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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..

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.

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

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

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

 

Data Matrix Bar Code

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Another type of bar code that Sunset Reports can create is a Data Matrix code.  It is is a two-dimensional matrix barcode consisting of black and white “cells” or modules arranged in either a square or rectangular pattern. The information to be encoded can be text or numeric data. Usual data size is from a few bytes up to 1556 bytes. The length of the encoded data depends on the number of cells in the matrix. Error correction codes are often used to increase reliability: even if one or more cells is damaged so it is unreadable, the message can still be read. A Data Matrix symbol can store up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters.

For More information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Matrix

DataMatrixBarCode

Intelligent Mail Barcode

December 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A new feature added to Sunset Reports includes a barcode type Intelligent Mail.  The Intelligent Mail Barcode (IM barcode) is a 65-bar code for use on mail in the United States. This barcode is intended to provide greater information and functionality than its predecessors POSTNET and PLANET. Intelligent Mail barcode has also been referred to as One Code Solution and 4-State Customer Barcode abbreviated 4CB, 4-CB or USPS4CB.

For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_Mail_barcode

IntelligentBarCode

Report Quality Factors

July 30, 2012 Leave a comment

The quality of a report goes beyond just the fact that the report has the correct data shown and the appearance is appealing.   The quality of a report affects how and even if the report is used.   There are several factors that define a report with quality:

  • Correctness – Extent to which the report satisfies the specifications and fulfills the user’s needs.   This includes traceability, consistency, and completeness.   Are all necessary details included?   Are unnecessary details omitted?  Are numeric values presented in the proper precision?
  • Usability – Ability to interpret the information on the report.   Is the report self-explanatory or will training be required to understand it.   Are the results needed easily interpreted.
  • Maintainability – Ability to update the report with minimal effort.   Consistency, simplicity, conciseness, and modularity all contribute to this factor.  What happens when a data source changes?
  • Flexibililty – Ability to reuse a report for different requirements.  Is the design general and expandable.

At a more detailed level and particularly for data fields, parameters, and calculated fields, the following checklist can be used to improve the quality:

  • Proper types
  • Initial values
  • Handling of nulls
  • Computations use correct types
  • Handling of overflow, underflow, or division by zero
  • Rounding and truncation
  • Out of range values
  • Order of precedence
Categories: Implementation Tags:

Report Design Process

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

For any report design, there are some formalities relating to the design process that should be followed:
• Collect requirements
• Define specification for report
• Design report
o Data connection
o Data fields
o Filtering
o Sorting
o Grouping
o Calculated fields
o Parameters
o Bands
o Controls
o Appearance
o Code
• Test report
• User acceptance
• Maintain Report

Categories: Implementation Tags:

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

Implementation Planning

July 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Here are a few things to consider for implementation of Sunset Reports:

• Set goals (See previous blog entry)
• Assign responsibilities
• Training
• Establish who the users are, what data they need, and security measures
• Establish what reports are needed
• Design reviews for new reports
• Conversion of existing reports
• Acceptance criteria with quality and accuracy checking

Categories: Implementation Tags:

Types of Reports

July 9, 2012 Leave a comment

By definition a report is a document that is organized in a tabular, graphical, or narrative form.  There are many different types of reports that can be created.   These include: Transaction Reports, Tabular/List Reports, Matrix Reports (Pivot Grid), Catalogs, Labels, Mail Merge, Dashboards/Scorecards, Schedules, and Calendar Reports.   All these can all be accomplished pretty easily with Sunset Reports.   Check out the sample reports that come with the product to see examples of most of these different types.

Report Subscriptions

July 5, 2012 Leave a comment
Suppose a user wants to “subscribe” to a report such that the report will be emailed to the user on a periodic basis (i.e. daily, weekly, etc).  The process is very easy to setup.   First add the report to the Queue at the time the user wants the report.   Then open the Calendar view of the Queue and find the report just added.  By double clicking on the report or right mouse clicking on the report and selecting “Open”, you have the ability to change the time and also set the Recurrence of the report.   This is the way you can set reports to recur on specific days and times repeatedly.

Cache Reports

July 3, 2012 Leave a comment
If you have a report that takes a long time to process and multiple people may request it, why not cache the report?   You might also have a report based on some data range like last year and you only need to run it once since it will not change.   Setup Sunset Reports to run the report and either manually save it to a location as a PDF (or other format) or queue it up to run as often as necessary.   Then create a different Report Definition that is based on that pre-run file.   The option exists with Report Definitions to use an external file.   Create the report definition but do not assign a report design.  Instead go to the parameters tab and select the text tab.   You will find a button on the bottom labeled “Add Filename parameter”.   Click the button, browse to the file (you will have to at least run the report once to select the file), and the parameter will be added.   Now running this report definition through the report queue will send the file via Email or FTP without rerunning it.   Of course if the location of the file is made available as a local share, the file is available to anyone who has access and the second step is not required.

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.