Reporting — Avoid Mistakes in Report Creation with The Help of Report Design Analyzer (v21.1)

Reporting Team Blog
13 July 2021

As you already know, creating the perfect report is not a trivial undertaking. A well-designed report requires you to validate control position, ensure external element availability (such as images, PDF files, Word and data sources), and manage actual “physical” output (on-screen print preview, printed hard copy, or document export).

To improve the report-design experience and make it more intuitive, we analyzed tech support traffic over the last few years and discovered a set of basic design-related issues – problems that could be resolved with ease directly within the DevExpress Report Designer.

Our new Report Design Analyzer (available in v21.1) extends the capabilities of our Script Errors panel and allows you to uncover key design-related issues with relative ease. The DevExpress Report Analyzer is available within our Visual Studio Report Designer and both our WinForms and WPF End-User Report Designers (we expect to add the Report Analyzer to our Web Report Designer soon – screenshot below).

Revamped Script Error List Panel – The New Report Design Analyzer

The DevExpress Report Design Analyzer displays a list of errors, warnings, and hints throughout the report-design process. As its name suggests, the Report Analyzer’s sole objective is to help you isolate, diagnose, and address common report design/layout related issues.  To help illustrate the capabilities of the Report Design Analyzer, let’s consider a report with two overlapping labels.

Once the Analyzer recognizes an issue, it displays a list of errors/warnings/messages within its issues list. In this instance, the Analyzer reports that two labels overlap one another. If you double-click the warning message (or simply click Source), the Analyzer automatically moves focus to the underlying issue (the control, band, or script that generated the issue).

How to Read and Understand Report Analyzer Messages

The DevExpress Report Analyzer displays a message and a brief explanation for each issue it discovers.

Report Analyzer messages are divided into three distinct categories (by issue severity):

  • Errors (considered most critical): Errors usually prevent a report, band, control, or script from being displayed correctly.
  • Warnings (less severe): A report, band, or control may not meet user expectations.
  • Messages (hints and best practices)

Each message displayed within the DevExpress Report Analyzer includes a unique message code. We added these codes to help you “google” errors and locate possible solutions: Errors, Warnings, and Information Messages. In Visual Studio, message codes also appear as links - when you click the error code link, the Analyzer opens the appropriate DevExpress help topic (with suggested actions).

The DevExpress End-User Report Designer does not display error codes as links. The reason is obvious – we did not want to redirect your end-users to a DevExpress web property. If you think we made a mistake in this regard, please do share your feedback in the comments section below. Should we add an option to enable “code links” for the End-User Report Designer?

You can make the Report Design Analyzer display the following:

  • Report Layout - messages that describe issues with the report layout.
  • Report Creation - issues that occur when a report is rendered (for instance, an external image or PDF file has become unavailable).
  • Report Scripts - issues when script code in a report generates unhandled exceptions.
  • All of the above messages.

Document Generation Issues

Design-related issues arise when you create a report. Errors generally occur during the document generation process. For instance, a document generation error may involve an image control with a missing image source (an image with an external URL specified dynamically). This issue will only appear once a report is previewed (the specified URL is invalid or does not contain an image). When such issues occur, the Report Design Analyzer displays messages to help you troubleshoot the issue further.

Our Report Preview hides the Report Design Analyzer by default (to free up visible space for the preview itself). Though hidden, the Analyzer is running in the background. As you can see in the animation below, an icon and error count give you a quick snapshot on the overall “health” of your report. To activate the Report Analyzer pane, simply click the “bell” icon.

A pop-up hint or fly-out box summarizes all issues within a previewed report. In the following example, the error messages tells us that an error occurred during the report generation process.

What’s Next?

We expect to incorporate the DevExpress Report Design Analyzer within our Web Report Designer. Here’s a sneak peek of its user interface elements:

Your Feedback Matters

As always, we welcome your thoughts. Please comment below and let us know what you think about our implementation. If you’ve encountered a design or runtime generated error that our Analyzer does not detect accurately, please do submit a support ticket via the DevExpress Support Center.

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stukelly
stukelly

Please add an option to enable “code links” for the End-User Report Designer.

Our internal staff prefer using the end-user report designer, because it does not require Visual Stuido to be installed.

20 July 2021

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