List & Label 17

PROS: Provides extensive set of reporting tools; competitively priced with other high-end reporting suites
CONS: Large feature set might be overkill for simple reporting needs
RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
PRICE: Starts at $788 for Standard edition; $1,455 for Professional edition; $2,183 for Enterprise edition
RECOMMENDATION: List & Label 17 is a sound investment for developers whose applications require advanced reporting with efficient performance.
CONTACT: combit • (49) (0) 7531-90-60-10

Reporting is a key feature of business application software, and it's important for developers to get this feature right so that an application's reporting capability both meets functional requirements and is user-friendly. As I've discussed in previous reviews, combit's List & Label report-generation module greatly simplifies the task of adding a wealth of reporting capabilities to a .NET application. Here I'll offer my impressions of the latest version of combit's flagship product, List & Label 17, with a focus on new features.

New Charts and a New Function

List & Label 17 introduces three new chart types. The first, the Gantt chart, provides a number of features for customizing charts (e.g., field size, colors, and other formatting settings). Also new in List & Label 17 are area charts and bubble charts, which can represent data in four dimensions, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Bubble chart settings in List & Label 17

Another new feature is a Precalc() function, which enables developers to calculate the value of aggregate functions before a report is printed -- for example, calculate a total amount to display in a report header. The Precalc() function should come in especially handy when used in combination with a new data graphics feature that allows developers to include bars, stars, checkmarks, or other symbols for a specific value range in a report.

Design Schemes and Other Enhancements

List & Label 17 includes new design schemes for most reporting objects, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Building a report using design schemes

You can choose from a number of predefined design schemes, define custom schemes, or use a global design scheme for a particular project.

Several new features let you enhance the content of your reports. You can now add a table of contents or index to a printed report, with help from an easy-to-use wizard. The table of contents or index makes a report easier to navigate by allowing users to go directly to the target location in a report by simply clicking the relevant hyperlinked entry. There's also a new PDF object, which lets you add multipage PDFs to a project (e.g., to include a PDF form in a report). Also new in List & Label 17 is the ability to perform multi-level sorting (i.e., sorting by multiple fields instead of only one, as in the previous version) with the help of data-binding controls.

List & Label 17 includes enhancements specifically for web applications. Several new features are geared toward reporting in ASP.NET applications -- for example, improved XHTML export and new viewer plug-ins for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera that provide the ability to drill down into reports and print data directly from the designer. A new .NET component with an extension assembly lets developers export reports directly to Microsoft SharePoint. Version 17 also now includes providers for JSON, CouchDB, and MongoDB data sources, letting developers create applications that can scale better.

.NET developers might also be interested in a related open-source software product, Redmine Reports, which -- although it isn't part of List & Label 17 per se -- was created using the List & Label designer. Redmine Reports is an add-on to the open-source Redmine project management system, is both database and platform independent, and is used internally by combit as an issue-tracking system.

Meeting Advanced .NET Reporting Needs

List & Label 17 designer is available in both German and English and can be easily integrated into your .NET applications without additional license charges. The product is available in three editions -- Standard, Professional, and Enterprise; only the Professional and Enterprise editions offer subscriptions that include updates and support directly from the product team.

The latest release of List & Label bolsters the product's standing as a sophisticated tool for creating reporting modules for .NET applications. Developers who use the product can rely on it to produce fast-loading reports that present data in a variety of eye-catching formats.

Anand Narayanaswamy is an ASPInsider; he works as a freelance writer based in Trivandrum, India.

Previous reviews of combit's List & Label: