Archive for the 'Products' Category
This is my annual chart showing the versions of CR that my newsletter subscribers were using when they signed up. It gives you a sense for which versions are being used and how quickly the new versions are catching on. I have included numbers for 2014 even though the sample size is pretty small.
The slight jump in the version 10 is probably a fluke that will diminish as more data for the year accumulates. You will see a similar change if you compare the bar for 2013 in this chart to the chart from last year.
There are several viewers out there that allow you to keep a report open on the screen and have the report automatically refreshed every few minutes. Some users will even display these reports on a large screen to allow everyone to monitor key metrics in real time.
DataLink Viewer from Millet Software is one viewer that supports auto-refresh. Ido Millet has recently added a feature that speeds up the process for one of my clients. The client wanted to auto-refresh the same report in several different locations. But the report takes a long time to run and taxes the server. We didn’t want Continue Reading »
New auto-refresh feature in DataLink Viewer
There are many ways to deploy Crystal Reports to users. I normally lean toward the simpler and less expensive options, like locally installed viewers, or scheduled delivery of PDF output. But there are environments where a web based option is necessary. The “official” options from SAP are Crystal (Reports) Server and BO Enterprise. You can read about these on the SAP website. But there are other, less expensive products out there that many users never see. These are third party products that allow your users to view reports from a browser. You can also centrally manage your report deployment from a browser.
I have created a page on my blog that lists and compares these products, and I update it every January. This year the list includes 9 products and 2 are new this year. I have even added CR Server to the list to make it easier to compare the official product, and I have also added CSS Portal by Christian Steven. So the complete list is:
Crystal Reports Server – a traditional Web portal
Report Runner Web Portal – a traditional Web portal
CSS Portal with CRD – – a traditional Web portal
Visual Access Report Server – a traditional Web portal
Ripplestone– a traditional Web portal
RVweb – a traditional Web portal
rePORTAL – a traditional Web portal
RV for Windows Pro – a server-based viewer
Report Launch – a bridge between BO server products and server based applications
The blog page mentioned above contains a brief rundown on what each product does and provides links to all of the product web sites. I have also posted a feature matrix (PDF) that shows some of the specifics for comparison, including prices. If you have any feedback to share on these tools I would be happy to hear form you.
A few months back a user asked me if there was a way to use VLookup() in a Crystal Report. At the time, I could not think of a way. But recently Millet Software has added this ability to the Cut Light dll. Cut Light adds a number of new functions to your Crystal formula editor and this newest one is called GetXLSOutput() which allows you to tap into calculations stored in a spreadsheet.
In general, this function allows you to capture a report value and use it to fill in a specific cell in a spreadsheet. The function then checks for a value in another call in that spreadsheet and returns it to the report. Obviously, this allows the value that you bring back to be a calculation that depends on the value that you sent to the spreadsheet.
The most common scenario I see for this would be when the spreadsheet has some VLookup tables and logic. The function would allow you to tap into the logic maintained in the spreadsheet. If you come up with a clever use for this, please let me know.
Would like to click “print” and have each page of a report automatically E-mailed to a specific person? If so, you should take a look at PDF-eXPLODE. Normally I talk about Email “bursting” when I review scheduling tools, but PDF-eXPLODE takes a different approach. It installs as a printer driver and all you have to do is “print” the output to PDF-eXPLODE. PDF-eXPLODE will then burst the report into individualized PDF documents and email each page to the Email address on that page. It only takes a few tweaks to the report to make the bursting work.
And, because PDF-eXPLODE behaves like a printer, the report can be run in Crystal or in any software that can run reports. This makes it easy to use PDF-eXPLODE with enterprise software running embedded reports. Often these reports can’t be run outside of their environment, which means you may not be able to use a desktop scheduler for bursting. But these reports can still be printed and Emailed out through PDF-eXPLODE.
To help promote the newly released PDF-eXPLODE v4, 3000AD SYSTEMS is offering a $100 discount on each desktop license or single-user terminal server license. You can get up to $200 off for 3 or more users in terminal server or CR Server environments. To claim your discount use the promo code “HAMADY”, which is valid through 3/31.
I am not sure how many of you will have use for this info, but I have one customer who ran into an unknown limitation in the Crystal Reports API (.NET). He was using FindItEZ to track changes in a very large and complex report. The report had one section divided into over 400 subsections and certain subsections weren’t being identified correctly. Instead they were repeating as “phantom” duplicates. So the team at FindItEZ did some testing and Ken Gnazdowsky reported what they considered a bug in the .NET API.
