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Report vs Document: What’s the Difference?


You may have heard a lot of people and companies use the terms “report” and “document” along the same vein as though they are identical and indistinguishable terms.

While both of them rely on data, they are indeed as different as day and night!

In terms of their objective, onus, output, distribution, and use, they are very distinctive. Without a definite distinction of the diversity between both, an organization’s decision to buy the right reporting or document generation software can get clouded and miss out on taking full advantage of its investment.

Most firms today have reporting and document generation solutions in place to get the best value. In other words, the ultimate objective is to cut costs and improve sales. Both documents and reports play a pivotal role in influencing and lead to actions which enhance the value of the company.

For the purposes of this post, we’re not going to delve deeper into what transpires before or after the document generation and reporting stages, although we do realize both these aspects are crucial and challenging.

The Purpose

Before talking about the different roles of documents and reports, let’s begin with some basic definitions of these two key aspects.


It involves the process of classifying data into information-rich summaries so as to observe and analyze how various sections and aspects of a company are performing.

Examples: Financial reports, performance reports, and so on.

Document Generation:

In a document, part of its data is dynamic and the rest is static. It could be in the form of a single page letter or 50-page contract with compact information. It involves the process of placing relevant data by creating templates with nested tables and consists of a table of contents with page numbering.

Examples: Invoices, contracts, quotes, portfolio statements, and so on.



Report Creation

Generally, reports, despite the kind or purpose, comprise of a particular period. For instance, financial reports deal with a particular period. A business' finances fluctuate from YOY (year-to-year) or MOM (month-to-month).

Formal/Informal: Based on its intent and who will view it, the report could be either informal or formal.

Formal reports are generally viewed and reviewed by managers, superior administration, customers, potential leads or investors. Like all reports, they must be created well and presented without any spelling errors, simple to understand and precise to the penny.

Informal reports are no less significant. For instance, to employees who must create their expense reports to be compensated, they are of the highest prominence. If they don’t finish the report well and in-time, they may not be compensated for flight tickets and client meals they spent on their last business trip.

Document Creation

Documents may be just black and white texts like receipts or invoices with condensed information. They may also consist of data tables or images or graphics related to the demographics of clients.

Template/Code based: Based on the software you choose, document creation can be done either as template or code based.

Code based involves writing a set of instructions and codes that clearly define the whole layout of the final document.

The hurdle with this procedure is that every aspect of dynamic or static content in the final output must include a corresponding code to embed the content on the document.

Executing any modifications to the design or formatting of the document needs someone accustomed with the codes to locate and alter the appropriate instructions.

On the other hand, Template based solutions like Windward enables the user of the software to define the course or layout, data (and the end-content) along with formatting of the final document by creating a template of the requisite document utilizing a visual editor or design interface.

Windward — Your Slingshot to Smart & Swift Report and Document Generation Capabilities

Now, whether you are a startup enterprise or well-established firm, you can harness Windward’s powerful Engine and Designer to create reports and documents in record time.

Save time and resources like never before by engaging Windward in your favorite and all-familiar programming languages and platforms to create visually stunning results at a fraction of the cost in comparison to the conventional process.

Find out more about Windward’s incredible solutions for report and document creation right here.

--Author: Genesis

If you've just discovered us, we're excited! Try Windward with our 14-day free trial and start creating documents in quick time with our low/no code solutions.

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

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

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 processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, 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. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

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