Crystal Reports 2008 (version 12) is released

Saturday 27 October 2007 @ 10:15 am

Usually a new version of CR is a mixed bag. There are always new features and improvements but there are usually some removed features or things that get worse. So far CR12 (2008) has lots of improvements and (so far) I don t see anything that was made worse. BO appears to have listened to users and added some often requested features. Below are the ones I have discovered so far. Let me know if I have overlooked anything.

1) Make a parameter optional:
There is even a function to check if it was skipped so you can give the report instructions. This allows you to assign a default value whenever the user skips the parameter. So now (as in prior versions) we can have a date parameter default to today without the user touching the parameter. But now we can also default to yesterday or any other date calculation when the user skips a parameter.

2) Change a parameter value without refreshing:
You get to assign appropriate parameters to an interactive side panel. Selection parameters can be re-applied to the saved data, which allows you to filter out subsets of data without refreshing. This also allows you to change any other report property that can be controlled by parameter (sorting, grouping, level of detail, etc.). And because this feature can be applied to dynamic parameters, we now have a simpler way of getting an ALL or some other default value on a dynamic parameter (without setting up a union query).

3) Add one or several sort controls to the report:
These allow you change your sort fields and sort directions in preview mode without refreshing the report.

3) Disconnect the design area size from the printer:
For wide reports that are designed solely for export there is no longer a need to set up a fictitious wide carriage printer.

4) Change the paper orientation for individual sections within a single report:
This creates a page break each time it happens, but it is especially handy for subreports that need to be landscape inside a main report that is portrait.

5) Find all of the uses of a field within all the report formulas:
You no longer need to search for uses of a field before you delete it.

6) Add individual non-summary columns to a cross-tab:
You can now manually insert rows or columns anywhere in a cross-tab. These can do calculations using values from other cells in the cross-tab, including other manually created cells. The new values are even available for charting.

I applaud this feature and am even surprised that they attempted it because to do it well requires some very sophisticated options. At first glance I found this feature less than intuitive and some of the control buttons could have been named better, but I am working with a Beta and haven t explored it fully so we will see if my thoughts change as I explore it further.

7) Built-in barcode font:
Right click any “barcode-able” value and have it convert and display the value in barcode font. (Note this is a free sample font from a bar code retailer so the built in codes are limited to ones you can actually implement for free.)

8) Auto-complete for field names in the formula editor:
Just type a curly bracket in the formula editor to get a list of available fields. Type a few characters to narrow the list to field names that start with those characters.

9) Create a duplicate formula or running total:
If you need a series of similar formulas (I do all the time), just right click on the first one in the field explorer and duplicate it. The duplicate will be identical but will have a number append to the formula name. Duplicate again to get the next number in the sequence. I believe that this feature was also available in XIr2.

I even found some things that were made worse when XI was released and that are now better again:

  • You can now copy (static) parameters from one report to another.
  • Date parameters now have a decent calendar control again
  • Date parameters can now use normal date format again

Then there are the things I have read about but haven t played with yet:

  • More powerful XML exports
  • Flash integration
  • Adobe Flex Integration
  • Xcelsius content embedded in reports

Licensing changes:
Crystal is still using Named User licensing. That means the number of users (not the number of concurrent users). See my recent blog article for more explanation on Named User Licenses.

There is only one edition of Crystal Reports now. No more cheap standard Edition. Everyone gets the same tools and rights to deploy applications. Thick client applications can be deployed, as always, without restrictions. Same for deploying server based applications internally. Providing server based apps to your customers requires that each customer own a copy of CR 2008.

The first EULA that BO posted on the website had a set of restriction taken directly from the Enterprise license. It made all consulting and training on CR12 a violation of the license. That may sound familiar to some of you long-time readers. I was told that this EULA was unclear and that they planned to clarify the EULA with Service Pack 1. I was, however, able to convince them that this really needed to be done now and a new EULA is now posted on the website which removes all consulting restrictions. If you plan on doing consulting I recommend that you download the new EULA since the one included in the product you purchase may not be the same.

The only remaining new restriction is for training. The EULA says that you need BO s written permission if you use the software to deliver training. They have given me written permission with no conditions, but they have yet to explain how the process will work. I get the feeling that they are starting to realize the value of independent providers like me but are also looking for a way to keep their options open on training.

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