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Crystal Reports, still best at what it does
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Ken Hamady profile photo
June 22, 2018

Crystal Reports, still best at what it does

Score 10 out of 101
Vetted Review
Verified User
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SAP Crystal Reports

Overall Satisfaction with SAP Crystal

I am a one man shop and I use Crystal Reports to manage many areas of my business.
I have reports that:
  • Track activity for new prospective customers
  • Analyze sales quantities and revenue over time
  • Highlight errors in data entry
  • Generate invoices
  • Track receivables
  • Provide historical analysis of products used for blog articles
  • Automate follow-up for newsletter subscribers
  • Crystal allows you to connect to virtually any type of data that is available.
  • Crystal Reports has a rich ecosystem of third party products that extend its capabilities. My site lists dozens of tools that provide viewing, scheduling and managing reports, along with formula UFLs that can let your report interact with your operating system and other applications and services.
  • Crystal, especially the more recent versions, let you create virtually any desired layout with the ability to locate objects anywhere and move them based on conditions in the data.
  • Crystal uses the classic "recurring bands" structure for page layout. I find this efficient and very flexible for generating different types of reports.
  • Crystal doesn't require that you set up a meta data layer before creating reports. It gives you direct access to your tables and fields.
  • The interface in Crystal Reports, while sophisticated, is still primarily designed for end users rather than a programmers.
  • Many of us would like to see the RPT Format stored in something open (like XML) rather than in a closed and proprietary format. It would be great for users, but probably not a realistic business decision.
  • The charting engine is functional but has been left behind by some of the visualization tools out there. Of course, these visualization tools often can't create classic reports
  • Page layout doesn't include the ability to add a structured table object. Tables have to be created with lines and boxes.
I experimented with SSRS but found that it was geared toward people who want to write code. I also found it hard to recreate my standard report layouts, like invoices, because SSRS is page-based and doesn't really have recurring bands outside of table/grid objects.

I have also created reports within MS Access but found the expression language is much stronger in Crystal. I found no easy way to create running totals.

I have skipped over tools like Cognos Impromptu because they require that you set up a meta data layer before you do anything else.

I have also skipped over visualization tools like Qlik and Tableau because they focus on the visual and don't provide much help creating actual reports.

My web site has an in-depth feature comparison between Crystal Reports and 7 other tools. In most cases I enlisted a specialist in the other tools to review the supported features. You will find a link to the comparison at the very bottom of the main page of my web site.
Crystal can connect to all ODBC or OLEDB data sources. It also provides legacy connectors for connecting directly to older spreadsheets and mdb files, including reading your windows file folders as if they were database tables.

Crystal will also allow you to directly link tables from disparate data sources, although this isn't always an efficient query.
Standard Crystal Reports doesn't have this capability (as far as I know).
Having done little else for the past 20 years I may not be the most impartial judge. But I have found that Crystal is well suited to almost any type of report including simple listings, classic summary reports, pro forma financial statements, multi-section narrative reports and reports designed to simply dump the results of a query into a spreadsheet.