[Tex/LaTex] Is anybody using TeX for business reporting


Would TeX (LaTeX, ConTeXt, etc) be a good solution for PDF business reports that require dynamically generated graphs and tables?

I need to create financial reports that must look top-notch in their graphics, charts, and typesetting. These reports are typically several pages long and will contain charts, tables of numbers, and typeset text.

I have been using some 'general' PDF libraries, but these have been expensive and typically have some sort of limitation simply because 1) you are working at a higher level with the data and 2) their author's just didn't give them as much flexibility as I need.

This question applies to other TeX flavors, but some of these specifics are related to ConTeXt. It has some amazing features:

  • drawing support (MetaPost, TikZ/PGF)
  • lua scripting (specifically, adding a JSON parser and using it to populate a .tex file would be awesome)
  • as much layout control as you could possibly want

So I could create my own reports where I lay things out and draw charts myself. Is there anybody out there using TeX for business reporting solutions like this? Would I be off my rocker to suggest such a thing?

Best Answer

TeX/Latex and all their friends are the best solution for any type of reports (sorry if I am biased).

I use them for probably the most unlike application. Construction reports - as in Building Construction! I have been doing so for quite a long time. The reports include anything from graphs to financial summaries and commissioning data for electro-mechanical services.

Some pointers, before you automate anything write a few static reports. Define what changes weekly/monthly such as graphs, tables etc. and then automate via python/lua or whatever language you are comfortable.

At the moment - I just import tables via PgfplotsTable. This makes it easy to interface with external programs via csv delimited tables. The datatool package also provides similar functionality. All graphs are automated via LaTeX. No need to struggle to interface with external programs.

Use LaTeX to start with and PGF/TikZ for graphics. Get some pointers from Tufte for presentation and readability. It is not necessary to buy anything.

One of the drawbacks I had at the beginning was to convince people to give sections of the content in plain text files and to get them to divorce excel.