The Words Won't Fit!

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This blog posting stems from a conference-call-style training I sat in on about a year ago, where we did not really have control over what was covered, and one of the topics that was covered in depth was formatting. My initial feeling on it was eh, formatting is not that important, or easy enough to figure out, but the training was actually very helpful as it covered the way ART does things, and how to use the tools available. Knowledge of how to format in Excel does not necessarily translate into a familiarity with ART formatting! This training I attended gave me much more confidence about formatting so I could spend less time on formatting and more time on coding and query design. So even though a lot of this will be obvious to many, I'm posting on this topic because there are some not-so-obvious functions, like Horizontal Cell Padding, as an example, that may help someone.

The general idea is reports should look uncluttered, yet still tell a comprehensive story and the columns should actually fit on one page. It is hard to meet all three of these goals sometimes! So, from the beginning:

When you first drag any columns into a report, it looks somewhat like this:

Figure 1: No formatting at all Figure 1: No formatting at all

You can see the horizontal scroll bar in Figure 1, indicating you cannot even see all the columns in the window.

Figure 2: Page View and Margin Adjustments Figure 2: Page View and Margin Adjustments

The first step in getting everything you want on a page is viewing and then widening the area you have to work with. There are two steps involved here. In Figure 2, the toggle button that turns on and off Page View is circled up top. Click that button in order to see what a printed page would actually look like. (It will look quite bad, but keep going!)

The next step is to adjust the margins and change your "Page Size" over in the left sidebar. In Figure 2, this is the other red circle. All the margins are defaulted to 0.79". Bowman tends to set all of these to 0.25" and I do too. I also switch the default Page Size from the British "A4" to "Letter" because it gives a tiny bit more room.

Figure 3: After Page View is On and Margins are Adjusted! Figure 3: After Page View is On and Margins are Adjusted!

After you have adjusted your margins, set your Page Size, and you are in Page View, if your columns still do not fit on the page (like in Figure 3!) then keep reading on!

You may have noticed the column names are unnecessarily long. To change the column names, double-click the cells and type over the formula that is there. In Figure 4, you can see how much it helped simply renaming the ZIP field. But not enough- we can see more of the Provider field, but still not all of it, plus there are a couple other columns that are not showing at all.

Figure 4: Renamed Columns Figure 4: Renamed Columns

The next step is what I like to call squeeze and wrap.. Ok, I don't really like to call it that, but it kind of works. Since the Provider column is taking up so much room, it is going to need to lose some real estate.

Squeeze: Drag the right edge of that column to the left some, so that the other columns can be shown on the page. At this point, the data in this column will look truncated.

Wrap: Click the button in the top red circle to wrap the text for that column. It will still not look great because the height of the rows will need to be adjusted as well. To fix this, check the left sidebar and adjust the circled settings: check Autofit Height and then reset Minimum Height to 0.25". Check the results in Figure 5!

Figure 5: Squeeze and Wrap! Figure 5: Squeeze and Wrap!

Better but what if you have a column name with a really long word in it and it is causing problems? See Figure 6.

Figure 6: The Word is Too Long! Figure 6: The Word is Too Long!

If you simply cannot think of a shorter word or abbreviation, take out the Horizontal Cell Padding in the left sidebar. See the results of this in Figure 7.

Padding Figure 7: After Adjusting Horizontal Cell Padding

Another trick is to pull a column out into its own section. Sometimes it is helpful to break up your report into sections based on a certain data object. See Figure 8!

Figure 8: Making a Section Figure 8: Making a Section

Once you drop the column in the space shown above, you may still need to actually go back and delete the empty column This can give a LOT more room, but it is best to only do this when it makes sense in how you are presenting the data. See the results in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Final Figure 9: Final

You can see in Figure 9, I was not only able to create a Section and completely eliminate a column, but also this allowed me to increase the size of the Provider column again so that fewer of them need to wrap text. It looks much less cluttered now!

The obvious trick I have left out here is turning your report from Portrait to Landscape. I left this idea out on purpose because I feel this should be a total last resort! And it is easy to figure out how to do this!

I hope these tricks will be helpful to you and may all your reports meet the goals of uncluttered, comprehensive, and all your columns fitting on one [Portrait-oriented] page!