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Create a Sub Report

Use Sub Reports to create reports containing nested data rows.

Use the Sub Report element to add nested child reports to a parent report. Often you might need to create a report where the data is hierarchical. Create nested reports using DynamicPDF Designer's Sub Report feature. This tutorial teaches you how to add a Sub Report to a report and create a PDF document.


This tutorial assumes you have already completed the Create a Report tutorial.

Sub Reports#

Before beginning the tutorial, consider the following simple nested dataset example. Multiple states comprise the United States, while multiple cities comprise a state. In the following example, we list two states and three cities in each state.

  • Maryland
    • Baltimore
    • Frederick
    • Hagerstown
  • Virginia
    • Richmond
    • Alexandria
    • Lynchburg

This data is best represented as nested arrays, as illustrated in the following JSON document.

{  "Country": "United States",  "States": [    {      "State": "Maryland",      "Cities": [        {          "City": "Baltimore"        },        {          "City": "Frederick"        },        {          "City": "Hagerstown"        }      ]    },    {      "State": "Virginia",      "Cities": [        {          "City": "Richmond"        },        {          "City": "Alexandria"        },        {          "City": "Lynchburg"        }      ]    }  ]}

DynamicPDF Designer supports reports containing nested data through Sub Reports. You can nest multiple arrays to nest multiple Sub Reports. When creating a report with Sub Reports, each nested array is a Sub Report. Each Sub Report has a header, footer, and details section like a report.

Figure 1. Sections of a Report and Sub Report.

We can summarize the sections of a Report and Sub Report as follows.

  • A Report's header and footer contain top-level data.
  • A Report's details section contains data within an array; that data is repeated for each array element.
  • A Report's details section can contain a Sub Report.
  • A Sub Report's header and footer can contain top-level data and data from the previous level array.
  • A Sub Report's details can contain the data within the sub-array; that data is repeated for each sub-array element.
  • A Sub Report's details section contains another Sub Report for array data within a sub-array.
  • Sub Reports can be nested at as many levels as practical for a report.

You can omit a header and footer by simply not including any elements and setting its height to zero.

Required Resources#

Before beginning this tutorial, you must add the creating-a-sub-report-designer samples folder to your cloud storage space in the Resource Manager.

  • Login to the Environment Manager and open the Resource Manager.
  • Select the samples folder and then click the Add Samples button.
  • Check the creating-a-sub-report-designer project to add the folder containing the resources needed for this tutorial. You should see the following files in the newly created folder.

Figure 2. The creating-a-sub-report-designer folder in samples.

  • If you plan on repeating the steps of this tutorial, then delete the DLEX and JSON files.
  • Create a new blank DLEX file named creating-sub-report.dlex.

Figure 3. Creating a new DLEX template in the Resource Manager.

Add JSON Data#

Assume the following JSON data. In this dataset Coffees is a top-level array that is repeated in a report's details section. Each Coffees object contains an embedded array named Varieties. As you will see below, Varieties is used for a Sub Report within a report.

  • In the Resource Manager, double-click creating-a-sub-report.dlex to open it in Designer.
  • Select the Edit Layout Data button to open the Layout Data Editor.

Figure 4. The Edit Layout Data button.

{  "ReportName": "Monthly Beverage Order List",  "Date": "09/21/2021",  "Author": "John Doe",  "Coffees": [    {      "Type": "Arabica",      "Description": "Arabica coffee originated in Ethiopia and comes from the arabica plant. Arabica is the world’s most popular coffee type.",      "Varieties": [        {          "ProductID": 121,           "Variety": "Blue Mountain",          "Price": 13.99        },        {          "ProductID": 568,          "Variety": "Arusha",          "Price": 7.99        },        {          "ProductID": 120,          "Variety": "Blue Mountain",          "Price": 12.21        }      ]    },    {      "Type": "Robusta",      "Description": "Robusta coffee originated in Africa and comes from the beans of the canephora plant. Robusta coffee is bitter and is used primarily in instant coffee, espresso, and as a filler.",      "Varieties": [        {          "ProductID": 235,          "Variety": "Italian Espresso",          "Price": 15.22        },        {          "ProductID": 465,          "Variety": "Italian Espresso",          "Price": 19.22        },        {          "ProductID": 335,          "Variety": "Dark Blend",          "Price": 10.22        },        {          "ProductID": 455,          "Variety": "Italian Espresso",          "Price": 9.22        }      ]    }  ]}

Note that DynamicPDF Designer requires every JSON data element has a field name.

