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Thread: JFreeReport Status and Information and Future

  1. #1

    Default JFreeReport Status and Information and Future

    Hello.

    I want to open this new thread and discuss JFreeReport in a real-world business sense - something that is seriously lacking in this forum... This is not meant to be a rant - quite the opposite. We need some stats and a better feeling for the JFreeReport community before we make some serious financial decisions as to whether or not to support it with custom add-ons, designers, and conversion tools.

    At this point in time, we've used JFreeReport for some serious projects and created all-told probably 750-1200 reports for our clients using this reporting engine. In the process, we've created some 'prototype' gui designers, a crystal reports-2-jfree conversion tool, and some code autogen tools specifically for use w/jfree. We also have a 508 compliance remedy.

    I will once again put the tag 'prototype' on these tools - they're fine to use in-house but aren't ready for prime-time. Which leads me to the reason for opening this thread - we're sitting here scratching our heads, wondering if we should polish these prototypes into real, working, supportable toolsets for JFreeReports....but for the life of me, I just can't get a feel for the number of users, etc., etc. - i.e. - is it worth it to us financially to do this?

    Summing up the generalized topic areas that I think need to be discussed:

    1. Is JFreeReport going to be a viable open-source report engine that many people will want to use (or are already using) in the future?

    2. How many people are currently using JFreeReport? What for/who for/where is it currently being used?

    3. Is there any real interest in the current base of JFreeReport users for a gui designer, a crystal report conversion tool, and an autogen code toolset? If so, would you support it, buy it, use it, recommend it if it's a good product?

    4. Most importantly to us - is the current base of JFreeReport developers and their respective employers making money using JFreeReport to replace/circumvent the current and obvious problems with crystal's licensing fee structure? (i.e. - is anyone out there making money taking customers away from crystal reports?). How about you people at ObjectRefinery? Why don't you provide some feedback on this point? Is JFreeReport just a pet project for ObjectRefinery or is there a serious, growing user base?

    5. Is the developer community (is there one?) satisfied with the direction of the JFreeReport dev team? Is anyone having a problem getting documentation on the features? (we can't find a doc trail on all the new features added and how to use them for each version released...). Does the dev team need some direction/help from the community?

    I know this was somewhat long-winded, but I think at this juncture that these topic areas are real and worth some serious discussion. I hope to hear some good feedback from a diverse group of people.

    Sincerely, Eric Holsinger
    etherbot, inc.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Default

    Ahh! Feedback!

    Sadly, it is a seldom event to get serious feedback - even rants or flames are a better source of information than that silence out there ...

    ....but for the life of me, I just can't get a feel for the number of users
    Me too ... Most topics in the forum are support requests from which I have to guess what's needed to make JFreeReport better suited for the users out there.

    To your questions:

    1. Is JFreeReport going to be a viable open-source report engine that many people will want to use (or are already using) in the future?
    Well, I hope so. JFreeReport is written to be as extensible, configurable and adaptable as possible. JFreeReport offers complete control over the reporting process, using the Functions API you can always influence the report process. The way how data is fed into the report is fully configurable and whenever we identify a section which introduce (technically unnecessarry) limitations, we remove them.

    Of course there will always be some techincal limitations - things you might not touch without getting burned - as usual. But our main goal is to reduce these limitations as much as possible and to make JFreeReport and easy to use library.

    My goal is to make JFreeReport as useable and easy to use as the object model of Swing is.

    3. Is there any real interest in the current base of JFreeReport users for a gui designer, a crystal report conversion tool, and an autogen code toolset? If so, would you support it, buy it, use it, recommend it if it's a good product?
    Tools to make JFreeReport more usable are great.

    As this project is all about a library, which solely concentrates on the reporting job, users always seem to be surprised that there are no clickable editors

    I guess the idea of writing the XML or API code by hand scares many users out there

    4. Most importantly to us - is the current base of JFreeReport developers and their respective employers making money using JFreeReport to replace/circumvent the current and obvious problems with crystal's licensing fee structure? (i.e. - is anyone out there making money taking customers away from crystal reports?). How about you people at ObjectRefinery? Why don't you provide some feedback on this point? Is JFreeReport just a pet project for ObjectRefinery or is there a serious, growing user base?
    I have to admit - I never used Crystal reports (or any other reporting tool - the last one I really used was DBase IV).

    I use JFreeReport to implement the printing functionality in my projects.

    The ObjectRefinery Ldt. (i.e. David Gilbert) is not the maintainer of the sources anymore. I have taken the responsibility over the source code in April 2002 - David supports this project with the web-site "jfree.org" and (until April 2003) documentation. At the moment JFreeChart eats all of Davids resources, so that I'm the currently the main developer.

    JFreeReport is definitly no pet project anymore - it was some sort of before Juni 2002, but now even if it does not sell it opens many doors. It is far easier now to get into projects with that code as background...

