Archive for the 'Products' Category



Comparison of desktop-based schedulers (2018 update)

Tuesday 27 March 2018 @ 7:41 am

How would you like your reports to be automatically run, exported to a PDF and delivered to your Email InBox every Monday morning at 6am? The Crystal Reports designer doesn’t provide a way to do this (unless you upgrade to CR Server or BO Enterprise). But if you look at third party products like those on my LINKS page you will find several reasonably priced or free tools that do this. Some do even more. So every March I go through the list and publish a feature comparison on my blog.

There are 10 active products in the list this year. The page linked above provides a brief description of each product and lists the features that set it apart. Then there is a detailed feature matrix that shows the key specifics for comparison including prices. To clarify the matrix terminology I have written a feature glossary to explain what each feature means. Finally there are links to the vendor websites so that you can get more information on each product. In May I will be updating a separate article that compares server based scheduling tools. If you think one person can manage all of your scheduling you are probably fine with one of the desktop tools, regardless of the number of people receiving the scheduled output. But if you plan to have multiple people scheduling reports then you may want to consider a server based tool.




Finding changes in report output

Thursday 25 January 2018 @ 4:23 pm

I often work with large and complex reports. Sometimes making a minor change can have unexpected consequences. I like to be able to see that the only things that changed are the things I intended to change. If the report is long or dense it can be a challenge to identify changes. But I recently worked out a relatively simple way to identify all of the values on a report that have changed as the result of my formula changes. I use the “compare” add-on in NotePadd ++.

So the first thing I do is refresh the ‘before’ report so I know that I have up to the minute data. Then I export the entire report into TXT format, creating the file before.txt. Then I make my change(s) and export the entire report a second time into TXT format, creating the file after.txt. Now I open these two files in open NotePad++ and run a compare.  All of the differences will be highlighted and it is easy to see all the changes.

For example, one of my upcoming assignments is to simplify the formulas in a complex report without changing the output. So my plan is to use this method after each round of changes. Since nothing should be different, any changes I find in the compare process will be a sign of a mistake.

If you haven’t tried NP++ (which is free) you can read more about it here, including the best place to download it (see update below).

Update – I just tried to install NP++ for a customer and I couldn’t add the Compare plugin because the plugin manager was completely missing. After some research I found that the developer of the plugin manager module added a sponsorship image (an ad) and so the plugin manager is no longer included in new downloads. If you already have the plugin manager upgrades will not affect you, since this only affects new installs.  The developer of NP++  is working on a replacement plugin manager.

Since Ninite always installs the latest version I recommend that, for now, you download NP++ version 7.4.2 directly from the NP++ site.  This was the last version that came with the plugin manager. It should automatically update itself to the latest version of NP++.




Web based deployment options compared (2018)

Wednesday 17 January 2018 @ 10:59 pm

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. But there are other, less expensive products out there that also web delivery of Crystal Reports. These third party products allow your users to run and 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 features 10 products, one of which is new since last January:

Crystal Reports Server – a traditional Web portal
Report Runner Web Portal – a traditional Web portal
IntelliFront BI – a traditional Web portal
Ripplestone – a traditional Web portal
rePORTAL CR – a traditional Web portal
Bezlio – a SaaS Web viewer
ReCrystallize Pro – a launch page generator for the web
ReCrystallize Server – a server-based web viewer
Report Launch – a bridge between BO server products and server based applications
RapidStack – Web Portal service built around Business Objects Enterprise

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. This year there are several new lines in the matrix. They show which tools encrypt credentials, provide system monitoring and allow you to launch reports from an external URL. If you have any feedback to share on these tools I would be happy to hear from you.




i-Net Crystal Clear Reports

Saturday 9 December 2017 @ 10:52 am

I received a call this week from a potential customer who said he wanted me to help him modify some reports. But then he started talking about iNet Clear Reports. I told him that I did Crystal Reports and had never heard of Clear. He said that Clear was “just like” Crystal and he was convinced that I could help him.

While we were talking I did a quick web search and found an image of the Clear design environment. I was surprised at how much it looked like the CR design environment. I also saw that it was previously named “Crystal Clear” which I remember reading about years ago.  So I decided to remote into his PC and see what the tool was like.

As soon as I started exploring a report I found that most things were pretty much where I expected them. For example, the report sections were named the same way and had very similar properties. The field explorer had the same nodes. The formulas were written in either “Crystal Syntax” or “Basic Syntax”. In the end I was able to make most of the required changes to the report, including adding a SQL Expression and fixing a formula. My learning curve was pretty mild.

After we were done I downloaded the iNet Clear Report Designer (Windows) and played around with it. It is clearly modeled on Crystal Reports, with many features copied exactly. There were many differences but they were both positive and negative. For instance there is no way to modify the report while in preview mode. And some simple changes generated odd errors.

On the other hand, the Clear designer can be run on Linux.  I liked the ability to add SQL for a dynamic parameter right in the parameter window. I also liked that the Field Explorer shows the data type for all field types, including parameters, formulas and SQL Expressions.

I still prefer Crystal Reports, but I plan to study the features of iNet Clear Reports and eventually add it to my comparison of reporting tools. And since it is so similar it will probably end up listed on my consulting page.




Crystal Reports formula function libraries (2017)

Monday 27 November 2017 @ 6:31 pm

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) Generate bar codes without having to install any fonts

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 product that has changed since last year is CUT Light, which can now do 16 different bar codes (without requiring special fonts) and can do distance calculations and drive times based on addresses as well as lat/long coordinates.

