For any report, we hope it can be timely, accurate, and relevant. Report generation is a necessary process to complete these three targets, and the quality of the generation program directly determines whether we can reach the three goals. Then, report generation is not easy in either excel or python. This article will walk you through everything you need to know on report generation, including their definition, features, and software list. Let’s start!

1. What is Report Generation?

Reports generation is the process of using a tool for creating reports primarily for business users. To generate a report, you need to create a report definition, including what data to retrieve, where to get it, and how to display it.

You may also find that people more often refer to automatic report generation or sometimes refer to semi-report generation. What do they mean? I will talk about the difference later.

Excel has been playing a role in generating reports for a long time. However, many people have complained about how cumbersome and painful it is to use Excel to produce reports, especially when you repeatedly make regular reports such as daily, weekly, and monthly reports.

Once your boss asks you for a report by tomorrow, you have to collect data from different departments and stay up late to combine these data to generate new Excel reports. What do you do most in this job?

Copy and paste! Sounds frustrating, doesn’t it?

Luckily, with the report generator, you will be liberated from repetitive work and overwork.

2. What is the Report Generator?

Reports generation is the process of using a tool for creating reports primarily for business users. The professional software for this process is called a report generator. The report generation software is more professional and convenient in the process of generating reports than in Excel, from data entry to data display. For example, when you extract data from databases, you don’t need to write as much code as you would in an SQL database. Even non-technical users can retrieve data with a few clicks.

Besides, formulas such as YoY or MoM are built into the software, so you don’t need to enter formulas manually as you do in Excel.

3. The Features of the Report Generator

As mentioned above, the report generator is more user-friendly in every step of report generation. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the report generator’s features. Here, I use FineReport as an example, through which we have improved our work efficiency by 100%.

the product architecture of the software
Product architecture

Feature 1: Support extracting data from multiple data sources

Users can extract data from various data sources and combine them via report generators.

Feature 2: Works with real-time work

After setting up the templates and frequency of the daily, monthly, quarterly, annual report, the reports can be generated automatically and be sent to the set email address.

Feature 3: Support reusing templates

After completing a report template, other users can reuse it to generate reports. Dozens of stunning built-in templates cover various scenarios and industries.

Feature 4: Support reports exporting and printing

Users can export or print reports to Excel, PDF, CSV, or images.

Feature 5: Support view reports on the web or on mobile applications

The modern report generator enables users to check the reports on the mobile anytime and anywhere.

4. Report Generation Process with Report Generators

So, how does reports generators simplify the reports generation process?

When you use the report generators, you can choose two types of report generation process. One is the full-automatic generation, and the other is the semi-automatic generation.

4.1 Full-automatic Generation– Based on the template 

Take the most frequently used financial statistics as an example, including MoM, YoY Ranking. When you use report generators such as FineReport, templates of financial statics have been built inside, from indicators to the formulas, from titles to the formats. With the full-automatic generation, you only need to connect to your database and drag it to the corresponding cell.  

Use FineReport to generate YoY report

4.2 Semi-automatic Generation– Use Professional Functions to Generate Each Module Automatically

Compared with full-automatic report generation, semi-automatic report generation is more common and can better meet users’ personalized needs.

Generally speaking, a complete report designing process can be divided into the following three steps:

  1. Connect to databases: includes opening designers > configuring data sources > creating new reports > and configuring private data sources.
  2. Design the reports: includes creating new reports> defining data sources> binding data columns> summarizing> and formatting reports.
  3. Publish and browse reports: includes previewing reports, saving reports, publishing reports.

5. Popular Report Generators (Report Generation Software)

From the perspective of programming language, there are two types of report generators: Java-based and non-Jave-based.

With the increasing use of the B/S structure, there is a growing demand for 100% java reporting tools. From the perspective of the interface, there are Excel-like generators and canvas-like generators. Some software combines these two interface modes.

The following are the three most used report generators in the enterprise.

5.1 FineReport

Professional Report Generator – FineReport

FineReport is java-based reporting software with an Excel-like interface that supports Windows, Mac, and Linux. It serves as enterprise reporting software.

FineReport provides three reporting types: general report, aggregation report, and dashboards. The aggregation reports can deal with complex and irregular reports quickly because each aggregation block is independent. And the charts provided by FineReport are stunning.

Besides, the data entry function as well as makes FineReport distinct. It makes it easy for end-users to input massive data via forms.

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5.2 Crystal Report

report generation tool
Crystal Report

Crystal Report is a popular windows-based report writing application that allows a developer to create reports. The application will enable you to connect to various data sources to obtain data, such as SQL Server or Oracle, as an example. 

To compare the difference and similarities of Crystal reports with FineReport, you can read this article(Report Generator: Liberate You From Repetitive Report Generation) for more information.

Once you have connectivity to your data source, you design your reports by adding the fields from the database displayed from your data source and adding them to the report. 

Its three-pass system allows it to manage a hierarchy of calculations more efficiently, processing raw calculations (this field plus that field) first and aggregates later.

However, incorporating reports to web pages sometimes crashes, and it does not offer any free trial plan.

4.3 Sql Server Reporting Service( SSRS)

report generation software

SSRS is a part of a suite of SQL server services. It offers a ‘Report Builder ‘tool for less technical users to format SQL reports of lesser complexity. In general, its reporting perspective is data reporting with simple charting. The canvas-based interface is very user-friendly for developers. You can develop small to large scaling reports via adding reporting objects (tables, charts, text, images) to a blank canvas.

It comes out on top in advanced exporting and printing features such as footers, headers, watermarks, and page numbers.

However, the interactivity and data exploration may be limited since it lacks modern interactive chart visualizations. Besides, SSRS costs $1,859 per core for Standard or $7,128 per core for Enterprise edition. 

You can also use some professional generators specific in different formats, such as an HTML report generator for HTML reports and an excel report generator for creating reports from excel.

6. Report Generation Example

Note: The templates below are built-in FineReport. You can download FineReport to try more free templates.

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Drill-down Report

The drill-down reporting generation can be easily realized with reporting generation software. The reports generated can be embedded with ERP system.

drill-down report example
Drill-down report generated by FineReport

Aggregation Report

Aggregation report (by FineReport)
Aggregation report generated by FineReport

Combo Tree Report

Combo Tree Report example (by FineReport)
Combo Tree report generated by FineReport

Query Report

Query report
Query report generated by FineReport

Final Thoughts

Report generation refers to the process of extracting the data that you need from the database and then organizing and exporting them into reports. It provides decision-makers with informative insights and supportive references. 

In business, a professional report generator can be a powerful helper in every step of reporting. It’s better to do deep research on each feature of report generation software to choose the most suitable for your company. FineReport offers a free version for personal use, without function limits. If you are interested, why not download for a trial?

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It’s free to make an appointment for a live demo with product experts from FineReport and work together to discover your needs and see how FineReport can help you and your organization to transform data into value.

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