phone: (540)338-0194
email: ken@kenhamady.com


Report Miner tools to provide documentation on your Crystal Reports

The Crystal Reports Underground News - September 2002
an independent source for Crystal Reports Information
by Ken Hamady, MS


Contents for September:

** Version 9 New Features (Good and Bad)
** Important License Changes in version 9
** Expert on-site training or consulting
** Other small improvements in version 9
** Recommended improvements NOT made in version 9
** Features removed or made worse in version 9
** Public classes in Leesburg, Baltimore and Philadelphia
** Washington DC Area User Group Meeting
** Does your User Group Board Represent You?
** Dallas-Fort Worth User Group Meeting
** My Quick Reference to Crystal Reports in Visual Basic
** Read back issues at http://www.kenhamady.com/news.html


Crystal Reports Version 9:

I have spent a week testing the new v9.  Like any new thing it has both good and bad features and takes some getting used to.  I will not attempt to list every new feature.  Instead I will describe my favorite features, highlight the license changes, and mention a few of the negative features.

My favorite new features:
1. SQL Commands as a data source
This feature allows you to base a report on any SQL statement that is supported by your database.  Crystal calls them 'commands'.  We can now write our own UNION statements and we can put parameter fields directly into the WHERE clause.  No more experimenting with selection formulas to see which translates best.  Existing QRY files created with the old SQL designer can still be used, but are no longer needed.  The QRY SQL can be copied into a new command.

2. Custom Functions
With v8.5 developer, you could create custom functions, but you would have to write and compile them as a DLL.  Now anyone that can write a CR Formula can create a custom function.  If you write lots of formulas with the same calculations, this is very helpful.  I was impressed at how quickly the function "Extractor" could take an existing formula and convert it into a generic function.

3. The Repository
This allows you to store and reuse SQL commands, custom functions and report templates.  Everything is stored in a special database, which can be secured with a password if desired.  CRv9 comes with a sample repository with a few sample commands and functions.

4. Formula Workshop
The Formula Workshop allows you a central place to access and modify all of the formulas in the report.  You can now transfer expressions from formula fields to formatting conditions, or to a selection formula, without closing one window and opening another.  It also allows you to quickly identify which formatting attributes have conditional formulas. 

5.   254-Character Limits Removed for Formulas
Crystal v9 has removed 2 significant limitations to formulas.  Memo fields and VarChars over 254 characters can now be processed in formulas.  A formula can also output more than 254 characters.  The output limit has jumped to 64,000 characters.  This means, for example, that the special field for "Record Selection Formula" can now print the entire selection formula, even if it is very long.  It can even be used in String functions, like any other string value.

6. DrillDownLevel() Function
There are many new functions, but this one is noteworthy.  This function returns a number that changes when you drill down to different levels.  This allows you to conditionally change the format or visibility of fields and sections as you pass through different levels of drill down.


Important License changes in v9

Here are some changes that you may not find highlighted in the Crystal marketing material.  They are licensing changes.  These are only my opinions, since I am not a lawyer.  I certainly don't speak for Crystal Decisions.  So, read the license for yourself and contact Crystal Decisions if you have the questions.  You can download the full licenses for the professional, developer and advanced editions from my "Links" Page:

   http://www.kenhamady.com/bookmarks.html

Even though I am not a lawyer, I can read English pretty well.  I have also spoken to several Crystal decisions representatives for guidance.  Here are my initial observations about the v9 license:

1. The Broadcast License is no longer an annual subscription (update on 10/5/2002).
The CRv9 Broadcast License 
(CRBL) now costs $35,000 regardless of volumeas opposed to the $10,000 or $25,000 per year with v8.x.  The Broadcast License was introduced with v8 of Crystal Reports.  After an Email dialogue and a conference call I can report that only FULLY automated process are considered broadcasting, even though the wording of both licenses don't make this clear.  You can read more details in the next newsletter at:

   newsletter/news0210.html

Crystal Decisions should be posting a clarification on their web site soon.

2. Client applications must now include Crystal's EULA wording.
Crystal Decisions has plugged a potential loophole in their license.  When programmers distribute the runtime files with their applications, they have always had to agree to the Crystal EULA (End User License Agreement).  But a user who buys the application has never been required to agree to Crystal's EULA.  The user agrees to the application's EULA, but not Crystal's.   If that user only owns the runtime, and doesn't use Crystal Reports to create any reports, then they have never agreed to the Crystal EULA.

This loophole has been closed in CRv9, clause 4.4.8.  A developer distributing an application with v9 runtime files is now required to include 7 paragraphs of text in his application's EULA, and get the user to agree to it.