But, after some discussions with SAP they were told that the .NET API can only keep track of 104 subsections in any one of the 7 major sections:
Report Header/Report Footer
Page Header/Page Footer
So if you go past 104 in any one section (past subsection label ‘cz’) then the Crystal.net API loses the Continue Reading »
Limitations in the Crystal Reports .NET runtime
I have been asked a couple of times this week about Crystal Reports 2013, so I guess it is time to post something. Personally, I have not upgraded since CR CR 2008 (v12). When CR 2011 (v14) came out a couple of years ago, I downloaded the trial and found that it was virtually identical to what I had. There were 3 new features that I mentioned in my blog, but none of these were worth the cost of the upgrade to me. SAP also made it clear that they do not plan to develop new features for the standalone version of CR. They are devoting their energies to the version of CR that is embedded into Business Objects Enterprise.
So when SAP released CR 2013 I wasn’t expecting many changes. In fact I am not aware of any changes. And since SAP is describing this as a ‘rebranding’ of the product as opposed to an upgrade, I don’t think I will spend much time looking for new features. One clue is that CR 2013 is version 14.1 while CR 2011 was version 14.0. If anyone finds any new features in CR 2013, please let me know.
It is time for my annual comparison of formula function libraries. If you aren’t familiar with User Function Libraries (or UFLs) they are DLL files that add new formula functions to your Crystal Reports formula editor. With these functions your formulas can do some pretty amazing things like:
1) Carry values from today’s report to tomorrow’s report
2) Carry values from one report to another.
3) Append lines of text to an external text file.
4) Automatically copy a value to the clipboard.
5) Check the user name of the user running the report.
6) See if a file or folder exists (on your network or on the internet).
7) Rename/copy/delete a file on your hard drive or network drive.
8) Launch an application or run a batch file.
9) Execute a SQL statement (Select/Insert/Delete).
10) Send an Email using information in the report.
11) Create a table of contents or an index for your report.
12) Calculate distances between zip codes or long./lat. coordinates.
If this sounds interesting you can read my complete comparison including a list of all the functions provided by each DLL. The five UFL providers are:
Bjarke Viksoe (U2lwin32)
Maginus Software (CRUFLMAG)
Millet Software (Cut Light)
Chelsea Tech (File Mgt, Text, Share and others)
CrystalKiwi (Export, Table of Contents)
The only vendor that has reported changes since last year is Millet Software. Ido Millet has added a handful of new functions to Cut Light. You will find these highlighted in the matrix. If you need help deploying one of these functions in a project let me know.
I read a forum thread where users were comparing the different web deployment options for Crystal Reports. One post, by Blair Wheadon of SAP, gave a good comparison of the two different CR engines. He compares the one that supports CR Server/BO Enterprise with the CR runtime engine that supports home grown and third party web applications. He has given me permission to post it here:
Its important to understand the differences between SAP Crystal Server, and other server reporting products based on our runtime engine.
Our runtime engine is designed and licensed to add reporting to server applications. It is a lightweight, embeddable component engine without any security or scheduling built it. It is limited to processing a maximum of 3 simultaneous report requests. It is designed to run within the web server itself. Server products like those sold by Reportal and Christian Steven depend on this limited runtime engine, and add their own scheduling functionality.
SAP Crystal Server however is the same technology used by our high-end SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence product, with some limitations that allow us to price it very aggressively. It includes support for Xcelsius dashboarding, the new Explorer tool for casual BI users, Sharepoint and Office integration, Active Directory and LDAP security integration, scheduling, and new Enterprise-class features to reduce the cost of ownership like lifecycle management (for promoting reports between test, development, and production), auditing, and monitoring to ensure uptime.
Unlike the limited runtime engine, the SAP Crystal Server report engine uses all the server resources available, including page-level caching, and unlimited threads to effectively manage load. Plus it now includes entry-level BI functionality like dashboard support, the Explorer tool for casual BI use cases, and support for 64-bit servers.
The major limitations are: limited to a single server, no support for ERP integration (like SAP integration or Oracle integration), mobile support available only as an add-on, and it does not include Web Intelligence. None of these limitation are material to customers looking for a simple reporting server.
It does not use CPU licensing, so you can throw as many CPUs at your reporting problem as you want (as long as you’re on a single server) , and deploy to either virtual or physical servers without any licensing impact.
Ido Millet of Millet software has added a new feature to Visual Cut. Visual Cut is one of the products in my desktop scheduling tools list. Now, when you export to Excel you can now have Visual Cut automatically invoke an existing Macro. The Macro can be in the target file (if you are replacing data in a file) or in a completely separate file. This means, for example, that you can export data to replace an existing tab in a workbook, and then automatically invoke a macro to make changes to the replacement data. If you have a specific use for a feature like this, I would like to hear from you.
For more information about Visual Cut and a comparison to other tools in this category, see my annual review of desktop schedulers.