ReportMaster: A First Look

LightSpeed 3.7 was officially released on Oct 1st, 2012. In addition to many fixes and new features, it boasts an entirely new reporting system with great new features and a slick interface, but there are a few things you should know about before upgrading.

  • The Cons:
    • OTR is gone. As previously reported here, any custom reports that were added to your LightSpeed system in the past will no longer exist as of 3.7. Custom reports would have been made by someone like myself with access to the OTR custom report tool so if you didn’t pay for a custom report to be made for you, this really won’t affect you in any way.
    • Saved Reports will get wiped out. Say ‘Goodbye’ to any preset reports that you have. Any saved reports that you had in LightSpeed will be gone and you’ll have to recreate them… if possible… and save them again. This isn’t a big deal… if they can be recreated.
    • Summary Reports.Summary reports exist in ReportMaster but are in fewer supply. In the ‘old’ LightSpeed, a ‘summary’ means to hide the line items and only show the grouped totals… such as Sales Summary By Class (which only shows a list of classes and their totals) vs. Sales By Class (which shows every sale grouped by Class). While this is possible in ReportMaster, you are limited to a single summarized sales report template that has only a few options. I’ve included a screen shot of the Sales Summary By Class report both in the old LightSpeed and in ReportMaster so you can see the difference.

      Sales Summary By Class Before & After

      Sales Summary By Class Before & After

    • Calculated Columns are gone. In the ‘old’ LightSpeed, with OTR, I could create a column that was the product of a calculation. For example, if column A was sales and column B was cost of sales, then I could make column C sales minus cost and get profit. We could even make column D a gross margin percentage. In Report Master, if the column doesn’t appear as a choice in the list, it can not be created. Although some reports do have ‘Profit’ columns that you can enable, any more complex calculations don’t seem to be possible at this time.
    • Preview of “Sales - Sales by Invoice”

      Preview of “Sales – Sales by Invoice”

      Equal Column Widths. One of the first things that you’ll notice when you run a report in ReportMaster is that the descriptions of all the products are cut off. Unlike previous reports, the columns have not been ‘designed’ according to their content. With the exception of Date columns (which need to be cut off lest the time also appear), every column’s width is simply calculated by dividing the page width by the number of columns. This means that a column such as Qty which might only be a 1 or 2 digit number gets the same width as Description which may be quite long in comparison. As a result, product codes and descriptions typically get cut off. A work around for this is to export the report and open it in Excel. This will allow you to control the column widths and stylize the report to your heart’s content.

    • Limited Grouping. This shouldn’t affect too many users but reports are now limited to only two levels of grouping. For example, if you wanted a list of products sold grouped by Date and then by User, that would be ok. But, if you wanted to further group the products sold by each User by Class, that would not be possible. In truth, a bug in OTR prevent us from doing this without the last group disappearing so this isn’t as big of a problem as you might think.
    • No Built-In Preview. LightSpeed no longer allows you to preview a report before printing or exporting. Instead, you must click ‘Print’ and then Preview As PDF in the print dialog box before actually sending the job to the printer. While not as convenient, it accomplishes the same task with a couple more clicks of the mouse.
  • The Pros:
    • Sorting. You can now sort the report results in either ascending or descending order. This is cool and was not possible before.
    • Landscape Printing. One of the benefits of calculated column widths is that you can now choose your page orientation in the print dialog box and the report will automatically reformat itself to take advantage of the increased horizontal space. This is great news as landscape formatted reports was frequently requested with OTR.
    • Show And Hide Columns. Many custom report requests came from the need for one more column to be added to an existing report. If that column was a simple value, I could add it but only by creating a custom report using OTR. It’s great to see this feature built in to LightSpeed! Likewise, making room for other columns by hiding unnecessary columns is also a big plus.
    • Landscape Printing

      Landscape Printing

      Custom Fields. I can almost hear the crowd rejoicing about this one. So many people rely upon custom fields, but until now, they have been mysteriously missing from all reports. If you use custom fields, you’ll love Report Master’s ability to insert them into your reports.

    • Change The Order Of Columns. You can now change the order in which columns appear horizontally. Just drag and drop them in the list.
    • Way More Filters! The filters just might be my favourite new feature of Report Master. This is such a huge leap from the old LightSpeed that it is sure to make up for some of the deficiencies. Each filter has lots of options and the criteria is smart about whether the column contains a dollar amount or just text so ‘greater-than’ and ‘less-than’ filters are possible where they were not before. There also doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of filters that you can put on a single report.
    • Background Processing. For those really long reports, you can now choose to have them run in the background so that they don’t prevent you from getting other work done. Running more than one report in the background also seems possible which will make many LightSpeed owners very happy. Unfortunately, GDV reports are still in the Intelligence window and do not benefit from this feature.
    • Sharing Reports. You can now export a report and share it with other LightSpeed friends. As a reseller, it means that I can create a report for you and email it to you for installation on your own system but beyond that I’m not sure how this will be used.
    • Multi Store Reports. Unlike previous versions, you’ll now find your multi store reports in the same reporting area instead of tucked away in the Multi Store window.
    • A Great Interface! As much as we might like to complain about the pros and cons, the one thing that you can’t dismiss is that the new ReportMaster looks great. The interface is beautiful. The organization takes a minute to get used to but once you find your way, you’ll begin to appreciate the design.

    New Report Customizer

    New Report Customizer

In summary, I love that LightSpeed is moving forward on the reporting engine. In fact, I’d like to think that I had something to do with the planning of it as I can see many of the things that I requested in ReportMaster. However, it’s sad that we had to take a giant step backwards in order to move forward and given the reality of this, I’m shocked that they removed the old reports without warning. The result will be some growing pains for many of us but I feel hopeful that we’re on the road to much better things when it comes to LightSpeed reporting.

My recommendation to anyone who is concerned about the points above, is to download the LightSpeed demo to a different Mac than your server and test it out. Really put it through it’s paces before diving in. You’ve been warned.

As always, if you’re unsure about any of this or require help in upgrading, just contact my office to schedule a session.