Reviews

Review: Crystal Reports

Crystal Reports V10 Advanced Developer Edition
$1995
Business Objects
San Jose, California
(408) 953-6000
www.businessobjects.com

Probably most developers have used Crystal Reports in one incarnation or another by now. As one of the oldest banded report writers around, and one that's packaged with Visual Studio and Visual Studio .NET, it's got plenty of market penetration. This significant upgrade is the first version since Business Objects bought Crystal Decisions as a way to round out their business reporting platform (for some interesting reading, check out their Product Roadmap white paper which discusses their plans to combine the two product lines; I wish more companies would be this diligent about publicizing their post-merger plans).

In addition to integrating with VS .NET or running standalone, Crystal provides for a variety of runtime deployment scenarios, from a reporting engine that you can bundle with desktop applications, through Web reports that run directly on your Web server, to a separate reporting server that communicates with the other tiers of your application through Web services. Of course you'll find connectivity with a wide variety of data sources, grouping, sorting, crosstabs, OLAP reports, and other standard and high-end reporting features here.

Version 10 introduces some significant new developer capabilities. Java developers will have a much improved experience, thanks to a 100% Java version of the reporting engine, as well as integration with JBuilder and BEA WebLogic Workshop. There's also a new custom JSP tag library to make it easy to integrate reporting with Java applications.

On the .NET side of things, there are a batch of new data sources, improved and simplified merge modules to ease the pain of deploying Crystal with your .NET applications, and more export formats. There are also a bunch of little fit and finish improvements that make working with the designer easier. For instance, I found the default size for new fields to be much more reasonable with Crystal 10 than it was with Crystal 9. The WebForm viewer has been enhanced with extra customizability too.

With either the Java or .NET solutions, the upgrade to the standalone reporting server has been streamlined and simplified to a single line of code (and writing the appropriate check, of course).

Crystal 10 has also paid some attention to making it easier to maintain a library of reports and quickly develop new reports in your enterprise. Business Views abstract domain-specific information from a variety of data sources, and are designed to let your DBA provide an abstraction layer between the reports and the raw data sources. The Repository, introduced in version 9, has also been upgraded and made more flexible; you can store text objects, images, SQL commands, and custom functions for use across different reports.

Overall, it's nice to see a full release coming so soon after the Crystal acquisition, as well as clear messaging about the future of the product. It looks like Crystal Reports will continue to be a viable player in the enterprise reporting field for a long time to come.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.

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