Archive for the 'Products' Category
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 server 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 you to centrally manage your report deployment from your server.
There is a page on my blog that lists and compares these products, and I update it every January. This year the list includes the same 7 products from last year and one new product that was just released: Continue Reading »
Server based deployment options compared (2013)
I think it was in 1996 that the Crystal Reports part of my business took the lead over the R&R Report Writer part. Every since then I have been looking out for the next tool to take the lead. So I like to stay exposed to the alternatives to the Crystal Reports product line. With that in mind I found an interesting article comparing Pentaho and JasperSoft as alternatives to the Business Objects and Oracle product lines. These are not so much competitors to stand-alone Crystal Reports, but are more comparable to the server level tools like CR Server or BO Enterprise. Both Pentaho and JasperSoft offer a free ‘open source’ version as well as a commercial version, which makes them appealing to small businesses. Of course the cost of the software is only part of the equation and you have to factor in the time it takes to install and configure these tools, and the overhead to maintain them. I find that very few of my customers need ‘full stack’ solutions like these. I just like to stay informed.
It is time for my annual comparison of formula function libraries, and this year I have added a new one, which is actually a very old one. It has been hiding at the bottom of my LINKS page for a decade and you can read about it here.
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, or from one report to another.
2) Append lines to an external text file.
3) Automatically copy a value to the clipboard.
4) Check the user name of the user running the report.
5) See if a file or folder exists – either on your network or on the internet (http).
6) Rename/copy/delete a file on your hard drive or network drive.
7) Launch an application or run a batch file.
8) Execute a SQL statement (Select/Insert/Delete).
9) Send an Email using information in the report.
10) Create a table of contents or an index for your report.
11) 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)
If you need help deploying one of these functions in a project let me know. I am sure I will be able to help.
I have been writing about UFLs now for several years. So I was a bit chagrined this week when I realized that I have been hosting a UFL on my site since 2002 and never thought to include it in the review. This UFL was written by Paul Birch who was with a group in the UK called Maginus Software Solutions. He gave me a free copy and also allowed me to host a copy for others to use on my site. It has been on my LINKS page ever since. I just tested it and it works just fine in versions 8.5, 10 and 12 so I am guessing it will work in other versions as well.
The main reason I found it useful is that it has a function that will strip out any punctuation from a string. I think it does this by only allowing English characters, numbers and spaces. If you deal with international character sets Continue Reading »
Rediscovering a long forgotten UFL
I recently got a chance to work on a project using Crystal Reports to read QuickBooks data. To read QB data from CR you have to use a special ODBC driver called QODBC put out by FLEXquarters. This an unusual driver in that when it queries the QB tables it displays a small counter panel for each table, showing the records returned from that table. If your report includes 6 tables and you will see a stack of 6 small windows pop open and close as QODBC assembles your data set. There is a switch to hide them if you choose.
We found another quirk when tried to deploy the reports to users with a client side viewer program. The report worked fine in CR but would not return any data through the viewer. It took a while to find the problem. Before QODBC can access QB data you have to run the first query while you are logged into QB as an administrator. The instructions made this sound like a one time process, but we found that Continue Reading »
Crystal Reports and QuickBooks
I recently wrote about a DLL that can post a tweet directly to your twitter account. There are also some desktop scheduling tools and server-based scheduling tools that can post messages directly to twitter. These are all in the $1000 and up price range. Now there is a third option to consider.
Ido Millet of Millet software recently wrote up a case study in the user manual of Visual Cut (page 41). It shows how the Santa Monica Fire Department uses Visual CUT to tweet calls for service as they entered into their database. A report is scheduled Continue Reading »
A new way to Tweet report data
I have written before about 2 free tools that allow you to generate PDFs simply by printing your report – or virtually any printable document. I recently learned about a third free tool offered by the folks at pdfconverter.com. They offer a completly free version of their commercial PDF creation software. It does everything that the other 2 tools do and it runs on 8 operating systems. The most surprising part is that it also comes with free support. I kept looking for a catch but I haven’t found one yet. It puts no watermarks or advertising into the PDF and has no time limit. The only advertising I saw was an upgrade panel that appears next to your print optins.
So if you are looking for a way to print out PDF documents, it is worth a try.
The developers at Find it EZ have been busy recently – adding new features to their code searching software. Find it EZ already had a solid search function that lets you search a folder of reports and find virtually anything in any part of the report. Recently they have been refining their Report Definition document so that it is more complete and flexible. A Report Definition document summarizes all of the key objects and features in an RPT file. In addition to all the basic features it now includes the Tables and Joins, SQL Commands and SQL Expressions, Images, Charts, Cross-tabs and even lines and boxes. So it is about as thorough as it can be. And by setting search filters you can focus the output on the features you need to see.
The developers have also been working on a way to let users see the SQL query that is automatically generated by the Crystal Reports Engine. Up to now the only way to generate the SQL for a report has been to log the report into the database. Find it EZ has developed a way to generate equivalent SQL for any RPT without requiring a database connection. While the SQL may not be exactly the same as that generated by the report, it is equivalent ANSI standard SQL.
So if you are looking for a tool to help you manage a quantity of reports, your first step should be this article. It compares the available features for all of the tools in this category and gives a capsule description of each. But these new features are not included in the matrix yet. If you think these features are useful, then you should download the free trial of Find it EZ.
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. I am amazed at how many Crystal Reports users are still unaware of these, since they are offered by a dozen different vendors. Some users get sidetracked by the “viewer” that is put out by SAP because it won’t refresh reports. Don’t let that fool you because every viewer in my list allows you to refresh reports.
Every September I compare the features of these viewers and post the results. This year there are 12 vendors in the review with three being added for the first time. 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 and the install base. I have even included a glossary of features in case you aren’t familiar with the terminology. The tools being compared for 2012 are:
Crystal Corral by Groff Automation
cView by Chelsea Technologies
RPTView by Pursuit Technology
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
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.
I have been working with Ido Millet of Millet software to enhance one of the features in the DataLink Viewer. One of my favorite DLV features is that it allows you to change the value of a formula at runtime with a click. This allows the user to change a group, a sort, or do “in place drill down” where you can expand and collapse the details of a group. But I needed to tweak this so that I could change the value in a target formula based on the name of the clicked formula. The clicked formula name becomes an input available in the calculation of the target formula.
Here is how I used it. My customers report was grouped by category, and each group footer had Continue Reading »
DataLink Viewer’s new ‘click’ interaction