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Stop Writing Visual FoxPro Reports... Today

Last week I saw a discussion on the LinkedIn Made2Manage Group about the Pros and Cons of using SSRS vs. VFP Reporting, and it amazes me that people are still arguing about it. So, I thought I’d reaffirm a stance that I’ve had for many years, which is VFP Reporting Must Die.

I’ve lamented Visual FoxPro’s limitations in the past and I don’t want bore you by hashing them all out again. Let’s just hit the highlights.

  1. VFP reports are difficult to write and maintain.
  2. VFP lacks chart and graph capability.
  3. M2M report permissions management is tedious.

However, in addition to that list, there are many other reasons you should curtail your use of Visual FoxPro.

Technological Advantages

There many technical advantages to using SSRS (or even Crystal Reports for that matter) over Visual FoxPro. In addition to graphing capabilities, SSRS also facilitates more interaction and customization. For example, you can easily create reports with drill down, and you can drill across to different reports as well. Let’s say for example, that your Operations Manager is looking at a Sales Order report, and wants to drill across to Purchase Order information tied to that Sales Order. Think you can do that with VFP?

Develop Marketable Skills

As I mentioned last week, VFP is a dying language and will never make you a more desirable employee in the market. The same applies if M2M adopts some other niche product as their new reporting strategy. Nobody is going to pay six figures for experience in some product nobody uses. Spend time focusing on T-SQL Programming and SSRS instead.

Remember, that it’s in Consona’s best interest to use a proprietary niche product as that generates additional consulting revenue for them.

Ease of Use

SSRS is so much easier to use than Visual FoxPro. It’s easier to learn and the tools are more polished.

Re-usable Code

All of these methods essentially boil down to one common denominator, T-SQL. The base T-SQL code is more easily extracted from SSRS, Crystal, etc. than from Visual FoxPro. Also, once you have the T-SQL, you can quickly re-create reports in any of the other methods including Qlickview, Tableau, and Excel.

Also, don’t forget to use Database Views to make your code more manageable and easier to upgrade.

SSRS is Less Expensive Than VFP

SSRS is free with SQL Server 2005 and above. Did you actually license all of those copies of Visual FoxPro that you most likely have on your server and several workstations? If not, you’re breaking the law as those licenses cost approximately $500 a pop.

SSRS Consulting is Less Expensive

M2M charges $225 an hour for report customization work. One of the reasons they can is because there are relatively few people who are skilled in Visual FoxPro Reporting. SSRS Reporting skills are much more common and the competition drives prices down. Competent SSRS report writers can be hired for anywhere from $100 – $150 per hour on contract.

The Made2Manage people who recommend VFP Report Writing have three basic reasons that they cite for doing so.

Using Anything Else is Not Supported

Yes, this is true. Consona does not support the use of SSRS, Crystal, or even Excel for that matter. However, they don’t support their own VFP report customizations either. Consona’s contracts generally state that the contracted customization is only guaranteed to work on the version for which it was written. Be prepared, no matter which reporting method you use, to test and possibly edit your custom reports when migrating to a new version of M2M. If you’re using M2M Customized VFP reports, that may well mean more billing hours at $255 per.

M2M Version 7 is Imminent

Really? M2M has just begun to ask for Beta Testing volunteers. That process, especially when migrating to a new major release, will take a long time. And really, even if Version 7 was available today, how soon will most of you migrate anyway? I personally wouldn’t move until 7.01 (or after several service packs were issued) as new major releases are always problematic. Just ask the poor souls who were early adopters of version 6.0.

Yes, in a future version, M2M will get away from using Visual FoxPro. However, to the best of my knowledge they still haven’t announced what their new method will be. Even if it is some proprietary product, does it really matter anyway? They certainly aren’t going to migrate the entire product to Oracle or another database platform. Your SSRS reports will still work, and the time and effort invested in them is not wasted.

Opening Reports in Another Program is Inconvenient

You don’t need to open SSRS to use the reports. Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I’ve already shared how you can launch SSRS reports quickly and easily directly from M2M. I know that people have done the same thing with Crystal Reports as well.

One Exception….

The only time I edit a M2M VFP Report is when the requested customization is very small and easy to deliver. If a user wants another field from a table in the query, or some other small task, I’ll edit the current VFP report instead. I only do that when it’s more efficient than creating an entire report in SSRS or another medium.

What do you think? Anyone disagree with what I’ve said? What are you using as your reporting method and why?

5 comments to Stop Creating Visual FoxPro Reports… Today

  • I really want to try using SSRS, when my place has me customize reports there are usually 3 choices given to me:
    1. Modify right in M2M using VFP…yuck.. the workers prefer this because they don’t need to leave M2M
    2. Crystal Reports (good for simple reports)
    3. PHP, allows complex programming but lacks easy charts and good print formatting

    * To get the in M2M link I need to convince them to install or let me install the VBA module. Though they will be upgrading so I am going to try to get it in then. any free way to edit VB anyone knows of?

  • Scott

    I try to use SSRS whenever possible. I will on rare ocasions modify a VFP report when the change is very simple or when it is a special report that actually changes data in the database like RPSO.

    An interface to write and modify VBA is built into M2M. There is no need to use a third party tool and I would recomend against it since I like to write small portions of code at a time to test for functionality.

  • Robert

    Can you do this with reports linked to Sales Orders (through O-Link)? Or reports that have multiple layouts that are printed out when you select All Copies? Would this be something where you’d have to add the button to your Orders screen (as you detail in the linked article), and then within the events of that button called the different layouts?

  • Robert, I tried linking the reports through OLink but didn’t have success. You can have multiple layouts in a SSRS report through the use of parameters. It’s a bit more than I can explain via a comment. If you’d like to discuss it further, feel free to email me at David.Stein.Jr [at] gmail.com.

  • The Stonefield Query SDK allows you to create a version of Stonefield Query for any database. Simply use the SDK to create the data dictionary, configuration, and script files for your database, whether it’s native Visual FoxPro tables (free or in a database container), SQL Server, Oracle, Access, DB2, MySQL, dBase, or any other ODBC-compliant database. It also works with any OLE DB provider, SQLXML [SQL Server access over HTTP], Web Services, and anything with an API you can code against. It can even query against Microsoft Excel and text files. Then deploy it to your users and let them start creating the ad-hoc reports they need in just six easy steps.

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