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Software Review: DXperience, Part IV — DXperience XtraReports, XtraCharts, and XtraPrinting from DevExpress

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This is the fourth in a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the DevExpress DXperience Universal Edition. This is the most complete of the subscription packages available from DevExpress. The other packages include Enterprise, WinForms, and ASP.NET. For a matrix of what each package contains, check out their edition page. In this review I will examine what is available for working with Reporting, Charting, and Printing.

While parts or all of these three suites can come with other subscriptions, each of these are available as standalone products. They provide a central hub for creating output for your data. The output can be in the form of reports, charts, and data that can be sent to HTML pages, PDF files, Rich Text Files, as well as to printers, as well as other formats.

DXperienceXtraReports Suite
Reporting is not the most glamorous phase of application generation, but it still is one of the things that must be done. What makes it worse is that many systems have a desktop application that is separate from a Web-based application. You don't want to create two separate systems of the same report.

With XtraReports, you won't have to. With full Visual Studio.Net integration, you can build one report that can be used for either Windows Forms Application or ASP.NET.

Xtrareports uses the same code editor, the same Property Grid, the same component Toolbox, the same alignment toolbar, and ALL available Visual Studio IDE resources.
XtraReports only needs standard code files, which makes deployment a breeze for you and your team.

What do you get with DXperience XtraReports Suite?
• Full Visual Studio Integration gives you the leverage of working in the environment that you already know. If you know the VS IDE, then you know how to work in the XtraReports Designer. You get special interfaces elements, but they, too, work like the ones that you already know. When you create a report, the code behind is created so there is no additional external files to store your report definitions. And finally, you connect to your report in the same way you connect to your data in any other Windows Form's application.

• Report Creation Wizard is available so that can walk you through the creation of a report. It is configurable and allows you to specify your data source, group specific fields, create summaries, and more. This makes it easy to create basic reports that you can use immediately or set up the framework for a more complex report.

• Built-in preview form comes with XtraReports that allows you to give your users the ability to navigate and scale reports, customize page settings, and print or export reports to PDF, HTML, RTF, or other formats. What's more, this preview is available for both Windows Forms applications as well as ASP.NET Web applications.

• Create reports dynamically give you the ability to create your entire report from code. That is, you do not have to use the designer. This means that you have the ability to extend existing reports either by inheriting from them in code or visually, giving you the ability to choose what will be most productive for you.

• Integrated report explorer tool lets you quickly navigate a report in the designer. You can quickly access all of the elements of a report as well as their properties to see the structure of the report.

• Sub-reports can be used to create very complex reports by building smaller reports as the building blocks and merge them in to one larger report. This gives you the ability to take reports that need different data sources and put them together as one.

• Report merging gives you the ability to use pages from different reports to create a single combined report. There are no limits on how many different reports, page order, or page orientation. This can be a real time saver if you have the need to put together large corporate reports from a lot of individual existing reports.

• Drill down and roll-up reports for reports that use data grouping so you can handle a specially designed Print Preview event to allow end-users to collapse or expand groups. This makes it much easier to locate the desired data when previewing lengthy reports.

• End-user report designer also comes with XtraReports that can freely be distributed to your end-users so that they can manually create, print, and export reports as needed. You even create a custom end-user designer using some of the other controls and components from the DevExpress DXperience.

DXperienceXtraCharts Suite
Like all of the items in this review, XtraCharts Suite is designed for both WinForms and ASP.NET. In this suite you get a comprehensive set of 2D and 3D charts to address a broad range of business needs. In fact, it ships with 28 unique 2D, and 15 3D views ranging from bar and pie charts to financial series.

Regardless of the data source or how the information is stored on disk, this suite gives you much flexibility in its consumption of input data as well as ability to render information on-screen or to the printed page. By addressing tasks such as multiple palettes to automatically color your series the XtraCharts Suite allows you to build charting into your application quickly.

What do you get with DXperience XtraCharts Suite?

• 3D OpenGL Charting takes the industry standard for high-performance graphics and applies it to the XtraCharts 3D rendering engine. OpenGL has proven stability over time and will allow you to generate applications with life-like pictures with real light sources, shadows and flares. There are 15 chart styles including bar charts, area charts, pie charts, and spline charts all with many end-user abilities like scrolling and zooming.

• 2D Charting comes with 28 charts that allow you to transform data to its most concise and readable visual representation. You can put multiple, and different, series in one diagram, you can scroll and zoom within your charts, and create multiple pane charts

• Data Analysis features give you the ability to not only chart an X and Y axis, but as many X and Y axes as you need so you can visually compare trends of multiple series within a single diagram even if the series values vary greatly. You have at your disposal normal scales, logarithmic scales, group summary calculations, as well as the ability to display the top N values. You can even create financial charts like candle stick and stock charts as well.

• Smart Labels and chart titles allow you to display a label for each data point such that they can display the point’s value, argument, the value and the argument, as well as the series name. You can also have an unlimited number of titles within a single chart giving you a lot of customization potential.

• Design time customization gives you control over nearly any chart element on-screen and immediately access its settings via the properties window. There is also a chart wizard that helps you customize the main elements of a given chart.

• Flexible Data binding in both bound and unbound mode provides the ability to bind to an external data source as well as providing free-form data to your charts on the fly. You can even filter the underlying data by setting up a series template and specify the filter field. The data source will automatically be broken down into subsets corresponding to unique values in the specified field.

DXperienceXtraPrinting Library
Along with printing, the XtraPrinting library supports exporting to PDF, HTML (plus MHT), TXT (plus CSV), XLS, RTF, and Image (BMP, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, EMF) formats. XtraPrinting Library is a 100% C# data rendering and visualization system that is designed to bring your user interface to the printed page.

Not only can you print reports, if you have some of the other controls you can also print the contents of advanced controls like the XtraGrid and XtraScheduler with ease. No longer will you have to pull your hair out when a user requests a new report that was not in the original spec. By combining the XtraPrinting Library with the XtraGrid and/or XtraScheduler controls, your end-users can arrange data in any manner they see fit, and then print the contents of the control exactly as it appears on-screen.

What do you get with DXperience XtraPrinting Library?
• Export report to various formats
• Export and send via e-mail
• Set report parameters via the Page Setup dialog window
• Print reports with or without a preview
• Modify report characteristics while in preview mode
• Display a fixed number of report pages on screen regardless of window size
• Fill pages with the color specified in the Color Selection dialog
• Display a fixed number of report pages on screen regardless of window size

The bottom line is that DXperience XtraReports, XtraCharts, and XtraPrinting will round off any application. Whether it is Web or Desktop, you will have all of the output features that you need. What's more, they are very easy to use.

Standalone, the Report Suite is available for $499.99 with source, or $349.99 without. The Chart Suite is $299.99 with source or $249.99 without. The Printing Library is $199.99 with source or $149.99 without.

Of course they all come as part of Enterprise Subscription with source for $1299.99,or Universal Subscription with source for $1999.99. If you want, you can also download a demo and try it for yourself.

DXperienceIf you are tired of trying to produce a professional product with printing, reporting, and/or charting, if you want spend less time doing the mundane tasks and more time focusing in on the parts of your applications that really matter — your business logic — then you need to check out DevExpress DXperience Universal Edition or DXperience XtraReports, XtraCharts, and XtraPrinting.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Gavin

    XtraReports is an excellent tool; I’ve used it for several web and winforms projects. The only thing that it — along with many of its competitors — doesn’t have is a report server. You’re expected to build it yourself.

    After hunting, I found a report server that will handle reports created with any report designer for .NET, including XtraReports. Check out versareports.com for their product, Universal Report Server.