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INFO: How to get help for JasperReports

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By: Mykel Alvis - evilarchitect

INFO: How to get help for JasperReports

2004-07-27 22:10


1. Upon re-reading this, it looks very much like flame-bait. It's not intended as such, so I'm including an up front pseudo-apology


If it offends you, then you'll get what passes as a back-handed apology from me (specifically, a heart-felt "I'm sorry you feel that way").


It's late (for me) and I'm tired and I've corrected my mis-spelling of "JasperReprots" about 30 times and I might have said something incorrect, for which I'll probably spew out an ACTUAL apology.




2. I don't write code or do "official" support for JasperReports. These statements and opinions are mine (or stolen by me to use as if I were actually smart) and do not knowingly reflect those of Teodor or anyone else here.


3. This post will NOT actually answer any specific question about JasperReports you might have. It's more of a "meta-post" about how to get your questions answered.


4. Some may claim this belongs in Open Discussion. That's fine. Tell me and I'll copy it over and paste it in.




Here goes with my rant^H^H^H^Hmonograph^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hrant...



I've spent the last couple of days trying to help folks new to JasperReports. When I started looking, I noticed that there seemed to be quite a few forum messages with 0 replies,


When nobody replies to a message after while, IMO, it usually indicates one of several things:

1. Nobody understood the problem because it didn't make sense

2. Somebody understood the problem, and understood that the problem was actually not with JasperReports and so they ignored it.

3. Somebody understood the problem and couldn't solve it because you've got a real bug, a really serious issue or something actually tricky so instead of replying with "Wow, that's hard", they are waiting to see if someone else takes a stab at it.


I'm sure there are type 4 through (Infinity-1) other types. I'm not smart enough to come up with all of them.


The idea is to decrease the number of type 1 & 2 (i.e "not interesting") questions and therefore increase the percentage of type 3 (i.e. "interesting") questions which somebody might actually try and solve. Eventually, the solutions will probably even migrate to the User's Guide.


So to facilitate use of the forums, I'm going to take a stab at what I think are some simple instructions stolen (like most of my stand up comedy routine) from the Hibernate forums and ESR.



Step 0. Learn to ask smart questions



You might also visit http://www.hibernate.org/160.html

Try substituting the word JasperReports for Hibernate on that page and skip the for-pay support section. :)



AFAIK, this forum is currently your [only real] venue for that.


Step 1. Learn to use the java classpath and command line switches.


The importance of this can't be stressed enough. If you don't know how to juggle classpaths, you'll have the same problems with every package of software that you integrate into a project at some point or try to deploy to some app server or another.


Nearly all of the problems I've answered either on this forum or privately in email over the last several days were classpath or JVM switch issues, most of which are covered in earlier posts to this forum.




Step 2 Search the forums for your problem. Search the exception messages you found. Chances are if you're new to JasperReports, you're screwing it up exactly the same way everyone of us did before. I'm as guilty as anyone of this, and I understand why people do it, but it's necessary to keep signal up and noise down.

For that matter, pay sourceforge for the privilege of better searches (I know what you're thinking. "Mykel, you haven't paid sourceforge for a subscription!" I know I haven't, but I'm poor. Sue me for my net worth and you might be able to take in dinner and a movie on the proceeds. :) )


Step 3 This is a slightly more difficult one. Stick the JasperReports source code in your project, compile, and step through with a debugger. I use Eclipe's debugger to step through my JasperReports stuff running inside Jboss daily and I usually find that the exceptions are my fault, not JasperReports.


Step 4 Support the effort. Write code, do support, or at least buy the User's Guide. It's a developing document (I believe) and the more money it makes, the more likely there will be improvements to it.


Step Last. Remember that this is an open source product, and is worth quite a bit more than what you paid for it. Ditto for whatever help you might recieve from individuals or this forum. Whining or pleading does NOT make anyone more disposed to helping you. Indications of the urgency of a question likewise generally do not make a favorable impression.


If JasperReports doesn't do what you need it to do, maybe what you need is something slightly more mature with paid support.

To be certain, Crystal does do quite a few things better ( the designer kicks ass and the charting elements are killer) and support calls are only USD125 or so.


However, the USD7000 price tag my company paid for Crystal BEFORE finding out that the "setSelectionFormula" call to the Java Reporting Component is SILENTLY IGNORED(!) was an expensive lesson.

("Business Objects Tech Support: That issue IS in R&D!

Mykel: Thanks! Maybe you could buy me dinner next time.")


But, hey, the designer IS quite a bit nicer than JasperAssistant...


