back to article The evolution of Crystal Reports

While databases have proved adept at holding vast sums of really useful information, they have lagged when it comes to serving up data in a way suited to human consumption. Two changes, though, have come to the rescue. The first was Online-Analytical Processing (OLAP), which let users slice and dice data in all kinds of …


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  1. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo

    @Anonymous Coward

    I don't think you're being fair, what i suggest you retitle your comment as

    Crystal Reports is absolutely f&^%ing shite.

    I hate this software soooo much as probably every developer who has to use it.

  2. David S


    ...I have to say, I've found it to be pretty useful in the past. Within its limits, it's not too bad.

    There are better tools out there, though. I feel I ought to mention Stonefield Query in particular; good stuff there...

    Crystal Reports as SaaS? Interesting. I'll check out the paper before I rush to judgement.

  3. Chris Wood

    Being phased out in favour of BOWI?

    I get the feeling that Business Objects bought Crystal with the intention of phasing out Crystal Reports in favour of solutions where reports are built using Business Objects Web Intelligence. Although you can build Crystal Reports on top of a Business Objects universe, BOWI is much more flexible.

    Yeah, so I'm fairly surprised to see Crystal Reports being pushed in this way.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    The Evolution of Reporting...

    Looks more like Intelligent Design to me, however seeing as it's Crystal we're talking about it's better to attribute it's "success" to random processes than conceive that it was actually designed.

    stands well back...

  5. Paul R
    Thumb Down

    Me too...

    I hate Crystal Reports. As a developer it's been the bane of my life both in terms of development and deployment.

  6. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down

    @ David S

    ***"I have to say, I've found it to be pretty useful in the past. Within its limits, it's not too bad."***

    Well, the installation CD makes a reasonable coaster to stick my coffee mug on. About all CR is good for, IMHO.....

  7. DJ
    Thumb Down

    I once met a guy

    .. who claimed he liked crystal reports. He's now selling insurance door to door because it's less stressful.

    Do yourselves a favor , take it off your cv and get an "Expert in" to sort it out for you.

  8. Christoph

    This is an insult

    From a friend who works all the time with Crystal Reports I understand that the comments above are a gross insult to perfectly good shite.

  9. Steve Medway


    It's been over five years since I had a write some pl-sql and turn the results into pretty reports because of how shite CR was.

    As soon as I saw CR on the register it sent a cold shiver down my spine. Time obviously doesn't heal old wounds if crap software is involved!

  10. amanfromarse

    Evolution? hahahahaha

    Crystal got a break when MS bundled a 'cut-down' version with VB ages ago then continued to do the same to this day. That exposure and the inertia of the old constant, pig-thick IT managers, is the only reason it's survived.

    Just how bad does software have to be before people refuse to use it?

    A fair analogy to Crystal's 'evolution' would be if the dormant dna of a pig, monkey and hippopotamus surfaced in humans.

  11. fixit_f

    Hideous clusterf**k of an application

    Awful, awful, awful, I need another shower just thinking about it. I was using it for just simple reporting, well within it's "limitations" and found I'd always end up writing database views for it to run on because you often couldn't format fields or build simple joins correctly. And if you did try and join anything using it's visual linking expert thing it'd automatically decide to join every field on every table to pretty much every field on everything else, completely undoing all your manual joins in the process. Urggh.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I don't get it. What is to hate??

    You write a query then use Crystal reports to make it look pretty for the user. It's not the most complex thing in the world.

    I think you guys are either trying use it in a solution for which it is not meant to be used, or you are just not bothering to learn how to write reports in it.

    Sorry. I rate Crystal very highly.

  13. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Down


    ***"I don't get it. What is to hate??"***

    It was pushed as an 'Enterprise' solution and marketed as such but is almost useless for anything more complex than simple desktop reports onto a relational database.

    3-tier and n-tier architectures, forget it.

    ***"I think you guys are either trying use it in a solution for which it is not meant to be used."***

    Quite probably. But that has more to do with the way it pushed (and swallowed by "IT illiterate management staff"). I reiterate, its useless for anything other than trivial desktop reporting directly onto a relational db.

    ***"or you are just not bothering to learn how to write reports in it"***

    Oh no. That's the *easy* bit. Getting it to *run* the f'ing report is the problem.

    I think everyone here who has used CR in anything other than the most trivial manner must have spent time banging their heads on their desks going "Feck, Feck, Feck, Feck, Feck" because every time you think you have sussed out how to do something straightforward with CR's shitty API, it flings another flaming hoop you need to jump through just to get your data to the report.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Don't post shite on something you know nothing about.

    What a bunch of clowns. Crystal reports is THE most flexible reporting solution on the market. Why do you think it's embedded as the reporting engine of half the off the shelf software out there?