    I will start to offer commercial support for JFreeReport next month (after finally getting the waranty issues resolved) to get more time to develop JFreeReport.

    As my studies and work assigments seem to drive me into the data-mining/reporting direction, JFreeReport is a great base to build on.

    5. Is the developer community (is there one?) satisfied with the direction of the JFreeReport dev team? Is anyone having a problem getting documentation on the features? (we can't find a doc trail on all the new features added and how to use them for each version released...). Does the dev team need some direction/help from the community?
    Well, the user documenation is the main issue which will be addressed after the next release.

    Do we need help? Yes!

    To all:
    We need hints, where JFreeReport is hard to understand. What were the problems when using JFreeReport? Maybe you've written some howtos for your teammates - or whitepapers for your boss, you are willing to share?

    Or you sat up all night to get a report up and running - just to find it was a simple mistake? Which one? Tell us!
    Remember: We can't fix or change things we aren't aware of!

    Or you implemented a report everyone (including us) told you it would be impossible? And it worked... (yes, I was often surprised what JFreeReport is able to do, until I saw it. The dynamic element, for instance, is one of those things I never believed in ).

    Every feedback will help us to make JFreeReport even better.

    Have more fun,
    said Thomas

    P.S: I've made that topic sticky, as I thing it is mostly important. So it won't get lost ...

  3. #3

    Default

    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for your post. Here's some info that might help you to understand a little more about jfree.org (in addition to what Thomas already posted):

    (1) Most of the activity you see here is managed by two people, Thomas and myself. We have never met each other, but have ended up collaborating somehow (actually, it came about because Thomas offered to take over the JFreeReport project at a point when it was being neglected because I was spending too much time on JFreeChart - I have a lot of respect for anyone that can take over someone else's code like that). It has worked out pretty well so far, we have a fairly popular site, perhaps because we give away a lot of stuff. We get assistance from other developers who contribute code and ideas, but day to day the work is done by the two of us only (which may help to explain why some things don't get done so quickly).

    There isn't that much overlap in the work we do, Thomas runs the JFreeReport project and I run the JFreeChart project. There is some work we need to do on the integration of the projects, but honestly we are swamped with other tasks so every time we talk about working on bits that overlap, something else gets in the way.

    (2) Object Refinery Limited (ORL) is owned and operated by myself. I am the sole employee - there is no team of coders, designers, testers or anything like that. ORL derives income from selling (a) the JFreeChart Developer Guide and (b) my time for the occasional consulting role. Income wise, I'd be a lot better off dropping this free software lark and getting back to a "real" job - to date, I've resisted the temptation. I enjoy the work I'm doing here, so I'll stick with it for as long as I can afford to.

    ORL sponsors the running costs (web hosting and domain name registration) of the jfree.org website, but that is trivial compared to the time that Thomas and I put into managing the site.

    (3) Thomas is not linked to ORL - he contributes his time to jfree.org independently. He may be able to tell you more about how he manages to spend so much time working on free software. In the future, if he (or yourself for that matter) can derive an income from developing JFreeReport, I would encourage it. I believe there are too many good free software projects that wither and die for lack of funding. On that note, if sales of the JFreeChart Developer Guide treble (unlikely, but not inconceivable), I'll offer Thomas a job (he may, of course, decline).

    (4) Regarding getting some idea of how many users we have, that can be difficult to estimate. My guess for JFreeChart is that there are about 10,000 developers using the product (my estimate is based on download stats, sales of the developer guide and a rough feel for the numbers using older versions of the software). For JFreeReport, I don't have a clue.

    One last point, my original motivation for starting these projects was not to circumvent anyone's licensing structure (you mentioned Crystal), but just that when it comes to presenting data, having the source code provides that much more flexibility to tailor the end result...in that respect, I'd be reluctant to use anything that isn't open source. Certainly with JFreeChart, we get people switching from proprietary products simply for the flexibility that having the source code offers.
    Dave Gilbert
    JFreeChart Project Leader

    :idea: Buy the JFreeChart Developer Guide :idea:
    :!: Did I help you? Help someone else : WaterAid :!:

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Default

    Hello,

    I guess someone from the "user community" has to make a start, so why not me.

    Of course I can't say anything about user numbers or other user's needs regarding conversion tools and the like, but I feel one reason why the "community" almost only posts "problems" and "support requests" is because there is no way to know what JFR really is capable of. There are only the javadocs and a user guide which for the most part concentrates on the xml-interface - and which is quite outdated by now.
    So if a user wants to do semething "new" he has no idea whether JFR is capable of it or not, or if it's intended to be able to do it or something similar at some piont in the future.
    I Think a new documentation (I know you're working on it Taqua, and that's a great thing!) will help improve the communication between developers and users.
    On the other hand: You are in control of the forum.
    Post some sticky questions to the users like what do they want, what do they miss, what's causing them trouble or what are the specific pro's of JFR and I'm sure, you will at least get some answers.
    And of course you would get to hear how many people have already profited from your great work.
    Thanks a lot (cause I'm one of them)!

