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Get Started With Mail Merge Reports

Introduction

A mail merge is a way to generate multiple documents at once by applying data records to a pre-defined template. In ActiveReportsJS, you can build such a report using a variety of ways. If a document template can be expressed as an HTML fragment, then you can use a RichText report item together with a List data region. Examples of mail merge reports are letters, coupons, and others.

This tutorial builds the Promotion Coupon list from the ground up, providing experience with the typical report designing process. By the end, you will be able to do the following:

  • Create a new report
  • Bind the report to the OData API
  • Use the OData $select query option to reduce the volume of retrieved data
  • Use field tags to define the data type of a field
  • Create a List data region, bind it to the data, and set the filter for the data to be displayed
  • Configure Grouping of a List Data Region
  • Use a RichText report item to display a dynamic HTML content

Upon completing all tutorial steps, the final report will look like this: live demo.

Prerequisites

The following content assumes that you have the Standalone Report Designer running. Visit the tutorial for detailed information. A stable internet connection is also required to access the Demo Data Hub.

Creating a New Report

In the standalone report designer, click the File menu and select the Continuous Page Layout template for a newly created report. Click anywhere on the gray area around the report layout to load the report properties in the properties panel. In the Margins section, set the Style property to Narrow to change the report page margins size.

Expand to watch creating a new report in action

Creating a new report

Data Binding

Data binding establishes a connection between a report and the data it displays. For this demo, we use the GrapeCity Demo OData API that contains the sales data for a fictitious company called Contoso that is a manufacturing, sales, and support organization with more than 100,000 products.

Adding Data Source

You can think of the Contoso OData API as the "database" that you can connect to using its root URL https://demodata.grapecity.com/contoso/odata/v1, and that has multiple "tables" which presented with endpoints such as /DimCustomers, /DimStores, and /DimProducts. Using the following steps, you can create a Report DataSource that establishes the connection to such a "database."

  • Open the Data panel of the property inspector and click the Add button.
  • In the Data Source editor dialog, type Contoso in the NAME field and https://demodata.grapecity.com/contoso/odata/v1 in the ENDPOINT field.
  • Click the Save Changes button

Expand to watch adding the data source in action

Adding data source

Adding Data Set

Data Sets represent one or more endpoints of the Data Source. For the Promotion Coupon list, we need access to the data from the DimPromotions endpoint of the Contoso Data Source that we added in the previous section.

Use the following steps to add the Promotions data set:

  • Click the + icon near Contoso in the Data panel.
  • In the Data Set Editor dialog, type Promotions in the NAME field, /DimPromotions in the Uri/Path field, and $.value.* in the Json Path field.
  • By default, each Promution record includes 14 fields, but we don't need them all. Therefore we limit the retrieved fields by applying the OData $select query option via a query parameter.
    • Click the + icon on the right side of the Parameters section.
    • Type $select in the Parameter field of the newly added Parameter item.
    • Type PromotionKey, PromotionName, DiscountPercent, StartDate, EndDate in the Value field of the same Parameter item.
  • Click the Validate button.
  • Ensure that the DataBase Fields section displays [5 items] text.
  • Expand the DataBase Fields section and set the DataField property of the StartDate and the EndDate fields to StartDate[Date] and EndDate[Date], respectively.
  • Click the Save Changes button.

Expand to watch adding the Promotions data set in action

Adding data set

Adding List

To display promotion coupons, we will use List data region:

  • Expand the toolbox using the Hamburger menu located on the left side of the toolbar.
  • Drag and drop the List item from the toolbox to the report page area's top-left corner.
  • Switch to the Properties panel in the Property inspector.
  • Select the Promotions item in the Data Set Name drop-down
  • Set the Width property to 7.5in so that the list occupies the available printable area defined by the report page size and margins.
  • Set the Height property to 5in.
  • Click the +Add... link in the Filters Editor.
  • Click the +Add... button and select DiscountPercent in the popup menu.
  • Select the Greater Than for the filter operator.
  • Click the text area on the right side of the > sign and type 0.

Expand to watch adding the List in action

Adding list

Setting List Grouping

To display each promotion coupon on a separate page, we will configure the List Grouping:

  • Exit the Filters Editor by clicking the Back button.
  • Click the + icon on the right side of the Group Expressions property in the Group section in the Property inspector.
  • Click the gray box on the right side of the newly added item and select the PromotionKey field.
  • Set the Page Break property to Between.

Adding RichText

We will use the Rich Text report item to display the promotion coupon details:

  • Expand the toolbox using the Hamburger menu located on the toolbar's left side.
  • Drag and drop the RichText item from the toolbox to the top-left corner of the List report that we added previously.
  • Set the following properties for the newly added richtext in the properties panel.
Property Value
Top 0in
Left 0in
Width 7.5in
Height 5in
Border Width 5pt
Border Style Dotted
Border Color #bbb
Padding 16pt 2pt 16pt 2pt

Click the gray box on the right side of the Value property editor and select the Expression... item. Then, in the Expression dialog, set the following value and click the Save button.

<h2 style="text-align:center;">{PromotionName}</h2>
<p style="text-align:center;">
<img src="https://demodata.grapecity.com/images/NorthWind_large.png" style="width:2.25in;height:2.25in" />
</p>
<h1 style="color:red;text-align:center;">{Format(DiscountPercent, "P0")} OFF YOUR PURCHASE<sup>*</sup></h1>
<p style="text-align:justify;"><sup>*</sup>Valid from <b>{Format(StartDate, "d")}</b> to <b>{Format(EndDate, "d")}</b> in all of our stores. Cannot be combined with any other offers. No cash value. Northwind Traders can cancel promotion at any time.</p>

Check the RichText documentation for the full list of supported HTML tags and CSS styles.

Preview the report output

You can now preview the report output and navigate the list of promotion coupons. You can print the output or export it to a PDF document. Note that each coupon is displayed on a separate page because we set the Page Break option to Between for the List Grouping.

The final version of the report is available at the demo website.