Formatting output for reports

What options do I have for formatting data for presentation in reports, or for other kinds of attractive output?

For example, in a to-do app, er, doc, how can I generate a nice-looking printable output of my tasks for this week? I know I can view them inside Coda in a variety of attractive formats, including in a calendar; but I’m wondering about something that can be printed.

Another example: If I were to start using a Coda doc to track my projects and time for clients, how would I generate an invoice that can be printed by my client? Right now, my invoicing system generates attractive pdfs that display my company logo on page 1, have various font sizes to clarify the display of what is sometimes a large amount of info, etc. I email those pdfs to my clients and I know that many of my clients print them out. I want to continue emailing invoices, of course, but presentation really matters.

Be grateful if someone can throw me a clue here. Thanks in advance.

William

You don’t have many options, since Coda is more for data than for typesetting.

  1. You can print to PDF whatever you have in a section. You’ll have to hide the section list and use the browser print dialog for that, since the default one (Ctrl+P) is overridden to print the whole doc.

  2. You can decorate your section with images. Including using decoration-less tables to position text and images, like here (lol):
    How to create a menu for a website?

  3. If standard formatting options are not enough, you can resort to generating invoices as SVG images using this trick:
    MEGA TRICK: SVG in Coda (one step away from generated charts and mind maps!)
    This is pretty pro though. You’ll probably need to make a layout in some vector editor like Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer, export it as SVG, then set up placeholders to fill in by Coda. In other words, you can have it as you want, but you’ll have to sweat for it. Also with SVGs it’s quite problematic to have multi-line text: it simply doesn’t support it as of now.

Thanks for the quick reply, Paul!

This is what I was afraid of. Got basically same answer last year when I posted similar question in forums over at Airtable.

I’m only just starting to explore Coda’s integrations with other services, so I can’t quite see how to do this yet: but I wonder if it would be possible to push data for (say) an invoice over to a template that I create in Google Sheets, format a nice looking invoice there, save it as a pdf and pull it back into Coda, then email it from Coda. May have to explore that.

Thanks again,

William

Why email it from Coda, at that point?

Oh, the section won’t look all that nice when you email it from Coda. E.g. all non-table views will be sent as tables (even charts).

I haven’t tested with SVGs though, but I think they may be lost as well. I don’t think email clients would render SVG in email body.

There’s been a hackathon in search of solutions how to send charts and stuff over email. The one ultimate solution (which is to print the section to PDF and set up a script to send it) isn’t the most trivial to set up, and has lots of shortcomings in general:

Yeah, good question and I was wondering that myself. I’m just banging my head on the wall waiting for enlightenment or concussion, whichever comes first. :slight_smile:

I’ve been playing with the options inside Coda some more and I might be able to do this after all, inside Coda, at least for one of my use cases (my invoices). I’ve created a clean view on a new page (“section”?). I’ve got the data showing fairly nicely and have mostly nailed down the presentation of the info that needs to go at the top of the invoice (client name, summary of charges etc).

But there are of course a couple of hiccups. I’m going to hold my breath and hope they go away. (While continuing to bang said head against wall, see above…)

I do wish there was a “show print margins” option so I could more easily determine how wide my table can be and still get printed on a single page width. But trial and error works, too.

.

I don’t think I’m up to the SVG trick yet (probably never) but thanks for mentioning it.

Thanks again, Paul.

William

Welcome to community @William_Porter and thank you for giving coda a try. When you have time, we would love to hear more about couple of hiccups - you can post here or send an email to support@coda.io (or talk to one us from via in-product chat) - we are always looking for more feedback and ideas and eager to hear more about how Coda is used. :slight_smile:

Thank you.

Krunal,

Okay, one hiccup has to do with Coda’s problems printing non-table text. For example, I have a little brain-storming outline. If it were in Google Docs or Dropbox Paper, it would be about 1 page long. It’s not table data, it’s text, mostly numbered list. When I try to print it, about 10% of the right side of the content gets cut off. So if I were trying to print the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the output would look like kind of like this:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for o…
bands which have connected them with another and to assume am…
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Natu…
respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declar…
the separation.

