Writing reports is something that is crucial to any business application. There are a number of nice reporting solutions. I haven’t done a survey recently, but I know that Pentaho has an offering and Crystal Reports is another one. Note that the gorilla in the room is MS Excel, because most anyone doing a report is going to want to pull it down and do additional data manipulation. You should never try to compete with Excel.
For The Food Corridor, we didn’t need a full featured reporting solution, but we did need to pull data from the SQL database and expose it in CSV and HTML tables. The dossier gem takes care of this.
What I love about dossier is that you can write the reports in either Active Record syntax or in SQL. I know SQL pretty well, so it’s easier for me to use that avenue, but if you’re just getting started with Rails, I could see how the Active Record syntax would be helpful. After writing the query, dossier takes care of much of the grunt work of CSV generation or HTML table generation (there are other output formats, but I don’t use them, so can’t speak to them).
You can preform arbitrary formatting on the SQL response, including hiding columns and running ruby code on the value pulled back from the database. The report class is just a ruby object, so you can also reuse chunks of logic or SQL across reports. Column names are turned into report headers. (I wrote previously about testing such reports.)
Authentication is a bit weird out of the box but works. There’s also documentation for other authentication/authorization options. Dossier can also take database configuration from the initializer file so you can easily offload your reporting traffic to a read only replica. (We’re not there yet in terms of traffic, but I can see the day coming.)
The dossier gem is so easy to user that I can get a full featured reporting solution created in only an hour beyond writing the SQL.