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DevExpress Data Blog

This blog features all things having to do with data shaping, layout, and presentation!
  • DevExpress Charts: Data Aggregation, Legend Check Boxes, and Selection (What’s New in 13.2)

    Visualizing data is probably one of the most fantastic things one can do. That is why charting is near and dear to my heart. As we continue to develop powerful visualization components we are proactively trying to make things simpler and easier to use.

    With that in mind there are a couple of features that follow the spirit of these principles.

    Automatic Data Aggregation (WinForms and ASP.NET)

    Data Aggregation

    Charts with a lot of data are ugly because the computer just happily draws everything you give it. There is seldom a case where this is what we want to do. Enter data aggregation. Starting in 13.2, a chart can automatically aggregate its data according to the specified Aggregate function:

    Automatic Scale Mode

    In addition, you can manually specify a Scale Mode and Measure Unit to control how data is aggregated:

    Manual Scale Mode

     

    This feature becomes extremely useful when used in conjunction with zooming and scrolling in WinForms charts. Now you can immediately see trends over large swaths of data and zoom in to a specific area to get a better look at localized trends.

    This will now work with both numerical and time based arguments.

    Legend Check Boxes (WinForms, ASP.NET, WPF, Silverlight)

    I think this picture says it all:

    Legend Check Boxes

    I was going to write a thousand words but I think the ability to turn series off and on is fantastic. This will work for WinForms, ASP.NET, WPF, and Silverlight and is easily activated by setting the Legend.UseCheckBoxes property to true.

    This feature is also available for strips, constant lines and financial indicators.

    Selection (WPF and Silverlight)

    Previously we had support for highlighting specific points in a WinForms/ASP.NET chart by using the chart's SetObjectSelection method. 

    Starting in 13.2 you will now have this ability in our WPF and Silverlight Charts. We've added the ChartControl.SelectedItem and ChartControl.SelectedItems properties and fully implemented the MVVM pattern for giving you the full power of WPF binding.

    In Conclusion

    This is by no means everything we’ve done for this release. I’ve left out a couple of things (including some neat mapping features I will talk about later).

    As we continue to drive forward with our data visualization tools, we are confident that you will find incremental improvements that will simplify your process of acquiring, shaping, and visualizing your data.

    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

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

    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

  • Winforms Snap: Mail Merge, Parameters, and Sparklines (What’s New in 13.2)

    It’s release season again! I am excited to start unveiling some of the great features we are pushing to release in 13.2. Today I thought I would mention Snap reporting. Reporting with Snap is primarily designed for those quick ad-hoc reports that we often need to prepare on a moments notice. By leveraging our built in knowledge of Word, the process of extracting and binding data is very straight-forward. Lets separate some of the new features in Snap into those categories.

    Extracting Data

    In our previous release we added a fantastic way for acquiring data directly from the database. In this release we are packing a bit more into this data acquisition process by including server side parameters and filtering.

    Snap Query Builder

    The query builder is inspired by our Dashboard component (same bits) and is another step along the way of having a seamless data acquisition process across all of our products. Adding parameters and filtering should also look familiar (think reports):

    Parameters

    Parameters

    Filtering

    Filtering

    It is also worth mentioning that this type of filtering is server-side filtering. The server is precisely where these kinds of things (filtering, summarization, calculations, etc.) should happen. I am often amazed at how many people query a database for an entire table and then filter the resulting set on the client side. This is a recipe for sluggish applications. In the case of filtering we have done the heavy lifting on your behalf.

    Binding Data

    Snap provides a rich set of tools for automatically creating tabular reports in a sensible manner. You can drag any set of fields, drag it into the design surface, and have a completed tabular report. Previously a free flowing (non-tabular layout) required additional steps to achieve. Starting in 13.2 you can right click on the data source and change it to a mail-merge data source in order to do a free from report.

    Mail Merge Setting

    In order to give a visual indication of this important difference we’ve highlighted the fields in this manner:

    Mail Merge Setting Indication

    Once in Mail-Merge mode you can drag (or click) fields to add them to the current cursor position.

