When we moved from older NAV versions to newer ones, in terms of report development, it felt like functionality had worsened instead of improved. The new Visual Studio + RDLC concept didn’t bring much fun for most report developers. But now Document Creator seems to bring back everything we had lost and even more! No complex GetData, SetData constructions, just add bands and connect the tables. Drag and drop fields from the data window on your report. Every object (DataBands, TextObjects, etc.) has a VisibleExpression property. Bands can be shown conditionally using this property. You can choose from many different sorts of data bands, group bands, headers, footers, etc. which can all be added with just a simple click.
Document Creator also comes with lots of report components that can be added by selecting them from the toolbox. In the near future I want to write a separate blog about all these components.
The designer comes with options to edit and preview with data. Working this way speeds up my work pace that much, that I can easily say that I’m at least 5 times faster. Bye bye Visual Studio!
Separation of data and presentation
Document Creator fully adopts the modern paradigm of separating data gathering and presentation. It splits data collection (the dataset) from data presentation (the layout). By using this approach the dataset is not vulnerable to modifications caused by someone who works on layout design. The dataset can be managed by one person, for instance the NAV developer, while modifications to report layouts can be done by the consultants or customers.
A structured dataset
Standard NAV uses a flat dataset. If you have tables that are related, you will end up with data from a parent table being copied into every detail dataitem. For instance; an image BLOB in your header will be repeated in your lines. This enlarges your dataset substantially, and can decrease performance big time. Document Creator uses a structured dataset. That means that every related table has its own dataset and that my header row image BLOB will only exist once, in the table header.
When playing around with larger datasets, which in the past could even make my client crash or could take minutes to complete when printing, those now all were processed blazing fast!
Small footprint in NAV
Installing Document Creator in your NAV is done in a matter minutes. It uses an add-in which only has to be installed on your service tier. Client side nothing has to be done. In NAV you have to merge 4 objects which are not very often modified so the merging part is very easy.
Document Creator is fully integrated in NAV. Besides RDLC and WORD, a new type of document is added: Document Creator. The layouts are stored in the NAV database as BLOB files. This way the layout is data and not an object:
This was my first article on Document Creator. But as I will be working with this product more and more, I will also publish some more articles about it.
If you want to investigate this product yourself, check out: http://j.mp/nav-dcr