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  #11  
Old 07-02-2015, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by campbell View Post
We've been moving away from paper for decades.

Our printer still gets used a hell of a lot.

(Of course, I work in a place whose business is to publish, but still)
Lots of my coworkers print things out to read them in order to reduce the amount of time they are staring at a computer screen.
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  #12  
Old 07-02-2015, 03:58 PM
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I always wondered why the printing default for excel was portrait layout. On the screen you saw landscape. Sure, you could change the default, but for quick stuff it would have been more convenient the other way - and let people who want portrait change from the default.
/
Theory: Probably to align with all the kinds of forms and other documents that have been around for decades.

Old habits die hard.
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  #13  
Old 07-02-2015, 04:24 PM
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Lots of my coworkers print things out to read them in order to reduce the amount of time they are staring at a computer screen.
I used to do that when I was working. It also made it more convenient to read stuff while I lounged on the sofa. Of course, I'm really old and I don't have an ipad.
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  #14  
Old 07-02-2015, 04:25 PM
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Theory: Probably to align with all the kinds of forms and other documents that have been around for decades.

Old habits die hard.
case in point... QWERTY keyboard.
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  #15  
Old 07-02-2015, 04:25 PM
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Theory: Probably to align with all the kinds of forms and other documents that have been around for decades.

Old habits die hard.
Ah yes, the old "that's the way we've always done it."
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This. And everything else JMO wrote.
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  #16  
Old 07-02-2015, 05:14 PM
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i was saying that a downside of html files is that it is not easy for users to add comments/notes to the document and view them.
Did you try Microsoft Word Online? It is a HTML app and you can add comments / notes to the document.
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  #17  
Old 07-02-2015, 05:16 PM
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Dear AO

The question I'm asking here is: what format will/should most reports take in 2-5 years' time (as opposed to today's typical Word/pdf/Excel ones)?

The area I work in is principally web apps (mainly financial but other areas too).

It has taken time, but the web has now become a rich environment for displaying information to users, thanks to some powerful table and charting controls, which enable the user to run queries, change the display (via zooming in or out, also changing parameters, decide which series to include in the charts). In some areas (pivot charts) the web is not quite as good as say Microsoft Excel, but I think that will improve over the next year or so.

After the users/clients (and think of these ranging from Joe Public to senior executives/decision makers in corporations, regulators etc) have played around with the parameters/data and strategies on the web, the question then turns to one essentially required by quality control/documentation/compliance:

How do we responsibly record the key inputs/output and decisions taken?
So like the desktop counterparts that they are increasingly replacing, web apps need to produce Reports which the user/client can point to and say to compliance (and/or their own clients, eg if you are an actuary reporting to a Board of Directors, or the Trustees of a European pension plan):

Here is the key data used, here is the key output, and here are the key options/strategies/decisions to be discussed or taken.

Traditionally, such Reports have been produced in files which ultimately were intended to be printed, hence in Word or pdf files or similar. And so our web apps do this, because that is what our clients/users want.

But we ourselves (and I think the world generally) are increasingly moving away from paper. 5 to 10 years ago, there was little alternative to paper, because people on the move needed something that they could refer to, and share with others.

But now with tablets, smartphones and small netbooks becoming widely available, the case for paper (and reports designed to be printed on A4) is far from compelling. Here are some key disadvantages of the legacy reports designed to be printed on A4/letter:
  1. The width is tiny when compared to what can be displayed on the tablets and other computer devices that most clients use during most of their daily work OR leisure time. (With the exception of phones, but if people are looking at detailed financial matters, they will probably accept that to do this efficiently, they should use their pc or tablet rather than a phone).
  2. For people with vision problems (including many people over 50, which is the age at which the eye muscles start to weaken, and bi-focal lenses are often needed), there is little or no zoom facility. (Yes there is in a Word document on a screen, as opposed to a printed copy, but the content's width will already have been shrunk down as part of formatting it for paper printing). So in particular, tables and charts look small and compressed compared to how they look either in the web app, or when exported to Excel.
  3. Many data records have too many fields to fit on a printed page. Once you get past about 7 or 8 fields, it is much better to display such data in electronic format, such as used by Excel or tables (as on web pages and in database packages like Access, SQLServer, MySql etc). So imo Excel files play an important part in reporting. (But I'm asking below if we can improve on this)
  4. It is much harder for the user to interact with a Word or pdf file than a more friendly electronic format (eg an Excel file). Of course for compliance purposes, a record needs to be kept of the original data used, so a master copy needs to be kept (eg as ReadOnly in the cloud) of the original Excel or other electronic files in the report, but there is no reason why the user shouldn't be allowed to perform further analysis on the data, or even on modified copies of the data.
  5. Paper files need to be scanned to be backed up. So for compliance purposes, electronic is better than paper. Of course, Word files can be backed up, but this goes back to the main point: why produce reports in Word if there is much less need to print the report out?
So, because of client demand, our reports currently typically consist of a zip file containing one or more Word files (for printing purposes) plus one or more Excel appendix files (to contain the data inputs used, and the output data).

One possible improvement is to stop using Word, and instead put that content in an Excel worksheet, which is still designed to be printed on A4 or letter paper, and this is useful for producing pdf or paper copies of Company Accounts (eg to get the P&L and Balance Sheet on the same page, with Notes on a second page). But using Excel to produce A4 is still messy and still a workaround based on the legacy issue of paper.

I can't help feeling that a better way is possible and will emerge over the next few years, as the use of reports printed out on paper continues to decline.

What do other AOers do with regard to reporting/documentation? What are your thoughts please? There's scope for someone here to develop/invent a new and better format.
IMO, we have already enough reports, no matter what formats they are. We need a better and faster way to transform data into business insights.
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  #18  
Old 07-02-2015, 08:22 PM
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Did you try Microsoft Word Online? It is a HTML app and you can add comments / notes to the document.
Thanks for the suggestion. Word online suffers from the same disadvantages as desktop Word - namely it is designed for paper printing. Unlike Excel, it uses typically only about half the screen width, even in landscape mode.

The user has paid for a full screen - it seems a waste if s/he is forced to view reports that are designed to use only about half that screen.

Incidentally that is a criticism I have of many websites (including the AO actually) - they typically only use about half the available space on users' flat screen monitors. (Again, with modern stylesheets you can design web apps so that they adapt to the available space automatically.)

PS Actually "full" Word (the desktop edition of Word, has (see the View tab of the ribbon) a Web Layout, which paradoxically online Web (which is a cut down version of Word) does not (or if it does, a search didn't show how to get it). Web Layout uses up the whole screen width, so a Word document written for and viewed in Web Layout may be suitable to use as a richer report format....
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Last edited by actuary21c; 07-02-2015 at 08:48 PM.. Reason: Added the PS
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  #19  
Old 07-02-2015, 08:25 PM
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IMO, we have already enough reports, no matter what formats they are. We need a better and faster way to transform data into business insights.
Agreed. But in the meantime (and probably even when such better ways are found) users (and regulators) will still demand reports, and I'm convinced that the currently available reports can be improved on.
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  #20  
Old 07-03-2015, 12:33 AM
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Thanks for the suggestion. Word online suffers from the same disadvantages as desktop Word - namely it is designed for paper printing. Unlike Excel, it uses typically only about half the screen width, even in landscape mode.

The user has paid for a full screen - it seems a waste if s/he is forced to view reports that are designed to use only about half that screen.
How about a monitor that would rotate 90 degree? I have used them for the last couple years and I find them very useful; especially when I am programming. I have 2 because Visual Studio can support multi windows.
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