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A High-Level Introduction to Reporting

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A High-Level Introduction to Reporting

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Reporting is one theme which gains more and more importance as time goes on. In this article, I want to describe what reporting is and where it is used.


Since the dawn of the mankind we've sought improvements for a better life. To achieve this goal, tools needed to be developed. Some of first tools were created from materials that could be easily found in the living environment, on the surface, like wood, stone or bones from rotten corpses. For creating tools of extraordinary quality, ore was needed; materials that can't be found so easily outside and needed complex steps of processing for their purification. Searching for the materials in the ground an digging them out created a new job known as mining.

Today, in the digital age, the tools are much more complex than before. One example from the IT-world are online stores, which are selling products all over the world. To run this kind of application or project many technologies and techniques are required, like network communication, client-server communication, and high performance servers that are scalable and can manage huge amounts of data.

The primary reason for the existence of the application as system is to sell the products to the customers. The sales department is always searching for new ways to motivate the customer to buy more products.  Knowing more information about them from their past orders and other useful data can be very useful when trying to sell them more things. This is known more commonly as data mining.  This is the secondary usage of the online store application, to have a system that collects data to help you sell more of the products.


All the valuable information extracted via data mining from the data sources can be presented graphically. Discovering new association rules between products, and discovering new complex behaviors from the customers can give a company valuable conclusions as base for developing new business opportunities.  This is generally known as business intelligence.

The graphical presentation of the data for further evaluation, or the presentation of data that has already been analyzed, is created via reporting tools and the output itself is called a report. The reports can be put into file formats like PDF, comma separated list - CSV, the Microsoft Office document formats (rtf, doc, docx, excel), representation in the Web as HTML, or the open formats like odt etc..

On the market there are many different reporting tools that are proprietary or free products. Other application are only libraries that can be used as implementations in their own system.

Proprietary Reporting Tools (product alphabetical order):

  • ActuateOne - Actuate Corporation
  • Crystal Reports - SAP AG
  • JReprot - Objective Software GmbH
  • Oracle Reports - Oracle Corporation
  • Pentaho Enterprise Edition (EE) - Pentaho Corporation

Free Reporting Tools (product alphabetical order):

  • Actuate BIRT - Actuate - Licensing: Eclipse Public License (EPL).
  • JasperRepors - Jaspersoft Corporation - Licensing: GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL).
  • Pentaho Community Edition (CE) - Pentaho Corporation - Licensing: Apache version 2.0.

Libraries (product aphabetical order):

  • I-Text - iText Software BVBA / iText Software Corp. - Licensing: commercial and AGPL.
Here is a list of reporting software from wikipedia.

This article was written as introduction to reporting.  I wanted this content to be the first part of an article about Actuate BIRT.  In one of my next articles I want to present Actuate BIRT.

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