Output Formats

Now let’s look at some of the possible output formats and APIs:

Word documents

Most Windows desktops run Word, and a free Word viewer is available. It’s easy to automate Word and pump data into it, with good control over page appearance. As we will see, you can do a lot of work with templates, separating the programming from the graphic design. Unlike all other solutions discussed, Word handles document flow for you. It isn’t at all portable, but Word documents allow the user to customize the output by hand if needed.

Windows Graphical Device Interface (GDI)

Windows provides a wide range of graphics functions that can output to a screen or to a printer. Essentially the same code can be aimed at both. This needs to be initiated differently for a multipage report as opposed to a single view on screen. GDI calls involve drawing on the page at precise locations; there is no concept of document flow.


PostScript is a page-description language with advanced capabilities. It is the language of desktop publishing and has defined an imaging model that most other graphics systems try to follow. PostScript files can be sent directly to a wide variety of printers and viewed with free software on most platforms. PostScript is quite readable and easy to generate. This is a multiplatform solution, but it isn’t commonly used as an output format on Windows. PostScript can be viewed with GhostView, a popular Open Source package, or converted to PDF with Adobe’s Distiller ...

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