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Here are my requirements:

  1. Generate Excel reports for users, attaching them to emails
  2. Additionally, insert hyperlinks into those emails where the user can view the same report on a web page.

I have a Windows forms util that I use to generate the Excel spreadsheets and email them. I have a Web API app that will serve the reports as web pages.

There are two approaches that I have been able to come up with, but am wrangling with myself over which one would be better; alternatively, I am open to other ideas.

Here are my two ideas:

  1. On creating the .xlsx file in the util, also save it as an .htm file (this can be done manually from Excel, so certainly it is possible programmatically, too).

    I could then POST the .htm file as a string to the Web API app (programmatically from the Windows forms util, without any user intervention required), and store that string (saving it as a file) in the Web API project's App_Data folder.

    Then, when the user clicks the hyperlink in the email, the Web API responds to this GET request by loading the file from the App_Data folder, reading it into a string and returning that.

  2. When the report is generated in the util, call a POST method in the Web API Controller that will run the same Stored Procedure to get the data for the report. Using Json.NET, save this data as a JSON file to the App_Data folder.

    When the user clicks the hyperlink in the email, respond to this GET request by opening the corresponding json file, converting it to html, and returning that.

    ~({})~ ~({})~ ~({})~ ~({})~ ~({})~
    

I believe the advantages of the first approach are:

  1. I don't need to execute the SP twice
  2. I don't have to write all that JSON-to-HTML conversion code

I believe the disadvantages of the first approach are:

  1. Grid lines on the spreadsheet are not preserved (I manually saved a report as .htm, opened it in the browser, and that's the reality)
  2. The HTML generated in this way is pretty much immutable/ungrokkable

Here's the HTML generated for one such report:

<html xmlns:v="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml"
xmlns:o="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office"
xmlns:x="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:excel"
xmlns="http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40">

<head>
<meta name="Excel Workbook Frameset">
<meta http-equiv=Content-Type content="text/html; charset=windows-1252">
<meta name=ProgId content=Excel.Sheet>
<meta name=Generator content="Microsoft Excel 12">
<link rel=File-List
href="Gramps%20-%20Platypus%20Compliance%20-%20September%202015_files/filelist.xml">
<![if !supportTabStrip]>
<link id="shLink" href="Gramps%20-%20Platypus%20Compliance%20-%20September%202015_files/sheet001.htm">

<link id="shLink">

<script language="JavaScript">
<!--
 var c_lTabs=1;

 var c_rgszSh=new Array(c_lTabs);
 c_rgszSh[0] = "Platypus Compliance September 2015";



 var c_rgszClr=new Array(8);
 c_rgszClr[0]="window";
 c_rgszClr[1]="buttonface";
 c_rgszClr[2]="windowframe";
 c_rgszClr[3]="windowtext";
 c_rgszClr[4]="threedlightshadow";
 c_rgszClr[5]="threedhighlight";
 c_rgszClr[6]="threeddarkshadow";
 c_rgszClr[7]="threedshadow";

 var g_iShCur;
 var g_rglTabX=new Array(c_lTabs);

function fnGetIEVer()
{
 var ua=window.navigator.userAgent
 var msie=ua.indexOf("MSIE")
 if (msie>0 && window.navigator.platform=="Win32")
  return parseInt(ua.substring(msie+5,ua.indexOf(".", msie)));
 else
  return 0;
}

function fnBuildFrameset()
{
 var szHTML="<frameset rows=\"*,18\" border=0 width=0 frameborder=no framespacing=0>"+
  "<frame src=\""+document.all.item("shLink")[0].href+"\" name=\"frSheet\" noresize>"+
  "<frameset cols=\"54,*\" border=0 width=0 frameborder=no framespacing=0>"+
  "<frame src=\"\" name=\"frScroll\" marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 scrolling=no>"+
  "<frame src=\"\" name=\"frTabs\" marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 scrolling=no>"+
  "</frameset></frameset><plaintext>";

