After you have completed your functional report design tasksconnecting to the data source, adding report objects, and structuring the reportthe next step in the report design process is to format the various objects on a report. As demonstrated in Chapter 1, "Creating and Designing Basic Reports," objects can be added to a report via a variety of methodsdragging and dropping objects from the design explorers or selecting objects from toolbar and menu commands and placing them in the desired locationsfor quick and intuitive report creation. Upon successfully adding objects to your report, each of the respective objects can be positioned, sized, and formatted for display purposes, as demonstrated in the following exercise.
As a visual example of the difference that report formatting efforts can make, compare the presentation value of the report samples shown in Figures 6.1 and 6.2. These two reports accomplish the same functional tasks, but the report in Figure 6.2 is much more visually appealing.
Figure 6.1. A customer contact listing report with little to no formatting applied.
Figure 6.2. A customer contact listing report with a moderate amount of formatting applied.
You will spend the remainder of this chapter reproducing many of the visual transformations from Figure 6.1 to Figure 6.2. By completing the following exercises, you create a Customer Contact Listing report using a variety of applied formatting techniques, such as adding a group definition to logically structure customers into their respective countries, and formatting the font styles of the report title, column titles, country description, and e-mail address fields to make for a more precise presentation of the report information. By combining the Country database field with a text field, you also provide for a bilingual display of the country description.
To begin designing your report, follow these steps to create your own nicely formatted Customer Contact Listing report:
Figure 6.3. Add the Contact Last Name field to the Details section of the report.
Figure 6.4. The selected fields displayed within the respective sections of the report and a floating Field Explorer dialog.
Figure 6.5. The sample report displays five database field objects in the Details section, five database field column header text fields in the Page Header, and one text object in the Report Header section.
Notice that when you float over the perimeter handles of an object with your mouse cursor (or pointer), the cursor icon turns into an alternative shape, such as horizontal or vertical arrows, to illustrate that you can modify the object if you click on the handle.
Although many formatting activities can be exercised on field objects in both the design and preview tabs, some formatting facilities are only available within the Design tab. One useful feature to take note of is the capability to move a highlighted field (or even a set of fields) and its associated column title with the arrow keys on your keypad. This technique is a great help when you're moving report fields around as you did in step 9.
As you might have noticed, the field sizes are often large enough to show the entire field name in the Design view of the report. But from the Preview tab view of the report, you see that fields (such as the E-mail or Phone fields here) are cut off from the display area. This is not unusual, and it might require you to resize the field objects to ensure that they are appropriate for the report display area. It is often useful to use the report's Preview tab as the active window when finalizing the formatting and layout of your reports.
Figure 6.6. To preview your report, either select the Preview tab or click the Refresh button.
If the Preview tab is not displayed in the application, you have not yet run the report against the database. To run the report, click the Refresh toolbar icon to execute the report to runthe Refresh toolbar icon is represented with a yellow lightning bolt.
Although it's important to understand the basics of report formatting, you will not necessarily have to go through the often arduous process of formatting reports every time. Report templates can be used to apply predefined and meaningful formatting characteristics in a very quick manner.
For more details on designing and using report templates, p. 300