    Thanks and greetings
    Markus

  5. #5

    Default

    Hi all,

    I ofthen think of a documentation .... to make it easyer to understand JFreeReport.
    I work about 5 month with this tool and I think it is a great tool. Befor I work with Cyrstal, Improptu, and many of these comercial programms but these tool are expansive and stand-alone.

    I like this forum ... only one day or max 2 days of replaying time, with helpfully answers.

    I am from germany an our Company make Software for publishing companys ( editorial manager). I am a trainee Programmer in this company and I had to find a reporting tool for our software and i took this couse its many features and the XML struktur.

    I often need thinks i don't read in the docu and I beginn to wrote one in German , I willing share it for the rest oft the comunity. I will complet it and update it.

    Can i post it in the Tips & Docs Forum?
    or make a Homepage with the german doc and post the link?

    I hope I can help .... my own Funktions and Proram parts are to similar to share it.

    have a nice time Yves Poersch
    Entwickler Reports @ Leomedia GmbH
    Java Fachinformatiker Anwendungsentwicklung

    Kontakt : siehe Profil
    Conact : see my Profile

  6. #6
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    Default

    Hi,

    @Yves:
    great, any documentation will be wounderfull. Just post it in the documentation forum and I'll do the translation part - or post the link and I'll translate the texts from there

    Thanks for your efforts ... it will be a great help!

    @Markus:
    You are right, so once that evil next version (yes.. evil .. argh, the code has a demonic soul - and it is laughing about my foolish attempts to ban that beast ) I'll concentrate about docs and collecting feedback. And with these guiding lights it should become easier to choose the right path ..

    Have mo' fun,
    said Thomas

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
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    22

    Default user community

    I'm no expert in using this stuff, but it's worth its weight in sweat to get the first pdf report appearing out of our website data straight to the users machine. Download-able, save-able re-runnable reports with no licence fee!
    Taqua, I'd kiss you if was a girl.
    Do we users like it?
    of course we do.
    The lack of documentation and above all examples to show how to learn this (big) library made the learning curve steep, but not impossible.
    The fact that it is free, and flexible make it ideal for basing web reporting on. We need the core library to be free and powerful.
    If however you develop tools to make data porting and report definition a simple task, I'd consider using them too as it's a choice of days doing the slow painful XML or the java prototype gui's or some whizbang tool and half an hour, I'd choose the tool as long as it wasn't ridiculously priced like certain american software giant's offerings i could name.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    JFreeReport is a brilliant project, just like JFreeChart. My company has developed tons of code around it and we are doing really well. After some major refactoring we can contribue back in the following things:

    1. Report Builder (needs some major refactoring to take out reliance on commercial libraries)
    2. Optimised ChartPanel specifically for combined domain xy plots. This is real time rendering of a chart of ANY size (we have a 200 chart graph with > 100 data points, each 200pixels high rendering in real time on a 2.4ghz).
    3. Chart Wizard from tablemodel.
    4. Generic "wrapper classes" making operations easier & prettier (edward tufte as inspiration)

    Personally I believe that jfree should become jpay with an royalty free, unlimited commercial license of 100$ or something to support these two guys.

    I would gladly pay that type of license, especially compared to crystal. Also, it would mean more work on the projects which would be perfect.

    Another way to do it may be to get the community to contribute to pay for a feature to be implemented. So for sub-reports, graph support etc.

    Donations dont really cut it for most people.

    Regards,
    joe

  9. #9

    Default

    Hi,

    You haven't choose the better period to post this kind of informations because leaders are "away" (David is on holidays and Taqua has some other priorities this month)
    So if you want to mail me to keep them aware of your work, ... i am over there.

    PS: Nice contributions (me, i am more interested in your ReportBuilder)
    May the Moo force be with you,
    Said Mimil

    A student of JFree & Pentaho Academies,
    Cedric Pronzato

  10. #10
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    Default

    Hi,

    I found JFreeReport a great library to print tables and so on. We plan to use it in our commercial products if it fits completly our needs. I hope
    JFreeDesigner will see its first release one day.

    Regards,

    Olivier.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    9

    Default jfree on an ERP

    Hi,

    Our company is doing and ERP.we have hundreds of usecases in which we need reports.

    for this, we are developing a report generator. in our generator, user is asked about all the items in the xml file and the xml is generated on the fly for that report. it is then saved in the database,...

    this seems to be a good idea because we can extend reports and we may add as many as we want and the normal user will not be involved with the complexity of the xml file.

    we have just started and i am a bit worried.

    jfree report seems to be a bit delicate and there is no good documentation for it.

    reza

  12. #12

    Default

    Hi Taq!

