Report Generation Software Suggestions

I would like to identify report generation software which I can use to take a DT3 “Metadata Overview” TSV file and use that as the basis to create reports.

One solution I have found so far is Carbone - its key feature is the ability to define custom reports by template without coding. But to implement it I would need to either run Node from the command line or convert TSV/CSV data to JSON and then copy/paste that into their web interface or build my own app which would upload the TSV/CSV data via the Carbone API and then execute the report. Each of these is doable but a bit messy.

Any ideas for a simpler solution to define a template and then create reports using TSV/CSV data?

I produce expense/budget reports in my spreadsheet software (Apple Numbers),
using a tsv/csv file generated from my DT data

How (if at all) do you format it beyond the default global data export in the DT3 Metadata Overview?

Custom Tables; data extract, calc’d values, sums, colours
Charts - Graphs, PieCharts
Screen Shot 2021-04-25 at 09.03.35

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Well, in addition to the spreadsheet options, with no added software costs but some investments in programming …

  • If you are not after a graphical analysis and if you know LaTeX, you could create a template file that uses the datatool package.

  • If you are after a graphical analysis and if you know python, you could create a template program in a JupyterLab notebook.


What I do is all text- no need for graphical analysis

Does LaTeX on Mac using datatool run as a standalone Mac app or do I need to use the Command Line?

Interesting option I just found - has anyone used Retool?

This works well with Google Sheets and it is easy to get a TSV/CSV into Sheets

Retool seems to have a really nice balance between power-user sophistication vs not requiring actual coding

You would need to install LaTeX and know how to create a document using its compiler directives. Take a look at Overleaf. I would be glad to generate a basic example from datatool if you are seriously interested in this option.

If you are considering Retool to design a report framework, you may also be interested in local database options such as AirTable or TapForms. These head in the direction of a FileMaker approach to the data.



I had not seen Overleaf previously. I know LaTex is very popular among academics - is that because of some specific features or is it that publishers prefer that format so it stays popular? I am curious why LaTex has stayed around rather than being replaced by publishing software based on HTML/CSS/Javascript.

TapForms may be interesting depending on the flexibility of the Form generator.

I have played with AirTable but never quite understood its appeal as a front-end since almost everything made with AirTable looks the same; there isn’t much layout flexibility. As a back end database it makes a lot of sense to me.

The difference might be stated this way: HTML allows you to define how objects (characters and figures) should be displayed on an infinite canvas while LaTeX allows you to define the frameworks that the compiler should fill with your content in a manner that is optimized for the best visual aesthetics when reading back that content.

The difficulty with LaTeX is not due to the competition with HTML (or now markdown). The tools fulfill different roles.

The limited use of LaTeX is exemplified by the recent example where my colleague could not print a PDF file that I had generated from LaTeX. Let’s leave aside that the problem is not because I sent a LaTeX PDF—he would have immediately asked me for the Word file had I sent him a PDF generated from Word. The distinction is that Word has become an ubiquitous de-facto standard for documents because WYSI(A)WYG (what you see is almost what you get) is so alluring and so easy.

I do not recommend LaTeX for one-off documents or for one page documents or for documents that you will share with colleagues who do not have LaTeX acumen and who should also have access to edit the content.


Interesting - thanks for the thoughts

I guess that is why it stays mostly in academia, where it is sort of a de facto standard.

My documents are often shared with corporate or legal clients/vendors. It is assumed that “everyone” uses Word and PDF files. I suspect most of them have never heard of LaTeX. So it’s hard to make the jump to using it even in use cases where it may be superior.

Surprisingly LaTeX is not a de facto standard in all of academia. Word has become an accepted input format for publishing companies, meaning it is also an accepted format for folks in academia.

The use case for LaTeX being superior is only when you have a document that has:

  • multiple figures spanning over multiple pages
  • multiple citations pulled from journal references in a defined citation style
  • strict restrictions on page typographical settings
  • complex, cumbersome, and/or excess sets of mathematical equations


OK that makes sense - especially for equations. Clearly LaTeX shines there.


I use LaTeX (via Scrivener) to create final PDFs of longer form documents. I share the PDFs which are stand-alone and not at all related to LaTeX other than that tool involved in creating them. Other output formats possible, of course.

I was not aware that people shared LaTeX “documents”, e.g. as “source” for sharing. If for collaborating on the creation, I get it. But am I interpreting your comments correctly that people share LaTeX as final deliverable versions?

I know this a little off topic for DEVONthink, but I use DEVONthink a lot for research when writing these long-form documents. Really, I do! :wink:

I don’t know if this is what @DrJJWMac was referring to, but in my case it is not unusual for me to share a finished PDF as a standalone to a client such as you suggest. But then the client may want to quote my report in a rebuttal/appeal or may need to enter excerpts from my report into some other archival system; so not infrequently I am asked to share the Word version used to create the PDF.

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Makes sense.

One approach when working with LaTeX in collaboration is to appoint one person to be responsible to make all the edits. The markups and annotations can be collected from PDFs.

Another approach is to use a package such as Track Changes.


Yes, in fact that is what I do but using Scrivener with my colleagues. Scrivener is not and does not facilitate multiple authors other than doing as you suggest.

How to collaborate on authoring wasn’t the point of my curiosity on how other people do things. I was just wondering about (and my impression may be wrong) that people send around LaTeX code for sharing documents for purposes other than collaboration, e.g. reading. That surprised me, but then maybe I mis-interpreted or am missing a beat by not doing that.