Case study: extreme slowness during report design

Sunday 3 March 2024 @ 8:06 pm

One of my customers has many complex reports that we have created over the years. In the past few weeks one of the reports started behaving oddly. Opening the report with only 55 records of saved data caused Crystal to freeze for 8 minutes (not responding). Making a simple change in preview, like moving or sizing a field, would cause a similar freeze. The report wasn’t accessing the database so I wasn’t sure what was causing the delay. The report uses several arrays and some looping logic so a glitch in a formula could theoretically cause extra processing time.

As a test, we opened an earlier version of the same report. We found that this version behaved normally.  I took the two versions, exported them both to “Report Definition” format, and then did a text comparison of the two files.  This showed me all the formula changes we made to get to the current version. I added all those same changes to the old report, one at a time, to see if I could identify a specific change that cause the odd behavior.  When I was done the old version was virtually identical to the current version and was still behaving normally.

To confirm they were the same, I also compared the output of the two reports.  This time I exported the report output of both reports to text files. I did another text compare and found the output was also identical. This confirmed that the issue was the result of a glitch in the report file itself, some internal corruption that didn’t prevent the report from running.  Not sure I have seen that before.  Since we now had a working version we just scrapped the faulty report and went forward with report that worked. The main lesson in this, other than sharing the process, is the value of having historical versions of reports. The prior version gave us a window into when the glitch occurred and allowed us to recover without starting from scratch.

Even on simple modifications, I usually rename a report before making changes.  When problems show up I can run the original to determine if the issue was already in the original or was the result of the changes.  For a single update I might just add my initials to the modified report. For long development projects I like to add a sequence number to the end of the file name (01,02,etc.).  Some users prefer to add dates in the file name but I prefer shorter file names that sort cleanly.  The modification date is always visible in the folder.

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