Updated comparison of Crystal Reports viewers (2020)

Saturday 26 September 2020 @ 10:34 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 ten different vendors.  Don’t get sidetracked by the official SAP “viewer” because that tool won’t refresh reports.  Every viewer in my list allows you to refresh reports.

Every September I update the features of these viewers. The comparison page provides a brief introduction to each product including what sets it apart. There is also a detailed feature matrix (xls) 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 a handful of new features in this year’s matrix which are marked in blue.

There are 10 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 requests for information.

The active vendors are:

Crystal Corral by Groff Automation
rptView by Pursuit Technology
CR Dispatch by APB Reports
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.





Fields that change format when moved to a different environment

Monday 21 September 2020 @ 8:52 pm

I recently had complaint from a customer that a numeric field was changing format when moved from one PC to another. The format was fine when run on the developers PC but on the user’s PCs the format would change. I have seen this happen with both numeric and date fields.

The source of the problem is the format option at the top of the list called “System Default”.  If you leave a field formatted with this choice the report will use whatever format is set in the regional setting of the PC where the report is being run. Of course this means that a report might look different when run on another PC. If you don’t want the format to change from one PC to another then you should identify the specific format you want for numeric, currency, date and datetime fields.

Using a specific format should solve this 99% of the time. I have only seen a few instances where a report moved to another environment would have formatting changes despite the format being specified in the report. In those cases the final workaround is to write a formula to display the value. You can use Totext() to convert the field into text that is formatted the way you want. You use the text version for display purposes while using the original field for other functions like sorting and totaling.

Here are some examples:
Totext ({Date.Field}, yyyy-MM-dd) //converts a date into a string like 2020-09-21
Totext ({Number.field}, 0,"") // converts a number into a string with no decimals or commas





rePORTAL v6.5 released

Monday 14 September 2020 @ 7:46 pm

rePORTAL is one of the products in my list of tools that run Crystal Reports on the web. The developers at rePORTAL recently released rePORTAL v6.5. Some of the new features include the ability to share output to Slack, Dropbox and Google Drive. It also now supports Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) using SMS, Email and Google Authenticator.

If you are looking to run Crystal Reports on the web, my annual review of tools in this class should help you understand your options.





Get distinct count subtotals to add up to the grand total

Tuesday 8 September 2020 @ 11:36 pm

I just had a customer ask me about their distinct count grand total and why it didn’t match the sum of the subtotals. This is common. When you add up distinct counts at the group level they often won’t add up to the grand total. This is because of what a distinct count is designed to do.

A distinct count summary will count how many different values there are in a column. So if I group patient visits by doctor and then want CR to tell me how many different patients each doctor saw in that period, I would use a distinct count at the doctor group level. And if I also wanted to know how many different patients were seen across ALL doctors I could create another distinct count of the patients and put it in the report footer. But it is very likely that this grand total is not going to match the sum of the doctor subtotals. This is because any patient who saw more than one doctor in the period will show up once in each doctor’s group, but then will only be counted only once in the grand total.

But there are special cases where the grand total needs to be the sum of the subtotals. If you find yourself with this requirement the solution is simple. You create a formula that concatenates the group value with the field used in the distinct count. (In the example above you would combine the doctor with the patient.) Then you do a distinct count of that formula. This will give you the same values at the group level, but it will prevent the grand total from combining values from different groups.

This technique is article #25 in my Expert Techniques volume 1.





Why would you “Perform grouping on server”?

Monday 31 August 2020 @ 9:34 pm

I was asked about this feature today and noticed that I had never mentioned it in my blog. It is a strange feature because you can turn it on in most reports and yet in most reports it will do absolutely nothing. But when you get it to work it can greatly improve the performance of the report.  You will find this option in the database menu.

So what does it do? It tells the database to do the grouping and subtotals. The database will only return one summary record for each group. Check the SQL statement and you will see a GROUP BY clause at the end.  This is useful when you have huge amounts of data to process and when you don’t need to show any detail level values.  But, this feature only works in reports that meets some very specific criteria.

Things you must do:

Group on a database field or a SQL expression (not a formula)
Hide or suppress the details
Make all of the visible fields either a group field or a summary field
Limit the summaries used to those supported by your Database
(Sum, count, minimum and maximum should be safe in all databases)

Things you must NOT do:

Use specified order grouping.
Add running totals using detail fields.
Add summaries using formulas fields.

If your report meets these criteria, Crystal should be able to add the GROUP BY to your SQL statement, get the server to group the records  and calculate all of the summary fields. Use the Show SQL option to confirm the GROUP BY appears.





How to remove the SAP BW toolbar in Crystal Reports 2020

Friday 21 August 2020 @ 10:13 pm

If you have installed the new Crystal Reports 2020 you may have noticed a new menu option and toolbar for SAP BW.