    Long time no talk to. I read something about you being down for the count = hope all is ok w/you.

    Reza,

    as you can see, i am the one that started this thread in the forum more than a year ago. i have since stopped working for the insane company that i was with before (they were using jfree reports) - so i'm back to crystal - yep i love it but you gotta pay man, you gotta pay.

    ANYWAY, the point i want to make here is this: this is a pretty good little report tool, so use it before rolling your own - you can usually get good feedback from the forums, but now after reading the general forum, i'm worried that the project might die...i hope not cuz it seemed to have so much promise a year or so ago.

    Taq is 'johnny on the spot when he needs to be - (he once made a special release just for me in 4 days!) if i were in your position, i would speak w/him about the tool and see if he can be a paid consultant for your firm's ERP report tool module - why the heck not? then you've got no worries. but one thing i WOULD worry about - some coder in YOUR company telling you that they can whip out a custom report generator for an ERP system - no way, man, no way...it might look good at first, but when the customer comes-a-calling and your coder can't get that 'special feature' the the client wants to work, then you're screwed....but taq and jfree you can definitely rely on

    Good Luck !

    eric.



    Hi,

    Our company is doing and ERP.we have hundreds of usecases in which we need reports.

    for this, we are developing a report generator. in our generator, user is asked about all the items in the xml file and the xml is generated on the fly for that report. it is then saved in the database,...

    this seems to be a good idea because we can extend reports and we may add as many as we want and the normal user will not be involved with the complexity of the xml file.

    we have just started and i am a bit worried.

    jfree report seems to be a bit delicate and there is no good documentation for it.

    reza

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Posts
    4,947

    Default partial feedback..

    hi,

    thank you for asking for user feedback. i'm somewhat of a novice with respect to jfreereport but i really like many of the feature in jfreereport. i really like the print-preview and the ability to deal so so many output formats for free. that is most excellent!

    i'd like to give you my feedback in terms of how i'd like to see jfree report evolve:

    1. vigilance to keep the doco up to date. hibernate is a model project in this respect. they update their documentation with every new release of their api. i think this is important for greatest adoption.

    2. stealing design features from svg: e.g. svg allows you to apply a single transform specification to a group of fields. for example, if i want to print a name and address with 90 degree rotation (vertically), i don't have to specify the transform parameters on every field. instead i wrap them in a transform tag. this could be use for example, to apply font and alignment information once for a whole group of fields. we could also steal design ideas from the way css applies styles to html.

    3. overhauling the mechanism for binding properties from the object model to the report: instead of having a hashmap of property name-value pairs, i'd like to see jfreereport use a basic templating api mechanism similar to jsp's or velocity or php, but customized for reporting. this could make jfreereport smaller and more powerful at the same time. it would also lessen the burden on the form developer.

    regarding gui design tools for reporting, my philosophy on that is that although it's nice and makes an impression, i don't find it really necessary.

    thanks, eitan

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Default jFreeReport

    Hi all,

    I needed a reporting tool and tried many of them for some days.
    Then, I've been using jFreeReports for some hours, it seems to me as elixir!

    Maybe, my style of use of the tool would be inspiring on you. I m developing a J2EE within "the session facade wrap entitiy design pattern" and im picking up jFreeReports. And i hope to use jFree Designer too.
    I reach DB from App.Server from my EJB's, then by the great "tablemodel" idea (thanks to jFree) im able to generate my reports.

    please write me if we can exchange similar project ideas..
    ulusoy.alper@gmail.com

    Regards,
    Alper.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Posts
    5

    Default

    You were asking feedback about "hints, where JFreeReport is hard to understand" etc.. : one thing I'm sure missing right now to be able to quickstart is some explanations about the model : what are Groups, Items, Functions and so on. (Actually, it's mostly the "group" part I'm missing right now, but some sort of quick start cheat sheet would be great).. and how these elements are described in the xml format would surely help, too.
    Then probably some hints about positioning wouldn't be too bad : What are the units being used, for instance?? How is each element positioned, relatively or absolutely, to each other?

    One more thing : is there a way to disable the automatic registration of all fonts on my system? (Seems time and resources consuming)

    Cheers,

    greg

    (ps: I'm currently working on getting a JFreeReports integration with WebWork. Works pretty well.. Although I'm used to some of ognl's nifty features and am quite disapointed it seems I have to be much more verbose in the reports definition that I would if it'd use ognl to parse expressions and so on, for instance - I might give a shot at that too, though)

  16. #16

    Default

    What is desperately needed is some sort of report designer. The present one is dead, the project hasn't moved in years. I would think that OpenOffice is the best hope - it can generate XML and has a very well established, tried and tested reportwriter so use that to create the reports then translate the XML into JFree.

    It's that translation part that JFree desperately needs.

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