ActiveReports for .NET Standard Edition
Data Dynamics, Ltd.
Recently I got involved in a project where I needed to generate a bunch
of reports from ASP.NET and make them available in PDF format. After
talking to a few people, reading some recommendations, and trying a few
of the contenders, we settled on ActiveReports for .NET for the project.
This has proven to be a very good choice, and I thought I'd share some
of the details with you.
First, I ought to make it clear that ActiveReports is more than an
ASP.NET product; it works as well (or better) in Windows Forms
solutions. But I've been using it excusively in ASP.NET so far.
Designing a report is easy, and very well integrated with Visual Studio
.NET: create the new report object, specify the SQL statement that
supplies its data, and start dragging and dropping controls. The report
designer itself will feel perfectly familiar to anyone who's coming from
a Microsoft Access background; there's a field list, and properties for
everything, and a banded scheme that lets you group the data (in fact,
you can even import Access reports to the product if you're converting
an existing Access database).
Reports can be bound to SqlClient or OleDb data sources (though I was
disappointed not to be able to drag and drop a stored procedure from
Server Explorer to avoid the step of pasting in SQL statements), or to
XML. One critical feature for us is the ability to change the data at
runtime; this is easy too, since all of the necessary binding and
formatting events are exposed. A few lines of code and you can set
whatever data source you like.
You can export reports to HTML, TIF, Excel, RTF, or text files, as well
as the PDFs that we needed. I initially had a problem getting the PDF
reports to show in the browser without saving them to disk first, but
the Data Dynamics support Web site quickly produced the few lines of
code needed to convince IE that a stream was a valid PDF document. With
that minor bit of programming, the functionality works perfectly, and we
get to leverage users' familiarity with using and saving PDF in the
The price is right, too. The $499 per developer standard edition lets
you distribute all the reports you like, royalty-free. There's also a
$1299 professional edition that adds a report designer for end users and
report caching features for ASP.NET applications. If you've got the
requirement to generate high-quality reports in a .NET application, this
is definitely software worth checking out.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.