  • Add the JSON data listed above to the Layout Data Editor.

Figure 5. Adding data to the Layout Data Editor.

  • Save the data as creating-sub-report.json.
  • After saving, note the data elements displayed in the Data Explorer pane.

Figure 6. The JSON data elements displayed in the Data Explorer.

Create Report#

Now let's add a report to our DLEX template.

  • Click Add Report to create a new report.
  • Assign Coffees as the report's dataName. Notice that Coffees is the top-level array and each element consists of an array of Varieties.

Figure 7. Adding a report to a DLEX template.

  • Add a RecordBox and assign Type as the dataName.

  • Change its fontSize to 22.

  • Assign the x value as 5 and y value as 4.

  • Add a line with the following values: x1 = 5, x2 = 105, y1 = 28, and y2 = 28.

  • Add a RecordBox and assign Description to the dataName.

  • Set the width to 370, height to 30, x to 5, and y to 34.

  • Set expandable to true.

  • Add the coffee.jpg as an Image element and resize to be adjacent to the Description field.

Figure 8. Assigning two fields to the report details section.

Generate PDF#

  • Generate the report and the PDF should appear similar to the following.

Figure 9. PDF generated from a report.

Add Sub Report#

Now let's add a Sub Report that holds the Varieties data.

  • Add a Sub Report to the details section by adding Add Sub Report from the detail section's context menu.

Figure 10. Select Add Sub Report from the Context menu.

Now, this is where it gets tricky and trial-and-error is important when laying out the Sub Report.

Figure 11. Adding a Sub Report to the details section of a report.

  • Resize the detail section of the main report to have a width of 150. Again, this is only so we can easily work with the Sub Report.
  • Select the Sub Report by selecting SubReport1 and add Varieties as the dataName.
  • Select the details section of the Sub Report and resize its height to 50.
  • Add a RecordBox and a RecordArea to the details section of the Sub Report.
  • Assign Variety to the RecordBox and the text: $#Price# to the RecordArea.
  • Assign the values of 5, and 110 for x, and 5 for both y values.

Figure 12. Adding a ReportBox and ReportArea to a Sub Report's details.

Resize Sub Report#

Now, when designing your own report, as mentioned above, assigning the appropriate layout values for a report takes some trial and error. However, here simply copy the values in the following steps.

  • Set the Sub Report's header height to 25.
  • Add two labels to the header and assign the text: "Variety and Price".
  • Set the first label's x value as 5 and second label's value as 110. Set both y values as 5.
  • Add a line with the following values: x1 = 5, x2 = 210, y1 = 22, and y2 = 22.
  • Set the Sub Report's x value to 0, y value to 75, and width as 250.
  • Set the details section height to 25.
  • Change the Sub Report's x value to 0 and y value to 75.
  • Set the RecordBox and RecordArea y values to 5, the RecordBox element's x value to 5 and RecordArea element's x value to 110.
  • Set the alignment for the price Label and RecordBox to right aligned.
  • Change the Sub Report's footer height to zero.

Figure 13. Formatted Sub Report added to a report's details section.

  • Generate the report and notice that the report details repeats for each coffee and then each Sub Report repeats for each variety. Then each variety is repeated.

Figure 14. Generating a report with a Sub Report.


You can nest as many Sub Reports in a Report as necessary within reason; however, each Sub Report must reference a data array within the previous level data array. In this tutorial, we created a simple report with one level of nested data as a Sub Report. As the steps above illustrate, at first, formatting a Sub Report can be tricky and involve trial and error. However, after creating a couple reports with Sub Reports, creating Sub Reports - including formatting - becomes intuitive.