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Archive for June, 2012

InfoPath

June 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Microsoft has a software product called “InfoPath” which is a program that allows you to create forms and provide forms to users to view, edit, and add data to some sort of database or data store.   This is a very versatile product and can provide a complete solution with Sunset Reports.   Use Infopath Designer to create the forms, and Infopath Filler to have users access the data using the forms.   Then with Sunset Reports connected to the same data store and you have a complete application.

There are numerous options for data stores.   Here are some screenshots taken from InfoPath to give you an idea of the choices.

MLS Data

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

If you are a subscriber to the MLXchange, you have  the ability to export your search results.   These results can be directly read by Sunset Reports so you can create your own custom reports based on the exported data.  Here are the simple steps:

1 – After you have displayed your search results and included all the columns you need,  go to the export button on the bottom left of the form.

2 – Click on the arrow and choose either “Selected Records” or “All Records”.  Choose the “Comma Delimited” format, then click Next.   (Do not compress the file).

3 – Choose your grid format and make sure you click on “Include Column Headers”.

4 – Finally save the file in a location where you will store the file and connect to it using Sunset Reports.

Even though the file has an extension of “txt”, Sunset Reports will treat it like a CSV file.   Check out this post to see how you use the Query Builder to connect to the CSV file to create a data source based on this exported file.

Microsoft OneNote

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

OneNote is a great program and is part of the Microsoft Office suite.   This program provides a notebook type interface with the ability to have all kinds of content.   You can integrate Sunset Reports output within OneNote is three different ways:

  • Link to a report file
  • Attach a report file
  • Insert a report printout

A very cool feature if you insert a report printout is the ability to have the content of the printout searchable by OneNote.   These powerful capabilities have all kinds of possibilities.

You can also send a report directly to OneNote.

Report Server

June 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Sunset Reports can work as a “Report Server” similar to SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and Crystal Reports.   The difference is Sunset Reports is much easier to implement and does not provide a web based interface.   No actual server software exists.   Instead a Windows Service is run on any Windows based computer including XP, Vista, 7, Server 2003, and Server 2008.   The service or “Report Processor Service” as we refer to it, runs in the background whether a user is logged on or not.   It runs off a report queue which has a list of reports to run, their scheduled time, format, destination, etc.    Reports can be added via the Windows based user interface, or from an email request.   The Report Processor Service also monitors an incoming email inbox for requests.   Reports can be saved in a variety of formats and even FTP’d to a website.

Report History

June 21, 2012 Leave a comment
Here is a helpful hint if you want to keep a report history…  When Sunset Reports creates a report file from the Queue and Report Processor, you have an option to add a date time stamp as part of the filename.   If you include the date time stamp, files will not be overwritten and you can accumulate a history of a particular report.   Without the date time stamp, the files are overwritten and this is useful if you establish a shortcut to the file and want the shortcut to work all the time. Or if you are creating files that are part of a website, you will need to maintain the same filename for links to work.

Use the Web as a Data Source

June 19, 2012 Leave a comment

As you have probably already seen, Sunset Reports can use an Excel Workbook as a data source.  Excel has the ability to pull data from a Web Page using what is called a Web Query.   When you are in Excel choose the Data tab on the ribbon bar, and then choose the item “From Web”.   You can pull data from a section of a web page and have it inserted into a worksheet.   If the inserted data is formatted with headers, give it a range name, and now you have a web based data source.   Be sure to setup the options to have the data extracted when Excel is opened so the data is refreshed automatically.

Web Page Designer

June 17, 2012 Leave a comment
Sunset Reports is not only a great report designer, but you can use it to create static web pages that do not connect to a data source and are not really reports.   To do this, you create a new report design.  When it prompts you for a data source or the wizard pops up, just cancel.   You will then have a blank report design.    You can now use a number of controls to build your webpage. Start with a table control to organize a page.   You can add rows, columns, and cells.   Deleting cells will provide a way to merge cells across columns.   The sizes of rows and columns can be controlled.   Once you have a rough layout, now start adding controls to the cells.   A label control will give you text, but if you want to mix up the fonts, sizes, or colors within a control, use the Rich Text control.   Add lines, shapes, and images.   You can even add a chart if you want to add the data manually.   Use the HTML View to see how it will look.   You can also do a lot with borders, and styles.   All objects have a Navigation Target and Navigation URL property, so adding hyperlinks is powerful and easy.   The Navigation Target will be one of these values: _blank, _parent, _search, _self, or _top.   The URL can point to an external page or a control on the current page.  To point to the control within the page, assigning the name of the target control to the Navigation URL property, and set the Navigation Target property to “_self”.
Categories: Web Tags: , , ,

