Report Writer


This is another learn by doing topic containing two exercises which demonstrate the usefulness of this easy to use, simple report writer.  You will be able to produce useful little reports in minutes.

Often the need arises to get a list of "stuff" from the database which is not necessarily complex but is surrounded by other superfluous information in the available reports.  It may be a "once in a 100 years" event (like the Christchurch earthquake, 7,500 aftershocks and still counting) and not warrant being a permanent report.  Enter the Report Writer function which allows you to pull much of the data from the database and produce the list of "stuff" you wanted.

If you have not already done so please read the Mail Merge, Export and Report Writer Record Selection topic before continuing as the process of selecting the records will not be covered in this exercise.

These exercises can be safely performed on the live system as no data is changed although it may be necessary to add some internal comments which should be removed when the exercise is complete.  You may of course use the Training module.

To print a list of the landlord Contact Names in the database because we have noticed unsatisfactory data appearing on letters and emails, e.g. "Dear T Pott" instead of "Dear Terry".

Go to Mail Merge menu > Landlords - Export and Mail Merge
Select "All Landlords"
Have a browse across all the column headings to the right to see what is available
Press [Export/Print]
The next screen has two panes:-
The left pane contains an alphabetic list of the fields on the landlord selection screen
The right pane will contain the list of the fields to appear on the report.

Individual fields are moved out of or in to the right pane by clicking the "<" and ">" buttons respectively or double clicking the field name.
All the fields are moved at once by using the "<<" and ">>" buttons.

Note the fields selected remain in the left pane.

Have a try moving fields back and forth.  When you are happy clear the right pane

Enter "Landlord Contact Name Check" in the Report Title field.  

Select the following fields so they are in the right hand pane:-

The information extracted will print in fixed width columns, (regardless of the field size), with the fields on one line across the page from left to right in the order shown.  To change the order click on the field name then use [Up] and [Down] to achieve the desired order.  For this exercise place the fields in the following order

There is no special significance of the above order but I would like the information in the columns to be in SortKey order so place a tick in the SortKey checkbox.

Print the report to the screen.

To display untruncated fields, to sort the output, and to repeat the report at a later time.  

Print the report to the screen again and have a close look at the information.  You may notice that some of the fields may be truncated. and this is because the printed / displayed fields are all fixed length fields.  Because of this and depending upon your printer, only six or seven columns will print across the page.  If you chose more columns, the next six to seven columns will print on another page and so on.  To be able to read across the report you would then need to get out the sticky tape and stick the pages together which is not a very satisfactory solution.  So in practical terms you should limit the number of columns so they fit on one page width.

Try adding more fields to the report see the effect.

Remove the extra fields added and now add "Email" as the sixth field, making sure you get the Email field, and "Internal Comment" as the seventh.  Print the report to the screen.  
If the Internal Comments field does not print on page 1 remove the Email field and print the report again.
Assuming you have some landlords with Internal Comments of some length you will see the comment in full printed over several lines in the last column.

If you have no Internal Comments go to the [Details] > Internal Comment tab and enter a reasonable length, 60 to 100 characters comment to several landlords.  Remember to remove them when this exercise is finished if you are using the live system.

Once you have the Internal Comments printing as the last column remove the preceding column and print the report again.  You should see it extend across the extra column.

If the last field is a memo the content will not truncate but print across any remaining columns up to the maximum allowed for your printer.  So where you do want untrucated data make that the last field and limit the field count.

Sorting the output can occur on multiple columns at once.  The sort fields do not need to be adjacent and sorting occurs from the top field down.  As an example to have street addresses in street name and number order, the street number field must be after the street name and both columns should be ticked.
Try sorting on different fields with the fields already selected, or remove some and add the landlord address fields and try them too.

The system will remember the fields selected, their placement and any sorting required until the next time the settings are changed.  Four sets of settings are kept, one each for landlords, properties, tenants and suppliers.
Close back to the main screen then return to the report writer and you will see the field selections have been retained.

Should the same report be wanted again at a later date the same record and field selection can easily be repeated by referring to the record Selection Criteria used to extract the data from the database printed at the foot of the report and choosing the same column heading names.

Transaction records are not accessible with this simple Report Writer.  If you do want an all "singing, dancing" report writer they are available on the Internet at some cost and are generally quite complicated to use.  If you have a report requirement not met by the system please contact Aspect Systems support with your requirements and such a report may be added to the system..

The Mail Merge Cycle - for the report writer

This final section shows the "production cycle" for the report writer and where the cycle can be repeated and / or modified without having to start the entire process all over again.

1.    Use the Mail Merge menu as the primary filter
2.    Select the specific recipients
3.    Press [Export/Print]
4.    Select the fields required
5.    (Option) Move the selected fields into the order required
6.    (Option) Indicate the record sort order required
7.    Enter a report title
8.    Press [Print]
9.    Print the report
10.  Press [Close] to return to the data selection screen
11.  (Option) Repeat steps 2 to 10 to print other data or other records
12.  Press [Close].