When Crystal is too helpful

Thursday 30 September 2010 @ 5:43 am

The goal of Crystal Reports is to make it easier for you to create your reports.  But there are several features that in my opinion just get in the way and slow things down.   So I have put together a list of these features and how to avoid them.

“Auto Smart Linking” is a prime example of Crystal trying to help out, and (usually) making things worse.   With this feature Crystal will take a guess at how tables should be linked together.  Buy my estimate is that Crystal guesses correctly only about 30% of the time.  So I typically teach my students to turn this feature off, except, of course, in version 9 where you CAN’T turn it off.  In version 10 you can turn it off, but only if you dig into the registry and make some tweaks.  For all other versions you can go into File->Options.  You will find a check mark for this feature at the bottom of the database tab.

Another feature is the default setting that has you saving every new report with data.  Now saving a report with data can be a very handy feature, and I use it often.  But I am not sure that it should be the default for every new report.  New users sometimes get confused when they open a report and think it has run but it looks the same as yesterday’s report.  So I have usually teach my users to turn this off as a default.  Look under File-Options, on the Reporting tab.   When it is needed you can activate it within individual reports by going into File-Report Options.

Then there is the more subtle help.  Say you click on a field and then you open up the Select Expert.  Crystal automatically adds a new rule tab for that field.  Crystal assumes that if you are sitting on a field when you open the select expert, you probably want to add a new rule for that field.  I have watched users delete the same rule over and over again, only to see it return the next time they open the select expert.   New users don’t realize that they can simply ignore this suggested rule.  It will go away on its own when your cursor is moved somewhere else.  And since the rule says “is any value” it won’t affect your criteria at all.

Another feature affects cross-tabs.  If you happen to have the cross-tab selected, and then open the Group Sort Expert, you will get a Group Sort window for the cross-tab, instead of for the normal groups.   This one only happens if you have select the cross-tab object by clicking in the upper left (empty) corner.  If you are in an individual cell of the cross-tab you will get the normal Group Sort Expert.

This last one is for v9 and v10 users.  When you create a new formula field you get the choice of using the Formula “Expert” or the Formula Editor.  The Formula Expert can be used only in reports that have custom functions, which very few users have available.  Even so, if you ever save an empty formula – even temporarily – Crystal automatically puts you into the Formula Expert window when you go back to that formula.  The first time I ended up in the Formula Expert I had no idea how to get out of it and had to delete and recreate the formula.  The solution is to switch from the Expert back to the Formula Editor by clicking on the correct button.  In v9 the button is a bit more obvious since it says “Use Editor” in English.  In v10, however, when you end up in the Formula Expert, you have to find a small tool bar button that switches back and forth between the normal Formula Editor and the Formula Expert.  Look for the button with the magic wand on the top toolbar.

Feel free to share your own favorite ‘helpful’ features in the comments.

One Response to 'When Crystal is too helpful'

  1. Marcin Sulecki - September 30th, 2010 at 6:01 am

    I don’t like “Auto Smart Linking” and “Save data with report”, too :)

    I’ve another ‘helpful’ feature:
    When you insert a new group, CR placed special field Group Name in Group Header and in Group Footer. Why twice? My students always deleted it in GF.

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