    Merge Results

    We have also added a toolbar to assist with Mail-Merge reports:

    Mail Merge Toolbar

    This should make a tremendous addition to our already powerful visualization and reporting tools.

    In Summary

    These two features are just a couple of things we’ve added to Snap. Included among these are the ability to add Sparklines, add new barcodes (DataBar and UPC ITF-14), a better API support for themes, and advanced binding to rtf/html fields.

    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

  • A Gentle Introduction to XAF–Webinar on September 17, 2013. 10:00 AM Pacific

    So I finally decided to take the plunge. I was recently (couple of months ago) in our main development office with a firm resolve to finally learn XAF. With Dennis at my side (I know that’s cheating) we dove into creating a made up application. What I found was strikingly pleasant and powerful! Although I would not consider myself an XAF guru, I do have some tips to help everyone get started. As such, I decided to email Amanda to set up a webinar:

    Date:   September 17, 2013 10:00 AM (Pacific Time)
    Title:   A Gentle Introduction to XAF
    Description:   In this webinar, Seth Juarez will discuss the general philosophy behind XAF while he builds an application from scratch. Hear about the notion of modules and see how built-in security features work, plus watch Seth extend basic functionality as he develops a new Contact application for managing family and acquaintances.
       

    We will be creating a contact application from scratch, adding some additional functionality, and (if time permits) deploying to Azure Websites. A preview of the app:

    XAF Contact Application

    Finally, I wish I would have known/understood this powerful framework years ago! Register today!

    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

  • Conference Report–DevLink 2013

    Some of my favorite events are located in the south (and mid-west). One of those happens to be DevLink. When presented with the opportunity to attend I was ecstatic to immediately accept. At DevExpress we are committed in our support of developer communities and strive to add value to those that attend these great conferences. I was honored with the invitation to be part of the closing panel on being a polyglot programmer. While I tend to be fairly pragmatic when it comes to software development, there are a couple of things I truly believe (in tweet form):

    Creating a silo for yourself as a developer will eventually stunt your professional growth. It is also important to note that I am not saying which languages to learn!

    The neat thing about all programming languages is their own unique point of view. Understanding their respective points of view can strengthen and fill our knowledge and make us better as professional developers. Finally, there is always friction in learning something new. I had a tremendously difficult time with functional languages. For me it took a class in college for some of the concepts to sink in.

    Lastly, I am fairly skeptical of the counsel of those that are dogmatic in their opinions:

    The wonderful thing about our particular field is that there are many ways to do the same thing. When someone intimates that there is only one right way to do it - be skeptical.

    It was definitely a great experience! I look forward to getting out more to get your distinct points of view regarding our products as well as technology in general.

    If you are interested in seeing the full discussion, someone was kind enough to record the whole thing:

    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

  • DevExpress Live Classroom Training on Reporting

    One of my favorite things to do is to get up in front of a crowd and teach. I have been teaching off and on for the majority of my adult life. During that time I have taught at two high schools, a technical school, and at a full-fledged University. The best part of teaching a class is the interaction that enriches not only the students, but especially the teacher. I have learned a great deal from the many people with which I have had the chance to interact.

    When I was presented with the opportunity to teach in a classroom setting I jumped at the chance. I am tremendously excited to announce that I will be teaching a full three day course on our powerful reporting suite. I have used this product off and on since 2006. I have also had the opportunity to provide input and direction on the product for the last three years. In short, I am confident that we will be able to discuss your particular reporting scenarios in a way that will make you more productive and successful with reports. Additionally, given that I am also a program manager over the product, your feedback and commentary will not be a mere wish list of things the product could be; I will take these suggestions seriously by taking them directly to the development team.

    What will the class cover?

