The Best 8 Free and Open Source Reporting Software Solutions
Optimized reporting platforms are extremely important today. Reporting tools are helpful to present data in the visual formats. Charts, graphs, and tables used in the intelligent reporting software allow the presentation to be in the preferred format. Traditional reporting formats have almost come to near obsolete. Advanced reporting system using some of the best reporting software solutions enable businesses to increase communication and accuracy and make well-informed decisions easily.
More and more business organizations are now turning to business intelligence and advanced reporting software programs for growth; hence, the market for such tools is significantly expanding. Approximately, 47% of the global businesses rely upon automated software programs for their official report management. It is due to highly designed documents, ease of implementation, and accurate & precise reports. Over 15% of them rely on free and open source reporting software solutions, which is an increased amount of percentage from the past decade.
This article can guide you on the role and importance of reporting software solutions for businesses using some of the best open source reporting software programs.
Reporting Software Program
A reporting tool is a business intelligence application suite. Its primary purpose is to transform the available data into actionable information. The data compiled is eventually structured into specific reports. Actionable information provides any business an immense power to make appropriate business decisions.
Different Types of Reports
Reports may vary due to their instructiveness. Let us check out different types of reports that the users can generate using advanced reporting software programs.
- Formal or Informal Reports: Formal reports are more objective, detailed, carefully structured and are written in a professional style. Informal ones are natural and casual in terms of the language used. They are usually short in size.
- Long or Short Reports: This feature doesn’t have many characteristics. A one-page memorandum makes it a short report, whereas a 15-20 page report is a long report.
- Informational or Analytical Reports: Informational reports can include monthly financial reports, annual reports, employee attendance reports and all that covers figures, data or information of any type. Analytical reports are a bit different to them despite involving facts and figures. They include real-estate appraisals, feasibility reports, scientific research reports, etc.
- Proposal Reports: A proposal document is prepared as a problem-solving report. It describes as to how one organization can help the other in meeting their needs within their budget and time. Most government advertisement issue “requests for proposal” or RFPs specifying their needs and the requirements of the proposal reports from their potential suppliers.
- Lateral or Vertical Reports: This type of classification most significantly refers to the travel directions of a report. The reports created upward or downward the hierarchy are vertical reports and are meant to contribute to the management control and help in organizational coordination. On the other hand, the report travelling between different units in the same organization level comes in the category of lateral reports.
- Internal or External Reports: Reports that travel within the organization is internal reports and those, prepared for distributing outside the organization such as annual reports of companies are external reports.
- Periodic Reports: Reports that are scheduled to be presented on some regular dates or schedules are periodic reports. They are generally directed upward and belong to management controls. Computer-generated reports and pre-printed data forms are few examples of periodic reports.
- Functional Reports: These are generic kind of reports including financial reports, marketing reports, accounting reports and a variety of other reports. They are also classified as:
- Pre-printed forms
What constitutes a report?
- A description of a situation or a sequence of events.
- Interpretation of the significance of the case or these events based on either your analysis or viewpoints of others as well.
- The result of your research or evaluation of facts.
- Probable outcomes with the future course of action.
Structure of Reports – Standard Format
Evolution of Reporting
Surveys are the most initial form of reports. Surveying has been around for centuries. More specifically, they have been in use for 6,000 years based on historical records.
However, the first reporting process evolved with the cross-tabulation feature. This feature still prevails in the modern day’s reporting software systems due to one unbeatable quality, i.e., anyone can read them intuitively and without any instruction.
The concept of business reporting software emerged to perform the accounting and calculation functions during the 1960s.
During the 1970s, several companies came into the market with their innovations related to reporting software tools. Then in 1973, the first UNIX operating system was launched which paved way for time-sharing and multi-tasking configuration - a base for reporting software programs.
SAP was launched in 1972 during the period of Enterprise Resource Planning concept introduced in the European market. The Intel 8008 that came in around the same period also helped in enhancing the features like handling letters of uppercase and lowercase, punctuation marks and symbols, ten numerals. It has dramatically increased the usage of potential reports and other business reporting tools.
During the mid of the 1970s, Oracle, Apple and Microsoft companies made their strong entry into the world of reporting software programs. The first spreadsheet software program VisiCalc was released in 1979 for the Apple II computer.
For the business sectors, Green Bar Reports were in use during the 1980s which was the earliest applied forms of business intelligence.
(Source: The NBN Group)
The later 90s saw many reporting software companies including the open source and free reporting software programs as well. They helped the users in experiencing a diverse style of reporting involving advanced data visualization and business intelligence techniques.
