Reporting: Pre-Printed Forms and the new ASP.NET Document Viewer Control (What’s New in 13.2)

DevExpress Data Blog
07 November 2013

Today I want to talk about two new features we are adding to our rich set of reporting tools in our upcoming 13.2 release.

Pre-Printed Forms

I recently taught a reporting class (there’s another one soon: sign up!) where one of the attendees mentioned frustration with creating reports based on pre-printed forms. These types of reports are very common. A great example of this type of form here in the US is the 1040 EZ tax form:

1040EZ Pre-Printed Form at Design Time

In our upcoming release we are making super easy to create these kinds of reports! Above you can see the 1040EZ form along with a couple of XRLabels used as placeholders for data. The way to get this to work is really simple:

  1. Create an image of your pre-printed form
  2. Set the image as the report watermark
    Watermake Dialog Box
  3. Set the DrawWatermark property of the report to true
    Draw Watermakr Property

Done! Now you can create a report based upon your specific forms with pinpoint accuracy in no time.

ASP.NET Document Viewer Control

This happens to be my favorite feature for reporting in this release. As we have been striving to eliminate the cruft from your development experience, we have done a number of consolidations when it comes to our WinForms End User Report Designer (last release) and have simplified some of the more common aspects of creating reports (creating tables, labels etc.). The new ASP.NET Document Viewer Control represents another step in that direction. In summary we went from this:

Old ASP.NET Reporting Controls

to this:

New ASP.NET Reporting Control

Here is our thinking – why should we require you, dear user, to drag 4 different things on to the design surface when really one will suffice. After all, it is the report itself which defines whether or not the parameters panel or the document map are needed. Now it is simply one control:

New Document Viewer at Design Time

There are a couple of other goodies that we have added to this control! The first is this notion of a Remote Report. When you click on that link you get the following dialog box:

Remote Report Dialog Box

Now the Document Viewer can connect directly to a report service or even the Report Server itself! Cut to the scene where the Report Server has a conversation with our new ASP.NET Document Viewer:

Report Server Talks to Document Viewer.

I will talk more about the implication of this approach later on when I delve into the new features of the Report Server.

The second thing we have added to the smart tag is a unified way of selecting a predefined theme. Here is the final report displayed in this brand new control with the Metropolis Blue theme:

Visualized Report in new Document Viewer

I am pretty excited about the direction we are taking with our analysis products. We are committed to simplifying the development experience while still providing robust data visualization tools at an affordable price.

As always, if there are any comments and/or questions, feel free to get a hold of me!

Seth Juarez
Email: sethj@devexpress.com
Twitter: @SethJuarez

8 comment(s)
Nate Laff
Nate Laff

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love the pre-printed forms. Tried it before and it just never worked out. Great addition!

7 November, 2013
Peter Meyer
Peter Meyer

Will the pre-printed forms allow for a PDF or will it require a raster type image?  (Please say PDF is allowed...)

7 November, 2013
HanS Fadzli
HanS Fadzli

great features... waiting soo long

7 November, 2013
George (DevExpress)
George (DevExpress)

@Peter: With this release, only image watermarks can underlay the report. We will evaluate the PDF option in the future.

8 November, 2013
Alexander Krakhotko (Xafari team)
Alexander Krakhotko (Xafari team)

great news!

Availability of collections on the pre-printed forms (similar to Snap)?

8 November, 2013
Nate Laff
Nate Laff

I'd also like PDF but it will be easy enough to open up one of these tax forms in Photoshop and export to PNG or something so I'm not too worried about it.

8 November, 2013
Peter Thorpe
Peter Thorpe

They look like great updates couple of questions as i'm excited :-)

For pre printed forms what if its a multiple page document? My traditional approach has been to change the watermark in code on each page and some painful alignment.

For the document viewer is there still a way to add controls to the toolbar? For instance I add a zoom selector as per a kb article and also create a popup menu for subscribing to reports. Its nice to have in the same toolbar.

12 November, 2013
George (DevExpress)
George (DevExpress)

@Alexander:

Not with this release.

@Peter:

We will consider addressing the scenario of applying multipage forms in the future.

At present, this scenario can be worked around either by providing watermark fragments individually to each report page (and then merging these pages into a single document) or by merging the scanned form's pages into a single image file and securing a white space between pages to compensate for the height of report margins.

As for the new document viewer, we paid special attention to retain most (if not all) of the functionality that was already present in previously available ASP.NET reporting controls. In particular, you should not encounter any obstacles in solving your task using the new control.

13 November, 2013

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