Suggestions for how to create this project. Please help!!!

Ok, we have a client who would like us to develop an application for them that creates customizable online brochures for his clients.  These brochures would be fully customizable meaning they could select different brochure designs and choose the text that goes onto each section of the brochure.
Once the brochure is created, it's sent to a professional printer (we were thinking as a PDF but I suppose it could also be in ms word as well).

Our original idea was to have the user enter in exactly what they want the brochure to say and then store all of that info into a database which would then be extracted by a crystal report and saved as a PDF however after 5 days of working on this, we discovered crystal reports is not available on outr web hosts'  shared web hosting server.  We would have to purchase a dedicated server to do this which our client does not want to do.  So crystal's no longer an option.  

Any other ideas?  I'm not looking for the code on how to make something like this work.  Just suggestions on how this could successfully be put together.  

Thanks to my mistake with choosing crystal reports, we're now 5 days behind schedule.  Please help!

Thanks in advance.

-Goalie35
Goalie35Asked:
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ovalsquareConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Just recently did a very cool pdf brochure creation for a client myself doing a more complex pdf creation that what you are requiring. Used a relatively cheap pdf control from Siberix (www.siberix.com) and it worked great.

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samtran0331Commented:
What about going from html to Word...no components required:

http://www.dotnet-news.com/lien.aspx?ID=8510

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ovalsquareCommented:
If Word does the job, then that would be fine, but of course dealing with font, layout, image limitations etc.

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samtran0331Commented:
Yeah, I read thru the article for my own use...haven't tried it...but says that if you build the word doc first, save it out from Word as html, then view source, you will be able to control the font and styles fairly accurately.

Basically, the tutorial is just string concatenation of MS-generated html...so you can define your own styles and headers before you do the string builder.
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ovalsquareCommented:
That's interesting - never gone that route before (aren't we always just trying to get rid of MS Word markup, not putting it in? ;-). I love the pdf route however - especially for sending off to the printers.

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samtran0331Commented:
Agreed...MS even provides its own tool to remove MSWord html markup...but most ppl's annoyances are going from word to html....this is going from html to word...basically, you just have to use MS's defined css tags that Word "likes" for layout and formatting...

Granted, acrobat reader is free...so a pc w/o word or acrobat...it's easier to get acrobat...
Not sure if there is Word viewer like there is a PowerPoint viewer...

But to me, best benefit of this word method is from the developer side...it's free...no extra controls or components...or having to learn anything besides how to build a string and html and css.
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samtran0331Commented:
Actually, if one were to take the time , this could be turned into a pretty cool custom control for resell like any of the pdf controls...fonts, header styles, justification...all of it could become properties....basically mimic Crystal...except Word is now your report designer and final output.
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Goalie35Author Commented:
Samtran,
I like your solution however my clients' site is set up on a shared web hosting server and I know for a fact that they do not have ms office installed on the shared server.  

So I guess my question is, what happens when a user tries to view a word document on a server that doesn't have ms word installed?  Does IE and Firefox have some sort of built in ms word viewer to handle this or would the user simply get the good old "This page cannot be displayed" error?

Thanks again.

-Goalie35
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samtran0331Commented:
Goalie35,

I looked through the article a little bit and all it really does is create a string of text with the proper mshtml markup that MS-Word understands. Then the file gets saved with a *.doc extension that should open in Word by default.

Unlike some of the PDF controls out there, I don't think this method requires anything on the server-side.

Check out that link, again:
http://www.dotnet-news.com/lien.aspx?ID=8510

right below the code sample is a link to "try it out".....the code should pop open the "open, save, cancel" dialog.  And if you have Word, you should be able to open in IE,...worse case is save the file to the desktop....as you can open Wordperfect in MSWord...I'd imagine Wordperfect lets you open MSWord docs.

MS does have a Word viewer:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=95E24C87-8732-48D5-8689-AB826E7B8FDF&displaylang=en

I agree, the pdf route is much much more common....but this is by far the easiest way I've seen to create a downloadable 'report'....besides hitting "print" from the browser and using the web page as the report.

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ovalsquareCommented:
You would not need anything server-side for implementing samtran0331's solution, but you would obviously need Word installed on the client-side. For the pdf solution, you would need the pdf dll in your bin, and Adobe Reader on the client-side - the former dead easy, and the latter extremely common.

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Goalie35Author Commented:
Ok, after checking out my options, it actually looks like the pdf creator that ovalsquare mentioned may be the best way to go.

I downloaded the trial of the pdf library and I learned the basics to it however I have a few questions that I'm hoping you can help me out with ovalsquare(I tried calling the creator of the software but while he was a nice guy, he had too strong of an accent to understand him fully):

1)Which version did you use (PDF library for $149 or the Report Writer for $299).  I'm primarily looking for something that can handle being set up similar to that of an html table.  
2)Were you able to insert background images onto your pdf?

 Thanks again.

-Goalie35
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ovalsquareCommented:
1. Pdf Library
2. You are able to layer items on top of each other, so if that's what you mean by a background image, then that's no problem. Just put your image first, then put your text or other images after etc.

Try out what I've created at www.globalsurveyforms.com/default.aspx (not yet launched so there's some quirks, but you'll be able to get an account and make a TableTent brochure without paying as long as you don't make your survey public). Just create a new account, new survey, then create a table tent for that survey.

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