MS Word compatible Mail Merge and Reporting

Reporting and Mail Merge have become commonly used terms for automated document generation such as business reports, invoices or shipping papers. Developers and systems architects must find a fast and reliable way to automate documents for business critical processes.

There are several options when it comes to the used tools, technologies and platforms to implement such a solution.

MS Office Automation

MS Office is installed on many clients and probably on most. This leads to the argument that MS Office automation is the most cost-effective and easiest way to generate documents. But even Microsoft does not recommend automating their end-user software Microsoft Office:

Microsoft® does not currently recommend, and does not support, Automation of Microsoft® Office applications from any unattended, non-interactive client application or component (including ASP, ASP.NET, DCOM, and NT Services), because Office may exhibit unstable behavior and/or deadlock when Office is run in this environment.

MSDN, Considerations for server-side Automation of Office.

Potential problems and pitfalls when deploying Microsoft Office:

  • Interactivity with the Desktop

    Microsoft® Office is an end-user application and such applications need to be made visible in order to work correctly. If an error occurs, an error message might be displayed, which requires user interaction.

  • Scalability

    Microsoft® Office is designed to provide functionality to a single client. It is not recommended to automate Microsoft® Office in server-side applications as it is not scalable.

  • Stability

    "Using Microsoft® Office as a service component on a network server may reduce the stability of that computer, and therefore may reduce the stability of your whole network."

  • Security

    "Microsoft® Office applications were never intended for server-side use. Therefore, Microsoft® Office applications do not take into consideration the security problems that distributed components face."

Microsoft Office Open XML SDK

In the above method of automating Microsoft Office, documents can be manipulated using a complex API called the Word Object Model. In case you are using the Office Open XML SDK to manipulate DOCX files, similar knowledge about the actual document is required in order to properly change or build a document.

Extensive knowlegde about the document structure and the associated tags is required which makes it a hard to learn task to create documents. Additionally, there is no way of creating other document formats such as Adobe PDF and it is not possible to print the created documents.

Out-of-the-box Reporting and MailMerge Using TX Text Control

TX Text Control offers an easy-to-use and powerful way to create reports in your Windows Forms, WPF or ASP.NET applications. TX Text Control combines the power of a reporting tool and an easy-to-use word processor - fully programmable and embeddable in your application.

Start today and learn more about Text Control Reporting.

Read more: Flow Type Layout Reporting