Stimulation at TechEd

03 June 2008

This evening at the Partner Expo Reception (free food! free drinks!) I got taken aside by a customer who'd been using XtraReports for a good couple of years — in fact as long as I've been working here: I wonder if there's a connection? — and proceeded to, er, give me some feedback.

Believe it or not, it's this kind of thing that I so enjoy about conferences. Take one customer who is passionate about one of your products, knows it very well, and is prepared to provide a well-reasoned and persuasive argument for why we should be doing something that we're not, and you've got the recipe for a stimulating conversation and the possibility of some real change.

This is what happened half way through the evening. I was doing a demo of our soon-to-be-beta DXGrid for WPF and one of the guys watching asked to have a chat about XtraReports afterwards.

Quick synopsis of his situation: his company generates reports of some variety for a whole slew of customers, kind of like a batch system. The reports are huge, many pages, with subreports in subreports, ad nauseam but possibly not ad infinitum. Happens weekly and monthly. Used to use a Certain Reports product and is glad that they made the move. Loves XtraReports.

Right away he's different then from the majority of our XtraReports customers in that he's generating lots of large complicated reports at once. Different, certainly, but not overwhelmingly so.

He had two main issues:

- The install size. Our install program for DXperience is now 150Mb or so. For someone who only has one or two suites (like XtraReports), this is an inordinately big download. He was wondering whether there was anything we could do. I must admit I was stung a little bit by this on Sunday before I came here: we released v2008 vol.1.4 on Saturday morning and so my Sunday was spent in downloading the latest version, uninstalling the previous, installing the new, and making sure that everything was working properly.

We talked a bit about the issues. He liked the frequency of the minor updates (as do I), so didn't want to reduce the rate of releases at all. It was essentially the size: could we split it up into Suites, use some kind of patching technology, download as we installed?

The breaking it up into Suites is possible, I suppose. The patching is a no win situation since we enable updating from any previous version, and so the patch file would be larger than a full install. But the download as we install stuff sounds interesting and is something we should possibly look into. (In essence it breaks the two-step big download followed by big install into a single step do everything at the same time. Mostly the same amount of time, but perhaps a better user experience.) We'll look into it.

- The other issue was memory usage. Because of the way he's set up the reports, he suffers from high memory usage especially if we have a slight bug where we're not necessarily cleaning up our subreports in a timely fashion. I'm going to get the team to take another look at this issue.

The most interesting thing about this conversation was I think the level of passion on both sides. He was passionate about XtraReports and loved to use the product. It was generating good revenue for his company. I was passionate about XtraReports too, from a different viewpoint obviously, and want to make it better. Between the two of us, we came to a consensus, and it's now up to me to see if we can't do something about it.

Gotta love booth work!

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