Crystal is it for pixel perfect, not so much for exports.
Updated January 10, 2018

Crystal is it for pixel perfect, not so much for exports.

Matthew Randolph | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 10 out of 10
Vetted Review
Review Source

Software Version

SAP Crystal Reports

Overall Satisfaction with SAP Crystal

Crystal Reports is used for management level reports, forms replication such as state insurance forms, and for check printing. It solves reporting issues across the departments served, especially when pixel perfect results is required. [It's] Not so hot on exporting data, more on this later I'm sure.
  • Pixel perfect output. We're capable of replicating complicated forms, writing checks using MICR font, etc. If it has to look good, it's Crystal Reports.
  • The formula editor is very powerful. Some more expensive solutions, including those from SAP, don't offer the power that Crystal Reports offers out of the box.
  • Portability of format. For the first 10 years or so of Crystal Reports, you had to be on the same version of Crystal Reports as your target audience. This has since been corrected and now you don't have to wrestle with having a client on an old version while you are on a newer version.
  • Exporting is a big problem. Going to Excel is a common request, but the default of making it look like Crystal Reports isn't what the clients want, and the "data only" format is limited as to what it can do. Overlapping fields cause exports to fail badly.
  • The Crystal viewer (which I'll include as part of Crystal here) has flaws, such as growing fields longer than their length in Native Crystal.
  • Subtotalling and running totals still don't support everything I need to do, so we fall back to manually adding a variable, incrementing it, printing it, and clearing it, all manually. They both work fine for standard numeric fields, but not so well for formula results.
They are really two different beasts, Crystal Reports in its stand-alone form is meant for desktop reporting, although the same report can be pushed up to the web or to the enterprise with SAP's more expensive products. As far as I know, Cognos starts at the enterprise level and doesn't offer anything as a desktop only solution.
It is appropriate for any output that needs a great deal of formatting. Its grouping and totaling are good, and the graphics are better than average; actually, great in this price range. Its main failure is exporting data. Even with a simple export, you have to be careful laying out the data, and if you select Excel, it can be amazingly slow to export.

SAP Crystal Feature Ratings

Pixel Perfect reports
10
Customizable dashboards
Not Rated
Report Formatting Templates
Not Rated
Drill-down analysis
7
Formatting capabilities
Not Rated
Integration with R or other statistical packages
Not Rated
Report sharing and collaboration
Not Rated
Publish to Web
Not Rated
Publish to PDF
7
Pre-built visualization formats (heatmaps, scatter plots etc.)
9
Location Analytics / Geographic Visualization
9
Predictive Analytics
Not Rated
Responsive Design for Web Access
Not Rated
Mobile Application
Not Rated
Dashboard / Report / Visualization Interactivity on Mobile
Not Rated

Using SAP Crystal

4 - All the users in my organization are reporting professionals. We write reports for end users and do most of our work for them via parameters so that they don't have to try to mess with crystal directly. Many people run our reports, but I wouldn't count that as a "user". They simply bring them up in a web viewer and fill in the parameters and hit "go".
5 - It is the same group as the prior question, reporting professionals. The main skill that you need for our department is SQL skills, because to make crystal fast, you want to make it dumb! By that, I mean you put all your hard calculations into your datalayer or a stored procedure, and have that return to Crystal rather than making Crystal try to figure out complex situations. Crystal can do it, but it's faster (by a lot) if you do it for crystal, and just let Crystal be a print engine.
  • We currently use it for pixel perfect reports, but not for ad-hoc kinds of reporting
  • We almost never use Crystal for its graphs, which aren't bad, but they don't seem necessary in our industry (Insurance).
  • We do report bursting and emailing via the SAP server (Crystal Enterprise, not Crystal Desktop) which saves our users tons of time at month end.
  • Management Reports! Insurance thrives on loss runs, and management style reports that look good.
  • Scheduling capability with relative dating - this is the Server product again, but it allows us to set up hundreds of reports to run at month end and adjust the dates for the prior month without user intervention.
  • Bursting - the ability to one a report for (example) 50 factories, and have it break and send each pertinent section to the manager of each factory. Again, that's the server product.
  • we have occasionally used reports that have multiple levels of detail, and suppress/show the details using a parameter. saves us writing more reports, or trying to QA why one report doesn't match another.

Using SAP Crystal

Crystal can be really complex, but you get more out of it the more you work with it. Other tools can be easier to pick up, but Crystal won't leave you stranded 1/2 way to your reporting goals. Complex reports take complex tools, and to the chagrin of my end users, there's no getting around that fact.
ProsCons
Like to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Consistent
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
None
  • adding subsections under groups
  • copying subtotals from one section to another
  • Formula workshop is nice, it can be as powerful as you might need it to be, or as simple as running a wizard
  • Anything having to do with variables that need to be incremented, then reset after sections. Keeping track of when and where they reset vs where you are in the page can be very confusing. Running totals seldom fits my needs, so I tend to use variables, but dislike them.
  • Cross tabs can be painful for beginners. There is a Crosstab wizard for Crystal Reports Desktop, but it's radically different in Crystal Reports for Enterprise, so switching between the two is a jarring experience.
Yes - I don't use it often, but basically you just publish your report to your web server and it becomes available. Crystal's always had some issues with it's web based viewer though, things like fields that overflow other fields in the web, but don't do that in Crystal Native. Strangely, that overflow goes away if you export to PDF from the viewer. The ones I've done have always been used on iPads. I'm sure it will render on a phone as well, but that's going to be very small compared to a regular Crystal report. You should probably take mobile into account when you are designing the report as you don't want too many elements happening on a 4 inch screen.