Monday, 6 September 2010

Open Letter to Digital Metaphors


I am currently rewriting our standard Crystal Reports (over 250) in ReportBuilder, so that we can standardise on one report writer. I have been so impressed by ReportBuilder during this development process that I felt compelled to write to Digital Metaphors and let them know.



I just wanted to drop you a line to say how continually impressed I am with ReportBuilder. We have been a customer since RB version 4, when we chose it as the report writer that we wanted to embed in our software for end users. This decision came some time after we had already started the software, and so the standard reports we provide are written with Crystal Reports.

I am currently undergoing a 2 month project to eliminate Crystal Reports from our system, which involves rewriting over 250 reports in ReportBuilder. I am about 85% of the way through this project now, and I can only say it has actually been a pleasure, rather than the chore I was expecting it to be. There hasn't been one thing that I haven't been able to reproduce in ReportBuilder, and in the majority of cases, the RB method of doing something is far better.

Of particular importance to us have been RAP, the SQLBuilder class and Autosearch Parameters. The aim has been to totally design these reports so that they are self-sufficient, i.e. there is no Delphi form or code behind them as individual reports. These 3 features have enabled this transition, and I believe that, thanks to your product, we now have superior reports.

We also have the need to modify the query of every report when it runs, in order to add security so that the users only see the subset of data they're allowed to see. This is made so easy by the TdaSQLBuilder class.

With the email and PDF export built-in, we will also be able to achieve one area of functionality we have long strived for: automated, or scheduled, reports. I will now be able to allow users to select a report, set a time for it to run on a regular basis, and ask them to supply any parameters in advance. It can then be printed or emailed overnight, or as required.

Not to mention how powerful the RB Server edition has been; we have been able to offer user-defined web-based reports for our intranet software which has been one of our most successful features to date.

As a software developer, I know that praise is hard to come by and it can be dejecting to just see a long list of problems, such as if you look at the newsgroups. This is why I felt compelled to write and let you know that we regard ReportBuilder as our most valuable third-party add-on for Delphi.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post, I'm using RBuilder for years now and there has never been a problem that I couldn't solve with it. Also, they have great support :)

Jason Sweby said...

Yes that is a good point that I have omitted to mention, their support via the newsgroups or email is excellent, well said.

Anonymous said...

I've been using RB for years and the product quality is superb, I totally agree of what’s been said.

Anonymous said...

I still think that FastReport is the best one out there.

Anonymous said...

RB is a great product, but since version 7, its evolution is minimal. New versions usually adds only cosmetic changes, and price are very high (even for upgrades). Major enhancements, like making a better (and more configurable) crosstab component are totally ignored by DM. If I would start developing a new application today, I would take a closer look to FastReport.

Jason Sweby said...

I am not saying that it is the best product available, because I am not interested in a product comparison as I haven't used the alternatives.

However, I would disagree with the comment about evolution of the product. If you'd said there was no real enhancement between v11 and v12, I might have agreed with you, but between v7 and v12? It's almost a different tool, some of the features and improvements have taken it from being a pretty good third-party tool to a professional report designer.

And I wanted to highlight the point that RB isn't just about what you can do in the report designer itself. For me, this is only half of the product.

The other half is about the code and how fantastically well written it is. In my opinion, RB is the best use of OO code I've ever seen, and everything you can do in the designer can be done in code. Not only within Delphi, but within the report's RAP (designer code editor) itself, making reports massively flexible both at design time and run-time.

FastReports has a good reputation and I can only presume it deserves it, as CodeGear wouldn't have bundled it with Delphi otherwise. And of course, this has opened it up to a huge audience that Digital Metaphors don't have. I'm sure it's as good, maybe better, but the point of my post wasn't to declare it the best product available, just to declare how important it is to us.

Anonymous said...

Actually FastReport (http://www.fast-report.com/) is a different tool than QuickReport (http://www.qusoft.com/) or Rave Report (http://www.nevrona.com/) that were bundled with Delphi.

I'm using FastReport and I can just say that is the best reporter that I use so far.

Anyway, even that I'm a licenced user of FastReport, I wish Embarcadero to replace Rave with FastReport ... but at least in XE it didn't happened :(

Jason Sweby said...

My apologies, you are right, it is Rave Reports that is bundled with Delphi.

Fabricio said...

Actually on XE2 both RAVE and FastReports are bundled on Delphi.