Unless you develop with Eclipse or you don't use Windows or until Crystal decides to randomly corrupt your report file or you want explicit documentation on how to retrieve a datasource or you want to get in and mess with the code a little (etc etc etc).


For my part, I'm extraordinarily pleased with JasperReports, since I can get my hands on the code. My boss might be a little miffed because he can't diddle around with the reports using a slick GUI, but he can't really complain much since the price tag and features set was pretty great and it's gotten the job done so far. It's got some shortcomings (like the inability to do reliable post-group processing or built-in charting). But I did manage to consolidate over a dozen reports into a single one by using a scriptlet to perform grouping and chart data accumulation (for JFreeChart).


So, to reiterate


0. Ask smart questions

1. The runtime environment is your friend, but it'll screw you over if you don't configure it correctly. Learning to do that is absolutely essential to being a java developer.

2. Look for your answers in the forums before you ask

3. Try debugging your report calls, or at least using logging information.

4. Support the effort. Help out or at least buy the guide. Remember that there's a price for everything. In the case of Open Source Software, the price is generally social rather than monetary.

Last. Remember that JasperReports is a java-based reporting tool, not a generic reporting management system (the designer notwithstanding). It's a framework-in-progress for building reports in code, not really an end-user product. If you're using it, it's probably because you're writing a system that needs reporting. Since you're the coder, you have an initial responsibility to try and work out your own issues. If you're not writing a system that integrates JasperReports, but rather looking for a packaged report system, try OpenReports ( http://opensourcesoft.net/index.php ) . It's probably still not what you're after, but it's worth a shot.






Some days the only successes I have are when somebody writes me back and says "That fixed it. Thanks!" and I have certainly written [far more than] my share of type 1 and type 2 (above) questions.


I'm not complaining about answering the questions that I have been fortunate enough to be able to help with. I'm very new to JasperReports myself, and I still don't know how to do a lot of things, including most of the cool formatting stuff. Everyone started out a newbie once, and nobody here is an exception.


We just need to be more efficient at providing support for our tools. With the sort of software that JR is, that means growing developers and users who know what they're doing and how to enable the product to expand. Part of growing these assets is training them on how to be assets in the first place.









By: Mykel Alvis - evilarchitect

RE: INFO: How to get help for JR UPDATE

2004-07-28 08:12

Following my own advice, I finally DID subscribe to SF. I'll just have to wait and pay my power bill. :)





By: KHollister - khollister

RE: INFO: How to get help for JasperReports

2004-07-28 12:08

Hi Mykel,


As one of those you've helped over the past few days, please allow me to say thank you for your help.


Yes, as my previous posts indicate, I am not as familiar with Java as many (including myself) would like me to be. In my own defense, I do look through any available documentation and the forums before I post. And when I do post, I always try to be polite and not complain too much.


However, it sounds like we're in similar places -- I work for a small startup, and my boss nearly nearly had a heart attack upon hearing Crystal's price tag of (at least) $25,000 USD. Over the past three weeks, I've been trying to evaluate as many open-source reporting tools as possible.


Having settled upon JasperReports late last week, I was asked yesterday where all the reports were -- it was assumed (but not by me) that report development would be quick and easy. So, if I seemed a bit frantic, I beg your forgiveness, it was only because it's only because the heat was turned up.


All that said, thanks again for your help and support.








By: Mykel Alvis - evilarchitect

RE: INFO: How to get help for JasperReports

2004-07-28 12:49

You are, of course, completely welcome! Thank you!


I feel your pain about CR. The brutal reality of possibly having to re-write every one of my reports to account for all possibilites of additional parameters made me want to cry.


If you happen to be using Eclipse, I've found that JasperAssistant to be absolutely essential to my reporting. Well worth the money.


Let me re-iterate for everyone else who might think this was just a newbie-bash:

- I've been doing JasperReports for about 4 weeks now. I'M a newbie. I just do it all day every day for pay at the moment, so I'm on an accelerated curve. Results for me allow me to eat, pay rent/utilities/inflated gas prices and to keep up my City of Heroes account. :)

- I certainly don't mind helping (wouldn't do it if I minded)

- I certainly understand about deadlines (at present, I've got 2 myself)

- I'm not pointing fingers at ANYBODY (including/especially you, Ken :) ). I'm trying to effect a social change by providing a reference methodology.

- This was not a troll for accolades/kudos

- This post WAS meant as a reminder that there is generally no entitlement mentality in open source.


There are good newbie questions and bad ones. The good questions should migrate to the FAQ, where they can be easily managed because they ARE actually frequently asked. The bad ones should be managed by indicating how to make the particular bad question into a good one. We've still got a few good questions being asked that haven't made it to the FAQ, but that's probably a lack of time, not desire.

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