3. CE Standard replaced with CE RAS:
CRv8.5 (Pro and Dev Editions) came with a free copy of Crystal Enterprise Standard.  This allowed you to deploy Crystal Reports on a web server, with 5 concurrent users.  It had several web based deployment methods, including several front-end applications like the ePortfolio. 

CR v9 does not come with Crystal Enterprise Standard.  Instead you get a new 'entry level' product called Crystal Enterprise v9 RAS Edition.  This comes with one front-end application called ePortfolio lite.  If you want to upgrade this to CEv9 Standard or Professional, you have to wait until later in the year. 

I have read everything that I can find on RAS, including 2 different versions of the RAS whitepaper (both have the same file name).  I also talked to several Crystal sales reps.  I was told that the RAS has 3 concurrent "threads" which is at least 3 concurrent users.  This is not written in the documentation anywhere.  Apparently a 4th user gets 'denied' if the threads are all "doing something", but again there is nothing written that describes what "doing something" means, like when exactly this starts or stops. 

If you upgrade to the Crystal Reports Advanced Edition, you get the same 3 RAS threads, but with an added queuing feature.  This means that instead of a request getting 'denied' you are put into the queue until a thread becomes available.  I was told that the new 'threads' are supposed to release faster than the older CALs (concurrent access licenses), since a CAL is locked as long as the user is logged in to the application.  Again, this is not written anywhere so I am not sure how precise this is.  There is also a processor license available, which allows unlimited users, but what this means in terms of the 'threads' is unclear.   There is more clarification in the next newsletter at:

   newsletter/news0210.html

There is also one piece of confusion I can clear up.  The PDF says the following:

        "The Report Application Server Edition provided in Crystal Reports Professional and
        Developer editions is intended for developing and testing applications. 
        To deploy your web application, you may upgrade to the
        Advanced Edition for queuing.....and caching capabilities."

This seems to say that if you go beyond testing to "deploy" even a small intranet site, you must upgrade to the advanced edition.  But after reading the wording carefully, reading the license, reading the developer's Guide and confirming with 2 different Crystal Decisions sales representatives, I am convinced that this is not the correct interpretation.  I think the Advanced edition must give you the exact same deployment rights as the Developer edition because both products have the EXACT SAME LICENSE.  The license for both products is contained in a single file called:

    "CR 9 Adv and Dev License.pdf"

The license does not make a distinction for deployment between the two products.  The Advanced edition adds queuing, caching and more API calls.  It will be needed in active environments.  But, it does not seem to be needed for every deployment.  Let me know if you hear differently.   You can download the RAS whitepaper from the links page on my web site:

   http://www.kenhamady.com/bookmarks.html


Expert On-Site Training or Consulting:

I have personally taught over 1300 satisfied students in more than 30 states.  Training on location is my specialty, and I charge about half of the "List Price" for Crystal Training. 

Do I know my stuff?  Check out the Crystal Reports Forum at Tek-Tips.com and you will find me listed as the top Crystal Reports expert out of over 23,000 members:

   http://www.tek-tips.com/gthreadminder.cfm/lev2/4/lev3/100/pid/149

Can I teach?  Many students have said that my classes are among the best technical classes they have taken.  Ask to speak to a recent customer as a reference.  Call for more information at (540) 338-0194.


Small improvements in v9:

1. Crystal has finally dropped the confusing distinction between "Subtotal" and "Summary".  Now everything is a Summary and they are all created in one place.  The new Summary window is much more intuitive.
2. Grouping features (Add, Delete, Change) have always been scattered in 3 different menu columns.  Now they are in one intuitive Group Expert.
3. The Visual Linking cursor was always one field below the highlighted field.  If the field was at the top of the table you could easily miss your link.  The linking cursor is now aligned correctly.    
4. The menu options for adding and removing tables have been named poorly, forever.  Table management is now all in one central expert.
5. The Export option is now in the File menu column instead of being hidden under the Print submenu.
6. You can now edit the name of a subreport after it has been inserted.
7. The ProperCase() function has been added as a standard function, rather than as a downloaded UFL.
8. They fixed the microscopic scroll arrows that you see when you are trying to link to an existing subreport parameter.
9. The 'additional' functions are now grouped by their Source DLL.


Recommended improvements NOT made in v9:

1. The bug that grew into a feature: "Field clipping".  I have yet to meet one user who ever wanted this feature, and yet it is still the default.  If you don't know what it does, see the "bugs and design flaws" page on my web site.
2. They still hide the cross-tab "TopN" feature under the regular TopN menu item (now called the Group Sort Expert).  This should be on the Cross-tab design screen, just like it is for Advanced Charts.
3. "Repeat Group Header" is still a group property, and it should be a Group Header property in the section expert.
4. In the formula editor, summary functions are listed with an optional 'CondField' argument.  People think this means a logical condition, but it really means a group field.  Why not call it GroupField?
5. If you use the "Reimport Subreport" feature with a linked subreport, Crystal will create it's own link and parameter when it reimports.  These will be in addition to the link and parameter you had in the subreport.


