Why NetAdvantage Reporting instead of ______? (part one)

Brent Schooley / Thursday, March 01, 2012

NetAdvantage Reporting

A question I get asked frequently is "Why should I choose NetAdvantage Reporting for my reporting needs instead of __________?"  It's a fair question to ask for a recently introduced product that is entering into a very mature market.  Traditionally a question like this one ends up devolving into a battle of checklists where the winner is determined by who fills the most squares with angular markings.  I don't want to get into that here because I just don't find much value in that sort of comparison.  It will be much more valuable to introduce you to the strengths of the product and let those stand on their own.  I’m going to touch on a three strengths in this post and follow-up with more in future posts.

First class user experience

When you create your first report using NetAdvantage Reporting, you will feel in control and the reporting designer will help you get started.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, we spent a lot of time on the guided learning aspects of the report design process.  This attention to detail in the design of the early part of the process is something that carries through to all other areas of the product.  When you are designing the report, we have made sure to eliminate as much of the “chrome” that usually adorns report design elements.  Sections of the report are clearly indicated off to the side so that the labels are not in your way. We want the report designer to accurately reflect the design you are trying to achieve and having unnecessary user interface elements in your way is contrary to that goal.  Creating text fields and tables from your data is as easy as dragging and dropping it onto the designer.  Images can be rendered from files in the project or from URLs.  Clear indicators will let you know when your controls are outside of the margins.  We have tried our best to make this the most intuitive report design experience ever.

Excellent documentation

Sometimes a great design just isn’t enough.  Thankfully, the documentation for the reporting product is some of the best in the business – not just for reporting but for a software product in general.  A lot of care has been taken to provide material that will help everyone from novices to experts accomplish their tasks.  There’s a “Getting Started” section that provides a baseline amount of knowledge about the way reporting solutions work and how data sources work.  This is followed by “NetAdvantage Reporting Environment” which goes over all aspects of the reporting tool in great detail.  Everything from the designer to the viewer is covered in this section.  Then there is the fantastic “How to” section that describes how to accomplish tasks such as designing reports, setting up data sources, set up parameters, and much much more.  The “Walkthroughs” section has set-by-step guides for how to create a wide range of reports.  There’s a walkthrough for a simple tabular report.  This might be all that is needed for the most basic of reports but we have some advanced walkthroughs too including one that shows you how to use RIA services in Silverlight and use client-side rendering to produce the report.  Tack on an API Reference Guide and you have what should be regarded as the hallmark of good documentation.

Client-side rendering

Almost every reporting tool on the market renders their reports on a server and then delivers the rendered report to the report viewer.  Our reporting tools will allow for reports to be created this way.  This is great for situations when the data for the report cannot be accessed by the client application.  The downsides to this approach are CPU loading on the server and the inability to directly use client-side data in the report.  Thankfully, we offer a client-side reporting option that enables this scenario.  Client-side reporting allows the data for the report to originate from things like RIA Services, OData, REST, or any http-based web service that can be accessed from the client.  It also enables scenarios where the authentication for access to the data requires the client’s credentials.  One other non-obvious situation client-side reporting enables in the case where the server application is not written in .NET.  As long as there is an API that the client can access to retrieve data, client-side rendering will enable a report to be created leveraging this data.

So much more…

There are many more reasons why you will want to use NetAdvantage Reporting and I will provide you with more next time.  In the meantime, follow me on Twitter (@brentschooley) or comment on this article if you have any questions.