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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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Window View – The Next BIG thing in Sunset Reports

December 15, 2015 1 comment

Coming in the next version of Sunset Reports is “Window View”.   Currently you can print, export, and print preview a report.  With “Window View”, your report becomes a window for viewing on the screen only.   The features of this new view include:

  1. Display your report as a window on the screen
  2. The window can be interactive using the scripts you design in the report designer.   There are numerous possibilities here.  Drilldown reports, menus, etc.   This can be your user interface to the reports you want to give to a user.   Users don’t even have to see the functions of Sunset Reports to see the reports they want or you want to give them.  You can launch other reports in Window View or Print Preview.
  3. The window is automatically sized to the page size of the report design so you can control the window size.  Make it as small or large as you want.  Include any of the report objects.   Use a Label with a OnClick script to create a button.
  4. You can set a time for the window to refresh.  This means your report will be updated periodically automatically.  The update time can be as little as 1 second.  So now your report will update in real time showing real time data.
  5. If your report has more than one page, and if you set an window refresh time, the pages of the report will cycle to that time, and when the first page comes back up, the report will be refreshed with new data.   This feature can be used for slide shows with real time data.

The following figure shows a Window View of a report design.  This design is intended to work as a menu system.   It has a clock that is updated every second.   The five items on the right are labels with click events to perform functions.   This example is included in the sample reports file included with the product.   You can actually create your own application with this feature.

DemoMenu

15 Things Sunset Reports can do with Microsoft Office

February 8, 2014 Leave a comment

If you are a Microsoft Office user, you will be interested to know that Sunset Reports can:

  1. connect to Microsoft Access databases
  2. replace the query designer in Access
  3. replace the report designer in Access
  4. import report designs from Access
  5. connect to Microsoft Excel worksheet ranges as a data source for reports
  6. import Excel worksheet ranges as report designs
  7. export reports to Excel
  8. import Microsoft Word documents as RTF files into a report design
  9. export reports to RTF files that can be loaded into Microsoft Word
  10. distribute any Microsoft Office file as part of a report definition utilizing the queue and delivery service.  This includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Visio, Project, etc.
  11. create reports from Outlook data.   If you have synchronized your Outlook with iCloud, you can create reports from iCloud data.
  12. using OneNote, link to a report file
  13. using OneNote, attach a report file
  14. using OneNote, insert a report printout
  15. integrate with InfoPath to create a custom application

So if you are working with Microsoft Office, Sunset Reports is a great add-on.

Not Just Reports

December 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Yes, Sunset Reports is a great report writer, designer, etc. based on the general understanding of what a report writer is.   But the definition of a report in the software goes far beyond the general understanding.   A report can be a…

  • standard report usually based on some data source
  • document (you can do what most word processors can do)
  • presentation (create a slide presentation where each page is a slide)
  • web page (save to an HTML file and post on a website)
  • Windows form (using the new Windows View)
  • interactive interface (using the new Windows View, you can have the user interact with the window with buttons, etc., make a menu)
  • data converter (define an output format to export to based on an input data source)
  • a software program (using scripts, you can write software in VB.NET C#, JScript .net)

We will explore a couple of these in more detail in future posts.

Additional Samples

August 28, 2013 Leave a comment

With the release of 1.95, we have included a second set of samples in the Samples2 file.   These samples are more advanced and demonstrate the powerful features of Windows mode and scripts.  You can copy these reports and modify them as you want. Included are:

  • Digital Clock – This report when viewed in Window View will show the current time and update each second.
  • Current US Radar – This report will display the current US radar map.   If viewed in Window View, it will update automatically every 60 seconds by the use of the numeric parameter, WindowViewTimer.  The report can be easily modified to show a different region.
  • Disk Space – This report uses gauges and a script that reads the drive space on disk C and shows disk space used and disk space free.
  • Edit Global and User Parameters – This unique report is actually an interactive form showing how you can change data and update the global and user parameters.  Reports are not read only anymore.
  • Get IP – This report will get your current Internet IP address.   It will check it against a previous value created by this report and stored in a Global Parameter.   If the IP is different, the report runs.  If it is the same, the report will not produce any output.   This is useful if you want to email or text yourself if your IP changes.  This shows you how you can save data to the parameters.  Solves dynamic IP issues.
  • Get Web Page – This report shows you how easy it is to capture a Web Page and load the HTML into a Rich Text Control.
  • Hurricane Report – Captures an image from the internet.
  • Main Menu – The report is actually a customizable main menu for Sunset Reports.   You can use this as a starting point for your own menu.   Make sure you set the preference for the starting form to be “Main Menu Report Definition”.   If you need to get back to the regular program interface, close this menu holding down the Ctrl key.
  • Photo Album Slide Show – This report shows you how to display all the images in a folder in a report.   The script contains the code to create a file list from the parameter “Picture Folder”.  The file list is stored in a file named Index.XML.  This file is then used as the data source by using the report parameter XML Data Path.  You can change the design of the report to show one picture on a page.  Then using Window View, the pictures will cycle.

