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Posted 28 Feb 2022

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Top 10 Benefits of .NET Reporting Tools

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28 Feb 2022CPOL9 min read
In this article, we’ll identify the top 10 benefits of using reporting tools for your development projects.

This article is a sponsored article. Articles such as these are intended to provide you with information on products and services that we consider useful and of value to developers

Reporting and presenting data to management, operations, and customers remains a crucial component of any modern software system. While it’s always possible to hand-code reports, graphs, and spreadsheets, a third-party tool will pay for itself almost immediately because it saves developer time and increases the project’s quality.

Tools like ActiveReports.NET, GrapeCity’s complete, intuitive, and reliable developer reporting solution, are available for many development environments, including WinForms, Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), .NET, .NET Core, JavaScript, ASP.NET, and ASP.NET MVC. These tools make reporting much easier and help us allow end-users to create ad-hoc reports and modify existing reports.

Reporting tools allow easy display of graphs, including bar charts, line charts, sparklines, and more. The examples below show the variety of graphs and reports available:

Image 1

Although graphs are great for creating impressive presentations, what businesspeople really need is accessible, easy-to-understand data at their fingertips. For example, consider this relatively straightforward Vehicle Sales Report:

Image 2

It would require a significant amount of work just to create this simple table for desktop or web. Plus, most users will want to export the data into a spreadsheet for further analysis or transfer it to another system.

Modern reporting tools have many built-in features, including printing, searching, and exporting. Think of how much code you would have to write, debug, and maintain to support the following exports:

Image 3

Another benefit reporting tools offer is changing a report design on the website (if your application calls for it and allows access). Imagine the amount of development work you avoid while delivering advanced functionality to your customers. Web-based report designers speed your development and help end-users save time getting the exact report they need.

Image 4

A project’s simple initial reporting requirements will invariably expand in scope and complexity. Therefore, using flexible third-party reporting tools, like GrapeCity ActiveReports.NET, makes sense for any project. In this article, we’ll identify the top 10 benefits of using reporting tools for your development projects.

The Evolution of .NET Reporting Tools

Reporting and charting tools predate .NET’s release. The tools were first available in the 1990s, using the Component Object Model (COM) protocols in Visual Basic. GrapeCity ActiveReports.NET has a revision history starting in 1998, and they released the first .NET Version in 2002. GrapeCity has maintained and enhanced the long-running reporting solution over the years.

After your developers have learned how to use ActiveReports.NET, they’ll feel natural using it on any project. In addition, ActiveReports.NET has wide industry adoption, so it won’t be hard to find developers familiar with it. Most current C# developers are aware of ActiveReports.NET and likely have some experience using it.

There are many reporting tools and approaches. Some are open-source and nominally free. The free tools may or may not have support or even project contributors. A commercial reporting product is more likely to have support with regular, ongoing bug fixes and feature additions.

Many reporting tools are targeted at end-users and don’t support easy integration into custom projects. These are great tools, but not much use to a developer creating a new product with embedded reporting. GrapeCity built ActiveReports for .NET developers, helping us seamlessly add reporting functions to an application with capabilities the end-users will appreciate, too.

Why Use .NET Reporting Tools?

There are many reasons and benefits for using .NET reporting tools like ActiveReports. At a high level, you can get robust functionality quickly at a low cost. Let’s explore the top 10 reasons for using third-party .NET reporting tools.

Out-of-the-Box Functionality

The primary reason for using software components is to save time and money. A robust reporting capability is essential to many projects, and .NET reporting tools help you avoid all the development work to create reports, graphs, and charts. GrapeCity, for example, has invested hundreds of thousands of software development hours and millions of dollars into creating its reporting components. This saves customers their own development hours and labor costs.

In addition, using software components will significantly expand the functions you can provide. Your end-users will get all the reporting tools they desire on their end with little effort on your end.

Support for Complex and Interactive Reports and Graphs

Your new project may have a reporting requirement. Typically, the requirements understate the need, and the customer’s expected scope and complexity expand.

While the initial reporting might be easy to implement without a third-party library, it will still cost many hours of development time. As the project proceeds and the vision for the reporting capabilities shifts, a wide selection of supported graphs and reports at your developer’s fingertips gives them plenty of flexibility to respond to these changes.

Availability of Extensive Online Documentation, Samples, and Tutorials

Unlike an open-source project, a commercial product like ActiveReports.NET has extensive online documentation, videos, and demos that we can use to quickly implement new functions in our project.

As developers, we depend on rapidly finding an example of what we’re trying to implement. Although the sample project rarely aligns precisely with the real-life project, there’s likely one that is close and saves many development hours.

