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Best Practices for Planning Report Design
Select Elements and Queries
First, examine what data needs to be presented and decide which report elements will best capture the information. Make sure that the existing queries will provide the data in a usable form, subject to the modifications available during data binding.
In some situations, queries are required for a particular report, but will not be used in other reports. These queries should be created as local queries, which are embedded and saved within the report (.srt) file, as opposed to global queries which are stored in the global registry. This avoids unnecessary clutter within the query registry. See Using a Local Query in Advanced Topics for more information.
Determine Appropriate Layout
Next, determine the best layout. The Flow Report Layout is ideal for newsletters and similar reports where specific areas on the page must be delineated. A flow report without page areas is identical to a Tabular Report Layout with only one cell, but the tabular layout type has many advantages. For example, two grid cells forming two columns enable side-by-side tables or table and chart combination.
For small reports in particular, the tabular layout provides great control over the placement of elements. When there are many fixed-size elements, such as charts and text, you can designate the element location precisely. With dynamically-sized elements, the grid cells grow to accommodate the contents, so the element placement remains the same relative to the contents of other grid cells.
Set your preferences before creating your report. Select 'Preferences' from the Style Studio 'Report' menu to open the 'Preferences' dialog box. This allows you to specify defaults for font, textbox and separator styles, margins, section properties, etc. (See the following sections for more information: Using Grids and Rulers, Setting Global Section Options, Tab.)
To set other report-wide settings, select 'Report Properties' from the Style Studio 'File' menu to open the 'Report Properties' dialog box.
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Tables vs. Sections
Tables and Sections can both present tabular data, but there are major differences in the corresponding presentation options:
- Table elements always use a tabular grid to display data. Sections allow completely free data positioning.
- Tables can be assigned a predefined or custom table style that globally defines aesthetic attributes such as colors, fonts, and borders. Sections do not offer global style specification.
- The Table element can automatically size itself to the data that it contains. A Section presents data within individual Text elements. Because the elements do not automatically resize to fit the data, some contents may be truncated
Planning a Group of Reports
Style Intelligence provides a number of features to improve reusability. Most reports are not completely unique, but are created among a set of related reports. These reports may share just a few elements, an entire layout, or may be entirely identical except for the data bound to the elements. Try to decide, in advance, how much overlap there will be among the reports. Then follow an appropriate strategy for reusability:
- If the reports share a common layout and some elements (such as headers, footers, or a title page) use a meta-template to serve as a basis for the reports. See Meta-Templates for further details.
- If the reports will share just a few common elements, such as a header, (while the layout may vary) create report beans to capture the common features. See Report Bean for further details.
- If the reports are identical except for the data source bound to the elements, you do not need to create multiple template files. Instead, create a single template file and bind the data dynamically using script.
Text and Textbox elements are both commonly used to add text to a report. The Textbox element differs from the Text element in that it can have borders and be anchored to a particular position. However, if you do not need these features of Textbox, it more efficient to use the Text element. This also applies to data displayed inside a Section. (See Setting Section Options for information on selecting Text or Textbox representation for data in a Section.)
It is generally more efficient to specify sorting at the query level, rather than at the data-binding level. See Create a New Query in Advanced Topics for more information.
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