not alone. .NET Core offers many benefits (upgraded performance, cross-platform support, lower maintenance, and more) that are pushing teams to bring life back to that old, legacy application.

Implementing and learning a new system requires a substantial commitment of both money and time. If you are in the market for reporting software, ActiveReports offers an intuitive, robust reporting solution for .NET Core applications.

We’ve highlighted 5 criteria to consider when choosing .NET Core reporting software:

  • Data management
  • Features
  • Delivery
  • Ad hoc reporting
  • Support

ActiveReports offers all of these options in a single, integrated, reporting tool.

Data Management

Multiple Datasets

Data management is the most crucial aspect of a reporting solution. Many organizations have large collections of data. The data may not be co-located or in the same format. Some departments may use relational data sources like Oracle or SQL Server, while others use JSON, or CSV, or XML. In such instances, it is extremely helpful to have a solution that supports all of your data, and allows the use of multiple data formats, from dispersed systems, in a single report file.

ActiveReports lets users display varied data from multiple datasets into one region with a single report control, similar to the Lookup function.

Dynamic Data Binding

Not everyone needs, or wants to see all the data, nor do they need access to all the data. Different users have different needs. ActiveReports lets you define the connection string at run time to ensure you’re getting the right data for the right user. A reporting solution should provide sufficient API and events to access your data at runtime.

Custom Fields

Some reports need to aggregate insightful data, or concatenate two or more fields. In these cases, create custom, calculated, fields.

Expressions are an alternative to calculated fields. They let you control the behavior and appearance, such as color or visibility, of report controls at runtime.

Features

Controls

Rich reporting controls help turn raw data into meaningful reports.

When creating transaction reports, such invoices or purchase orders, users benefit from the full featured table control in a structured Page layout. This feature includes fixed and overflow areas to handle the most advanced reports.

A wide range of chart types and a powerful Tablix (matrix) control that lets you aggregate data and present it in its ideal format. These features are ideal for analytical reporting such as finance and sales reports.

For user engagement, utilize interactive features. ActiveReports offers options such as drill down, drill through, parameters, filtering, and sorting.

Drill-down functionality lets users present data from multiple angles, such as an overview with the ability to drill into more granular levels.

Drill-through reports let end-users display data in a number of different visualizations.

Professional Design

The goal should always be to design professional looking reports. ActiveReports features a flexible API that helps you create clean, professional-looking reports by tailoring the look of each control, from supported fonts to theming and styles.

Master reports or dynamic templates help maintain a consistent look, applying the template to all your reports. Any change to the master report template automatically propagates to all reports saving valuable time and energy.

WYSIWYG Layout

A WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) layout is the foundation of professional report design.

A powerful rendering engine guarantees the report layout and ensures that every pixel is in place whether the report is viewed in a browser, as a PDF, or on a printed page.

The ActiveReports Page report type allows users to define the exact placement and limits of each element. When rendered, these reports produce the exact layout you designed. Perfect for official documents such as W4s, income statements, and invoices.

Delivery

Viewers

Report viewers provide additional functionality that is otherwise missed. Interactive control features, for example, are not available in downloaded reports. Viewers also provide a means of taking in user input, or parameters, by which you can filter data and present only the relevant information. In addition, end-users benefit from various view modes, such as paginated or scrolling views.

Integrate a customizable viewer into your application, or hide the viewer’s frame to make the report part of the page.

Exports

Exports let users to download and save reports for future reference. A variety of export types and features, including security, let users consume reports in the format of their choice.

An extensive API lets you start an export on command without a user-initiated download. With ActiveReports, these exports (and print jobs) are pixel perfect. Your reports appear exactly the same as PDFs as they do in the report viewers or on paper.

ADA Compliance

ADA compliance, including Section 508, helps you deliver reports to everyone.

Ad Hoc Reporting

White-labeling

Ad hoc, or end-user reporting, gives your application a major boost. This feature lets users create their own reports with the available data.

Different users prefer different layouts. With ad hoc reporting, they can easily modify the layout of a report and save their favorite layouts to run again later.

ActiveReports offers an end-user report designer you can white-label and add your organization’s branding. Customize it to fit your reporting and security needs without additional licenses and fees for end-users. The report designer better integrates with your applications and provides the flexibility you need to remain in control of your reports.

Easy-To-Use Designer

Since end-user report designers are generally utilized by less tech savvy workers, a familiar user interface (UI) helps reduce the learning curve. An Office-like ribbon featuring context-specific tabs provides a nostalgic familiarity that is simple and elegant.

Similarly, drag and drop functionality is something everyone is familiar with. Having simplified control properties helps eliminate confusion and master report creation faster. To accommodate those working on smaller screens, the ability to expand and collapse menus frees up essential screen real estate.

Templates

Providing templates helps improve user performance. Branded templates with page headers and footers allow users to quickly create report layouts specific to their organization.

Or you might provide a set of report templates with some controls already in place. This serves as a starting point for your end-users to finish creating the layout based on their needs or requirements.

Templates help developers and report authors by freeing up their time, and provide end-users a means of quickly creating reports.

Support

Responsiveness

The main investment you make in purchasing a software is time. An important aspect to consider when purchasing any software is the quality of support you receive.

ActiveReports offers a responsive support team that makes every effort to address your needs. With today’s globally dispersed teams, you can generally expect a response time of 24–48 hours.

Knowledge

Again, your time is valuable and your software provider should prioritize it by providing accurate answers early in the discussion. A knowledgeable support team should be a top requirement for any software purchase.

Conclusion

Migrating to .NET Core is challenging, but rewarding. Choosing software that serves an all-around reporting solution doesn’t have to be difficult. ActiveReports offers all of the following functionality and more:

  • Data management features (support for major data sources, Lookup function, ability to bind nested data regions to different datasets, etc) allow you to shine a light on disparate data.
  • A plethora of advanced features, including multiple report types, rich controls, a powerful rendering engine, as well as embracing the latest tech, keep you ahead of the pack.
  • Multiple delivery formats including viewers for every platform of .NET Core, various export types, client side one-click printing simplifies report consumption.
  • Ad hoc report designers are customizable to easily, seamlessly, integrate with your application allowing you to control who has access to each part.
  • Knowledgeable support team that puts you first.

Tour our demos and see some of ActiveReports’ capabilities.

Test ActiveReports end-user report designer online app.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mateen Firoz

Mateen first joined GrapeCity as a Technical Engagement Engineer in 2010. Five years later, he became Product Manager for the ActiveReports product line. In this role, he is responsible for defining strategy and new product planning and execution throughout the product lifecycle. He loves finding solutions to “How-to” reporting questions. In his personal life, Mateen and his family enjoy volunteering in the community.

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