Archive for the 'Products' Category
I have written before about Crystal Dispatch, a client based viewer put out by APB Reports. It is a simple no frills viewer that covers all the basics and lets you run reports with one click. You can read more about how it works in my previous article, and even watch a video of how it works.
But what is new this year is the price. APB Reports is now offering an unlimited site license to a company for $5 (yes, five US dollars). Adam Butt, the owner of APB Reports, said, “I want as many companies as possible to start using Crystal Reports, so hopefully this is a move in the right direction”.
So if you are thinking about deploying a locally installed viewer program in your company, this is one very low cost option to consider. For other options you can check out my annual comparison of client based viewers.
I have just updated my comparison of server-based scheduling tools for 2020. These tools are similar to the desktop-based scheduling tools I write about every March, but these are designed to be run on server. This allows multiple people to schedule reports for automated delivery by Email, FTP or network folder.
There are 11 products on the list this year and a few feature updates and price changes. The blog page provides a brief overview of each product. It also has a link to the feature matrix that compares roughly 70 features of these tools. There is even a feature glossary that defines all the terms. So if you need a short course in automating Crystal Reports delivery, this is a pretty good place to start.
Last month I wrote about a difficult time I had installing Crystal Reports. One of my complaints was that if the install fails, you have to start over – including waiting 5-7 minutes while the setup ‘unpacks’ all the files. It seems like there should be a way to keep the files unpacked when an install has to be repeated.
Well SAP doesn’t provide an official way to do that but one of my readers (who apparently does lots of CR installs) shared his method. Here are his steps:
1. Run the install .exe.
2. Wait until everything has been unpacked. If you aren’t sure, wait until it asks for the license key. Then go to this folder, substituting your user name in the path:
Look for a folder in Temp that starts with “RARSFX”.
NOTE: AppData is a hidden folder, so you’ll have to set Explorer to view hidden items.
3. If there’s more than one “RARSFX” folder, delete all of them except the most recent one. These are failed installs that didn’t get deleted correctly.
4. Copy the remaining folder somewhere else. You cannot cut and paste because the installer has those files open. You might want to give the folder copy a more meaningful name.
5. For subsequent installs, go to this new folder and run setup.exe.
So if you are troubleshooting a balky install, or if you have to install CR on several different workstations, the steps above will speed up the iterations. And, thanks to Dell Stinnett-Christy, a senior manager at Protiviti, for sharing this method.
How would you like your reports to be automatically run, exported to a PDF and delivered to your Email InBox every Monday morning at 6am? The Crystal Reports designer doesn’t provide a way to do this (unless you upgrade to CR Server or BO Enterprise). But if you look at third party products like those on my LINKS page you will find several reasonably priced or free tools that do this. Some do even more. So every March I go through the list and publish a feature comparison on my blog.
There are 11 active products in the list this year. The page linked above provides a brief description of each product and lists the features that set it apart. Then there is a detailed feature matrix that shows the key specifics for comparison, including prices. To clarify the matrix terminology I have written a feature glossary to explain what each feature means. Finally there are links to the vendor websites so that you can get more information on each product. In May I will be updating a separate article that compares server based scheduling tools. If you think one person can manage all of your scheduling you are probably fine with one of the desktop tools, regardless of the number of people receiving the scheduled output. But if you plan to have multiple people scheduling reports then you may want to consider a server based tool.
I worked with a frustrated customer last Friday. He was having trouble installing Crystal Reports 2016 on a new PC. He wanted me to give it a try.
The first challenge was the error messages, which give no help. The main two are:
Failed to update setup engine executables
Failed to update cache for execution
After some web searching we found we could check the install log. These errors happened when Crystal tried to move or rename a folder. We found lots of people asking about these same errors going back several years. We even found SAP’s official response. The solutions that worked for some people were:
1) Turning off all firewalls and AV programs **
2) Running the install as an Administrator
3) Changing the permissions on several folders to allow full control.
We tried all of these things and a few others which leads to the second challenge. The download from the SAP web site is an EXE. Before it can do the actual install it has to unpack all the files. This takes about 5-7 minutes which isn’t in itself a problem. But when the install fails you can’t just run setup again because most of the unpacked files are deleted after the failure. Your only option is to run the EXE again and let it unpack all the files … again … every time. This makes troubleshooting very time consuming***.
I never got to see the last hurdle. My customer said that one time he got further but hit an error that mentioned a blocked port. Another search turned up that Crystal 2016 needs to communicate on a specific port to complete the installation. If this port is blocked you slide down the chute back to square one. We never got that far.
I had to punt and give him a link to buy a tech support incident from SAP. He will have to pay to get the product installed. Maybe SAP will be embarrassed enough to refund the incident charge.
