List & Label 13
Attain New Heights in .NET Reporting
By Anand Narayanaswamy
Reporting is one of the essential parts in the software and Web development lifecycle. Imagine you are building a Web-based application for a big retail chain. End users should not only be able to view the reports online in different formats, but they also should be able to print them. For this purpose, there is a demand for a powerful product that can perform all these tasks quickly. When I reviewed combit s List & Label 12, it had a limited set of features. With the passage of time, the vendor has listened to the demands of their customers and released a brand new edition of the product.
As usual, a trial edition is available for download from the vendor s Web site (http://www.combit.net/en/page1127.aspx). However, to take advantage of all the features, you must purchase their full version, which comes with a CD and a handy reference guide. I installed the product without any problems on a machine with Windows XP SP2.
A core feature of List & Label 13 is that it includes a completely new rendering engine for charts, as well as support for LINQ. The designer can be activated with a single line of code, and the property dialog for charts has been rebuilt from scratch. A notable feature of the product is that you can simultaneously print reports while previewing results (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Printing reports while previewing.
Moreover, you also can preview reports in slideshow mode, similar to PowerPoint presentations. The product enables you to design reports with multiple column tables; for this purpose you can set the column type directly from the designer (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Designing reports with multiple column tables.
I feel this feature will help you to build great-looking reports with space-saving layouts. A notable feature of List & Label 13 is its ability to export reports in a variety of formats, such as Unicode, XML paper specification (XPS), Pictures, and as ZIP archives, which I hope will save valuable space while exporting a large report from the Web. Be forewarned, though, that the XPS format will work only under .NET Framework 3.0 and higher.
This new edition also enables you to create various kinds of charts in different formats. For instance, a pie chart can be viewed in an exploded view (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Exploded view of pie chart in action.
combit also has enhanced the look and feel of bar charts. You also can create cone diagrams, octahedron diagrams, and horizontal bar charts. In addition, combit has introduced in List & Label 13 two new barcodes, ISBN and QR code for 2D. The generated barcodes can be read by the latest mobile phones, which, from my point of view, will surely enhance the quality of reporting. The Enterprise Edition of the product also includes an advanced formula editor, which is a big bonus for developers. Furthermore, the product is compatible with all major databases and programming languages, including the recently released ASP.NET 3.5.
combit has posted a complete list of all the features, along with relevant PDF files, at http://www.combit.net/en/reporting_tool/page1123.aspx. Moreover, you can download from http://www.combit.net/en/page1425.aspx video presentations anchored by the List & Label project manager. Besides the Enterprise Edition, the product is available in Standard and Professional versions (which offer fewer features).
You can access all the sample demos, documentation, various tools, and related links, from the Start Center, which is located on the Start menu. This should help developers find any and all information at a glance, in a user-friendly way. However, to reduce the learning curve for beginners it would be better if combit provided a step-by-step guide to developing a simple reporting application.
I found that the product contains samples meant for versions prior to Visual Studio 2005. I feel this will not be useful for those developers who use Visual Studio 2005 and 2008. Moreover, the user interfaces of some of the sample demos are provided in German. It would be better if the samples are provided in both English and German.
combit provides excellent support through e-mail. Although the vendor hosts public newsgroups at http://www.combit.net/en/page1075.aspx, I would suggest they launch a user-friendly discussion forum on the site so customers can interact more easily with the product teams.
Even though the product mainly targets advanced developers, beginners also can benefit by learning how to use it at a slow pace with the help of the available resources. I m sure .NET reporting will achieve new heights if List & Label 13 is put to use in an efficient manner.
Anand Narayanaswamy, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), works as an independent consultant based in Trivandrum, India. Anand also works as chief technical editor for http://ASPAlliance.com. He is the author of Community Server Quickly published by Packt Publishing (http://www.packtpub.com/community-server/book). He runs http://Learnxpress.com, http://Dotnetalbum.com, http://Csharpfaq.com, http://www.computerbookreviews.org, and http://www.devreviews.com. Find out more about Anand at http://www.visualanand.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.combit.net/en/