Updated Documentation

August 26, 2013 Leave a comment

The Sunset Reports User Manual has been updated to the latest version and includes 229 pages of detail information for reference on all the aspects of the product.   This includes:  Installation, Starting the Program, Setup, Data Sources, Report Design, Report Definitions, Report Distribution, a Tutorial, and Technical Support.ManualPreview it Here

Interactive Reporting

May 30, 2013 Leave a comment

The Report Preview screen displays your report and you can choose to print, export, email the report along with several other features.   But did you know that the report in the preview window can be interactive.   Scripts in the report can respond to mouse actions including clicks, double clicks, mouse down, mouse move, and mouse up events.   These scripts can be assigned to any control on the report.  This opens up many possibilities including creating drill down reports and drill though reports.  In fact, you can have a user click on a control in print preview and open another report, open a file, go to a website, open a form, message box, input box, and more.  You can even create a menu and have the menu launch reports and more.

More to come on this exciting topic….

New Features

May 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Another great update to Sunset Reports is here.   This version introduces two new major features:

  • Start the program with “opening arguments”.   Create your own shortcuts or even open Sunset Reports with another program.  Up to 4 opening arguments will put the software in one of 8 modes.
  • A new menu interface inspired by the Windows 8 Metro interface.   Now it will be easier to use our software with your touch screens.

Here are the 8 modes:  (Note: Modes 2 thru 8 all require Arg1 being a specified report storage file)

  1. No arguments – normal mode connecting to default user report storage file
  2. Normal mode connecting to arg1 instead of the default user report storage file.
  3. With Arg2 a positive number – run in BATCH mode with arg2 = run queue time
  4. With Arg2 = -1, show report list and if Arg3 then filter by category = Arg3 and if Arg 4 then filter by userid = Arg4
  5. With Arg2 = -2, show report carousel and if Arg3 then filter by category = Arg3 and if Arg 4 then filter by userid = Arg4
  6. With Arg2 = a Report Definition Name and if no Arg3 then print preview the report definition by that name.
  7. With Arg2 = a Report Definition Name and if Arg3 = 1 then print to default printer directly
  8. With Arg2 = a Report Definition Name and if Arg3 = 2 then print with prompt for printer

Here is the new menu….

SunsetReportsTileMenu

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.

Changes

April 5, 2013 Leave a comment

If you are an existing Sunset Reports customer, upgrade to this version for FREE!

Here is a summary of the changes in this new version of Sunset Reports:

  • New Report Designer with ribbon and tabbed reports
  • Preference added to choose standard report designer or ribbon/tabbed report designer
  • PDF Page Burst (see below for details)
  • PDF Bookmark Burst (see below for details)
  • MHT Bookmark Burst (see below for details)
  • [Run Now] button added to Report Queue List
  • Expanded status field of Report Queue
  • Send a report to multiple email addresses
  • Include a report as the body of the email message using HTML
  • Improvements in the performance of the Report Processor
  • Updated to the lastest DevExpress controls
  • Fixed issues with samples

These special formats are used for report bursting which is also referred to as report splitting or report exploding.  They are also useful for email blasts or email broadcasting.

PDF Page Burst:  If you select this format, a single report will be broken up into multiple files, each file containing one page.  The filename will be the report definition name followed by a dash and the page number.

PDF Bookmark Burst:  The PDF Bookmark Burst is a little more tricky than the simple page burst.   This format requires that you include a label control in your report design named exactly “BurstFileName”.  This control’s bookmark property needs to be bound to a data source that will determine the name of the file.  A good example of this might be invoice number, customer name, or a combination of similar items.   It wants to be something that will uniquely name the file and give you a description of what the file is.  So as an example, you could end up with a folder full of PDF files for your invoices.  When you preview the report, all the invoices will be in one report, but when the report is processed from the queue, it is separated into multiple files. Exactly which pages of the big report go into which files is controlled by the placement of the control in the report design.  The best place to put it is in a group band, and then you set the group to start on a new page.  This insures that pages are separated properly for each report file.

There is also another twist to this format.   If you also include a control name exactly “BurstEmailAddress” and bind the value of that control to your data source that contains email addresses, the reports will be created as separate files, but also emailed as attachements.   The subject and body of the email is controlled by the specific queue entry.  With this powerful feature, you can now send out multiple emails with different attachments with a single report and queue entry.

MHT Bookmark Burst:  This format is a variation of the PDF Bookmark Burst, except for the following.   The report format for the separate files is not a PDF, but instead an MHT file.  This is a referred to as a MIME HTML file where the page format combines what might be multiple files for HTML.

