List & Label 14
Create Compelling, Dynamic, and Fast Reporting Applications
By Anand Narayanaswamy
The developers at Combit have been working continuously to add new improvements and features to their award-winning brand List & Label (www.combit.net/en/reporting-tool/report-generator-List-Label). Even though the product supports a wide range of programming languages, such as Java and Python, it also can be used with .NET applications, which enables a developer to integrate into their applications powerful reporting capabilities with rich features. I reviewed a previous version of List & Label (www.aspnetpro.com/productreviews/2008/05/asp200805ll_p/asp200805ll_p.asp), but took keen interest when I noticed Combit has added many new features to the latest build (List & Label 14).
I tested the Enterprise Edition of the product; the installation process was completed successfully within a few minutes. The installation process, however, prompted me to close Visual Studio even though I had not started it. I managed to install the product after pressing the Retry button. I hope Combit will look into this issue during the development of the next version. The product also installs a set of sample applications for a wide range of programming languages, including Delphi.NET, which can be accessed from the Start menu.
A key feature of the product is the implementation of real data preview. This feature enables you to perform preview-related tasks, including printing and exporting of data directly from the designer (see Figure 1). I feel this feature will save costly development time, as you will not have to run the project and leave the designer.
Figure 1: Real data preview.
You now can view reports in different layouts with support for a wide range of paper formats. This feature also enables you to print each page from different printers. For example, if the report has three pages, the first two pages can be sent to the accounting department and the final sheet can be delivered to the cashier s desk. Combit also has added new functionalities to the chart object, which enables you to define real rows and display them along with a line diagram with the help of a single record.
Another interesting feature is the automatic generation of an index in tree format during runtime, which I hope will be useful for advanced projects that have vast database records (see Figure 2). This feature enables end-users to navigate to the relevant record very easily, but it will be useful only if the database is huge.
Figure 2: Easily locate the records with an index
Moreover, the handling of pictures has been improved to provide fast rendering, and also comes with an image-smoothing mechanism that provides a pleasing visual effect to end users. Combit also has made improvements to the DOM viewer, and renovated the formula assistant tool with added features (see Figure 3). The designer now ships with ruler guides that show the path as you travel within the designer.
Figure 3: The formula filter revisited
List & Label 14 comes with comprehensive documentation, which includes a detailed reference manual, in PDF format, covering various aspects of the designer. It would be helpful if the documentation files are combined into a single help file for easy reference.
The product team also has released interactive videos that demonstrate the key features of the product; these interactive videos are available for download from www.combit.net/en/page1425.aspx. At the time of this writing I was able to view only one video for the latest release, but I hope Combit will produce more videos as time progresses. I would suggest the vendor integrate the video on the site itself, so that users can directly view them by clicking the Play button.
As with the previous edition, List & Label 14 can be integrated easily into either a Visual Basic or C# application with only a few lines of code; the documentation clearly examines the complete procedure with the help of relevant screenshots.
From my point of view, there is a certain amount of learning curve associated with the product. Developers, especially beginners, should (with the help of the included documentation) spend some time learning the features included with the product.
Combit responds to all support queries within a reasonable amount of time. I would suggest they start a discussion board so developers and product team members can interact with each other to sort out the problems.
Combit has developed the product for advanced programmers who wish to create compelling, dynamic, and fast reporting applications by utilizing the above mentioned functionalities, complemented by other native features.
Web Site: www.combit.net/en
Price: Starts at US$792
Anand Narayanaswamy, a Microsoft MVP, works as an independent consultant based in Trivandrum, India.