Output Limitations

This article covers output format limitations that can occur when generating output from Report Templates created in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint). These limitations can cause unexpected results when your output is generated. Windward Studios recommends familiarizing yourself with these design limitations so you can create templates that are accurately reflected when you generate output.

All Formats

Vertical Absolute Position

Absolutely-positioned objects can cause problems as they don't move when data is merged into a Report Template's output. These problems can be compounded by the fact the merged-in data needs to adjust other objects and take into account their placement. For more about how Report Templates work see [Template Layout Best Practices].  

The normal (unTagged) text in your Report Template will appear in the same place in the output. However, Tags can produce objects that may expand or shrink depending on the Tags' select statements. ForEach Tags will always expand and produce more rows of text, while the If, Else, Switch and Case Tags may add or remove text from a Report Template's output.

When Tag objects expand they push the text and objects located below further down in the Report Template's output. In the case where Tag objects shrink, the text and objects below will move up in the output. This can cause page breaks to occur unexpectedly. Using hard and soft page breaks can ensure your text appears as you desire in the Report Template's output.  

When you absolutely position an item, you are telling Microsoft Office that item should always remain in the same position in the output. You can think of this as a large rock extending out from a waterfall causing the water to crash against the rock before it hits the waterfall's basin. The water's flow is disrupted by the rock during its descent. Similarly, text and other objects that are not absolutely positioned will flow smoothly and dynamically with the layout; however, items that are fixed will have text written over them producing undesired output. Windward Studios generally recommends not using absolutely-positioned objects, but if you must use them, here are a few tips to assist you:

  • Objects with a vertical absolute position relative to the top of the page or margin are problematic as Windward has to guess how to place them based on the output objects generated prior to the object. The most commonly absolutely-positioned items are text boxes, but this also happens with images and tables.
  • Absolute vertically-positioned items based on the paragraph or line is fine.
  • Absolute horizontal positioning is fine.

Crossing Formats

When generating output in one format, from a Report Template created in another format, there may be inconsistencies due to the nature of the program used to create the Template. For example, output generated from Excel Templates may not produce the exact same output as that generated from PowerPoint Templates, because PowerPoint does not understand the concept of tables, rows and formulas.  For this reason, Windward doesn't recommend and may not support input and output formats which are problematic. Please see Input to Output Format considerations.

OpenXML Limitations

OpenXML formats are DOCX, PPTX and XLSX

  • Report Templates other than DOCX, PPTX, and XLSX have limited functionality, due to the limited functionality of older formats:
    • RTF interpretation varies from different Word versions and even service packs between versions. It is for this reason Windward Studios doesn't support new feature development for RTF Report Templates. 
    • PPT, CSV and XLS Report Templates were not created using the OpenXML-based file formats, and are more difficult to interact with.
    • DOC is not a supported Report Template format.
  • Output to HTML, PDF, and matching OpenXML formats are fully supported to the extent possible for that format.
  • PPTX output can only be generated from PPTX templates.
  • Crossing formats (like DOCX to XLSX) is strongly discouraged and the generated output will often be a poor match because the file format settings are so different.
  • Chart Tag Limitations
  • [Embedded objects limitations]
  • In output from and to dissimilar OpenXML formats, such as from XLSX to DOCX, Windward will remove the following:
    • SmartArt
    • Shapes
    • Textboxes
    • Embedded Objects

Unsupported Features

These features will not be applied to output from any Report Template:

  • Tracking Changes
  • Proofing marks
  • Phonetic markers/guides
  • Gauges

Format-Specific Limitations

Word

See [Document (Word) Limitations], which describes Word format limitations in detail.

Excel

See [Excel Output Limitations], which describes Excel format limitations in detail.

PowerPoint

See [Support for PowerPoint PPTX Format], which describes PowerPoint format limitations in detail.

Office 365 (Word Online, Excel Online)

Report Designer Online Edition (Report Designer) can't be used in a browser-only version of Office. When you download Office 365, you are installing Office 2016, and Report Designer will function normally.  See [Limitations of Office 365] for more details.

PDF

Fonts

When generating PDF output, the system running Report Designer or a Report Engine must have the fonts used in the Report Template installed (this is generally an issue on Unix-based systems).

  • If the requested font is not installed, the system will use the closest match - and that can be quite a bit different.
  • When the system has to substitute a font, it will list the font substitution in the log file.

Tables and Borders

Due to a PDF limitation, when drawing lines in Adobe Acrobat (for table and paragraph borders), each line can be joined to the previous line only if the line width and style do not change. Therefore, in PDF output:

  • Table Borders - The outer box around a table is drawn as one line so the outer box will join up. Each inner row and column divider is drawn as a separate line. These inner lines are set to end on the outer box line, but Acrobat cannot be told to join the inner lines to the outer box.
  • Line Continuity - If the outer box or inner line changes style or width part-way around, one line ends and another starts. Again, Acrobat does not know these two lines are supposed to be joined and will not draw them contiguously.
  • Thick Borders - If borders and lines look thicker when zoomed out in the document, zoom in and you will see the lines are redrawn. When the document is printed it will appear as expected.

HTML

  • There are no tabs in the HTML language. Tabs are approximated but cannot be matched exactly. We recommend you use tables instead.
  • Absolute positioning is not supported. Absolute-positioned objects are treated as inline.
  • If you are using a Report Engine to generate HTML for emails, we recommend:
    • Setting the html.html_type property to 1
    • Or setting the cssType property in the ReportHtml (.NET) and ProcessHtml (Java) classes to CSS_NO, because Outlook does not support CSS very well.
  • We only support a subset of Shapes and Smart Art at this time.  This includes but is not limited to pictures and text inside of Shapes and Smart Art.

HTML templates

  • All HTML limitations listed above
  • Template support is designed to provide a means to pass basic formatting, not to handle complex layout via HTML. For complex layout, please use DOCX.
  • For supported Tags and Style settings, see HTML and CSS Tags and Attributes Supported By Out Tags.

Printer

Printer output is basically the same as PDF output in Report Designer and the Report Engines, except for PDF-specific settings and settings that are not applicable to printed output.