Report writing creates an
expensive bottleneck for many companies because it demands ongoing,
iterative involvement from in-house developers. This white paper
describes a novel approach to report writing which allows business
users to layout elegant reports using Microsoft Word as the layout tool.
Report writing is costly and
time consuming. The people who need the reports -- business users --
generally can't create them without the help of a programmer or
developer. Creating reports becomes an iterative process. The business
user enlists the developer's help. The developer creates a report and
shows it to the business user. With feedback from the user, the
developer then refines the report. This process happens for reports
across the organization.
IT and business resources get
tied up in this time-consuming process. Plus, report writing is often
the lowest priority for developers because they are under pressure to
deliver revenue-generating products.
This endless report design
process is very slow, expensive and frustrating for all departments
involved. Worse still, the final report created is inadequate --
getting it right becomes too expensive and takes too much time.
What if report design were
easy enough that program managers, product managers, accounting
managers or any business user could do it alone, without help? What if
there were no ad hoc query tools or complex report writers that require
programming knowledge? What if there was no learning curve?
Windward Reports - for
simplified report writing
Microsoft Word (or any other
word processor) is the key to a new and innovative approach to report
writing called Windward Reports. Microsoft Word is a powerful layout
tool that almost everyone knows how to use. Setting up tables and
formatting text in Word is almost second nature to most business
people. Leveraging the familiar Word environment, business users have
an easy-to-use tool to create the sophisticated reports they really
Business users can take full
advantage of Word's formatting and What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get
environment. There's little or no learning curve.
Created and Formatted in
By the way, if you are looking
for some report tool specific item in figure 1, there isn't anything.
Figure 1 is a plain old Word document report. Everything you would do
to create a similar report template you already know how to do.
Windward Reports is an
enterprise-level reporting engine that uses Microsoft Word, or any
other word processor such as Open Office, to design a report template.
Windward Reports takes the template you design and any number of data
sources (such as xml or sql databases) and merges them together to
create your final report.
Using Windward Reports
Windward Reports design
platform can be called by java or .NET programs, either directly or in
a client server configuration.
Windward Reports includes
AutoTag®, an add-in for Microsoft Word which greatly simplifies data
layout and data source mapping, eliminating the expense and frustration
of the iterative report development process. Because the report is
designed in Word, business users can design it correctly and quickly.
Figure 2 shows a Purchase Order Template that was created in Word using
Order with AutoTag
Tags are added to the template
to indicate where data will be merged into the template to create the
final report. The simplest tag is the out tag, whose format is
<wr:out select='/root/name'/>. In this case, the tag will be
replaced with the name of the customer from the xml data merged with
the template. While the entire tag can appear in the template, AutoTag
displays just the tag name. Placing the cursor over the tag name pops
up a tooltip that displays the entire tag.
In addition, when using
AutoTag, there is no mistyping of tags in the template. A user selects
"Insert Tag" from the drop-down menu and a pop-up box displays the
available tags. A business user can't get the tag format wrong.
Editor makes it easy for a non developer to:
- See the data nodes and
select the one you want, easily setting the tag to point to the correct
data. There is no need to understand how to access a database.
- Displays the data that
the tag will return. This uses a sample dataset and delivers immediate
visual feedback of the data that will be inserted.
While there are 9 tags, most
work is performed with two tags: the out tag (described above), and the
forEach tag. The forEach tag will loop through a set of data, once for
each row of data. In the screenshot above, the forEach will loop
through 4 times, once for each item in the invoice. In the template
displayed in Figure 3, it will create one row in the table for each of
the 4 items purchased.
Once the template is complete
and the desired report output format is chosen (PDF, RTF, HTML, WordML,
XLS, SpreadsheetML, TXT, or multi-part MIME email), Windward Reports
merges the template with the corresponding report data. The result is a
finished report with all the formatting and positioning specified by
the business user - available in minutes.
Windward Reports' customers
attest to this ease of use and time savings:
Mr. S.S. Mohanty of Nucleus
Software Exports, says his favorite feature of Windward Reports is the
Word based template because it made his life easier. Prior to using
Windward Reports, he said "I [previously] spent half my time
designing and scripting reports to meet the Bank's requirements. With
Windward, we can layout a report in Word and get immediate approval
from the client."
Mr. Bjerregaard Pedersen of
Backbone Digital Systems said "compared to systems where both layout
and data must be coded, as we did before, the process of creating a new
report is at least 5 times faster."