If had to pick one topic to share with every Crystal Reports user it would be the existence of third party report viewer programs. These viewers allow you to Run, Refresh, Fill in Parameters, Preview, Export, Print, Drill-Down and just about everything else you could do in the preview tab of Crystal Reports. What you can’t do is make changes to the settngs or layout of the report. To make these changes you would have to own a copy of the Crystal Reports designer.
I have a list of viewer programs on the LINKS page of my web site. Most are inexpensive, especially if you are buying more than one copy. Most you can try for free. There is even one that is completely free and another is both free and Open-Source. I don’t sell any of them myself, and I haven’t even tried some of them, but I do have my favorites depending on what you need to do. Let me know if you would like a recommendation.
So why doesn’t Business Objects ever mention these viewers? Well for starters they don’t sell one. These are all made by third parties. They could easily sell one if they wanted to. As a matter of fact older version of Crystal came with a ‘compiled report’ feature that allowed you to distribute a viewer much like these.
But is now seems that Business Objects would prefer that you use a very expensive and fairly complicated server based option like Crystal Reports Server or Business Objects Enterprise. These are great tools for certain large Crystal installations. But most of the customers who ask me about a server based deployment eventually decide that a locally installed viewer program makes more sense.
Are there any down sides to the viewers? The main problem for some companies is that a viewer has to be installed locally on each PC while the server based programs can be access from any browser. Some like the centralized administration of the server products which can be quite handy. Just keep in mind that buying even a small server based product can cost you thousands of dollars more than deploying a viewer.