 with (document) {
  open("text/html","replace");
  write(szHTML);
  close();
 }

 fnBuildTabStrip();
}

function fnBuildTabStrip()
{
 var szHTML=
  "<html><head><style>.clScroll {font:8pt Courier New;color:"+c_rgszClr[6]+";cursor:default;line-height:10pt;}"+
  ".clScroll2 {font:10pt Arial;color:"+c_rgszClr[6]+";cursor:default;line-height:11pt;}</style></head>"+
  "<body onclick=\"event.returnValue=false;\" ondragstart=\"event.returnValue=false;\" onselectstart=\"event.returnValue=false;\" bgcolor="+c_rgszClr[4]+" topmargin=0 leftmargin=0><table cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0 width=100%>"+
  "<tr><td colspan=6 height=1 bgcolor="+c_rgszClr[2]+"></td></tr>"+
  "<tr><td style=\"font:1pt\">&nbsp;<td>"+
  "<td valign=top id=tdScroll class=\"clScroll\" onclick=\"parent.fnFastScrollTabs(0);\" onmouseover=\"parent.fnMouseOverScroll(0);\" onmouseout=\"parent.fnMouseOutScroll(0);\"><a>&#171;</a></td>"+
  "<td valign=top id=tdScroll class=\"clScroll2\" onclick=\"parent.fnScrollTabs(0);\" ondblclick=\"parent.fnScrollTabs(0);\" onmouseover=\"parent.fnMouseOverScroll(1);\" onmouseout=\"parent.fnMouseOutScroll(1);\"><a>&lt</a></td>"+
  "<td valign=top id=tdScroll class=\"clScroll2\" onclick=\"parent.fnScrollTabs(1);\" ondblclick=\"parent.fnScrollTabs(1);\" onmouseover=\"parent.fnMouseOverScroll(2);\" onmouseout=\"parent.fnMouseOutScroll(2);\"><a>&gt</a></td>"+
  "<td valign=top id=tdScroll class=\"clScroll\" onclick=\"parent.fnFastScrollTabs(1);\" onmouseover=\"parent.fnMouseOverScroll(3);\" onmouseout=\"parent.fnMouseOutScroll(3);\"><a>&#187;</a></td>"+
  "<td style=\"font:1pt\">&nbsp;<td></tr></table></body></html>";

 with (frames['frScroll'].document) {
  open("text/html","replace");
  write(szHTML);
  close();
 }

 szHTML =
  "<html><head>"+
  "<style>A:link,A:visited,A:active {text-decoration:none;"+"color:"+c_rgszClr[3]+";}"+
  ".clTab {cursor:hand;background:"+c_rgszClr[1]+";font:9pt Arial;padding-left:3px;padding-right:3px;text-align:center;}"+
  ".clBorder {background:"+c_rgszClr[2]+";font:1pt;}"+
  "</style></head><body onload=\"parent.fnInit();\" onselectstart=\"event.returnValue=false;\" ondragstart=\"event.returnValue=false;\" bgcolor="+c_rgszClr[4]+
  " topmargin=0 leftmargin=0><table id=tbTabs cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0>";

 var iCellCount=(c_lTabs+1)*2;

 var i;
 for (i=0;i<iCellCount;i+=2)
  szHTML+="<col width=1><col>";

 var iRow;
 for (iRow=0;iRow<6;iRow++) {

  szHTML+="<tr>";

  if (iRow==5)
   szHTML+="<td colspan="+iCellCount+"></td>";
  else {
   if (iRow==0) {
    for(i=0;i<iCellCount;i++)
     szHTML+="<td height=1 class=\"clBorder\"></td>";
   } else if (iRow==1) {
    for(i=0;i<c_lTabs;i++) {
     szHTML+="<td height=1 nowrap class=\"clBorder\">&nbsp;</td>";
     szHTML+=
      "<td id=tdTab height=1 nowrap class=\"clTab\" onmouseover=\"parent.fnMouseOverTab("+i+");\" onmouseout=\"parent.fnMouseOutTab("+i+");\">"+
      "<a href=\""+document.all.item("shLink")[i].href+"\" target=\"frSheet\" id=aTab>&nbsp;"+c_rgszSh[i]+"&nbsp;</a></td>";
    }
    szHTML+="<td id=tdTab height=1 nowrap class=\"clBorder\"><a id=aTab>&nbsp;</a></td><td width=100%></td>";
   } else if (iRow==2) {
    for (i=0;i<c_lTabs;i++)
     szHTML+="<td height=1></td><td height=1 class=\"clBorder\"></td>";
    szHTML+="<td height=1></td><td height=1></td>";
   } else if (iRow==3) {
    for (i=0;i<iCellCount;i++)
     szHTML+="<td height=1></td>";
   } else if (iRow==4) {
    for (i=0;i<c_lTabs;i++)
     szHTML+="<td height=1 width=1></td><td height=1></td>";
    szHTML+="<td height=1 width=1></td><td></td>";
   }
  }
  szHTML+="</tr>";
 }

