Archive for the 'Products' Category
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.
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. 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.
This year there are 12 vendors in the review but I am very concerned about one of them. The vendor for EasyView (EasyStreet Software) has gone MIA. I have Emailed and called and have not received a response for over a year and at least one customer has had a similar experience. If anyone has been in contact with them recently, please let me know. In the meantime I have added a line in the matrix to indicate year of last contact. The current vendors 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 am replacing my workstation (laptop) this week and decided to test Windows 8. I ordered it from Costco so I can just take it back if it won’t run my favorite old software.
To my surprise, I was able to install and run 3 different versions of Crystal (v8.5, v10 and v12/CR 2008) with no problems at all. When I run Crystal 8.5 on my retiring Windows 7 box, I get an approval dialogue every time, but otherwise it runs fine. On Windows 8 there isn’t even the dialogue. Even my old version of Office XP (yeah I know) installed and ran just fine, and it is from 2002. So now all I have to do is learn to live with tiles.
I have just updated my comparison of RPT management utilities for 2013. These are tools that allow you to scan, document, compare and update RPT files.
Two products have been upgraded significantly in the past year. Find It EZ has added many new features in the past year and Report Miner has just recently been completely rewritten. The complete list of tools is below:
Report Miner by the Retsel Group
Find it EZ by Find it EZ Software Corp.
Report Analyzer by Cortex Systems
Crystal SpellChecker by Redeemed Software.
Search and Replace by Redeemed Software.
Mass Verify by Redeemed Software
.rpt Inspector 3 Professional Suite by Software Forces, LLC
Groff Automation has just released Crystal Delivery 10, an update to their free scheduler. It has been completely rewritten in C# using the .NET runtime engine from CRv13. The user interface is similar, but other things have changed:
Report information is stored in a Microsoft SQL Compact database
It uses the Quartz.NET scheduling engine with Cron format input
It supports sending Email through Gmail, and also HTML formatted emails
It can export your report as a PDF in multiple locations
It can “Start with Windows” and/or “Start to Tray”
Up till now Crystal Delivery has been free, and it is still free if you are scheduling up to 6 reports. If you need to schedule more than 6 reports there is an unlimited version for $30.
1) Download and install Microsoft SQL Compact 3.5
2) Download and install Crystal Reports Runtime
3) Download Crystal Delivery 10
4) Unzip the Crystal Delivery ZIP Archive
5) Run the ‘setup.exe’
6) Run the Crystal Delivery shortcut from your start menu or desktop
Also note that documentation hasn’t been released yet, so if you have any questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ido Millet of Millet Software has posted an interesting demo on his site. It is a web dashboard that is automatically refreshed from live data. What makes it unique is that it doesn’t require an application running on the server. The update work is all done using Visual Cut on a local machine.
At the core of the process there are two reports which are scheduled to be run and exported to HTML. One provides the main page while the other Continue Reading »
Web dashboard without a web application
And now, another post in my series Crystal Reports vs SSRS:
As part of my research, I am recreating one of my own reports in SSRS. I can already see several things that will frustrate a Crystal Reports user. I have listed the first three below. It may be that my lack of experience in SSRS is showing, but to me these seem like true limitations:
1) When I start a new report in Crystal I can use the Database Expert to quickly explore the data structure. I can log into an ODBC or OLEDB connection and instantly get a list of the tables it has available. Then I can select one or more tables and see the list of fields in each table. I can even Continue Reading »
Crystal Reports vs SSRS #2