I appreciate that installs are complex and that PCs can have infinite variations – but these errors have been around for years. By now they should have made it into the prerequisite test that runs before the install starts. If CR needs port X to be open then the routine should check to make sure that port is open before starting. If you need admin privileges or folder permissions, then it should check to see if it has them.
**Update 3/17: The customer checked with his IT department and found a layer of AV/Firewall protection that was still active. Once that was disabled the install went smoothly. I still think the install routine could be improved, but I can’t blame the mess above on SAP.
***Update 4/26: See this post for a way to get around the need to unpack each time you repeat an install.
There are many ways to deploy Crystal Reports to users. I normally lean toward the simpler and less expensive options, like locally installed viewers, or scheduled delivery of PDF output. But there are environments where a web based option is necessary. The “official” options from SAP are Crystal (Reports) Server and BO Enterprise. But there are other, less expensive products out there that also web delivery of Crystal Reports. These third party products allow your users to run and view reports from a browser. You can also centrally manage your report deployment from a browser.
I have created a page on my blog that lists and compares these products, and I update it every January with info from the vendors. This year the list features 10 products:
Crystal Reports Server – a traditional Web portal
Report Runner Web Portal – a traditional Web portal
IntelliFront BI – a traditional Web portal
Ripplestone – a traditional Web portal
rePORTAL CR – a traditional Web portal
ReCrystallize Server – a traditional Web portal
ReCrystallize Pro – a launch page generator for the web
Bezlio – a SaaS Web viewer
Report Launch – a bridge between BO server products and server based applications
RapidStack – Web Portal service built around Business Objects Enterprise
The blog page mentioned above contains a brief rundown on what each product does and provides links to all of the product web sites. I have also posted a feature matrix (xls) that shows some of the specifics for comparison, including prices.
If you have any feedback to share on these tools I would be happy to hear from you.
The developers of rePORTAL have just released an upgrade (v6.4) of their web portal and scheduling software. They are offering a 10% discount on all server licenses between now and the end of January 2020. Contact them through their website if you are interested in trying or buying their software. You can read more about the features of rePORTAL in my these annual comparisons:
For some reason the combination of Sage 50 (PeachTree) and Windows 10 generated many calls from customers. Most of these calls were for reports that used the special GetPeach() functions and that stopped working. These functions have come with Sage/PeachTree for years. I was told by several Sage consultants that these functions would no longer work in the current versions of Sage 50. But one of my customers ended up solving the problem on his own and has allowed me to share what he found (he didn’t want to be cited).
So here is how he got these functions working again:
- A system PATH variable must be assigned to C:\Program Files (x86)\Sage\Peachtree. This folder contains the DDFs (data dictionary files) for the interface between Peachtree and Crystal Reports and other special functions. Without these DDFs, any effort to run a report containing GetPeach() functions will fail with the error message “The Specified Module Could Not Be Found”.
- In a single user environment U2LPeach.dll and the associated .ini file (U2LPeach.ini) must be included in the folder C:\Windows\Crystal. This is the default location the files are placed by Sage 50 when data functions are updated.
- If operating in a terminal services environment, U2LPeach.dll and the associated .ini file (U2LPeach.ini) must be included in C:\Users\\Windows\Crystal.
- When U2LPeach.dll is loaded correctly, the .dll will appear in the list of dlls loaded by Crystal Reports. This list can be found by going to “Help > About Crystal Reports” and clicking “more information”. Alternately you can edit any formula and look in the additional functions node for the GetPeach functions.
If you are having problems with Sage 50, and the above doesn’t help you, let me know. I have several colleagues who are Sage 50 specialists so we should be able to resolve it for you.
It is time for my annual comparison of formula function libraries. If you aren’t familiar with User Function Libraries (or UFLs) they are DLL files that add new formula functions to your Crystal Reports formula editor. With these functions your formulas can do some pretty amazing things like:
1) Carry values from today’s report to tomorrow’s report
2) Carry values from one report to another.
3) Append lines of text to an external text file.
4) Automatically copy a value to the clipboard.
5) Check the user name of the user running the report.
6) See if a file or folder exists (on your network or on the internet).
7) Rename/copy/delete a file on your hard drive or network drive.
8) Launch an application or run a batch file.
9) Execute a SQL statement (Select/Insert/Delete).
10) Send an Email using information in the report.
11) Create a table of contents or an index for your report.
12) Generate bar codes without having to install any fonts
If this sounds interesting you can read my complete comparison including a list of all the functions provided by each DLL. The five UFL providers are:
Bjarke Viksoe (U2lwin32)
Maginus Software (CRUFLMAG)
Millet Software (CUT Light)
Chelsea Tech (File Mgt, Text, Share and others)
CrystalKiwi (Export, Table of Contents)
The only product that has changed since last year is CUT Light, which can now convert numbers to Arabic text and provides more robust encoding for Barcode 128, along with some other enhancements to existing capabilities.
If you need help deploying one of these functions in a project let me know.
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 nine 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 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.