If you include the control named “BurstEmailAddress” as described in the PDF Bookmark Burst section, then the report will become the body of the email instead of the attachment.   This is perfect for email blasts or email broadcasting.   Graphics will work and the email is sent with the body as HTML.

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

Report Bursting

March 25, 2013 Leave a comment

The concept is to print one report definition and have multiple report files like PDF’s creating with individual files for multiple recipients.   For example, you have a report definition for invoices to send to all your customers, but you obviously want to send just one invoice to each customer.  With standard report processing, you will end up with multiple invoices in one big PDF.  With Report Bursting (also referred to as report splitting or report exploding), you can have a single file for each customer/invoice.  Each file is a subset of the report results.

This new feature is in the works with our development team and testing is in progress.   And with our report distribution system, each report can go to a different email address too.

This new feature will be valuable for order confirmations, invoices, contracts, purchase orders, dunning letters, employee statements, billing statements, promotional mailing, sales letters, appointment confirmations, etc. or any report you design.

ReportBusting

Poster – Large Format Pictures

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

If you have ever wanted to take a picture, image, or photo and blow it up and print it on a large format paper, or multiple sheets of paper and tape it together, you might have a hard time finding the right tools.  Sunset Reports can be easily used to print posters, or simpye your picture or photo on multiple sheets of paper.   Choose as many sheets wide and tall you want, and print them out.   This concept works well too for signs.  For a sign, you can use the label or rich text control.  And you can also use any other combination of controls for both text and images.

Here are the steps to follow to print a picture across multiple pages:

1 – Create a new report design

2 – Select the paper size you want to print to and the orientation (Landscape or Portrait)

3 – Add a picture box control.

4 – Select your picture using the Image URL Property

5 – Size your picture by changing the size properties of the Picture Box control.  The size is set usually by hundreds of an inch(or tenths of a millimeter).   For example 2000 = 20 inches.

6 – Change the sizing property to “Stretch Image”

7 – Size the TopMargin and BottomMargin to something compatible with your printer.  (50 works good in most cases)

8 – Go to Print Preview to see your result.   Then either print it, or go back to Report Design to tweak your document.

Here is a print preview of an image that was stretched to 3 pages wide by 4 pages high.

Poster

Compare Toolbars with Crystal Reports

March 9, 2013 Leave a comment

In the following figure we have compared the report designer toolbars between Crystal Reports and Sunset Reports.

Crystal Reports vs Sunset Reports Toolbar

Crystal Reports vs Sunset Reports Toolbar

The red arrows show a match with the toolbar items between the two software programs.  Crystal Reports only has a rectangle as a shape while Sunset Reports provides 23 shapes.

The items on the bottom of the figure with a blue callout show items that Sunset Reports has and Crystal Reports does not have.

For the items on the top toolbar with a green callout:

1 – Insert Group (This is handled differently in Sunset Reports)

Compare Toolbars with SQL Server

March 8, 2013 Leave a comment

In the following figure we have compared the report designer toolbars between SQl Server Report Builder and Sunset Reports.

SQL Server vs Sunset Reports Toolbar

SQL Server vs Sunset Reports Toolbar

The red arrows show a match with the toolbar items between the two software programs.  SQL Server only a rectangle as a shape while Sunset Reports provides 23 shapes.

The items on the bottom of the figure with a blue callout show items that Sunset Reports has and SQL Server does not have.

For the items on the top toolbar with a green callout:

1 – List (This is the default report format in Sunset Reports and does not need a button)

2 – Data Bar (This is a new control coming in an upcoming release of Sunset Reports.  In the meantime, you can use a horizontal bar chart or a horizontal bar gauge)

3 – Sparkline (This is a new control coming in an upcoming release of Sunset Reports.  In the meantime, you can use a line chart)

New Version Coming

March 5, 2013 Leave a comment

The developers at Sunset Reports are working on yet another version of Sunset Reports adding new features to make the product the best in its class.   One of the new features is a new report designer.   In the past versions, you were able to edit one report design in the report designer.  Of course, you could have any number of report design windows open so editing multiple reports at the same time was never a problem.  Now you can choose between a single report designer or the new multi tabbed report designer.   The new multi report designer also has a ribbon bar instead of the standard toolbars.   Both designers can accomplish the same task.  It is simply the user’s choice as to which one to use.   This can be controlled with a new setting on the preferences form.

MultiReportDesigner

The new Multi Report Ribbon Report Designer

 SingleReportDesignerThe Single Report Designer with standard toolbars.

Compare Toolbars with MS Access

March 1, 2013 Leave a comment

In the following figure we have compared the report designer toolbars between Access 2010 and Sunset Reports.

