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Microsoft Excel: 10 Reasons Why it's a Superb Report Template Tool

Think About It

Turn your MS Excel knowledge into reporting expertise 

You already know Microsoft Excel® is excellent spreadsheet software. Intuitive commands, custom formulas and comprehensive sorting and filtering tools are just a few of the features that help make Excel one of the most popular software programs in the world. 

But Excel is for more than just spreadsheets. It’s also the foundation of a full-featured, full-blown reporting program. And it’s a reporting program that saves you time, money and headaches. 

When you input your data into report templates designed and generated in Microsoft Excel, you can take advantage of all Excel has to offer—plus some additional benefits. Here are the top 10 reasons why Excel is an ideal reporting tool. 

#1. You save money—lots of it. 

The typical reporting process looks like this: A business user needs a report. A developer creates the report template. The business user provides feedback. The developer edits the template. The business user provides more feedback… and so on. The process is slow, expensive and frustrating. But with reporting in Excel, this cycle is eliminated. Because the business user can design reports in the Excel environment, there’s no need for the cumbersome back-and-forth. When you consider how much time this saves per report, you can quickly calculate how the savings add up across your enterprise.

#2. You design reports quickly and easily.

Many reporting programs boast of a friendly user experience but fail to back up their claims. At its core, Excel is an intuitive interface. The ribbon displays logical groups of commands and features, making it easy to quickly perform whatever task you want without searching through complex menus. And drop-down galleries get you to the tools you need – fast. Excel provides you with access to a comprehensive set of tools without sacrificing any ease of use.

#3. You take advantage of intelligent formulas.

You’re already familiar with handy Excel formulas and functions, such as sums, averages and maximum values. Intelligent reference expansion is an exclusive feature of Excel that you can use to improve your reports.

For example, suppose a report requires the inclusion of a subset of data, such as all employees hired after a certain date. When running a report, intelligent reference expansion allows the report to expand for as many rows as necessary, based on the data being called from your data source, without you needing to know in advance how many rows to include.

#4. You benefit from numerous cell tools and features.

Intelligent reference expansion isn’t the only Excel-exclusive tool that makes reports shine. Consider cell formatting. This enables you, for instance, to format currency exactly how you want it.

Or take a look at how cells reference one another. With Excel,you can put summaries at the top of the table and tell a cell in a table to use values from other cells, something you can’t do with most other reporting programs.

And, of course, you can use conditional cell formatting to call attention to key data such as numbers greater than a specified amount or text that matches your criteria.

#5. You escape the limitations of a banded design tool.

Many tools restrict the user to what is known as “banding” — when elements of a report are limited to one band. For example, you might have a table in one layer, text in another, and so on. Excel is a non-banded (aka freeform) solution, so you can lay out elements as you wish. This gives you significantly more freedom than with other tools and ensures the final report looks the way you want it to.

#6. You can present unlimited amounts of data.

No matter how large your final report, Excel can handle it. Excel supports up to 1 million rows and 16 thousand columns per worksheet. Plus, you can use an unlimited number of formatting options in the same workbook, and the number of cell references per cell is limited only by available memory.

#7. You get unmatched report output flexibility.

Not only is Excel an excellent report design tool, it’s an adaptable report output format. Want to arrange data so it’s easier to analyze? Native sorting tools provide you with a wide range of options.

Need to manipulate that eye-catching chart? Windward’s Excel solution treats charts as charts and not as static images, so the report recipient can format the chart however desired. You can also easily remove sensitive pieces of information, such as salary figures, from an HR report and then distribute the report to other departments. Also, keep in mind there’s nothing inherent in an Excel reporting tool that says the output must be in Excel. Some Excel report design tools provide you with the freedom to distribute an Excel document to some recipients, a PDF file to others, and an HTML report to additional recipients.

#8. You never have to leave Excel—even to access your data.

Is your data stored in Excel? Fullfeatured Excel reporting solutions allow you to call that data directly instead of forcing you to format or export that data into another data source. This saves you time and eliminates the risk of corrupting your data.

#9. You skip the intensive training.

Most reporting solutions rely solely on a proprietary software program. You have to adjust to a new visual interface and learn an entirely new set of controls and commands. But you already know Excel. You know how to add rows, how to sort and filter data, how to work with formulas, and how to use layout and design tools such as cell formatting. You don’t need intensive training, so you can jump right in and design your report.

#10. You can collaborate with others.

When you use Excel to design reports, not only can multiple people easily learn to use the tool, but you can also work on a specific report together. Excel 2010 includes notable collaboration features such as real-time communications within a document, co-authoring of projects, and the ability to remotely access Excel files.

The Windward Difference

Are you in need of Excel reporting? Then we invite you to look at the Windward solution. We believe that reporting should be simple and that free-form template design is a must, because you deserve attractive, informative and impressive reports.

Windward provides a unique experience using Microsoft Excel to format and edit report templates. Behind the scenes, Windward’s sophisticated engine pulls data from multiple sources and merges that data into your reports, creating a fast and hassle-free experience that can make generating reports fun!

For businesses in document-intensive industries, Windward Studios is the document generation and reporting software company that empowers business professionals to create beautiful, professional reports. Windward OEM and enterprise customers span over 70 countries and all industries, including financial services, insurance, energy, healthcare, HR and technology. We’ve been delighting customers since 2004. Our primary products are AutoTag , a design tool that creates custom templates with Microsoft Office, and a Java or .NET engine that connects to virtually any data source. Windward delivers exceptional support, training, and documentation, with a 98% satisfaction rating from our customers. We’re a Microsoft Gold and an Oracle Gold partner

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Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it process the template handling each tag in order, and each tags can pull from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select in a tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one datasource, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. Additional details ...

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For over 10 years, Windward has lead the industry with our world-class document generation platform that creates visually stunning, data-powered documents designed exactly the way users want and are created in a fraction of the time and cost compared to existing solutions. Proudly located in Boulder, Colorado, Windward Studios is the premier solution for developers and business users adding reporting and document generation capabilities to their applications in over 70 countries around the world.

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