Often, when creating reports in the business intelligence (BI) field, you’ll run into the term “pixel perfect reporting.” In a nutshell, though, “pixel-perfect” refers to reports generated to exact specifications meant for printing rather than ongoing data manipulation. To take a deeper dive into what pixel-perfect reports are and when you might use them, check out our blog, “What is Pixel Perfect Reporting?”
A pixel-perfect report is something that a few different legacy BI tools can create. As with most tools, each of these has some pros and cons when it comes to creating pixel-perfect reports, but they are all viable options depending on your needs, such as visualization and custom reports. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Let’s take a look at six of the best tools in pixel-perfect BI reporting that you can use for your business.
What Are The Best Pixel Perfect Reporting Tools?
This is a product of Logi Analytics which was founded in 2000 as LogiXML. Insightsoftware recently acquired Logi in April of 2021. Still, we’re going to keep them on this list as a viable option for pixel-perfect reports, although the branding may differ based on how Insightsoftware merges them into their other products.
Logi Report was designed at first as a way for web developers to embed data visualizations into websites; they then used that technology to create the Logi platform, which allows users to embed analytics into any application.
Logi Analytics acquired Jinfonet, maker of the JReport product suite, in early 2019 — the JReport and Logi Report product lines were competitors that have been brought under the same umbrella. It’s not uncommon to see the name JReport used — it’s simply older software that now appears under its new brand name. This is the report builder you need.
Often viewed as the leader in the pixel-perfect reporting space, SAP’s Crystal Reports is a legacy product in the BI space, and even the newer versions of the product reflect that — it looks and feels like a legacy application. Crystal Reports helps produce a crystal report perfect for your needs.
One of the more common issues with Crystal Reports is that there is not a clear upgrade path from older versions, and there is a cost associated with upgrading, meaning many users are not even using the newest version. Many users find its user interface difficult to navigate, and it tends to require more technical knowledge from its designers and users than some newer BI offerings.
SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a reporting tool that is part of the Microsoft SQL Server Services suite. It is best known for its ability to produce traditional paginated reports, ideal for pixel-perfect reports meant for printing.
Thus, it is known as a Power BI report builder for every business. Released in 2004 as a free add-on to SQL Server in 2008, it is built for developers and can be a bit complex. Also, like Crystal Reports, the interface is a bit dated and can be difficult to upgrade.
IBM’s business intelligence solution, Cognos Analytics, allows users to create and share specialized dashboards and data visualizations as well as pixel-perfect reporting. Cognos allows users to customize all reports and export them to multiple formats, including PDF, CSV, and HTML.
Cognos is such a powerful tool with so many different options. It requires a high level of technical ability to know which reports are being built. Cognos Analytics may be a bit more robust than the average user requires for a reporting tool as an enterprise-level tool.
The result of another acquisition, Vizubi and its product line, NPrinting, were acquired by Qlik in 2015 and renamed Qlik NPrinting. The two were already partners, with NPrinting serving as the report generating, distribution, and scheduling application for QlikView.
Qlik tends to have an easier development cycle than legacy platforms like Crystal Reports and Microsoft SSRS. However, like those others, it also requires a skilled developer who uses a proprietary SQL query language, requiring a developer already trained in Qlik.
For products like Qlik and Logi, it is worth keeping in mind that when companies acquire partners or competitors, they are simply putting a new name on an old product. When researching user reviews and satisfaction, it’s a good idea to search by the name of the original product, as often little changes up upon acquisition.
The Buy vs. Build Decision For Pixel Perfect Reports
Do-It-Yourself. This is not a company — it’s an option for knowledgeable users to create their solutions with any programming language. Often, companies have very specific requirements for their pixel-perfect reports, and rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it’s best to create what you need.
However, be sure you research this option fully to know what you’re getting into — while it may seem cost-effective at first, it can end up consuming a lot of time and resources and cost more in time and staff hours.
Creating a solution from scratch can open a real Pandora’s Box in scope creep, so do your homework before engaging in this type of solution. One place to look to get a start is GrapeCity; however, many other developer controls will give you a framework to start with.
How Can DashboardFox Help with Pixel Perfect Reports?
So our first question would be, do you need a pixel-perfect report? If the data you are trying to convey can be repurposed into an interactive web-based report, DashboardFox could help.
However, we understand that some pixel-perfect reports are simply mandatory—financial statements like income statements, balance reports. Printed receipts or certificates all have a very prescribed layout, and users must place data in specific locations on the report. Sometimes, it’s just how the customer expects it, and they are not interested in changing.
DashboardFox still has a solution for situations like this, but it’s more of a custom service or developer-oriented option. Behind the scenes, DashboardFox has a robust API. Users can run every report stored in the DashboardFox document repository via that API, and, in return, you get the raw data in a JSON or XML data package.
That’s the technical jargon. The short is that you can use that API to get the raw data and then, via any traditional programming language, bind the data into a pixel-perfect layout.
It’s not a great solution if you have a lot of static, pixel-perfect layouts or need to create new ones often. But if you have a set of static reports that don’t often change, using the DashboardFox API gives you the best of both worlds. A dynamic ad-hoc, self-service BI platform, and a few static templates for pixel-perfect reports.