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Archive for the ‘Data Reporting’ Category

Quick Introduction

December 31, 2018 Leave a comment

Sunset Reports is based on award winning components and proven technology, and provides users an alternative to such software as Crystal Reports, SSRS, and others.  The report designer handles all types of content.   And you can even import report designs from other software as well.  The report queue allows for scheduling of reports, file and document distribution including recurring schedules and provides easy to use list and calendar views.  Besides using Sunset Reports as a reporting tool, it is perfect for information management, data analysis, business analytics, visualizations, web site design, making labels, data conversion, document management, document distribution, and lots more.

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BIG Advantages

May 16, 2018 Leave a comment

So a company in the construction business is using accounting software like QuickBooks or Timberline which have built in reports.   The reports can be customized to a certain extent and most of them produce the output that is needed for the standard needs of a company.    Using a product like Sunset Reports can take it to a new level with custom reports from scratch where the user has complete control over the content.   Plus, the ability to schedule reports and distribute them in a variety of ways is something almost no accounting software can do.   Two big advantages.

But there is more….  The same company is also using a project scheduling package like Microsoft Project and another package to manage contracts, subcontractors, communications, change orders, etc., and then another software program to do take-offs and estimates.   Each one is perfect for the function it performs, and each one creates reports as necessary.    But you cannot combine the information from all these software packages to produce reports that tie it all together unless you use a program like Sunset Reports.   A really BIG advantage.

Sunset Reports not only can connect to almost any software package to use as a data source, but it can combine the data sources onto one report.   A single reporting solution that will provide consistency across all applications and is fully customizable with the ability to schedule the reports as well as send them or publish them to a variety of destinations and in a variety of formats.

This scenario is not only applicable to the construction industry, but also to materials, consumer goods, financial, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, publishing, technology, utility industries, etc..

Alternative to Reporting Services (SSRS)

January 11, 2014 Leave a comment

SQL Server Reporting Services is a popular choice for creating, deploying, and managing reports.  But there are many occasions when it is an overkill or the data source is not SQL Server.  Sunset Reports provides an attractive alternative that provides most of the features of SSRS and many features that SSRS doesn’t provide.  Sunset Reports is easier to learn, is simple to install and use, and is less expensive.

Sunset Reports provides a great award winning Report Designer, a powerful visual query builder, the ability to connect to almost any database, a huge list of export and file formats, and numerous features to deliver the reports to the user.   Sunset Reports can act as a report server with a true Windows based process running in the background.  As a report server it can push reports to users, but it can also respond to emails when a user wants to pull a report.   With the ability to schedule reports and have them queued up, you have everything you need to manage document delivery.  And since reports can also be saved as a web page, Sunset Reports can build web pages and FTP them directly to your website.

So if you are looking for another option besides SSRS, or any other report designer, then look carefully at Sunset Reports.

All In One Software

April 23, 2013 Leave a comment

As we continue to see how people use Sunset Reports, we are amazed to find out that the product can do so much.   In surveying our current user base, we have found the functionality of the software going beyond what we originally intended.   Here is a small list of how the software has been used (The first few were obvious, but included here to make the list as complete as possible.)

  • Reporting Tool
  • Data Analysis
  • Business Analytics
  • Management Dashboards
  • Charting
  • Visualizations
  • Business Graphics
  • Web Site Design
  • Web Page Designer
  • Label Maker
  • Word Processor
  • Dunning Letters
  • Data Conversion Tool
  • Document Management
  • Document Distribution
  • FTP Client
  • File Backup Manager
  • Report Server
  • Report Subscriptions
  • Meeting Presentations
  • Report Scheduler
  • Model What-if Scenarios
  • Email Blasts

If you are using the product for something not on this list, drop us a line, we would love to hear from you.