MS Access vs Sunset Reports Toolbar

MS Access vs Sunset Reports Toolbar

The red arrows show a match with the toolbar items between the two software programs.   The dotted red line shows an approximate match.  Access provides only a rectangle as a shape while Sunset Reports provides 23 shapes.  (Ever try to put a circle or an arrow on an Access report?).  Those items on the Access toolbar with a question mark are for items that really do not belong on a report.  (Why would you put tab controls, buttons, drop down lists, etc. on a report?)

The items on the bottom of the figure with a blue callout show items that Sunset Reports has and Access does not have.  Although one might argue that the “Unbound Object Frame” (2) or the “Bound Object Frame” (4) can provide this missing functionality.  If you can accomplish something similar, it is far more difficult and more restrictive than the native Sunset Reports controls.   The “Hyperlink” control on the Access Toolbar is actually available on all the controls in Sunset Reports.  And finally, Access has a control called “Attachment” (3).  This is an attempt to provide a link to an external file or an database object.  If the object is an image, use the Sunset Reports picture box.  If the object is text, use the Sunset Reports Rich Text control.

Map Control

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

The new Map Control can be added to a report design and will display a map using Google Maps – Static Maps API. This control unlike all others requires an internet connection when the report is run, so the map can be retrieved from the service.

Use of this control must be in compliance with Google’s licensing policies. Sunset Reports only provides a convenient method to access this service and cannot be responsible for its use.

Click on the image to see a simple example.

MapControlExampleThe properties that have been implemented with this control are listed in the following table. These unique properties are shown under Misc on the Property Grid in the report designer. All properties can be bound to a data source except APIKey and are also listed under Data – Data Bindings in the Property Grid.

Property Description
Address Can be either “latitude,longitude” or a location string. The location can be a country, city, state, zip code, place, or street address.
APIKey Optional, depends on usage.  Refer to:https://developers.google.com/maps/documentation/staticmaps/#api_key
ImageURL This property can be entered directly but you must leave the Address field blank. Otherwise, this property shows the URL being sent to the service as a result of all the other properties. You will usually not set this property directly.
MapType Can be either Roadmap(0), Satellite(1), Terrain(2), or Hybrid(3). Use the numbers if you bind this property to a data source.
MarkerXlocation Where X can be 1 to 9.Using the same format as the property Address, you can specify up to 9 markers that will appear on the map.
Path This property can be used to specify one or more locations connected by a path to overlay on an image. You can specify styles as well. Refer to this link for more detail. Do not include “path=” in this property.https://developers.google.com/maps/documentation/staticmaps/#Paths
ZoomLevel Values from 0 (entire earth) to 21 (individual buildings)
Categories: Features, Implementation Tags: ,

Stored Procedures

January 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Sunset Reports provides many options for connecting to data.   This includes:

  1. Direct Connection to Microsoft Access Tables and Queries
  2. Direct Connection to DSN defined ODBC Connections
  3. Direct Connection to Microsoft SQL Server
  4. Direct Connection to Oracle
  5. Direct Connection to MySQL
  6. and others….

There are also a many options using OLD EB and ODBC connection strings as well as Excel, Outlook, XML, and CSV files.

In general connecting to a table, query, or view is straightforward.   But you can also connect to a stored procedure by defining the SQL directly.  And you can pass parameters to those stored procedures as well.

In the following figure, you can see a a stored procedure defined in the SQL block.  This can be edited directly on this form.

1-24-2013 10-10-49 AM

As long as you have a valid ODBC, PDC, SDC, or QB Connection, you should be all set to retrieve data from stored procedures.   This implementation is similar in functionality to Microsoft Access Pass-Thru Queries.

QODBC

January 23, 2013 Leave a comment

QODBC is a product from FLEXquarters that provides a data connection to QuickBooks.  They do this by providing an ODBC connection with their driver that makes reading and writing data to QuickBooks easy.   From the standpoint of Sunset Reports, we are only interested in reading the QuickBooks data.  If you have QuickBooks and QODBC installed, you are ready to connect and start creating your custom reports with Sunset Reports.  Even though QuickBooks has it’s own reports, you want to look at this option for the following reasons:

  1. Create your own custom reports
  2. Create reports not provided by QuickBooks
  3. Connect to more than one QuickBooks file and create reports for multiple companies
  4. Show multicompany data on the same report
  5. Use the tools available in Sunset Reports to create reports you could not create in QuickBooks (Charts, Gauges, Pivot Tables, Images, etc.)
  6. Use the features of Sunset Reports for Report Distribution

In several followup posts, you will see some examples of how you can use Sunset Reports with QODBC.

If you are ready to get started and have Sunset Reports, then refer to this link to understand the QODBC connection so you can create your data sources.   QODBC Technical Reference