ActiveReports Server has always had a web designer for business users. We created the web designer to enable end users to build reports from scratch or modify existing reports using nothing more than a browser. We presumed that these end users knew little to nothing about databases and query languages.
Over the years we have received feedback about the web designer. A common request is to add support for ActiveReports RDL reports to the web designer. We listened. We redesigned the design-time experience to bring the feature-richness and flexibility of the ActiveReports Developer designer to the web. At the same time, we kept the interface easy for non-technical end users and power users alike.
This new designer will be available to our ActiveReports 11 Server customers with the Server Report Designer Add-On in a few weeks, but I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share a sneak peek at what is coming.
Let’s start with the design surface. The new design surface keeps the feel of a blank page where users can drop report items and data. There is more real estate available for design than the predecessor. Plus, we’ve moved the properties over to the right instead of using adorners on the report items. This gives the user a better feel for how the whole report will look.
The menu up top follows the new light-weight ribbon standards to optimize it for mobile devices and to provide more static space for the stuff that matters: the design surface.
The toolbox on the left provides a variety of report items and explorer panels that report authors are accustomed to using with ActiveReports. You can expand the toolbox with the burger menu to see the text, or collapse it to save space and see the icons only. Either way, the power is just a click or a drag-and-drop away from your report design surface.
Once you have the items that you need on the report page, you can add data and customize the look and feel. The Properties shelf on the right gives you two views:
- The quick access view shows the most common set of properties by default.
- Show More takes you to the advanced view with all the flexibility and control that a power user craves.
With that, you are well on your way to designing reports with nothing more than a browser. Which brings me to some of the techy stuff.
Like I said before, we’ve completely redesigned the web designer for simplicity and a light footprint. The technology stack is HTML5 with JS. This means that we have a rich client running on the browser without a lot of server postbacks.
Not only do you use less bandwidth while designing your reports, you also get built-in auto save. If your browser crashes, there’s nothing to fear. Next time you open the designer, it will ask you whether you want to start where you left off or to start afresh.
We have started with a subset of all the data regions and visualizers that are available in ActiveReports Developer editions. Some tools like Maps, Banded Lists, Calendars, and Barcodes have limited design-time support in the new designer at the moment. You can still preview the reports which have these items and modify some basic properties, but for now you will have to wait to fully modify them on the web.
We will add support for them in future releases based on customer-solicited priorities. So if you want a specific report item that you always use, write to me and we can potentially rearrange our road map to include it sooner.
Well, it is a busy time here for the GrapeCity ActiveReports team with the release of this and other new features in the next service pack. I will write more about the new design-time experience over the next few days. Look out for more right here.