Interview with Jochen Bartlau on List & Label 20

List & Label 20 recently released by Germany based combit is a comprehensive reporting solution for .NET Framework and Java based projects.

Learnxpress had a chat with Jochen Bartlau, Managing Director and Head of Development, List & Label to know more about the newly introduced features and the future roadmap of the product.

Learnxpress: What benefit does multiple report container provide to both developers and end users?

Version 20 features a wide range of new .NET features that make List & Label even more versatile when using it with CLR languages. The option to incorporate several report containers eliminates the need for workarounds, for example by using multiple columns for one container instead. You simply place your report containers wherever you want your tables, diagrams or other objects to appear, which makes creating dashboard or side-by-side reports a breeze.

Learnxpess: How does drill down using report parameters help users? Does it improve user navigation?

It’s rather aimed at navigating the data. Basically, we thought “wouldn’t it be great to click on a chart and get the data that makes up the chart”. The new drilldown mode lets you do just that. In addition to the drilldown via relations which we already had in the product for a couple of versions, you can now trigger a sub report that uses report parameters and set the parameter values depending on the item that you just clicked in the preview. This terrific feature works for pie/donut and bar charts, shapefile charts, table fields and crosstab contents. Of course, a drilldown report can contain another drilldown, too.

Learnxpress: What is the advantage of filtering at database level?

Where possible, all SQL-based data providers, plus AdoDataProvider and XmlDataProvider, now convert filter statements into native database queries. This enables users to filter data in the blink of an eye. Filtering in the data source is almost infinitely faster than filtering in the report. This way (and combined with report parameters), entirely new report types like “from my 50 million customers, give me a report on all that come from the state of Washington” become feasible without having to pre-filter the data source.

List & Label 20 Native Filtering

Learnxpress: Can you explain more about 1:1 relationships?

List & Label’s SQL-based data providers now use JOIN commands to support 1:1 relationships. This dramatically reduces the number of queries required for a filter statement. As a result, you benefit from more efficient use of network and server resources, and considerably faster report generation. In fact, test results showed that the required print time for a local SQL server typically decreased around 15-20%, for remote SQL servers we have measured print time decreases of 80%. The result is now¬†five times faster than before.

Learnxpress: Does List & Label 20 provide support for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and surface?

We have already worked on better support in the past versions by adding features like touch gestures or high DPI support. In version 20, by means of the HTML5 viewer, interactive reporting in almost any browser including on mobile devices is possible. ASP.NET is required on the server side. If you use WebForms or MVC, all of the interactive features like report parameters, expandable regions or dynamic sort orders in the List & Label preview will be ready to go, in any operating system.

Learnxpress: You mention that – XHTML export supports texts rotated in 90 degree increments. What does this mean?

As the XHTML export is the base format for our HTML5 viewer, we worked hard to remove all restrictions the format had. Modern CSS transformations enable to rotate text without having to resort to rendering texts as images as we did before. In the same way, the cell borders are rendered more exactly and the whole look and feel of the export result has been overhauled.

List & Label 20 XHTML Export

Learnxpress: Can you share with us the benefit of collaboration with REA VERIFIER?

Through a cooperation with REA VERIFIER, a renown vendor of barcode verifiers, we were able to grade and improve our barcodes according to the usual ISO standard ISO/IEC 15416. Amongst other optimizations we completely changed the rendering algorithm to optionally match the bars exactly to the device pixels, eliminating all rounding effects this way. Typically at least an ISO grade of “B” is required by barcode consuments. This should now be easily achievable on typical hardware.

Learnxpress: Did combit implemented PowerPoint export in List & Label 20 based on feedback from the community?

Indeed, the support for Microsoft PowerPoint was one of the most requested export formats in our annual customer survey last year. We just started surveying our customers again for the next version – I’m curious to see what will come up next.

Learnxpress: Can you share with us as to which programming language you used to develop List & Label?

We always try to follow the principle “use the best tool for the job”. So List & Label actually is written in a mix of languages. The core engine is compiled in Visual Studio C++ 2013. This allows us to target not just CLR languages but also C++, VB6 (yes, it’s still used out there) or Delphi. It also makes interop with the operating system’s underlying APIs way easier.

The .NET part of the product (written in C#) makes sure the integration into .NET applications is as tight and easy as possible, adding a number of features like thorough database support, binding to business data or file formats such as CSV, XLS or XML.

Learnxpress: What is the benefit of In-memory and Google BigQuery?

The In-memory provider is a wrapper around other data providers and allows to e.g. buffer the contents of a CSV file (or any other supported data source, this could also be XLS, XML or business objects data) in a lightning fast In-memory database. This database then supports sorting, filtering and very quick data retrieval. This way, formats that originally cannot be sorted or natively filtered automagically support these features. Add the performance gain to the equation and you see a very huge advantage for our users.

Google BigQuery is Google’s data warehouse, allowing to store and quickly query huge data sets. The new data provider allows to leverage this technology and easily bind to BigQuery data.

List & Label 20 Office 2013 Ribbon

Learnxpress: Can you share with us the future roadmap of List & Label?

We plan to further strengthen our community. We will launch a new user feedback portal by the end of this year and plan to frequently incorporate feedback from there. We have been heavily improving the feature side of the product during the last few versions.

We WIll probably set a focus on further improving the usability this time, making sure all the powerful features are easily accessible. This will also benefit our non .NET customers. We will also work to make sure we are amongst the launch partners for Visual Studio 2015 again. In addition, List & Label will feature full Windows 10 compatibility.

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