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Last Update: 2018 - 02 - 27

How to Output a dynamically filtered Access report to PDF

by Philipp Stiefel, originally published November 8th, 2017

Access Report to PDF illustration

In Microsoft Access 2010 and newer (Access 2007 with an additional Add-In) there was the very useful output format option acFormatPDF added to the DoCmd.OutputTo-Method. This method allows you to easily export Access reports to PDF files from VBA code without any 3rd-Party components.

There is one aspect of using this very convenient method that I frequently see people struggle with. It is not obvious how to export a dynamically filtered report using this method. Other than the DoCmd.OpenReport-Method, the DoCmd.OutputTo-Method does not support to supply any criteria to the report the filter the data. So, it seems to be a problem to export a report that displays different data sets depending on user input or other factors.

The obvious workarounds that come to mind are usually one of the following:

  • Create different reports with the criteria built in
  • Create a parameter query referencing form fields or global functions as record source for the report.
  • Build the SQL for the report at runtime and assign it to the report.

All of these do work. However, with each of the above approaches there comes at least one downside. (Matching the above order):

  • It requires to create multiple very similar objects (reports). - Not very flexible and a maintenance burden.
  • It requires additional functions or a form and is rather inflexible.
  • It requires to build the whole query at runtime and assign it to the report in its Report_Open-Event. - Valid approach, but somewhat complex, error prone, and messy due to the dependence on an external (to the report) source for the SQL string.

While all these approaches work, I would rather not recommend to use any of them.

Luckily there is a very simple solution to the problem that is just not so obvious.

If the report you are exporting is closed when you invoke DoCmd.OutputTo, the OutputTo-Method will open the report and export it. - Plain and simple. - That is the root cause of this whole issue.

However, if the report you want to export is open already in preview (acViewPreview) when you invoke OutputTo, the DoCmd.OutputTo-Method will just export the report as it is!

Considering this, it is very simple to solve the problem with exporting dynamically filtered reports. You open the report using DoCmd.OpenReport in preview (View=acViewPreview) and supply your dynamic filter to the methods WhereCondition argument. To prevent the report appearing on the screen in preview, you use the WindowMode acHidden, to open the report invisible to the user.

You then simply invoke DoCmd.OutputTo with Format=acFormatPDF and all the other arguments as before to export the filtered report to the PDF file.

There is only one thing that you must not forget to take care of. After opening the report in preview view, it will stay open, albeit invisible, until you explicitly close it. If you “open” it again using DoCmd.OpenReport, the report will become visible but it will not re-query the data and will it still use the original criteria for filtering the data. In this case the report might display the wrong data set. - Simple solution: Always close the hidden report after the PDF file was saved.

Taking all this into account, our procedure to export a filtered report to PDF could look like this:

Public Sub ExportFilteredReportToPDF() Dim reportName As String Dim fileName As String Dim criteria As String reportName = "rptYourReportName" fileName = "C:\tmp\report_export_file.pdf" criteria = "SomeTextField = 'ABC' AND SomeNumberField = 123" DoCmd.OpenReport reportName, acViewPreview, , criteria, acHidden DoCmd.OutputTo acOutputReport, reportName, acFormatPDF, fileName DoCmd.Close acReport, reportName, acSaveNo End Sub

In a real-world implementation, based on this sample, you can pass in all 3 variables as arguments into the function and thus create a simple and flexible ExportToPDF routine for your Access application.

So, here we are. An elegant, yet very easy to implement, solution and it requires only 2 additional lines of code.

Add-On-Video: Export Filtered Access Report to PDF

Here is an “add-on” to this article. I recorded a demonstration of the solution described here on video and published it to YouTube.

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© 1999 - 2017 by Philipp Stiefel