I received a call this week from a potential customer who said he wanted me to help him modify some reports. But then he started talking about iNet Clear Reports. I told him that I did Crystal Reports and had never heard of Clear. He said that Clear was “just like” Crystal and he was convinced that I could help him.
While we were talking I did a quick web search and found an image of the Clear design environment. I was surprised at how much it looked like the CR design environment. I also saw that it was previously named “Crystal Clear” which I remember reading about years ago. So I decided to remote into his PC and see what the tool was like.
As soon as I started exploring a report I found that most things were pretty much where I expected them. For example, the report sections were named the same way and had very similar properties. The field explorer had the same nodes. The formulas were written in either “Crystal Syntax” or “Basic Syntax”. In the end I was able to make most of the required changes to the report, including adding a SQL Expression and fixing a formula. My learning curve was pretty mild.
After we were done I downloaded the iNet Clear Report Designer (Windows) and played around with it. It is clearly modeled on Crystal Reports, with many features copied exactly. There were many differences but they were both positive and negative. For instance there is no way to modify the report while in preview mode. And some simple changes generated odd errors.
On the other hand, the Clear designer can be run on Linux. I liked the ability to add SQL for a dynamic parameter right in the parameter window. I also liked that the Field Explorer shows the data type for all field types, including parameters, formulas and SQL Expressions.
I still prefer Crystal Reports, but I plan to study the features of iNet Clear Reports and eventually add it to my comparison of reporting tools. And since it is so similar it will probably end up listed on my consulting page.