Feature List

March 27, 2013 Leave a comment
Data Connectivity Data Sources MS Access (all versions), SQL Server, MS Excel, Oracle, OLEDB, ODBC, MS Outlook, MySQL, and more
Visual Query Builder Grouping, Sorting, Filtering, Sub-queries, derived tables, Union queriesAdvanced properties: Aliases, Virtual fields, Various SQL Dialects, Visual representation modes
Report Design Contents grouping, filters, sorting, bands, sub-reports, styles, summaries, calculated fields, watermarks, backgrounds, bookmarks, parameters
Controls text boxes, lines, shapes. barcodes, checkboxes, page info, panels, images, page breaks, tables, postal codes, rich text controls, cross-band controls, hyperlinks, multi-columns, cross-references, gauges, map control
Pivot Tables OLAP, Key Performance Indicators, (KPI) Graphics
Charts & Graphs 56 Types with many options2D, 3D, Regression and Trends
plus Parameters, scripts, wizards, labels, mail merge, Drilldown, Drillthrough, Document Map, Multiple reports within a single reportImport from Crystal Reports, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, Data Dynamics Active Reports, and DevExpress
Report Definitions Parameters Select from a data sourceText, Numeric, Static Dates, Dynamic Dates, Fixed and Prompted
plus Multiple definitions using the same design, Descriptions, Titles, External files (treat a file from other software as a report), Print/Preview, Export, Email
Distribution & Delivery Report Processor Runs as a service in the background
Similar functionality to a Report Server
Has the functionality of a server without an operating system server, database server, or web server
Handles report subscriptions
Report Bursting, Report Exploding, Report Splitting, Email Blasts, Email Broadcasting
Report Queue Schedule one time, Schedule recurring, List and Calendar views
Email Requests Monitor email requests, Reply to emails with attached reports/documents
FTP Transfer reports to FTP Site
Website Semi-Static Website, Automatic Index page creation for reports including nested folders
File Formats Document: pdf, html, mht, rtf, txt
Data: txt, csv, xls, xlxs
Graphic: bmp, emf, gif, jpeg, png, tiff, wmf
PDF’s can be password protected

Alternative to Microsoft Access – Part 1

August 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Recently we were asked if Sunset Reports can work as an alternative to Microsoft Access.   The answer is yes or no, depending on what Access is used for.   In many situations, Access is used to query a database and create reports or export data.   There are no tables or forms designed, just queries or reports.   In this case, yes Sunset Reports can replace Microsoft Access.   In fact it is a great replacement because the query builder and report designer in Sunset Reports is actually more powerful than Access.   Exporting from Sunset Reports is also better handled than Access with more options and better formatting.   Sunset Reports also has a great distribution system with multiple channels including email and FTP.

If you need a way to store data and don’t want to use Microsoft Access, then SQLite, MySQL, and FireBird are free database back ends that you can use and in conjunction with Sunset Reports, you should have all you need.

Alternative to Crystal Reports

August 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Most people know that Crystal Reports is the standard for report writing and has been around for a long time.   But there are many people who feel it is too hard to learn, too complicated to implement, too expensive, or just more than they need.   For those people, Sunset Reports provides an attractive alternative that provides most of the features of Crystal Reports and many features that Crystal Reports doesn’t provide.   Sunset Reports is easier to learn, is simple to install and use, and is less expensive.

Sunset Reports provides a great award winning Report Designer, a powerful visual query builder, the ability to connect to almost any database, a huge list of export and file formats, and numerous features to deliver the reports to the user.   Sunset Reports can act as a report server with a true Windows based process running in the background.   As a report server it can push reports to users, but it can also respond to emails when a user wants to pull a report.   With the ability to schedule reports and have them queued up, you have everything you need to manage document delivery.   And since reports can also be saved as a web page, Sunset Reports can build web pages and FTP them directly to your website.

So if you are looking for another option besides Crystal Reports, or any other report designer, then look carefully at Sunset Reports.

Business Reporting Software

July 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Choosing the right Business Reporting Software is critical to the success of your organization.   Sunset Reports provides just what you need for to get the data converted to information and distributed to the people that need it.   Here are some of the critical features that you should look for:

  • Quick and easy report design with intuitive interface
  • High quality reports with graphics, charts, and links
  • Create reports from numerous data sources
  • Ability to create queries for sources that don’t have the views required
  • Simple to generate and schedule reports
  • Can utilize built-in formulas, perform calculations, and provide user defined filters

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.

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.

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.

 

Business Asset

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the most important assets in business is DATA and when the data is turned into INFORMATION, it becomes the primary asset of a business.   Transforming data from a variety of sources, making it accessible, and presenting it in a form that is useful is the main purpose of Sunset Reports.    Timely information and business intelligence in the right format gives managers the ability to

  • Make quicker decisions
  • Make smarter dicisions
  • Adapt to changes
  • Affect the bottom line

With Sunset Reports, you do not have to manually run reports, they can be delivered on demand or scheduled to occur on a recurring basis.    They can be delivered to a manager’s workstation or portable device like a smartphone or tablet.   They can show up on a website, email, or message.