End User Deployment by the IT Department

June 15, 2012 Leave a comment

A really great method of deploying Sunset Reports for end users and giving them the ability to create reports from corporate databases is to have the IT department create RDB files with all the connections to the databases already made.   This would give the end users a friendly way to choose the data sources for their reports.   Different RDB files could be prepared based on the department and permission level for the users.

End-User Reporting

June 13, 2012 Leave a comment

“End-user computing” as defined by Wikipedia refers to “systems in which non-programmers can create working applications”.   End-user reporting is similar in concept in which non-programmers can create working reports.   Report designing is an application type by itself so whether you call it End-user computing or End-user reporting, you can be talking about the same thing.

Sunset Reports puts the report design, development, and deployment in the hands of the end user.   And with so many features, there is very little the end user will find that they are missing.   In fact, all the features may seem a bit overwhelming at first.   So we highly recommend end users take advantage of the Help and Support page on our website when they get started.

Writing Reports for Users

June 11, 2012 Leave a comment

In the article “10 tasks IT should consider handing off to someone else” by Scott Lowe, he covers a very important topic, “7: Writing reports for users… to a point”.   We would like to add to that discussion, that accomplishing this requires the non IT person needs a tool that can use and master.   We created Sunset Reports to be just that tool.  Several posts have already covered this topic and if you have not tried Sunset Reports yet, we encourage you to see how well it works.

Search our blog for the term “user” and you will see several posts relating to this subject.

Federal Reserve System

June 10, 2012 Leave a comment

The Federal Reserve System has a Data Download program providing all kinds of information about

  • Principal economic indicators
  • Bank Assets & Liabilities
  • Business Finance
  • Exchange Rates and International Data
  • Flow of Funds Accounts
  • Household Finance
  • Industrial Activity
  • Interest Rates
  • Money Stock and Reserve Balances

And all this data is available for download and you can choose your format which includes CSV, Excel, and XML.  All formats are supported by Sunset Reports.   Search previous posts for details of how to connect using these formats.

US Census Data

June 9, 2012 Leave a comment

There are a number of datasets you can download and feed into Sunset Reports from the US Census Bureau.   The datasets are numerous and are downloaded as csv files.   Sunset Reports can directly link to these files using the Query Builder and connecting to a CSV Folder.   Each CSV file becomes a table object and you can actually create data sources linking multiple CSV files.   The reporting opportunities are endless.

iPad Database Sync

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

In a recent article by Sam Laird titled “In a Relationship:  Mobile Apps and the Cloud“, the author points out the connection between mobile devices and the cloud. In recent posts we spoke about how this relationship works with our software. Getting reports from Sunset Reports is a simple process that we have spoke about several times and offered several methods to do it, from emails, texts, and cloud services.

Capturing data on a mobile device and getting that data into a database that Sunset Reports can connect to is a different topic. Client software on a mobile device exists to do just that. There are a few business database applications for the iPad, but here we want to focus on those that will “sync” to a cloud server in the true sense of the word.   The app needs to handle the situation where it is not online all the time. If you go to the app store and search for “database sync” you will only find one product in the “business” category, and that app is called “Cellica Database”. In future posts, we will explore this app and how to use it in conjuction with our product.

Cloud Server

June 7, 2012 Leave a comment

In some upcoming posts, the details of how to implement a Cloud Server with Sunset Reports will be discussed.   The following diagram shows the basis of this discussion.  This architecture has been used for projects where a database client was running on an iPad, and this client would synchronize with it’s server counterpart and keep a set of database tables up to date both on the iPad and the Server.   Then Sunset Reports was used to create the reports needed and pushed those reports to the client on a schedule and as requested.