AI-enabled reporting and Geo-reporting are a widespread phenomenon of bars and charts-based reporting practices today.
Why are Reporting Software Solutions needed?
Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint are the best suitable solution for the majority of data related needs. But if you need a more robust, and extraordinary solution to meet the data related technicalities, reporting software is always best to choose. Digital reports from a reporting tool are 24/7/365 accessible and can easily be shared online via viewer access or public URL.
Here are the reasons that justify why reporting tools are best-to-have for an organization:
- In the context of Business Intelligence, reporting is one of the best components and it helps in visualizing data. The BI components like charts, graphs, tables, and other widgets help in presenting data in different styles.
- The non-technical decision makers can also utilize the ability of slicing, dicing and drilling down/through data, implement formulas and even perform some base level data modelling that was earlier the case with dedicated data scientists and analysts.
- Reporting software brings up the self-service or ad hoc reporting abilities in a user. The decision makers can eventually get the power to create and edit the report themselves to drive businesses forward and thus, the workload from the developers and report developers decreases.
- The enterprise-wide reporting capabilities risked many organizations to data overloading and analysis paralysis. Reporting software thus centralizes the reporting procedure across different departments and promotes ease of doing business. The administration process becomes more comfortable in this way.
- Advanced reporting capabilities facilitate pixel-perfect reporting, report scheduling and easy separation of the larger data sheets into separate pages for printing.
- Reports generated via reporting software can be easily shared by integrating it with file sharing software too.
How Does Reporting Software Work?
A reporting software consolidates your business data, frees the up-time for valuable analysis and eliminates the tedious tasks of manual reporting that make your reporting time slow down. This type of tool is extremely helpful in making more strategic decisions – quickly and accurately. Let us check how these tools work in a procedural format.
- Entering of raw data into the databases and data warehouses for data recording.
- Requesting queries for data.
- Reporting software is set-up and connected to multiple data sources.
- The software then fetches data based on the user-submitted questions, and the information displays in easy to interpret charts, graphs, and visualizations.
- The report is then evaluated and downloaded/printed as per the need.
Free and Open Source Reporting Software Solutions
Open source reporting software programs can be installed quickly and integrated conveniently with any existing system. The source code of all the open source projects within a company is free to be utilized and primarily contributed by the users. These are well-maintained and time-to-time investigated by the open source community. They are low-cost or free software programs and work best when embedded with advanced reporting technologies.
List of the Best Free and Open Source Reporting Software Solutions
Let us check some of the best open source reporting tools that help organizations of all sizes in their reporting operations.
Reporting tools help you mine the entire business data for almost all the information. But all software programs do it differently.
If you want to know how different they are from one another, check out the comparison table given below.
Let us check out these free and open source reporting software solutions in detail.
1. Eclipse BIRT
BIRT open source software project is well known for its rich features that enables better report generating capabilities to provide the astonished BIRT technology platform for creating reports and data visualizations that can further remain embedded to the rich web and client-based applications. The software is available on Java and Java JEE. The software is the creation of Eclipse Foundation and operates on cross-platform networks. The stable version 4.8.0 release date of the software is June 26, 2018.
- BIRT software possesses two components: a visual report designer to create designs and a runtime component to deploy those designs to any Java environment.
- The software facilitates data customization, conditional formatting, scripting, Java event coding, project management, styles, libraries, internationalization.
- The software is very extendable, and includes data access, report items, chart types and output formats as its extendable features.
(Source: Eclipse BIRT)
Launched in 2013, the JSreport software is one of the top rated free and open source reporting software. Till now, it has crossed more than 200,000 downloads. The software was very recently updated on March 6th 2019. It runs on multiple-platforms and allows the users’ to create reports on different formats like PDF, Excel, XML or HTML.
- It includes a web-based designer connected with a modern browser to design reports.
- It provides a complete set of extensions like templates versioning, scheduling, subreports, import-export, and backup and user management.
Jasper Report is one of the most powerful open source reporting engines. The software is available in Java, and it supports report documentation in any format including HTML, PDF, Excel, OpenOffice, and Word.
- The fundamental purpose of the Jasper Report software is to create documents printing in the pixel-perfect presentation.
- The software features some facilities for Excel documents as well like grouping rows, freezing panes, applying formulas, stretching widths of the row, column and height.
- Users can easily embed contents from the external documents to the generated report.
- The row outline grouping on various indentation levels is another noticeable feature of this software program.