If you need help deploying one of these functions in a project let me know.




Report hyperlinks that export to a PDF

Wednesday 22 November 2017 @ 5:02 pm

I recently learned several things about passing hyperlinks from a Crystal report to a PDF while working on a customer project. The goal of the project was for every line of the report (each invoice) to have a clickable hyperlink. Clicking that hyperlink would open the corresponding PDF image for that invoice.

The pdf files were all stored in a network folder accessed by a UNC path. The path to the invoice PDF was stored as a character field in the invoice table. Here is an example:

\\FileServer\shared\Images\Invoices\12345.pdf

The report and the hyperlinks all worked fine in Crystal, but the customer wanted to deliver the report as a PDF. We found that once the report was converted to a PDF, the hyperlinks were no longer ‘clickable’.

The first thing I learned was that to get a report hyperlink to survive the transition into a PDF you have to use the Crystal Export function. Using a PDF print driver, like CutePDF or PDF Creator, will not allow the hyperlink to survive the transition. Even if you expose the entire hyperlink so that it is visible in the PDF, it won’t be automatically ‘clickable’.

The second thing I learned was that not all hyperlinks will survive even if you use the Crystal export process. They will survive if they are URL based hyperlinks or MailTo hyperlinks. But any file/path based hyperlinks, like my example above, will still not be clickable in the PDF. As above, even when you make the entire link visible in the PDF it would have to be copied and pasted to work. It won’t be automatically ‘clickable’ within the PDF.

This customer was also planning to use a third party product (Visual Cut by Millet Software) to generate the PDF files at a scheduled time. So I asked Ido Millet about the problem. He was aware of the limitation on file hyperlinks in PDF exports and had built a feature into Visual Cut to overcome it. Visual Cut had a batch file command called PDF_Auto_File_Link that would read through a PDF and convert file hyperlinks into ‘clickable’ links.

So, if you run into a challenge that involves PDF exports with hyperlinks, give me a call. I might just be able to help.




Save money on reportal

Monday 13 November 2017 @ 3:26 pm

reportal Software has just released reportal 6.2, a new version of their web portal for Crystal Reports.  They are offering a 10% discount on all server license fees through November 30, 2017.  I don’t see the server price on their web site but the price was $3,000 per server in January when I did my latest annual review.  That link is also a great place for more information on rePORTAL and the other third party web portals.




New Crystal Reports viewer

Tuesday 24 October 2017 @ 11:38 pm

APB Reports has released a new viewer called CR Dispatch. CR Dispatch takes a different approach to viewing your reports, since it has a minimal user interface that only appears the first time you run a report. After that it provides a secure way to run a specific RPT with one click.

The first time you run the application it asks you to select an RPT file. It then creates a config file that stores the report name and (optionally) the credentials used to run it. The next time you run the application it silently runs that same report with the stored credentials. This means that you need an instance of the EXE file for each report you want to run. Usually the EXE and RPT are stored together in one folder, with a separate folder for each RPT file. This works best for users with a small number of reports to run, or if you are setting up reports for a user and want a very simple setup for that user.

Here is a demo video of CR Dispatch in action.

CR Dispatch costs $20 per user.




Find it EZ partners with rePORTAL

Sunday 15 October 2017 @ 10:52 pm

Find it EZ (search and documentation) has recently partnered with rePORTAL (scheduling and distribution), which means some new Find it EZ features and some discounts for rePORTAL customers. Find it EZ now directly integrates with the rePORTAL scheduling database. This allows rePORTAL users to extract scheduling information (run times, recipients, destinations, etc.) into user-friendly spreadsheets and also to search and document changes in the underlying database model.

rePORTAL customers can also get a 20% discount on any new license purchase of the latest Find it EZ products, by using the discount code “rePORTAL” at checkout:

Code Search Pro ( Server only )

Dev Surge 365 Enterprise

You can read the full press release here.




Updated comparison of Crystal Reports viewers (2017)

Tuesday 26 September 2017 @ 5:08 pm

You use Crystal Reports to create, change and run reports. But what if you have users who just need to refresh/view/print/export? Do they need copies of Crystal Reports? Do you need to configure an expensive web server?

The most cost effective method for letting a user run reports is to install a third-party client-based viewer. They are offered by nine different vendors.  Don’t get sidetracked by the “viewer” that is put out by SAP because that tool won’t refresh reports.  Every viewer in my list allows you to refresh reports.

Every September I compare the features of these viewers and post the results. The comparison page provides a brief introduction to each product including what sets it apart. There is also a detailed feature matrix (PDF) that shows some of the specifics for comparison, like prices. I have even included a glossary of features in case you aren’t familiar with the terminology.

There are 9 active products in this year’s review and 4 “ghost” products that are mentioned as warnings.  A ghost product has a web site but it hasn’t changed in years and no one responds to repeated requests for information.

The active vendors are:

Crystal Corral by Groff Automation
rptView by Pursuit Technology
cView by Chelsea Technologies
ViewerFX by Origin Software
CrystalKiwi Viewer by CrystalKiwi
Logicity Pro by SaberLogic
Report Runner Viewer by Jeff-Net
RTag Report Viewer by RTag
DataLink Viewer by Millet SW

If you have feedback to provide on any of these products, I would love to know what you think.




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