Long-time User of SAP Crystal Reports
Dell Stinnett-Christy | TrustRadius Reviewer
October 16, 2018

Long-time User of SAP Crystal Reports

Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User
Review Source

Software Version

SAP Crystal Reports

Overall Satisfaction with SAP Crystal

I use Crystal in a number of ways:
1. I answer a lot of questions about Crystal in online forums - the SAP Community forums as well as a few others.
2. I train our clients in how to use Crystal, not only the standard SAP classes, but also one I've created that walks through the most-asked questions from the forums and what their solutions are.
3. I personally use Crystal for a number of different tasks, including analyzing data when I do security reviews of clients' SAP BI Platform and SAP Crystal Reports Server systems.
  • In addition to linking together tables and views from the database in order to get data into your report, Crystal allows you to write your own SQL queries using an "Command". This feature allows for the use of very complex queries to get data for your reports.
  • Crystal can connect to MANY different types of databases. It has native connections available for a number of them, including Oracle, and will connect to almost anything else using either ODBC or (less common) JDBC.
  • Subreports, when used correctly, are a powerful feature for bringing additional data into a report.
  • There are SDK's available to integrate reporting into either .NET or Java applications and websites.
  • The option to export to Excel is very picky about report format to get a clean export. Once you know the tricks for setting up a report for this export, it's not hard to do, but it can be very tedious if the report has a lot of elements. This is the way it's been for years and SAP has indicated that it's not something that's going to be changed.
  • Crystal requires that a user knows how the data they're reporting on is configured in the database - it's not really suited for a "casual" user, but for someone with at least some technical skills in relation to databases. This is not something that can or should necessarily be changed, but it is something that potential users need to be aware of.
  • Other than new types of database connections, SAP has indicated that they will not be upgrading any functionality in "classic" Crystal. They instead have chosen to focus on upgrades to Crystal for Enterprise. The problem with that is that it requires the SAP BI Platform - either SAP BusinessObjects or SAP Crystal Reports Server.
  • One of the major things that's not being upgraded is the Charting libraries, which were last updated in the early 2000's, before SAP purchased Crystal. So, Crystal doesn't have newer chart types available.
I have done a little bit in Microsoft SSRS and a bunch in SAP Web Intelligence (Webi). Both of those are good at what they do. Like Crystal, SSRS is more technical. Webi is great for quick ad-hoc reports or data analyses. But with Crystal I can easily do things like picture-perfect form letters and other types of operational reporting.
You can connect to almost any type of database that has an ODBC or JDBC connector. This includes real-time data sources.

Crystal is less adept at merging data from disparate data sources when those data sources are large because it will bring all of the data from each source into memory to merge it there which can cause high memory usage and a lot of disk IO as it swaps data into and out of its own temp files.
Access control is only really available when using one of the SAP BI Platform tools. SAP Crystal Reports doesn't have anything of the sort embedded into it because it is a desktop thick client tool.

Reports that are run in Crystal can be output to a number of different formats, some of which work better than others. There is also a "Crystal Reports Viewer" application that is available to display reports that have data that has been saved into them. This tool, however, doesn't allow the user to refresh the data in the report.

There also are two very rich Software Development Kits (SDKs) that are available - one for .NET and one for Java - that allow developers to integrated Crystal Reports into their own applications.
SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) Platform, Microsoft SQL Server
I'm biased because I've used Crystal for so long and there's very little that I've needed to do that I haven't been able to do with it.

I particularly like being able to write my own queries instead of having Crystal write them for me. With this feature, I've been able to do some very complex reports this way. I could have done most of these reports by linking tables together in Crystal and using Crystal's filter and suppression features, but putting the logic in the query means that Crystal is processing less data so the report is faster.

Crystal is less suited for showing graphs, unless you just need very simple line or bar graphs. It's also not really suited to doing ad-hoc reporting for most users because it is more technical than some other reporting tools.

SAP Crystal Feature Ratings

Pixel Perfect reports
10
Report Formatting Templates
10
Drill-down analysis
7
Formatting capabilities
10
Report sharing and collaboration
7
Publish to PDF
10
Delivery to Remote Servers
10
Location Analytics / Geographic Visualization
6
Javascript API
10
Java API
10
Themeable User Interface (UI)
5

SAP Crystal Support

SAP doesn't actively support SAP Crystal Reports unless you have other SAP software, although good support is available from some SAP employees along with volunteers on the SAP Community site. (I'm one of the people who answer questions there...)
Yes - If you have SAP BusinessObjects, SAP Crystal Reports Server, SAP BusinessOne, or some of the other SAP products, support for Crystal is included in your support for those other products. However, because the .NET SDK used to be included in the install of Microsoft Visual Studio and it and the Java SDK are available for free, Crystal is one of the most ubiquitously used reporting tools in the world. Support for it is available in a number of forums, including the SAP Community, where mostly volunteers answer questions. If you're not an SAP customer for other software or an SAP OEM customer for Crystal, I don't believe there is a support contract available other than the purchase of one-time support cases.
Since I answer questions on the forums, there have been very few times when I've had to ask for support over the last 15 years. When I have, there are awesome people, a couple from SAP, on the forums who have been able to assist with the more complicated problems that I come up with.

Using SAP Crystal

If you're a technical user who understands databases, it's pretty easy to get up to speed with Crystal quickly. However, if you're an unsophisticated business user without database knowledge and skills, it's going to be very difficult to use.
ProsCons
Like to use
Relatively simple
Well integrated
Consistent
Convenient
Feel confident using
None
  • Commands for providing your own SQL query for a report
  • The formula editor is easy to use and has functionality to validate formulas before they're saved.
  • Adding groups and summaries to reports
  • Subreports - they work just like the main report other than you cannot embed a subreport inside another subreport.
  • Charting/graphing
  • Configuring reports for Excel export
  • Adding data sources for a report unless you explicitly have knowledge of the underlying database and you know how to use different join types.