Volume, Velocity, & Variety

June 5, 2012 Leave a comment

The Three V’s of Big Data is a hot topic these days.   In a recent article by Steve Baunach, he states that the data explosion is upon us and sites staggering statistics for the amount of data that exists and it is measured in zettabytes.    To help with all this data, we at Software for Professionals want to provide a tool that will allow you to access this data and turn it into the information you need.

Reports for the Construction Industry

June 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Sunset Reports has the ability to connect to a variety of systems that are commonly used in the construction industry.   And uniquely, the software can connect to more than one data source at the same time, making it go beyond the simple report writers that are included with various systems.    You might be using Quickbooks or Timberline for accounting, Microsoft Project for Scheduling, another program for estimating, another system for construction management, etc.

The type of reports you might need that Sunset Reports can provide include:

  • Drawing List
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Request for Information
  • Submittal Report
  • Transmittal
  • Correspondence Log
  • Schedule of Values
  • Applications for Payment
  • Budget Reports
  • Bid Packages
  • Contract Log
  • Contact List
  • Change Order
  • Change Order Request

There are many more, but here you can see the potential for what Sunset Reports can do.

End of the Geek Era

June 3, 2012 Leave a comment

A recent article titled “Cloud, iPad, and the end of the geek era” published on TechRepublic hits home for a lot of IT professionals.   The future is not about relying on the IT department.   Most people that need to get their work done, are doing it themselves.   That is why a product like Sunset Reports is a good choice for users who need to create reports from corporate data.   Recent posts here show how Sunset Reports integrates with the Cloud and the iPhone/iPad and also talk more about the IT department.

Cloud Storage

Use on Mobile Devices

Getting a Report via Text Message

IT Departments Should Not Write Reports for Users

End User Deployment by the IT Department

 

 

Report Specification

June 2, 2012 Leave a comment

If a user is to request a report be designed, some questions must be asked by the designer in order to proceed.   The following list of questions can be used as a starting point for discussions when specifying a report:

  1. What is the purpose of the report?
  2. What skill level will be required to read the report?
  3. In what format(s) will the reports be generated?
  4. Who will the receipient(s) be receiving the report?
  5. What is the frequency of the report?
  6. If the report is stored in a repository, how long is the retention time of the report?
  7. What or where is the data source(s) of the report?
  8. What fields or columns will be used?
  9. What type of report will it be?  Columnar, Tabular, CrossTab, Detail, Summary, Charts, Labels, Form Letter, etc.
  10. What is the general content of the report?  Titles, Report Header, Page Header, Report Footer, Page Footer, Detail section, Subreports?
  11. What is the report orientation (Portrait, Landscape)?
  12. What page size should be used?  Margins?
  13. Are there any predefined templates to use?
  14. Are there any predefined style sheets to use?
  15. Are there any groupings for the report?  Contents of group header?  Contents of group footer?  Multigrouping?  Running Totals?
  16. Are there any paging requirements?  New page for groups?
  17. Is there any filtering?
  18. How is the data to be sorted?
  19. Is there any special requirements to emphasis the content of the report with fonts, color, shading, etc.?
  20. Will there be any user prompted parameters to control the content of the report?
  21. Are there any calculations to be performed?
  22. What data is to be summarized?
  23. Will there be any hyperlinks on the report?  Drilldowns?
  24. Will the report include a document map?
  25. Is there any security or permission considerations?

This list is far from complete, but it will give you a good start on the discussions that need to occur when specifying a report.

Purpose of Reports

June 1, 2012 Leave a comment

The content of a report should satisfy the information needs of the recipient.   Reports should be as complete and informative as possible.   Extranious information should be avoided so as not to confuse or distract the reader.   So what are the typical purposes of a report:

  • to analyze trends
  • to provide detailed data
  • to provide totals or statistical summaries
  • to identify exceptions
  • to assist in planning and control
  • to provide an audit trail

The frequency of a report is also tied to it’s content.   Monthly reports should be complete for the month(s) queried.   In general, when a date range is specified, it should be complete and not for a partial period.   This could cause a mis-interpreted analysis and ultimately incorrect decisions.