Overview of report and document layouts


In Business Central you can decide when you print an invoice or a certain document which report and layout to use. You can do that by making use of report selections and document layouts.

Report and document layouts

In Business Central, the term report includes externally facing documents, such as sales invoices and order confirmations that you send to customers as PDF files.

For example, when you go to the Posted Sales Invoices page, you can print an invoice.

Screenshot of the Print An Invoice feature on the Posted Sales Invoices page.

And the resulting document layout looks as follows.

Screenshot of the document invoice layout.

A report layout controls content and format of the report, including which fields of a report dataset appear on the report and how the fields are arranged, which font is used, and which images are included. From Business Central, you can change which layout is used on a report, create a new layout, or modify existing layouts.

You can fully customize the layouts on reports to fit your own requirements.

A report layout sets up the following:

  • The label and data fields to include from the dataset of the Business Central report.

  • The text format, such as font type, size, and color.

  • The company logo and its position.

  • General page settings, such as margins and background images.

A report can be set up with multiple report layouts, which you can switch among as required. You can use one of the built-in report layouts or you can create custom report layouts and assign them to your reports as needed.

There are two types of report layouts that you can use on reports:

  • Microsoft Word

  • RDLC (Report Definition Language Client-side, the file extension for SQL Server Report Builder files)

A report layout can be based on either a Word document or an RDLC file. Deciding whether to use a Word report layout or RDLC report layout type will depend on how you want the generated report to look and your knowledge of Word and SQL Server Report Builder.

The general design concepts for Word and RDLC layouts are very similar. However, each type has certain design features that affect how the generated report is appears in Business Central. This means that the same report might look different when using the Word report layout compared to the RDLC report layout.

Here you see comparison of the Word and RDLC report layout for a Posted Sales Invoice.

Screenshot comparison of the Word And RDLC Layout.

The process for setting up Word report layouts and RDLC report layouts on reports is the same. The main difference is in the way you modify the layouts. Word report layouts are typically easier to create and modify than RDLC report layouts because you can use Word. RDLC report layouts are modified by using SQL Server Report builder which is intended for more advanced users.

Business Central includes several built-in layouts. Built-in layouts are predefined layouts that are designed for specific reports. Business Central reports will have a built-in layout as either an RDLC report layout, Word report layout, or in some cases both. You cannot modify a built-in report layout from Business Central, but you can use them as a starting point for building your own custom report layouts.

Diagram of the build-in layouts and layout runtimes.

Custom layouts are report layouts that you design to change the appearance of a report. You typically create a custom layout based on a built-in layout, but you can create them from scratch or from a copy of an existing custom layout. Custom layouts enable you to have multiple layouts for the same report, which you switch among as needed. For example, you can have different layouts for each Business Central company, or you can have different layouts for the same company for specific occasions or events, like a special campaign or holiday season.

To summarize: a Report object in Business Central has one dataset and one or two built-in layouts: a Word layout, or an RDLC layout, or both. Both layouts are built on top of the same common dataset. Then, at run-time, in the application, you can add many more custom layouts to the same report object.

Diagram of dataset with two built-in layouts.

Later you then decide which of the layouts should become the default layout for that report.

Word report layout overview

A Word report layout is based on a Word document (.docx file type). Word report layouts enable you to design report layouts by using Microsoft Word 2013 or later. A Word report layout determines the report's content - controlling how that content elements are arranged and how they look. A Word report layout document will typically use tables to arrange content, where the cells can contain data fields, text, or pictures.

Screenshot of a Word report layout with features highlighted.

RDLC layout overview

RDLC layouts are based on client report definition layouts (.rdlc or .rdl file types). These layouts are created and modified by using SQL Server Report Builder. The design concept for RDLC layouts is like Word layouts, where the layout defines the general format of the report and determines the fields from the dataset to include. Designing RDLC layouts is more advanced than Word layouts.

Screenshot of the RDLC Layout with features highlighted.