Dynamic reporting options

This is quite a general question.

I'm not very experienced in web development generally, and certainly not in the realms of dynamic content and scripting etc., but I want to learn so I'm not after a solution per se.

What I'm interested in is a bit of directional guidance as to which technologies I need to go with.  Basically I'm bewildered by the range of different approaches.

Some background: I want to develop a web page that is essentially a database query fed with criteria from a form.  It should report in the form of a table of values for a couple of variables and a chart.

The data originates in SPSS (a statistical programme) but could easily be converted into something else (I've been using XML), so this shouldn't be an issue.

What would more experienced heads recommend as the best technology.  It should be platform and application neutral if possible.

Points all round for useful answers.
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Well, for databases - MySQL or ORACLE are among the top of the food chain
And so long as you can save your data from SPSS in comma dileminated format you can easily import the file into a table in MySQL

As for interface software - PHP has to be one of the most widely recognized and flexible versions out there. So I would recommend it.

Not to mention BOTH PHP and MySQL are FREE! (the best plus there is!)

As to the chart, if you are able to save the graphical chart as an image it is rather straightforward. This can be done several ways, one would be to keep the charts to a naming convention tableName_1.jpg or tableName_bar.jpg, although numbers would likely be the easiest to work with as it takes little to make php create filenames in the form of a loop. Just a suggestion though.

After all, between javascript, CSS, PHP, HTML and MySQL I have yet to meet a web page challenge I could not really handle. And with PHP being so flexible there is usually 10 ways to get the same result, its just finding the most efficient one!

Hope this Helps,

PS - If you end up doing this in PHP I would like to work with you on the code as I will have to start working with SPSS in one of my master's classes in a year or so - so let me know what you decide on.

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My understanding of the situation is that the following things will determine your decisions:

available money, available time, available experience, current available hardware and software

If you have all the money to throw at the problem, an Oracle [or MS SQL Server or DB2 Midrange server] option is probably what you want with the development on the front end being in Java or ASP depending on your preferred flavor.  This decision also impacts your support options and likely recovery timing.  If you pay enough, you limit your vulnerability and gain greater support options assuming you keep to one flavor.

If you have a lot of time not much money and your available hardware and software are either older or your going to be working with other low paid folk, I strongly agreee with the PHP and MySQL option.

If you are new to the programming business, I would suggest that you also check out MySQL in combination with Python and Zope.  (All very low money options.)

Not an easy decision to make, no matter how much information you have about the options.

Good Luck,
bulletheadAuthor Commented:
Thanks to both of you for your replies.

What I had done to begin with was transfer the data to an XML file, and I was running the query by using ASP to build an XSLT stylesheet based on the values passed to it from a form and return the transformed data.

This seems like a really chunky and ugly way of doing it.  I think maybe in the future XQUERY might help, but I need to do something now!

From what you've both said PHP and MySQL sounds like the way to go.  Time to get my learning cap on I think.

I'll finalise this in a couple of days and let you know what option I'm going with.

SPSS can save data as a bunch of things, but not CSV.  Most usefully it can save files as Excel, tab-delimited or fixed width ascii and dbase formats.

SPSS do offer a web component, but I think they charge the earth for it and I don't need that kind of power, it's only simple queries I need.
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http://www.mysql.com/doc/en/index.html  for  ---- learning about MYSQL
http://www.php.net                        -----               learning about php

PHP also has a manual you can download which has all sorts of comments about using there code and has to be one of the most flexible languages I've ever come across.

Also you may want to look at:

they have 2 books right now being sold that cover CSS and one one PHP/MYSQL for about $70 when you get both together. (They also have a book preview available for download so you can see if the book is useful or not. What I read of them - well let's just say the Mail is SLOW!)

Hope These help -
back to free stuff, you should take a look at http://xml.apache.org/
bulletheadAuthor Commented:
Thanks makc, I'll add that to my list!

I'll finalise this in a day or two when I've made my decision.

Hope the suspense doesn't get too much for you all! :-)
bulletheadAuthor Commented:
Right, update time.

I duly downloaded MySQL and PHP, and I'm definitely going to go with that option.  Just need to read a book.

makc: Thanks for the xml at apache link, I think I might well convert to a XQUERY solution as soon as that becomes viable, so watch this space.

doryllis: thanks for the Python tip - that's something I've been meaning to bone up on as well!  So many books to read :(.  I'll check out Zope as well.

red010knight: I've been doing a bit of digging about SPSS.  Seems there is a data driver so that you can set it up as an ODBC data source, which might be handy!  If you drop me an email with your address (check my profile) I'll let you know what I find out.
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