 szHTML+="</table></body></html>";
 with (frames['frTabs'].document) {
  open("text/html","replace");
  charset=document.charset;
  write(szHTML);
  close();
 }
}

function fnInit()
{
 g_rglTabX[0]=0;
 var i;
 for (i=1;i<=c_lTabs;i++)
  with (frames['frTabs'].document.all.tbTabs.rows[1].cells[fnTabToCol(i-1)])
   g_rglTabX[i]=offsetLeft+offsetWidth-6;
}

function fnTabToCol(iTab)
{
 return 2*iTab+1;
}

function fnNextTab(fDir)
{
 var iNextTab=-1;
 var i;

 with (frames['frTabs'].document.body) {
  if (fDir==0) {
   if (scrollLeft>0) {
    for (i=0;i<c_lTabs&&g_rglTabX[i]<scrollLeft;i++);
    if (i<c_lTabs)
     iNextTab=i-1;
   }
  } else {
   if (g_rglTabX[c_lTabs]+6>offsetWidth+scrollLeft) {
    for (i=0;i<c_lTabs&&g_rglTabX[i]<=scrollLeft;i++);
    if (i<c_lTabs)
     iNextTab=i;
   }
  }
 }
 return iNextTab;
}

function fnScrollTabs(fDir)
{
 var iNextTab=fnNextTab(fDir);

 if (iNextTab>=0) {
  frames['frTabs'].scroll(g_rglTabX[iNextTab],0);
  return true;
 } else
  return false;
}

function fnFastScrollTabs(fDir)
{
 if (c_lTabs>16)
  frames['frTabs'].scroll(g_rglTabX[fDir?c_lTabs-1:0],0);
 else
  if (fnScrollTabs(fDir)>0) window.setTimeout("fnFastScrollTabs("+fDir+");",5);
}

function fnSetTabProps(iTab,fActive)
{
 var iCol=fnTabToCol(iTab);
 var i;

 if (iTab>=0) {
  with (frames['frTabs'].document.all) {
   with (tbTabs) {
    for (i=0;i<=4;i++) {
     with (rows[i]) {
      if (i==0)
       cells[iCol].style.background=c_rgszClr[fActive?0:2];
      else if (i>0 && i<4) {
       if (fActive) {
        cells[iCol-1].style.background=c_rgszClr[2];
        cells[iCol].style.background=c_rgszClr[0];
        cells[iCol+1].style.background=c_rgszClr[2];
       } else {
        if (i==1) {
         cells[iCol-1].style.background=c_rgszClr[2];
         cells[iCol].style.background=c_rgszClr[1];
         cells[iCol+1].style.background=c_rgszClr[2];
        } else {
         cells[iCol-1].style.background=c_rgszClr[4];
         cells[iCol].style.background=c_rgszClr[(i==2)?2:4];
         cells[iCol+1].style.background=c_rgszClr[4];
        }
       }
      } else
       cells[iCol].style.background=c_rgszClr[fActive?2:4];
     }
    }
   }
   with (aTab[iTab].style) {
    cursor=(fActive?"default":"hand");
    color=c_rgszClr[3];
   }
  }
 }
}

function fnMouseOverScroll(iCtl)
{
 frames['frScroll'].document.all.tdScroll[iCtl].style.color=c_rgszClr[7];
}

function fnMouseOutScroll(iCtl)
{
 frames['frScroll'].document.all.tdScroll[iCtl].style.color=c_rgszClr[6];
}

function fnMouseOverTab(iTab)
{
 if (iTab!=g_iShCur) {
  var iCol=fnTabToCol(iTab);
  with (frames['frTabs'].document.all) {
   tdTab[iTab].style.background=c_rgszClr[5];
  }
 }
}