(Source: Jasper Report)
A developer-friendly open source BI and reporting framework – Helical Insight is built on Java, HTML and CSS based platforms. Its structure also allows building functionalities and plugins using Java and HTML development. The community edition of the software is XML driven.
- Helical Insight software facilitates seamless connection to any database, custom-data source, APIs and flat files.
- It is 100% browser-based software that comes with an auto emailing feature for reports and dashboards.
- It supports multi-device and multi-tenancy compatibility.
- It uses both – traditional and modern methods for data analysis and embeds its BI solutions to your products.
(Source: Helical Insight)
As a product of advanced data science, KNIME is an open source, fast, easy and intuitive analytics platform and well known for being a data-driven reporting tool. Headquartered in Zurich, the software holds a vast community of developers and scientists in more than 60 countries of the world.
- KNIME is scalable software for sophisticated data handling.
- It provides an intuitive user interface and a well-defined API for plug-in extensions.
- It can run on multiple platforms and assures easy import/export of workflows.
- It offers more than 2000 modules or nodes for building your workflows.
- It supports different file formats like CSV, PDF, XLS, JSON, XML, time series data and unstructured data types, i.e., images, documents, networks, molecules, etc.
Metabase is one of the easy-to-use, free and open source software that quickly filters and groups your information into the kind of report that you are looking for. The latest version of the software is v0.32.4. As per Predictive Analytics Today’s Survey, it got 8.1 user rating out of 10 ratings for its exceptional features and functionality.
- Metabase software allows for exceptional integration and performance facilitation.
- It facilitates an elegant SQL interface that makes it easy to dig into complicated stuff.
- The software dashboard allows the users to create, organize and share a collection of data.
- Users can also visualize data in the form of graphs and charts in just a click.
Knowage is one of the best open source suites for modern business analytics. It is an improved version of SpagoBI, and its latest version is 6.3. The software provides the opportunity to work with traditional data sources and big data. Knowage software is used to build reports, interactive cockpits, and multidimensional analysis.
- Knowage software facilitates interactive dashboards, reports, and advanced analytics.
- It facilitates data/text mining and location intelligence.
- It promotes KPIs, alerting systems and thresholds.
- Affero GPL v3 licensing powers the software.
- The software is available in 6 languages including English, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Arabic.
- The SQL Power Wabit software solution provides custom dashboards and standard reporting.
- It’s reporting and analytics features include Line, Bar & Pie Charts, and Drill-down OLAP cubes, easy to use drag & drop interface.
- It facilitates Real-time BI Reporting.
- The software also allows the user to auto-create the SQL queries without any manual coding.
(Source: SQL Power Wabit)
Zoho Analytics, Bitrix24, Klipfolio, Tapclicks, Datadog, Pentaho and Logicmonitor are other distinguished reporting software tools popular among the users. Tableau is one among the best popular reporting software solutions that is preferred by majority of businesses seeking hi-tech reporting features. Let us discuss more about it in detail.
Headquartered in Seattle, Tableau Software is world’s recognized data visualization software company that is focussed on business intelligence. Tableau software actually lets you change the way you think about data. It makes your reporting procedures easier and convenient on all handy devices.
- Tableau reporting software runs on the patented technology from Stanford University and received the Best Business Intelligence Software Award for 2018 held by Sisence.
- The software makes users to easily establish connection to various data sources along with importing and visualizing data quickly and easily.
- Intuitive and easy interface with flexible pricing and deployment.
- The software promotes collaboration and investigates data in many ways.
- Embedded and mobile-ready dashboards, dashboard commenting, metadata management, automatic updates, security permissions server REST API are some of the other features associated with the software.
If you are already using one from the software listed above, you can freely share your reviews here.
Big Data and Mobile BI & reporting apps are in huge prevalence these days. Embedded BI is the real future of the present generation’s reporting software tools. Live data feeds have already taken the place of the traditional reports.
The IDC study reports that the global query, report, and analysis market has reached around $12 billion in 2018 and it is expected to rise at a CAGR of 7.6% in the next five years. This data has become a ‘food for thought’ for the experts and analysts to understand how rapidly the trend for digital reports is spreading in the market and benefiting the organizations as well.
The year 2019-20 is going to experience an extremely customized form of BI-based reporting strategies. The data discovery and data quality management will be on peak and more focus is expected on the combination of clean and secure data for simple and powerful presentation via different kinds of reports. Multi-cloud strategies and artificial intelligence are giving a growing edge to the reporting platforms to develop qualitative reporting software tools that can help in superior business decision-making practices.
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