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DataFlex Reports the “obvious choice” for Care Data Systems


David Knowles, software developer for Birmingham, UK-based Care Data Systems, faced a daunting challenge with reports in their highly praised donorflex CRM and fundraising software used by the Make a Wish Foundation UK, Sustrans, Crimestoppers, the Wordsworth Trust and many more UK charities.

“In 2018, we decided to update the 180+ Crystal XI reports and a handful of Winprint reports integrated with the donorflex system with DataFlex Reports — the obvious choice when it came to looking for a replacement,” says David.

Originally the donorflex team had planned to replace all 180+ reports by creating new ones with DataFlex Reports. It soon became apparent that most of donorflex’s reports were generic in both general layout and content.

The team determined that by making full use of the DataFlex Reports’ Runtime Data Source (RDS) feature, using a more generic table structure, and setting the visibility of columns and column captions via parameters, they could consolidate the existing 180+ reports into a much smaller number.

“In a short period, we had reduced 100+ Crystal Reports to just a handful of DataFlex Reports that were designed to be much more dynamic in nature,” David says.

“These dynamic reports also gave us a degree of future-proofing. The framework we created allowed us to add similar reports in a matter of minutes. Rather than writing a brand-new report each time, we only added code to the product from within the DataFlex Studio.”

David notes that another benefit of switching to DataFlex Reports was consistency in the reports’ look and feel since their old reports, written by various authors over time, were stylistically very different.

“We now build everything on this framework. The original purpose of writing more dynamic reports was to aid ourselves as DataFlex developers. It became apparent, however, that dynamic reports are also beneficial to our many users by allowing them to select the columns they wished to see in the report and in which order.”

David’s team already had a framework within donorflex that, by making use of SQL, allowed users to extract data, cutting and slicing it as they wished via various selection criteria. These results were displayed on-screen in a Codejock-based Grid (cjGrid class), and users then had the option to export the data to a CSV file.

The next logical step was to allow the user to pass the data to the system’s dynamic report class, selecting which columns they wished to view, the order in which they wished them displayed, and any grouping required.

The donorflex team has also made much use of the Hit test method OnReportPreviewClick to react when a user clicks on specific field values within the report previewer, making the reports feel much more interactive.

David concludes, “The combination of our SQL enquiry framework along with the dynamic DataFlex Reports cDRReport class provides powerful, dynamic reports for our end-users, and one that can continue to be used as we transition donorflex to a web-based product for the future.”

Vincent Oorsprong, Data Access Europe’s Training & Support Manager, isn’t surprised with the donorflex team’s success with converting to DataFlex Reports.

“DataFlex Reports creates ’pixel-perfect’ output for reporting from a variety of supported data-sources, including Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, DB2, the DataFlex embedded database, ODBC, SQLite as David’s team has done using DataFlex Reports’ RDS feature,” Vincent says.

“DataFlex Reports’ results can be printed, exported to various formats (PDF, Microsoft Excel & Word, etc.) and integrated with DataFlex applications making DataFlex Reports an excellent reporting engine for developers versus Crystal and many other reporting solutions.”

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