[reportlab-users] Re: Visual Editor

Henning von Bargen H.vonBargen at t-p.com
Fri Nov 25 03:32:20 EST 2005

A visual editor would be a GREAT thing to have.

Who on this list has experience with commercial
report designer tools?

For me, I am an expert for Oracle Reports.
On the other hand, I don't know Crystal Reports.

Several months or years ago, I already sent some
thoughts about a designer tool to this list.

For me, it is most critical to first decide what
such a designer tool should be able to do,
and much programming know-how one could expect
from the going-to-be users of the tool (the designers).

Take, for example, Oracle Reports:
You can do fantastic things with it.
Yet it is -more or less- easy to create simple reports
for thos with limited know-how.
We are using it for our commercial application.

The ONE thing that our customers always complain about
is that you can not easily change the output that was
generated with it.
For example, if you don't like the page breaks,
you can not rearrange some objects to another page or
add a page break at a particular point.

The basic problem, here, is that the output is already
low-level: It is a list of graphics objects with given
fixed position (page, xpos, ypos).

Whatever ideas there are for implementing such a
designer tool, it should...

1 be focused on generating DYNAMIC reports, i.e the data
  is read at run-time (usually from a data base).
  There's already enough excellent tools for visually
  designing static PDFs, i.e. Open Office and (soon) MS Office.

2 use an "intermediate" step to create something similar to
  the "story" used in ReportLab (maybe a list of python objects,
  as in ReportLab, or even an XML representation of the story like RML.

3 enable the user to VISUALLY edit this intermediate story, i.e.
  adding hard page breaks, inserting or deleting objects.

4 ideally, be able to create different output formats, like RTF or PDF.
  ReportLab is first choice for creating PDF. Generating RTF could be
  done very similar to that (only that the Platypus library uses a
  different low-level drawing implementation).

I know it's a lot of goals and they are hard to achieve.
On the other hand there are enough tools available which satisfy
the first and last, but not the 2nd and 3rd.

And now to something completely different:
>From a DEVELOPER's point of view, it would help a lot if one had
something like the JSP editor in most Java IDEs, where you can
switch between the source-code and a visual design editor, and you can
change properties either in the visual editor or in the source code;
the changes are then reflected automatically in both views.

I.E., for a paragraph, you could change font size etc in the visual editor.

For Java IDEs, this approach works reasonable even for very dynamic "pages".



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