    The way I understand reporting is through a three pronged approach:

    1. Data – understanding how to acquire and shape data in anticipation of creating reports
    2. Layout – understanding how to use the report designer in order to create stylish and informative reports
    3. Presentation – understanding how to visualize reports in your particular environment

    Here is a smattering of topics we will cover in order to pay off the three main points outlined above:

    Report Banding
    Database Binding
    Object Binding
    Grouping, Sorting
    Filtering, Summarization
    Parameters, Calculated Fields
    XRBarCode
    XRCheckBox
    XRCrossBandBox
    XRCrossBandLine
    XRLabel
    XRLine
    XRPageBreak
    XRPageInfo
    XRPanel
    XRPictureBox
    XRShape
    XRTable
    XRChart
    XRSparkline
    XRPivotGrid
    XRPivotGrid
    XRRichText
    XRSubreport
    Styling by Inheritance
    Styling by Declaration
    Styling by Name
    Bookmarks
    Document Map
    Table of Contents
    Events
    Scripting
    Visualizing with WinForms
    Visualizing with ASP.NET WebForms
    Visualizing with ASP.NET MVC
    Visualizing with WPF
    Visualizing with Silverligh
    WinForms End User Report Designer
    WPF End User Report Designer
    Silverlight End User Report Designer

    Location/Time

    This class will be delivered directly in the DevExpress headquarters on October 7-9 2013. One of the benefits of doing it this way is the unprecedented access this gives you to ask any of our personnel any question you might have!

    A Caution

    Unfortunately seating is limited. Based on the demand I am happy to do this class as often as you require. IN addition to that I am currently developing ideas for additional classes in the space f Data Shaping, Analysis, and Presentation. Should you have any additional suggestions for classes, please do not hesitate to contact ur training Director Oliver Sturm. It is under his watchful eye that these courses are being prepared and administered.

    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

  • Building Data Rich Reports in a Snap (with Snap for WinForms)

    Building top notch reports is hard; but not because building reports is a difficult task. The fact of the matter is that report building is often fraught with a set of miniscule tasks spread over a large amount of time. “Can you change the font….?” “I’m not sure that is the appropriate shade of red.” “How hard can it be to make a new report?”

    With Snap for WinForms we can finally say “Sure! You do it.” We’ve recently even added two features that should make the process of offloading this task to your end users:

    1. Nested Fields
    2. Data Source Wizard

    Nested Fields

    One of the best UX design principles when it comes to managing data is the notion that we should only expose exactly what is necessary for the task at hand and allow the end user to drill in to more complex functionality as needed. This is especially true of the Field List. Often users are presented with something like this:

    Long Field List

    While not necessarily too cumbersome it is often useful to compartmentalize the data: in other words, create a hierarchy of fields such as this:

    Nested Fields

    It is important to note two things:

    1. The data is still flat (i.e. it isn’t a one-to-many relationship)
    2. This was accomplished by using a set of objects as the datasource

    The first thing I did was create two classes:

    public class Person
    {
        public string FirstName { get; set; }
        public string LastName { get; set; }
        public DateTime BirthDate { get; set; }
        public Contact Contact { get; set; }
    }
    
    public class Contact
    {
        public string Address { get; set; }
        public string City { get; set; }
        public string Region { get; set; }
        public string PostalCode { get; set; }
        public string Country { get; set; }
        public string Phone { get; set; }
    }

    Note that there is a Nested Field (Contact) which contains additional information.

    snapControl1.Document.DataSources.Add("Employees", Retrieve.Persons());

    Finally I add an array of Persons (Person[]) as a DataSource. Done!

    Data Source Wizard

    One of the best features of our dashboard designer was the introduction of the powerful data source wizard. We’ve taken this powerful wizard and added it into Snap reporting:

    Data Source Wizard

    This will activate the same DataSource wizard available in our dashboard software:

    Data Source Wizard Options

    Running through the wizard will the provide the appropriate fields and allow your users to get up and running quickly with little to no developer intervention.

    Snap Report

    Summary

    I would love your thoughts! We are making a strong push in our data analysis and presentation groups to simplify the interaction surface of our products in an effort to make it easier to produce more compelling data visualizations and reports. How are we doing?

    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

  • Enterprise Ready Reporting with the DevExpress Report Server

    Ever since our beta release of the DevExpress Report Server we have been busy adding important enterprise features to the product. One of those essential features is enterprise ready security. Starting with this release the DevExpress Report Server includes 4 unique built-in security groups associated with the report process:

    • System Administrator: Full access to all server functionality and user account administration.
    • Data Administrator: Ability to manage and control the data available to reports.
    • Report Creator: Maintain report categories and create/manage individual reports.
    • Report Viewer: Access to view and print reports and to receive report distributions.