I’ve tried adjusting the page alignment options and the magnification/zoom in the print dialog, and I just can’t make it work. So here I’ve written this nice document and I simply can’t print it out or even save as a pdf. :frowning:

William

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William, I’m a freelancer and consultant and I produce a couple of invoices each month for clients. I resigned myself to a manual process – I format a Coda section as nicely as possible, populating it with data from a couple of different tables using formulae on the canvas as well as table views, and then I take screenshot of it. This includes text formatting and logo. I’m well aware of the drawbacks, but I haven’t received any pushback from clients yet. They still cut the checks :slight_smile:

I do think the idea of using Zapier to push data to an external document has merit and is a step beyond my current process, but ultimately it would be best to have everything automated in Coda.

JB

That @John_Beaudoin_Jack! Useful to hear from somebody who’s making it work. I’m curious though: Are all of your invoices just 1 page? My invoices can occasionally be pretty long and I’m not sure how to take a screenshot of a multipage invoice.

William

Ahhh… The multi-page invoice. A rare occasion for me, but here’s how I cheated:

The Coda section serves as a cover page. Instead of starting with the list of items on the invoice, I have a “See attached detail for itemized list” option in my formula (when N > 5, in my case). I cut and paste into a ‘nearly identical’ Word doc, PDF it up and send it as an attachment. The recipient gets an email with two attached PDFs Invoice XX-XXXX and Attachment XX-XXXX.

This is acceptable on my end because it is the exception to my usual workflow – most of my invoices are for small batches of content deliverables and not time entries. If any significant number of invoices were multi-page, the cutting and pasting would render most of Coda’s value moot for this process.

I came to Coda from Airtable (like you) for a number of reasons, but my dissatisfaction with their “Blocks” solution formatting was part of it. I think Coda will someday improve their document formatting capabilities, but as Paul said above, they are frying bigger fish right now with the database capabilities.

Good luck!

For the record, I’m making my invoices in good ol’ Microsoft Word (2010 lol). Even though I’m tracking everything freelancing in Coda.

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I may have found a way to do most of what I need to do. I’m now embarrassed that I can’t recall where I stumbled across this. Would like to give somebody credit. Anyway, I found an example doc that shows how to use the Gmail pack to email a section. The section can include my logo, the info on the canvas, and lots of rows of data. And for some reason that’s a mystery to me, in Gmail, the output looks fine. Well, satisfactory. This is a major discovery for me.

Addendum minutes later: Well, this is a big step forward. Solves the multi-page invoice problem. But unfortunately, the button that I click to send the section appears as a graphic item at the bottom of the email and course that’s undesirable. Will bang on this idea some more. Still, promising…

William

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I tried the email approach, but charts do not transfer at all… (I like me some charts in reports).

I have two or three approaches I have settled on (after running through the loops like everyone else).

Page that I am trying to use as a report is a table grouped by two variables (grouped twice), with several off-table variables handling filtering, and with a chart built off the grouped table view.

  1. Copy paste table from Coda into Gsheets and have gsheets create the report in another tab using QUERY (other functions would work as well…). Gsheets can even re-create coda tables on the fly, so once this is setup, there’s a manual step, but it works.
  2. Funnel data from Coda into Gsheets with API (integromat works well)… and do the same thing otherwise. It removes the manual step from #1, but it’s much more laborious to set up and even maintain.
  3. Copy and paste into MS Word. Seriously. Out of all the apps, it seems that MS Word is able to actually create the grouped table looking nice (table based systems like gsheets or similar fail miserably). Give it a try; you may get lucky.

Just put a button on another section?.. :slight_smile:

I.e. have a separate emailable section, and have a separate “preparation” section. You can duplicate the section FYI.

@cblock yeah, the GMail pack won’t render the charts or grouped tables. One way around is to first print to PDF, then email the PDF. All either manually or via a script, as I linked in comment #4