Archive for the 'Products' Category
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 is one new product this year for a total of 12 products. 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.
Adam Butt of APB Reports in Norway has developed some sophisticated web dashboards using Crystal Reports exported to txt format. You have to see them to appreciate them. They are interactive and the data behind them can be refreshed automatically as often as needed to keep them up to date.
And if you don’t want to learn the techniques, you can hire Adam to create dashboards for you.
Find it EZ Software has released a 2016 edition for their product suite. They are now offering the software in three tiers:
- Code Search Pro Desktop
- Code Search Pro Server
- Dev Surge 365 Enterprise
You can download a comparison of the three tiers for more specifics. So what is new?
Dev Surge 365:
This is a new offering that covers all the features of the previous products. It adds the ability to mass update connection information within a BOE repository (Server, DB UID, PWD). It can do this at the report level or at the scheduled event level. It also adds the ability to do mass comparisons of objects. This includes Crystal Reports, database objects, several programming languages and office documents. In all cases you can drill down to granular differences between the objects. It runs on Windows desktop or Windows Server OS.
In all three editions you can now go beyond extracting the SQL from report expressions and commands. You can also now extract the SQL from database objects, like views and stored procedures that are called by the report. So now you can keep track of the fields used by a report, even if that field is only mentioned in SQL stored in the database.
Free trials are available on the Find it EZ website.
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 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, including CR Server, itself:
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. This year there are new lines that show how the product works with mobile devices. If you have any feedback to share on these tools I would be happy to hear from you.
After reviewing a few more BI products, I have decided to focus my comparison of Crystal alternatives on true reporting tools rather than the broader category of BI tools. My guiding question is still this:
If I were to switch from Crystal Reports to another product, what features would I gain and what features would I lose?
I found that several of the leading BI tools provide primarily high level summary and/or visualization. They don’t have the ability to create the day-to-day operational forms (invoices, purchase orders, custom reports). I create these every day in Crystal Reports. So I have dropped some of the tentative columns in the original grid and replaced them with two more true reporting tools, Jasper Reports and Cognos Impromptu.
The two new columns have been started but are not completed yet. I was able to fill in the rows that describe each tool’s basic approach, but I don’t know all of the detailed features that each supports. If anyone has a working knowledge of these tools and is willing to fill in some of the feature rows, that would be a great help.
I just read a “what’s new” PDF from SAP that talks about Crystal Reports 2016. The new features are not earth shaking but it is nice to see that product development on the stand-alone version isn’t completely idle. From what I read the new features are:
- A vertical alignment control with a condition button (my “functions to nowhere” will get used after all)
- Conditional formatting controls with condition buttons for line and box properties. One control is for the style of the box which will allow the box to be conditionally suppressed.
- A formula function that retrieves descriptions stored with parameter fields
- Some new native drives for Oracle, SQL Server and a few SAP databases.
I haven’t upgraded my own software since 2008, but this list would make an upgrade worthwhile for me. The release is tentatively set for the first half of next year. The full PDF is here but it covers all SAP/BO products. Crystal Reports starts on slide 97.
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 product that has changed since last year is Cut Light, which now includes a handful of new functions:
- Search text using regular expressions
- Calculate the height of a growing text object
- Calculate the number of rows in a wrapping text object
- Trigger a web service to return a value
- Convert HTML/RTF into text
If you need help deploying one of these functions in a project let me know.
When CR 2011 was released SAP also introduced Crystal Reports for Enterprise. SAP stated at that time that they were going to focus their future development efforts on the newer product. They also stated that they would continue to support the standalone product, but the wording left some of us wondering how long that support would last.
Recently one of my newsletter subscribers sent me a link to an SAP wiki page. The page expains the difference between Crystal Reports for Enterprise and “classic” Crystal Reports. He found this statement in the overview:
“We will continue to support the Crystal Reports 2011/2013 line of products after Crystal Reports for Enterprise has caught up [with the features in CR].” It isn’t a promise of indefinite support but perhaps they won’t discontine the stand alone version of Crystal reports any time soon. I certainly expect to be supporting Crystal for many more years.
And thanks to Joe Gaietto of Ohio MHAS for sending the updated link.
It seems just about any time I am shopping for something I find a larger selection and lower prices through Amazon. Competing with Amazon is an obvious challenge for any business. So when Amazon announced their own cloud based BI product called QuickSight it got my attention. QuickSight will allow users to visualize their Amazon Web Service (AWS) data as well as data from other sources. Amazon claims that their price is 1/10th the cost of local BI options. Their Standard Edition is $108 per user per year, with the Enterprise Edition being twice that.
QuickSight is not limited to reading AWS cloud data. They are providing outbound connectivity so you can also analyze data that you store locally and data in other cloud services like SalesForce. All of the data is then processed by a new calculation engine they have created named Spice. QuickSight has it’s own visualization designer, but Amazon also provides inbound connectivity so users can tap into the Spice engine from partner tools like Tableau and Qlik.
According to an article on VentureBeat.com, cloud based BI is on the upswing from many vendors:
The rollout of [QuickSight] comes a couple of months after Microsoft’s cloud-based business intelligence service, Power BI, became generally available. And last year IBM brought its Cognos business intelligence software to its SoftLayer public cloud. Salesforce came out with its comparable Analytics Cloud last year, while startups like BIME, Birst, Domo, and GoodData offer standalone cloud BI tools.
They don’t mention that SAP has put their analysis engine, Lumira, in the cloud. You can get a free Lumira account just by registering (1 GB of storage). So it sounds like the future of both large scale data storage AND large scale data analysis may be in the cloud, with the biggest cloud provider of them all taking the lead.
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 a dozen 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.
This year there are 11 vendors in the review but one of them is MIA** – the vendor for EasyView (EasyStreet Software). I have Emailed and called and have not received a response since 2012. Neither have their customers which is probably why the Better Business Bureau has them rated “F”. The web site is still running but I am not sure it the purchases pages are working or not.
The current vendors are:
Crystal Corral by Groff Automation
cView by Chelsea Technologies
ViewerFX by Origin Software
Crystal Kiwi Viewer by Crystal Kiwi
Report Viewer Pro by Report Viewer Limited
RV by Climate 27
Logicity Pro by SaberLogic
Report Runner Viewer by Jeff-Net
Easy View by Easy Street Software (**see warning above)
RTag Report Viewer by RTag
DataLink Viewer by Millet SW
If you have already tried one of these products, or are currently using one, I would love to know what you think.