Report Writer Series: Custom Reports

The next in my series of blog posts about Report Writer is a brief article on Custom reports.

Why would you create a custom report in Report Writer?  (really… why?) I’ve done it a handful of times, and don’t particularly recommend it (with all due respect to David Musgrave :) ) but there are a couple simple reasons why it makes sense sometimes.  The types of reports you would create with it would need to be extremely simple due to the fact there is no end user option for sorting or filtering results and no parameter input.

  1. Data Validation It can be useful to put together a report to quickly view some records that are otherwise not available on a regular out of the box report.  This is usually why I use it, and the reports are generally discarded after we’ve validated and printed what we need.  This is my last resort, as Smartlist Builder is my tool of choice for this. However, if the customer does not own SLB, sometimes this is the next best option.

  2. Time Sometimes the alternative is another reporting tool, which needs to be purchased, licensed, installed and/or configured; not to mention the matter of distributing the report to the necessary users.  Sometimes, if the report is possible using Report Writer, it’s quicker and simpler to do it this way.  There are so many tools out there, most of the time the best option for the long term is another reporting tool (Crystal Reports, SQL Reporting Services, Smartlist Builder, etc.). There simply is not enough flexibility with Report Writer to do all the things many people want to do with reports but the one thing it has going for it is it’s always there ready to go when you need it.

How to create a custom report

I’m not going into as much depth on this article simply because I don’t expect many people to actively use Custom Reports… it’s a high level overview of the steps and my previous articles can help with some of the nuts and bolts of the details.

  1. Launch Report Writer & select your dictionary

Open the Reports window if it’s not already opened and click New to get started.  You’ll need to give your report a name, and select a Series for the report.  The Series will affect a couple of things, most notably where the report appears under security when setting security for this and where the users find it in the Custom Reports window.  Keep it simple: put it in the series to which is most closely fits!

  1. Select a Main Table & Keys

The main table is the one where your primary source of information is located. I’ve selected “PA Project Master File” since my example will be a simple project listing.  Most tables have multiple key options, and your choice may be different depending on what you are linking to, how you want your report to sort and what sections you want on your report.  In my case, I am not sorting or grouping by many fields so the first key - Project Number - is fine.

  1. Add other tables as needed

Add whatever other tables you want to link to this report.  If necessary, create a new relationship between two tables.  For this example,I’m simply linking to the RM Customer MSTR table to get the full customer name on my report.

  1. Add sorting and/or restrictions if needed

My next blog article will talk about both Sorting and Restrictions as well as Keys.  For my example, I’ve left both sorting and restrictions blank.  Here is what my Report Definition looks like:


  1. Create your report layout

You’re starting with a blank slate here, and you can create whatever sections you need, decide what page headers and footers you want etc.  In my case, I’ve decided to add both a header and footer section for the Customer.  My report is going to be a list of projects grouped by customer, so my header and footer are breaking on changes in Customer Number.  Here is what my simple report looks like in Report Layout:


  1. Test your report

With a custom report, you are able to run it right from within Report Writer which helps a great deal in checking the data and layout quickly.  This is what my simple report looks like:


  1. Set security

Security on these types of Report Writer reports is not through the Alternate/Modified area like you would use to grant security on a modified report.  This time, it’s in the tasks. Edit or create new tasks where you want the report visible to certain users.  Select the product under which you created the report, the type is “Custom Reports” and the series is whatever series you selected.


  1. Print the report

Lastly, custom reports all appear under one window under the Reports menu, Customized and you select your Product and Series to display and print them.


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