Gordon Portanier of ReCrystalize decided to do some experimenting to see if he could get CR to run without those options appearing. He found that when he renamed these 4 dll files, both the menu option and the toolbar didn’t appear :

crdb_bwmdx.dll
crdb_bwmdx_res_en.dll
BWQueryReportWrapper.exe
BWQueryReportWrapper_res_en.dll

He found the dlls in this folder:

C:\Program Files (x86)\SAP BusinessObjects\SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise XI 4.0\win64_x64

The program seemed to run normally without these dll files. So if you decide to upgrade and don’t have a use for the extra menu options, this is something you can try.





Converting String and Numeric Dates to DateValues (part 2)

Sunday 16 August 2020 @ 10:02 pm

Last week I wrote about using IsDate() and DateValue() to convert common date strings into true date values. This week I am using that same method to update some formulas on my formulas page. The advantage of this method over the original formulas is the extra validation provided by the IsDate() function.

But there are one or two extra steps needed to use DateValue() to replace the original logic in Formula #2 and Formula #3. The DateValue() function needs separators like dashes or slashes. When character strings have no separators you need to add them using the Picture() function. If the field is a numeric, you need to convert the field into a string first, and then use Picture() to add the separators.

If the field we are converting is a string with values like this: 20201231

Then the formula would look like this:

Local stringvar z := {Table.TextDate};
z := Picture (z, 'xxxx-xx-xx');
If IsDate (z)
then DateValue(z)

But if the value looks the same but is stored as an 8-digit numeric, then we need to add an extra step:

Local NumberVar y := {Table.NumericDate};
Local StringVar z := Totext (y,0,"");
z := Picture (z, 'xxxx-xx-xx');
If IsDate (z)
then DateValue(z)





Converting a character date to a true date

Monday 10 August 2020 @ 11:50 pm

I run into many situations where dates are stored as numbers or strings. These need to be converted to true date values before they can be used in date calculations. I have posted formulas on my site that convert common numeric and string values into true dates.

One of the challenges when converting dates is dealing with invalid values. These will generate an error when you attempt to convert them into dates. One way to validate a string input is with the IsDate() function. This checks and see if a string value can be converted into a date before doing the conversion. It is usually partnered with the DateValue() function which converts any valid date string into a true date value. The formula would look like this:

If IsDate ({String.Field})
then DateValue({String.Field})

I did some experimenting with this today and I was surprised at how many different patterns can be converted using these functions. The general rule is that the string needs 2 or 3 separate parts in one of these 5 patterns:

Month-Day-Year
Year-Month-Day
Day-Month-Year
Month-Day (assigns current year)
Month-Year (assigns day as 1)

The year can be 2 or 4 digits, except for Month-Year pattern which MUST have a 4 digit year.
(2 digit years >= 50 are assumed to be 19xx, while those < 50 are assumed to be 20xx)
The month can be a number, the full month name or the 3-character abbreviation.
The separators can be a slash, a dash, a space or a comma (or any combination).

This gives you over 400 different patterns that can be directly converted into a date. Here are just a few common string examples that will all return the date value 12/1/2020 once converted:

12/1/2020
December 1, 2020
2020-Dec-1
1-12-2020
Dec 2020
12/1

For my next post I am going to redo formulas #2 and formula #3 on my formulas page so they use this method.





RPT management utilities for 2020

Thursday 30 July 2020 @ 3:40 pm

I have just updated my comparison of RPT management utilities for 2020. These are tools that allow you to scan, document, compare and in some cases batch update RPT files. The list includes 9 tools:

Report Runner Documentor by Jeff-Net
R-Tag Documentation and Search by R-Tag
CR Data Source Updater by R-Tag
Visual CUT and DataLink Viewer by Millet Software
Report Miner by the Retsel Group
Code Search Professional by Find it EZ Software Corp.
Dev Surge 365 by Find it EZ Software Corp.
.rpt Inspector 3 Professional Suite by Software Forces, LLC
.rpt Inspector Online by Software Forces, LLC





Objects highlighted, but only in design view

Saturday 25 July 2020 @ 6:16 pm

I like to highlight key objects in my reports. For instance I highlight small subreports that might be confused with regular fields, or that might not be noticed at all. I also highlight formulas that involve variables as a reminder that they shouldn’t be deleted or moved. (Usually a specific location is required for variables to work correctly.)  I will sometimes highlight several formulas with the same color so that I can quickly see which formulas work together. This is simple when the formulas are suppressed or when they are in a suppressed section, but sometimes the object is visible. In that case the object highlighting should only be visible in design mode and not in preview mode. Here’s how you do that.

Most Crystal formatting properties have a formula condition button [x+2] to the right of the normal controls (check mark, drop down, etc).  This allows you control that property based on parameter values or data values. When you use a condition formula there is no need to set that same property using the normal controls.  If you set a formatting property both ways the normal control setting will apply to design view while the formula will apply to preview.

So say I would like a field to have an aqua background in design view but no color in preview. I would first format that field by selecting aqua from the drop down. Then I would go into the condition formula and type: CrNoColor

The field will have an aqua background color in design view but no background color in preview.





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