Features removed or made worse in v9:

1. In v8 or v85 you could save an RPT as a v7 RPT.  With v9 you can't save as ANY prior version.  This makes CRv9 incompatible with any current release of Crystal Enterprise Standard or Professional.
2. In all older versions you could shut off 'smart linking'.  You can't any more.
3. We have lost the ability to Convert DateTime fields to Dates as a global or report option.
4. In non-ODBC reports, you can no longer use the option:
    "Link All of one/All of the other"
5. For those who like the report Experts (like me) you can no longer go back through the Report Expert once you click "Finish".
6. You also can't see all of the steps in the Report Expert at once.  So you can't skip from 'fields' to 'select' or skip back to an earlier step.  You can only go through the steps in order. 



Don't just take a class, learn from a Crystal Expert:

Click the "Public Classes" link above for dates.
Each class is $675 per student.
Or, call for more information at (540) 338-0194.




Washington DC Area Users Group Meeting:

The user group for Washington, DC will have a meeting on 9/24 at the FAA downtown office.  If you would like to attend you can sign up on the new user group web site:

   http://dcacug.iracorp.com/

This new site allows you to sign up for meetings and also features the User Group charter and the minutes of the board meetings. 


Does your User Board Represent You?

As you can see, the goal of my newsletters is to provide an independent perspective on the Crystal product line.  I try to highlight the most important positive and negative features for you.  However, a recent experience with the DC User Board makes me wonder if this perspective is out of place at User Group meetings. 

According to the charter, printed materials can only be handed out at meetings if they are approved by the board.  So, I submitted a handout to the board for distribution at the September meeting.  The handout included selected articles from several of my recent newsletters.  I intentionally removed all references to my consulting and training services.  You can see the original submission (3 pages) at the links below:

   http://www.kenhamady.com/hl1.html
   http://www.kenhamady.com/hl2.html
   http://www.kenhamady.com/hl3.html

My submission was rejected.  I was told that to be approved I should:
   1. Rewrite or remove the Certification article (hl2)
   2. Rewrite or remove the Broadcast License article (hl3)
   3. Remove my Email address and Web site from all pages

My Email address (for subscribing) and my web site link (to back issues) were considered "selling".  I consider that a very strict interpretation.  But, it was the reason given for rejecting the articles that surprised me.  I was told that the articles could:
   'be interpreted as disparaging to Crystal Decisions
   which violates the "spirit" of the User Group'.   

So, I removed all 3 items and received the board's approval.  And, I appreciate the time the board spent considering my submission, since I know that this is a subjective area.  But, the threshold they have set seems to leave very little room for an independent perspective or even for balanced product information. 

If you are part of any User Group and have an opinion on this I would appreciate hearing from you.  I would also like to encourage you to become active in your user group.  There are three ways for you to get involved in the DC Area Group:
   1. Meet and communicate with your board members. 
   2. Submit amendments to the charter if you feel they are needed. 
   3. Run in the first board election to be held in about 9 months. 
If you send me a proposed amendment, or a nomination for the board, I will consider posting it in my newsletter to share with other readers. 



Dallas User's Group Meeting:

The Dallas-Fort Worth user group is also having a meeting this month on September 17th.  It will be at the Boeing plant in Irving.  They are featuring a presentation by George Peck, a well known Crystal expert and author.   Their web site is:

   http://www.dfwcug.com/

I like the approach of the DFW group.  Their web site includes links to independent Crystal resource sites, like Tek-Tips.com.  They also link to independent consultants like myself.  The DFW group recently allowed an Independent Crystal Consultant (one of my students from long ago) to present 3rd Party utilities at their meeting.  Visit their site if you are interested in attending.



VB Quick Reference Guide:

If you need to incorporate Crystal Reports into a VB application, you should get my Quick Reference Guide.  It gives an overview of the integration methods, with syntax examples for the most important commands.  It comes with source code examples, including a sample report viewer.  It is only $16 and can be Emailed to you within 24 hours.  Follow the link below for more details:  

  http://www.kenhamady.com/vbref.html


Contact Information

Ken Hamady, MS
525K East Market St.  PMB 299
Leesburg, VA 20176
(540) 338-0194
ken@kenhamady.com
http://www.kenhamady.com

Copyright 2002 by Ken Hamady
All rights reserved - Republishing this material requires written permission