Documentation and explanations of the software components are just as necessary as finding samples. This information is helpful when we need to learn how a parameter works or which parameter to use.

Robust Community and Support

It’s natural for developers to try and figure out a way past a problem themselves. When we need more help, having a robust and active online support community is a definite plus. Many open-source projects have a vibrant community but may not have the same depth and variety of features compared to a component with over twenty years of history.

For example, many experienced .NET and C# developers are familiar with GrapeCity ActiveReports, giving it a strong community backing.

Availability of Paid Support

As they say, time is money. Paid support can help us find the answers quickly when we’re stuck or unsure of how to approach a reporting issue. Depending on your organization, it may be compelling to have a vendor’s direct software support available.

Availability of Consultants and Developers to Support Your Team

Another benefit of a long history is that consultants and potential employees already have experience with the component.

Independent of Remote Servers

Another approach to report generation is a product like Microsoft SQL Server for Reporting Services (SSRS). While this is an effective system that can produce complex reports and graphs in a designer or API, it requires a separate server that incurs additional costs.

Additionally, if you want external users to have access, you need to expose the report server to the internet — yet another item to secure and manage. Choosing a third-party tool that is independent of remote servers helps avoid these extra costs and management time.

Many Years of Experience

Years of experience help build up a stable product and demonstrate a reporting tool’s longevity. GrapeCity and ActiveReports.NET, for example, have existed for many years. They have a long track record of keeping abreast of current technology, especially in the Microsoft ecosystem. This history means they are likely to be around for many more years, too.

Over the years, GrapeCity has merged with leading component vendors including Data Dynamics (ActiveReports), APEX Software, ComponentOne, and FarPoint. Even now, web technology is evolving into using technology like WebAssembly that may allow third-party components. Given its history, you can be sure that GrapeCity will be at the forefront of any developments.

A Single Low Price Per Developer License and No Fees for Deployments

When selecting a third-party reporting tool, you want to keep fees reasonable. ActiveReports.NET licensing, for example, is per developer or build machine. Therefore, there are no additional fees for end-users or deployments to servers or other devices.

Additionally, you have the option of an annual support contract to allow continuous upgrades to new versions and online phone and screen-sharing support. A yearly contract also provides a deeply discounted upgrade path to significant updates.

Usable in Desktop and Web-Based .NET and JavaScript Projects

.NET reporting tools should work for desktop projects and web apps. For example, ActiveReports.NET supports various .NET desktop and web projects at runtime and has visual designers. The visual designers run on the web and desktop, and there is a standalone version too. In addition, ActiveReports’ JavaScript version has built-in support for Angular, React, and Vue.

What to Check When Choosing a .NET Reporting Tool

When looking at various .NET reporting tools, make sure that they will work in your development environment. For example, you may be using ASP.NET MVC, writing a desktop app with Windows Forms or WPF, or maybe writing a purely JavaScript app. In all these cases, you want to look closely at the tool to ensure it will work in your project type.

Another area to pay attention to is if you need a visual designer. Not all projects require this, but if yours does, make sure it will run in the environment you need. If the visual designer is only for developers, a standalone or desktop application might work.

If the end-user needs to edit reports on a website, you’ll need to consider that as well. It’s good to try the designer in trial or free mode, if you can, to make a report similar to what you will need.

Also, don’t buy more than you need. If your reporting requirements are simple and well-defined, an open-source library may be more straightforward, use fewer resources, and have higher performance.

Finally, make sure that whatever tool you choose has a community and ecosystem around it. Even for a commercial product with paid support, there should be an active grassroots community. Current activity indicates the product is under active development so that new features, bug fixes, and integration into future environments will occur.

Conclusion

Using third-party .NET reporting tools such as GrapeCity’s ActiveReports.NET saves you time, money, and headaches while enabling you to respond to changing report requirements quickly.

Supported third-party reporting tools have a cost but come with long-term support that follows changing development environments. Additionally, unlike many open-source projects, a commercially backed reporting tool offers the peace of mind that bug fixes and support are available.

It’s easy to get started with GrapeCity ActiveReports.NET. Visit GrapeCity for more information, to download a free trial, and to schedule a demonstration.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


Written By
United States United States
Mateen first joined GrapeCity as a Technical Engagement Engineer in 2010. Five years later, he became Product Manager for the ActiveReports product line. In this role, he is responsible for defining strategy and new product planning and execution throughout the product lifecycle. He loves finding solutions to “How-to” reporting questions. In his personal life, Mateen and his family enjoy volunteering in the community.

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