Wednesday, February 29, 2012

NextReports: Some Internal Tips

From version 5.1, NextReports Designer allows to instantly open some report or chart  when it starts.

There are some system properties which can be used to achieve this:

This property is similar to singleSourceAutoConnect, but when we have more than one data source. NextReports Designer will start and it will connect to this datasource. 
If there is a connected data source (specified by next.datasource system property) this report will be auto-loaded.

If there is a connected data source (specified by next.datasource system property) this chart will be auto-loaded.

If the report or chart is not found in the root node, but inside some folder, this property will specify the relative path.  Slashes or back-slashes can be used in any combination.

If both and next.chart  system properties are specified, chart property is ignored. 

For your installed designer, you can specify system properties inside nextreports.vmoptions file.
For example adding these lines at the end of the file
it will make your designer on start to auto-connect to Demo data source and to automatically open Timesheet report.

If your report is found inside /Test/Test1 folder path
Path is converted to use specific file system separator, so you can enter it as you wish (/Test/Test1, Test/Test1, Test//Test1, \\Test\\Test1, Test\\Test1, \Test\Test1).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NextReports: URL Custom Protocol & Version Dispatcher

When NextReports Server started its existence, users were able to upload reports and charts using server actions. This means:
  • a data source was already created
  • user selects the report from current location
  • user selects the existing data source
  • user selects the images used (if any) from current location
  • report/chart is uploaded in the current server path
After some versions, NextReports  Designer was able to allow publishing to server:
  • user selects server path
  • user selects a server data source; if there isn't created, he can publish it with a single click
  • when publish, used images are also published by default
Starting with version 5.1 a server action will allow to edit a report / chart with the designer:
  • no browsing needed
To allow this, a nextreports protocol is registered when NextReports Designer is installed. If this protocol is found, server edit action will open the designer asking for current logged user password:

After authentication, a data source is locally created (if not found) with following name convention:
Designer will auto-connect to this data source and the report/chart is downloaded. If a report/chart with the same name exists, user is notified:

After downloading, the report/chart is automatically opened and user can start to edit it. When user saves it, a confirmation is needed to publish it also on the server:

Server 'Edit' action will launch an url request like:
This can also be a simple  method to pass to someone a report to edit. If that person can access the report (has the needed rights) you do not need to tell him the server, location and let him download the report, modify it and publish it back. You just give him an url.

Specified version is used to open the needed designer which has the same version as the server avoiding following situations:
  • server version is older than designer version: you can download the report and edit it, but you cannot publish it to server
  • server version is newer than designer version: you cannot download the report
This is done by a dispatcher(installed with the designer) which is launched by nextreports URL protocol shell command.

If the designer with that version is not installed, user is informed and he can download the correct version from the links shown with the message:

If you are a Linux user, you do not have a dispatcher to start your needed version of NextReports, but you can register your nextreports url protocol with following commands:
gconftool-2 -t string -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/nextreports/command 
         '<installed_dir>/nextreports "%s"'
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/nextreports/needs_terminal false -t bool
gconftool-2 -s /desktop/gnome/url-handlers/nextreports/enabled true -t bool

Monday, February 06, 2012

NextReports: Variables, Functions & Expressions

NextReports has a simpler way of working with data, than other reporting solutions.

For example, inside iReport for JasperReports you can define a so-called variable just to use it in another fields. The problem with this approach is that the user must specify when this variable must be evaluated and when to be reset. (like page, report, group, column types). This is no easy task for non-business users who want to create some reports. This also can bring some invalid calculations if the user does not understand what he is doing.

NextReports does not have user-defined variables. In NextReports Variables are just application-defined like ROW, GROUP_ROW, PAGE_NO and so on.

Instead, users can create Expressions and Functions. Expressions can contain text, variables, parameters, columns and functions (from version 5.1). Functions can be any of SUM, AVERAGE, MIN, MAX, COUNT, COUNT DISTINCT and can be done on sql column or on expression.

For NextReports a field is evaluated if it is found inside layout. So, users do not need to ask themselves when to evaluate something. If you need an expression just to compute something without showing the result, you can make it hidden. But, you will always know when the expression is evaluated without asking yourself.

If we have two functions inside a group footer band

$F{SUM(HOURS)} : computes the sum of hours for a project (work, travel, administration, meeting)
$F{SUM(WORKHOURS)} : computes the sum of implementation hours

and we want also to see how much implementation represents in percentage, it is very easy to create an expression. From version 5.1 the user can select the functions found in the current band, in this case $F{SUM(HOURS)} and $F{SUM(WORKHOURS)}.

Report layout will show the defined expression:

Because functions are interpreted as double values the division will create a double. If you have an integer column $C_HOURS for example and you want to use div operations, be sure to convert it to double like $C_Hours.doubleValue(), otherwise the result will be an integer.

Result can be formatted with pattern property like in following exported pdf: