Archive for the 'Products' Category
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 generate 3 types of charts, crop images and process text through Google’s “sentiment analysis” engine.
If you need help deploying one of these functions in a project let me know.
Ido Millet at Millet Software has recently added some unique new functions to the Cut Light UFL. Cut Light now adds 130 new formula functions to Crystal Reports. Here are the ones most recently added.
1) Creating charts from formulas.
This includes advanced gauges, sparkline charts (bar and line) and bullet charts. These charts are generated in real time by a formula function. The functions do not rely on Crystal’s integrated chart engine. They are generated as image files which are automatically read into the report. These charts are simple and have no customizable features. There is also no drill-down capability. But these charts can be generated on any series of numbers, including numbers that come from print time variables or even shared variables . Ido has posted some image examples: And you can read the details in the user manual.
2) Image cropping.
Allows you to read an external image file and crop it before displaying it in the report. This can be used with the chart images above and also with existing Cut Light functions that allow you to read the image properties and resize an image. Here is the relevant section of the Cut Light user manual:
3) Google sentiment analysis.
This allows a formula to process a block of text through Google’s “sentiment analysis” engine. The result will be 2 numbers which represent the score (positive, negative or neutral) and the “emotional magnitude”. This can be used to evaluate any comments, Email messages or product reviews you have in your database. It does require that you have an ID to use the Google API, but there is no charge for the first 5,000 calls per month. You can read more details in the user manual.
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.
I don’t usually rush to apply service packs (i.e. ‘if it ain’t broke…’). Usually the fixed items don’t apply to what I do. So when SAP notified me about SP3 for CR 2016 I was ready to ignore it for a while. But I read through the list of fixes anyway, just in case, and the second to last item was something useful. It corrects a scrolling bug in the formula editor so we can now use the mouse wheel to scroll up and down in long formulas. I decided to do the update right away since I write lots of long formulas.
But the update was a hassle. It starts with 5 minutes of extracting files and then immediately pops up a “Fatal” error:
“Fatal Error: At least one port in the range 4520-4539 must be opened for the installation to proceed. …”
So why would a service pack for a locally installed app require access to ports? After a few searches I found that this is a red herring error message. It also occurs on some full Crystal Reports installs. The keys to getting past this error on a full install are to:
1) Run the setup from the Root folder
2) Use “Run as an administrator”.
But the service pack is a self extracting compressed exe. Placing the exe in C:\ and running it as administrator didn’t solve the problem for me. What worked for me in both Win 10 and Win 8.1 was to:
1) Use an Unzip utility (e.g. 7zip) to extract the compressed files/folders into a new folder.
2) Put this new folder in C:\.
3) Run the Setup.exe in this folder as an administrator.
Even then there was another snag. The install couldn’t finish because of a “suppressed reboot”:
“A reboot request was suppressed on the local machine.
Reboot the machine in order to proceed with the installation”
But it wasn’t clear how to do this. My only options were “retry” and “cancel”. So I cancelled, did a manual reboot and then ran the setup.exe a second time. That allowed the SP to install and now I can scroll through my formulas. It was just much more work than I expected.
One of my readers just pointed out their own blog post about installing CR 2016 and having the same exact issues. Had I seen that post when writing this one my post would have been a link to his.
I do this chart each year based on my newsletter subscribers. It shows the version of Crystal Reports that they were using when they signed up for the newsletter. Over time, it shows which versions have staying power and how quickly new versions take hold. I have included numbers for 2018, even though the year is only about two thirds over. Those numbers will shift a bit in next year’s chart when 2018 is complete.
The chart shows that over 25% of my 2018 subscribers are still using Crystal Reports XI (circa 2005) which is version 11.x. Last year I was concerned that some of these users might really be on CR 2011 (version 14.o) since those do get confused. But when I Emailed some of those people they all said that they were using the old XI version. For some of them, upgrading past Crystal Reports XI would be a major undertaking, because all the newer versions are limited to the .NET runtime. Customers that have built an application around the older runtime engine would have to rebuild the Crystal components of that app in order to upgrade to a later version of CR.
I have just updated my comparison of RPT management utilities for 2018. These are tools that allow you to scan, document, compare and in some cases batch update RPT files. The list includes 9 tools:
Report Runner Documentor by Jeff-Net
R-Tag Documentation and Search by R-Tag
CR Data Source Updater by R-Tag
Visual CUT and DataLink Viewer by Millet Software
Report Miner by the Retsel Group
Code Search Professional by Find it EZ Software Corp.
Dev Surge 365 by Find it EZ Software Corp.
.rpt Inspector 3 Professional Suite by Software Forces, LLC
.rpt Inspector Online by Software Forces, LLC (new)
I just read an interesting blog post from Andrew Baines entitled “Farewell Xcelsius/BOB Dashboards/Crystal Dashboards“.
Apparently, SAP will stop supporting their dashboard tool some time next year, and they have dropped it from the price list. I also just checked the SAP “30-day trial” page and the listing for “SAP Crystal Dashboard Design” is no longer listed there.
I can’t say that I will miss this tool, since it never really fit with what I did. You can read my approach to dashboards here. But if you are using this software it is time to start looking for something else.
The SAP Vancouver office celebrated the 25th anniversary of Crystal Reports last fall. They even sent me a commemorative pin as part of the celebration.
Now, in keeping with the ’25’ theme, they have asked TrustRadius to collect independent user reviews of Crystal Reports and Crystal Server. If you complete the process you get a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate.
Note that these reviews are structured and very detailed. I wrote a review of Crystal Reports, both to support the product and so that I could write about the process for my readers. It took me about an hour to complete. There are 9 different sections to the review and many of the sections ‘recommend’ at least 50 words. The sections are:
- Use Case
- Data Sources
- Data Sharing
You can read my review here.
A few other notes.
1) TrustRadius is independent of SAP and SAP doesn’t see the reviews before they are published. However TrustRadius has to approve and publish your review before you get your gift card. It can take up to a week after your review is published to get the card.
2) Before you can start the process, you have to sign into TrustRadius using your LinkedIn account.
If you decide to write a review you can use this link. If you encounter any problems, let me know.
One of my readers, Jiri Bus, needed a thesis project. He decided to write an application that performed a detailed comparison between two reports and showed all the differences. He calls it rpt_diff and released it under the MIT open source license. I recently wrote up a simple method that relies on the features included in the “Report Definition” export. Jiri’s project takes a deeper dive into the object model and includes many more features for comparison.
His application is free but it takes a few extra steps to deploy and use. Here is what you need to do to use rpt_diff:
1) Download and install the 32-bit Crystal Reports runtime for .net.
2) Download and install KDiff or another equivalent program for comparing text files.
3) Create a new folder for the rpt_diff application file and associated files.
4) Download the (already compiled) rpt_diff.exe and place it in the new folder (no need to install it).
5) Place the two reports you want to compare into that same new folder.
6) Right click on my sample batch file and download it in the same new folder:
(Note – if you just click on the file link the file will open in the browser rather than downloading.)
7) Edit the batch file so that it has the correct path to KDiff and the correct names of the two rpt files to compare.
8) Save the modified batch file, close the file and then run it by double-clicking on it.
You should see two XML files open in KDiff, with all their differences color coded.
Any time you want to compare another pair of files, just copy them to this folder and put their names into the batch file.
And thanks again to Jiri Bus for sharing his work.
I have just updated my comparison of server-based scheduling tools for 2018. 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 (one dropped and one new) and a few 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.