IT Departments Should Not Write Reports for Users

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

In a recent article by Scott Lowe named “Four more things your IT department  should consider not doing“, he mentions writing repors for users is not something IT departments should do for each and every report.   Sunset Reports makes this happen by being easy enough for end users to use.   What the IT department needs to do is to setup the data sources.   So the IT department sets up the data sources and then deploys the Sunset Report RDP file to the end users to create the reports.   It is a win-win situation for all.   IT does not get bogged down with report requests and end users don’t have to wait for their reports.   In fact, the end user can tweak the reports as necessary.

XML Data Reporting

April 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Sunset Reports can connect directly to XML data files.  Using the XML Data Path property, browse to the XML file.   The data contained in the file including the schema is now available as a data source for your report.

Information Management

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

If you refer to the definition of “Information Management (IM)” from Wikipedia, you will see that IM “is the collection and management of information from one or more sources and the distribution of that information to one or more audiences. …. the organization of and control over the structure, processing, and delivery of information”

Does this definition describe Sunset Reports?   Actually this definition is exactly what Sunset Reports does.    You can define many sources of information from databases, Excel documents, or any other type of file created by another system.   With the query builder, report designer, calculations, scripting, etc., information can be processed.   The delivery of information can take many forms in terms of file formats.    Delivery can be scheduled and there are several destination types including websites, shared folders, cloud services, email, and more.

Academia

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Sunset Reports is a perfect tool for the classroom.

Advantages

  • A working software tool for a variety of “Information System” topics
  • Easy installation for instructor and students
  • No additional software required
  • Many samples included and the instructors can create their own examples
  • Sample course outline provided
  • Concepts directly applicable to other software
  • FREE – No cost to instructor or students – License valid for duration of semester
  • Discount available for purchase after semester

Applicable Subject Areas

  • SQL and Query Design
  • Report Design
  • Graphing Data
  • Web Page Design
  • Programming

System Requirements

The software runs on any Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 computer.  It can run on either 32 or 64 bit machines.  Licensing is for installation on a single workstation.   The program is written based on Microsoft .NET version 3.5.   This is generally available as part of the operating system, but can be installed free from the Microsoft website if needed.  The installation program will warn you if this is needed.   The user manuals are in PDF form, so you will also need a PDF reader, available free from the Adobe website.   Minimal memory and hard disk space is necessary.

Procedure to Get Software

Instructors:

For a FREE copy:  Contact Sunset Reports via email at Education@SunsetReports.com.  Include in your email your name, school name, course name and number, and approximate number of students. If you have a web link to either your website and/or the course website, please include that as well.   Also include the dates the course will be held.   You will then receive an email with instructions for downloading the software for yourself.   The software will then need to be activated and will be usable from the date of the request to 1 month after the course ends.   To Purchase a copy:  Go to the Purchase page.   Choose the Workstation Edition with the Educational discount, and pay online.

Students:

For a FREE copy:  Contact Sunset Reports via email at Education@SunsetReports.com.  Include in your email your name, school name, instructor name, course name and number, and starting date of the course.  You will then receive an email with instructions for downloading the software for yourself.   The software will then need to be activated and will be usable from the date of the request to 1 month after the course ends.

Data Gathering

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

A recent customer of Sunset Reports really exploited the power of the product.    The customer was a distributor of parts and wanted to get sales data from their customers.  The application required connection to several different sales databases including Access, SQL Server, and Oracle.   It was necessary to collect sales data for products.   Each customer got a copy of Sunset Reports.  Since there were several different database schema’s, the query builder in Sunset Reports was used to extract the data.   Each different system required a different query.   A report was created that normalized the format of the data so all systems could be combined and analyzed in the same way.   The report was used to create a CSV text file and the file was daily uploaded to an FTP site.   All this was done with Sunset Reports.    The FTP site was hosted by the distributor and a program was written to consolidate the CSV files.   Then another copy of Sunset Reports produced a set of reports against the consolidated data.

The savings in software development was tremendous.   Sunset Reports provided the means to connect to, query, and transform the data.   The data was exported to a file, uploaded, and then reported on.   Comparatively, the alternatives would have cost over $20,000 more.

Reporting from the Web

July 26, 2011 Leave a comment

If you need the ability to include Web data in a report, here is a great method.  Using Excel gives you the ability to get data from the Web.   The data comes from tables that exist on web pages.   You create a web query in Excel 2010 by going to the Data tab on the ribbon bar, then selecting the icon “From Web”.   Using the New Web Query dialog, select a data table on the web page.   Once you click “Import”, the data is loaded onto the worksheet and the data range is given a name.   You can change the name if you want.   Now, with a named range, Sunset Reports can directly read the data and you have a data source for your report.

We have plans to include Web RSS feeds as a data source for a report as well as capturing an image of a webpage and placing it in a report.   These changes are currently in development.