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I work at a school district and am helping to put together a project that will keep kids on track for graduation. We are able to flag a certain number of kids in our database who we can see are having trouble completing their requirements, and our hope is that if we notify them and their parents sooner rather than later we can get them to graduation.

We want to generate a custom document/report from the data we have in our SQL database, saved into something like a .PDF, printed and mailed home. We've worked with a graphic designer to produce something that is appealing and informative, with good use of color, graphics, type and images to indicate progress toward completion in certain areas (math, language, etc). Of course this is just a mockup.

The trouble I'm having is finding a way of populating multiple fields (name, student #, etc), together with images (driven by SQL database values), in a preset layout to be exported and printed for potentially thousands of students at a time.

I've looked at SSRS and understand it can be used for this sort of thing, but I've not seen an example of chart and document styling that has convinced me that it is going to live up to the mockup as designed.

I've also looked at Tableau and Windward but they appear to be more useful for data visualization than database driven document creation.

I'm hoping there are some experts here that can weigh in and point me in the right direction.

Question: Is there a single piece of software that can accomplish what I'm trying to do?

Thanks for your time.

  • Perhaps an screenshot of how you want your report to look like may help us to guide you better. – Miguel Garcia Mar 2 '15 at 16:18
  • Any database reporting tool that has templates will do, your requirements are not very specific despite your long text (I'm tempted to vote to close as 'too broad'). Take a look at the Wikipedia page about reporting tools and investigate those – Jan Doggen Apr 1 '15 at 13:10
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Full disclosure, I work for Windward.

Our solution is actually targeted at document generation. Templates are designed with our AutoTag tool (3rd party add-in to Microsoft Office [Word/Excel/PowerPoint]). This allow you to connect Microsoft Office to your SQL server database and populate values in Windward tags in your document. Tags are just placeholders for you data (IE, names, addresses, we even support images stored in either the SQL database as a BLOG, filename/URL or Base64 encoded).

Our niche is that you can design your template in a tool your already know (Microsoft Office) so you don't have to learn a new tool for all your formatting, layout and design. If you already have Office documents you use today you can connect them to your database and get started tagging.

Once your template is designed in AutoTag you can call Windward's Engine (.NET or Java based) from your parent application.

I am assuming you have some sort of web portal that your target users access to view their status currently. If not, do you have access to a developer or development staff to assist you in building an application? Our engine can be deployed in as little as 14 lines of code and we ship with prebuilt samples to get you started.

When you call the Windward engine you just need to pass it 4 things

  • Name and location of the template filename (local path or URL)
  • Connection to your database (via an SQL connection string)
  • Name and location of the output report file to be produced (local path, URL, or Database)
  • OPTIONAL: A list of name=value pairs of variable parameters if you use variables in your template

The Windward engine returns the generated document to your application. If it is in a web application it will be displayed to the user to view/download/save. We also have libraries that allow you to generate reports simultaneously for batch processing and we can even send final generated reports directly to printer devices.

Here are a few links below that give a video overview of how the product works and more information on template design and embedding the Windward Engine. We have many companies that use us around the world today and their users are not even aware as we often times appear as a "print" or "generate report" button in an application.

Windward Overview

What an end user experiences in an application with the engine integrated

SSRS is great for very simple reports and if you already have a Microsoft SQL server it is easy to get started. Users usually come to us when they need more than a basic table and text.

Tableau we have found is generally reserved for analysis, not really document generation and content delivery. They have great visualizations but you need to decide if your users are need to do data discovery or just need to consume an end report.

Ryan Fligg

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You can use python with pandas plus any of the excellent python pdf generation tools, (e.g. report-lab), to query the database in almost any way that you can think of and produce a report in pdf format including charts, etc., with complete control of the layout.

You could even run it in a way that produces and mails a pdf to each student customized for that student, e.g. with that students performance on the charts showing the average, top & bottom 10%, etc.

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