    While these were available in our previous release, the level of customizability we have added was not. These built-in groups are completely customizable. You can delete them (with the exception of the System Administrator group), rename them, and even modify the access and scope available to members of the group. In addition to these customizable roles you can create an infinite number of groups with 4 different access modes (Read, Read/Modify, Read/Modify/Delete, and Create) in 9 separate scopes (All Categories, Specific Category, All Reports, Reports in Category, Specific Report, All Data Views, Specific Data View, All Scheduled Jobs, and Specific Scheduled Job).

    Groups

    Adding, removing, and editing groups can now be done via a special Group Tab.

    Report Server Groups

    Clicking on the pencil icon leads to a screen where group membership can be established:

    Report Server Group Membership

    Clicking on the gears icon brings up the permission set window:

    Report Server Group Permissions

    Notice that when adding permissions you can select both an Access Mode,

    Report Server Access Modes

    and restrict the Access Mode to a particular Scope:

    Report Server Access Scopes

    In all, these collection of features allow for an infinite number of combinations in order to tailor to your specific security needs.

    Individual

    Adding an individual to a group automatically adds all of the corresponding permissions to the users. In addition to this automatic application of rights, you can also add additional permissions to the individual user by clicking on the gear icon of the user:

    Report Server User Screen

    This leads to the familiar permissions area but for only the particular user in question:

    Report Server User Permissions

    Notice that in addition to the inherited permissions one can add additional ones by clicking “Add Permission".”

    FAQ’s and Pricing

    We are excited to finally release the DevExpress Report Server as a standalone product. We have a truly affordable price and clear licensing for the product.

    Try It!

    We would love for you to give it a spin! We have created an Azure based demo where you can try the server yourself: http://dxrs-demo.cloudapp.net/. There are a couple of things you need to do to try it:

    1. Create an account by clicking “New User”
    2. Install the Client Side Report Designer (you will receive an email with a download link)
    3. Activate your account.

    We really want this to be a product that you come to rely upon to deliver on your reporting needs. I want to personally know how you use the product, where it succeeds, and how we can make it better.

    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

  • Table of Contents Report Control (coming in 13.1)

    The DevExpress reporting suite has a tremendous bookmarking and document map feature which makes it extremely easy to quickly understand and navigate the data inside of a report. We have decided to take that same functionality to the next level by introducing a new table of contents control which leverages the the already powerful bookmarking set of features. Simply put, if your report already uses bookmarks then all you need to do is drop the new XRTableOfContents control on to your report, change the LevelTitle, and you have a ready made table of contents available to the consumers of your report:

    Table of Contents Control

    This control also leverages all of the existing styling as well as fine grained control over the granularity (or levels) available in the table of contents.

    Table of Contents Control in a Report

    This is an exciting addition to an already feature rich staple of controls available in the DevExpress Reporting toolset.

    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

  • Dashboard Printing and Exporting (coming in 13.1)

    One key feature many requested for our powerful dashboard tool was printing and exporting. Beginning with 13.1 you will be able to print both individual elements as well as the entire dashboard with little to no code.

    Printing/Exporting Individual Elements

    Dashboard Item Print (WinForms)

    This feature is available in both the Windows and Web versions.

    Dashboard Item Print (WebForms)

    Full Print Preview

    Printing an entire dashboard is also straight forward in WinForms:

    dashboardViewer.PrintingOptions.PageLayout = DashboardPrintingPageLayout.Landscape;
    dashboardViewer.PrintingOptions.ScaleMode = DashboardPrintingScaleMode.AutoFitToPageWidth;
    dashboardViewer.ShowRibbonPrintPreview();

    Notice that you have access to printing options as well as the option to use a Bar Preview or a Ribbon Preview form (in this example I use the latter).

    WinForms Print Preview

    This print preview uses our award winning XtraReports preview form which enables a large array of features including exporting, sizing, etc..

    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

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