function fnMouseOutTab(iTab)
{
 if (iTab>=0) {
  var elFrom=frames['frTabs'].event.srcElement;
  var elTo=frames['frTabs'].event.toElement;

  if ((!elTo) ||
   (elFrom.tagName==elTo.tagName) ||
   (elTo.tagName=="A" && elTo.parentElement!=elFrom) ||
   (elFrom.tagName=="A" && elFrom.parentElement!=elTo)) {

   if (iTab!=g_iShCur) {
    with (frames['frTabs'].document.all) {
     tdTab[iTab].style.background=c_rgszClr[1];
    }
   }
  }
 }
}

function fnSetActiveSheet(iSh)
{
 if (iSh!=g_iShCur) {
  fnSetTabProps(g_iShCur,false);
  fnSetTabProps(iSh,true);
  g_iShCur=iSh;
 }
}

 window.g_iIEVer=fnGetIEVer();
 if (window.g_iIEVer>=4)
  fnBuildFrameset();
//-->
</script>
<![endif]><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml>
 <x:ExcelWorkbook>
  <x:ExcelWorksheets>
   <x:ExcelWorksheet>
    <x:Name>Platypus Compliance September 2015</x:Name>
    <x:WorksheetSource
     HRef="Gramps%20-%20Platypus%20Compliance%20-%20September%202015_files/sheet001.htm"/>
   </x:ExcelWorksheet>
  </x:ExcelWorksheets>
  <x:Stylesheet
   HRef="Gramps%20-%20Platypus%20Compliance%20-%20September%202015_files/stylesheet.css"/>
  <x:WindowHeight>14370</x:WindowHeight>
  <x:WindowWidth>18360</x:WindowWidth>
  <x:WindowTopX>480</x:WindowTopX>
  <x:WindowTopY>75</x:WindowTopY>
  <x:ProtectStructure>False</x:ProtectStructure>
  <x:ProtectWindows>False</x:ProtectWindows>
 </x:ExcelWorkbook>
</xml><![endif]-->
</head>

<frameset rows="*,39" border=0 width=0 frameborder=no framespacing=0>
 <frame src="Gramps%20-%20Platypus%20Compliance%20-%20September%202015_files/sheet001.htm" name="frSheet">
 <frame src="Gramps%20-%20Platypus%20Compliance%20-%20September%202015_files/tabstrip.htm" name="frTabs" marginwidth=0 marginheight=0>
 <noframes>
  <body>
   <p>This page uses frames, but your browser doesn't support them.</p>
  </body>
 </noframes>
</frameset>
</html>

On the other hand, I believe the advantages of the second approach are:

  1. I don't have to pass so much data to the Web API app in the POST
  2. I have full control over the CSS/HTML (being able to add gridlines and whatever else is required (there will probably be special requests for style changes, etc.)

I believe the disadvantages of the second approach are:

  1. Running the same SP twice
  2. Writing all that JSON-to-HTML conversion code

If there's an easier way, I'd be ecstatic to hear about it.

migrated from codereview.stackexchange.com Dec 31 '15 at 20:18

This question came from our site for peer programmer code reviews.

  • Where's the code you want to be reviewed? We review code, not ideas. – Mast Dec 31 '15 at 19:36
  • 2
    P.SE doesn't do tool or resource recommendations, but Microsoft Sql Server Reporting Services (SSRS) might prove helpful. It has "generate report in HTML/Excel/whatever" built in. – Dan Pichelman Dec 31 '15 at 20:30
  • @DanPichelman: So do you mean that I could call SSRS from my Web API Controller method and get formatted data returned from SSRS? – B. Clay Shannon Dec 31 '15 at 21:04
  • Yes. Be warned though - SSRS isn't free & there's a learning curve. If you can get past that, it pretty much solves the "I need to generate reports for my users" problem. – Dan Pichelman Dec 31 '15 at 21:09
  • That gives me pause (not necessarily the one that refreshes), as I wonder if my idea to parse the json and alchemize it into html would be easier. – B. Clay Shannon Dec 31 '15 at 21:13

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