Add Oh where, oh where has my little report gone to?

These days everybody is wondering what is happening with Quickreport, the report writer included with Delphi. Every day in the newsgroups somebody posts some scathing remarks about the quality of the Quickreport product in Delphi 4. Let's first look at some history before delving into the Quickreport mess.

When Delphi 1 was released, it included Borland's ReportSmith tool. ReportSmith is pretty similar in concept to Crystal Reports. You design your reports using a feature rich, but heavy in size, report writer. You then ship these reports with your app along with a sizeable ReportSmith runtime. At the time, many people, including myself, thought that ReportSmith was overkill for most apps. It was big and slow, and it didn't integrate well with your apps.

Then along came the first betas of Quickreport from QuSoft. It used an innovative design approach for the time. Instead of being a separate report writer, it used a component based approach that enabled you to design reports from within the Delphi IDE. Even better, it compiled directly into your app thereby eliminating the ReportSmith runtime. Many developers felt that Quickreport was a godsend at the time. Version 1 of Quickreport generally ran well and accomplished what it promised to do.

Borland had a problem with ReportSmith as generally developers did not like it. In order to solve this problem, they started shipping Quickreport as the defacto reporting tool for Delphi, starting with Delphi 2. ReportSmith was still available, but it was de-emphasized in favour of Quickreport. In Delphi 2, people were generally happy with this approach as Quickreport 1 worked as advertised for the most part.

Then the problems began with Quickreport 2. After their initial success with Quickreport 1, QuSoft started getting a lot of requests for features that Quickreport 1 was never designed to handle. They therefore elected to rewrite Quickreport for the second version, which was included with Delphi 3, and it became a much more feature rich reporting tool. Unfortunately, the quality of the product suffered a great deal and many people had problems with the product including memory leaks, printing memos, etc...

Next came Delphi 4 and disaster struck. The version 3 of Quickreport which shipped with D4 was little more then a beta and was plagued with problems. The Inprise delphi.reporting newsgroup erupted with a large number of complaints from Delphi developers that Quickreport 3 was unusable. Currently, QuSoft appears to be trying to fix the product as best they can with support from Inprise. Ben Riga, the product manager for Delphi, recently posted that Inprise was looking for beta testers for Quickreport so hopefully a fix will be here soon, however after all this can developers still trust Quickreport or has too much credibility been lost?

The question then becomes, where should Inprise go from here if QuSoft is unable to get Quickreport working satisfactorily? Should they continue shipping Quickreport with Delphi or should they look at alternative products?

In my opinion they need to adopt a two tier approach. The first thing to do is that in the next version of Delphi, Quickreport should be de-emphasized. Don't misunderstand me, it should still be included with Delphi so that developers currently depending on it do not suffer. However, it should no longer be installed on the component palette by default. Rather if the user wants to use Quickreport he or she should have to install it manually off of the Delphi CD, much like the ReportSmith component currently is.

So what should replace it? In my opinion, there is no easy answer to this one. Inprise does not appear to have the resources to write their own report writer so this option is probably a non starter. Replacing Quickreport with one of the other reporting tool vendors has been discussed in the newsgroups as an option. However, I don't feel this is a good solution simply because it has the potential to turn into the same situation as Quickreport. Additionally, it hurts the competitive market that exists in the reporting tool arena that has brought us such great products as ACE Reporter, ReportBuilder and ReportPrinter Pro. The only reason these guys can compete against QuSoft now is that Quickreport sucks so bad, otherwise 95% of the people who use Delphi would just blindly shell out the bucks to upgrade to Quickreport Pro without considering alternatives.

My preferred option would be for Inprise to include a separate CD with each copy of Delphi. This CD would include evaluation versions of all products from the major reporting tool vendors. This would help educate the Delphi user base that quality alternatives do exist to Quickreport. Users could easily try out the reporting tools and order the one which fit their needs the best. Additionally, other third party component vendors could also include evaluation versions of their products on this CD as well.

Now, this idea could hold up the release of Delphi by two to four weeks in order to give the third party market a chance to compile their tools with the final version of Delphi. While any delay is annoying, it would be worth it if it would help to fix the situation with Quickreport. Also, given the current lackluster state of the Delphi third party market, anything that would help in promoting third party tools would be a good thing.

I realize this is a controversial issue and many of you will likely disagree with what I have stated above. If you have an opinion on this issue, feel free to send it to me and I'll post the best ones here.
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