    I've worked with the rest of the Business objects suite as well as Cognos and those products try to be too clever for their own good. Has anyone ever actually managed to build a meta layer that doesn't need constant development to stop it from being a random number generator?

    So what if you need to build database views and the occasional stored procedure underneath a report. That shouldn't be a problem to any useful developer. Unless you're developing off a datawarehouse then of course the structures arn't going to be ideal for reports!


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "Why do you think it's embedded as the reporting engine of half the off the shelf software out there?"

    For much the same reason that McDonalds bundle cheap tat toys with each Happy Meal.

    The kids (for kids read "IT illiterate management staff") think its cool and want to buy the product that it comes with.

  16. David S


    I was beginning to regret not posting anon there. Couldn't quite see how I'd managed to be the only person in the entire IT milieu who had anything other than a bad word for Crystal.

    Nice to know I'm not alone after all.

    If it's been mis-sold as an enterprise solution, then that's a shame and you probably have a legitimate gripe against the idiot who bought it and the shark who sold it, but that's not the fault of the software. I've spent the last three long, dreadful years working with supposedly "enterprise" CRM software that SERIOUSLY sucked, so I know that pain.

    At the same time, my small team have, in our spare time, used Visual Studio and Crystal to throw together a pretty nifty (modesty? Huh?) reporting solution on the very slenderest of shoestrings while we waited (two years and counting) for the enterprise BI solution (I won't name it, but it rhymes with "bognos") to finally deliver. The enterprise BI is *still* "coming soon", and in the meantime our senior execs are using our Crystal-reports-based jury-rigged POS to produce their corporate reports. Okay, this is only for our EMEA operation (the US have a simpler system; no multilingual or multicurrency issues there...) but still. Not bad.

    If you know what you're doing (that's important) and you know its capabilities (also important) and you're able to avoid the pitfall of being asked to deliver beyond its capabilities (and let's not get bitchy about those; they're not THAT restrictive) then it's actually a pretty decent solution. That's not to say there aren't better, but it's not the worst I've seen.

    And, since I speak with the voice of experience, I feel justified in saying: So there.

  17. Tim Strutt Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Crystal - A solution for what?

    Crystal was fairly good when it was bundled with VB4 and even VB 5. Then it grew, a lot. If you were writing a little database app in VB it would fit on a couple of floppies until you added Crystal, then you went out and bought a CD burner...

    Seriously, if you need to knock up something very quickly in a MS/SQL environment, MS Access has a pretty good band report generator - Bundling up the whole Access run-time environment takes up less space than Crystal, and it seems to be about an order of magnitude faster.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    @Crystal fanboys

    I lost interest in Crystal v6 when I discovered it was IMPOSSIBLE to change the DSN a report used to connect to a database programmatically in C++. Bear in mind it was touted as an "Enterprise" solution, then having a calling application being able to specify which database to use shouldn't even be an issue. When I asked Seagate (as 'twas), they kept on replying with examples in VB.

    In the end we had to maintain 3 copies of reports, one for dev, one for UAT, and one for live. For every customer.

    And don't get me started on how Crystal "helps" developers by making changes to reports, even though you've located that "please mess this report up so it needs rewriting from scratch" checkbox.

    It is so not able to do what it claims to be able to do. Unfortunately it's the MS Access of the BI world. Managers think they can use it, so it becomes the company "standard".

    I hope the fact that SQL2005 SRSS is free will cause managers to switch to that, and consign Crystal to the dustbin of history.

  19. Solomon Grundy


    Wow. Some of these folks really hate Crystal Reports and aren't shy about saying so.

    What they fail to understand though is that if they are having problems learning to use one of the most powerful reporting tools out there, it's their problem and a failure on their part to learn to use it correctly. There is a reason it's so popular you know.

    Management uses those reports to keep the money coming in to write the checks for developers. So just shut up and create the report exactly like I say and we'll all go home on Friday just a little richer.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think you've got the wrong target in your sights

    If you guys were sold it as anything more than making your data pretty, then I'm sorry. Our group has always used it as such and relied on WebI to provide analytics and it fills that niche well.

    If you want to piss and moan, piss and moan to your sales rep and IT purchasing person.

    It's not just the sharks at Business Objects that do this. Every company that peddles BI solutions claims their product will array your data beautifully, answer life's big questions, and cure cancer. I've seen reps peddling Microstrategy and Cognos do it at shops I've worked for (and both succeed...bastards). Single tool solutions never cover all the needs for an entire enterprise.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    I'd be intrigued to here peoples views on Alternatives.

    We use SQL Server 2005 reporting services, and I can't say

    that I've got any good words for that either.

  22. Jonathan Janowski

    @Solomon Grundy

    >What they fail to understand though is that if they are having problems

    >learning to use one of the most powerful reporting tools out there, it's

    >their problem and a failure on their part to learn to use it correctly. There

    >is a reason it's so popular you know.

    Popularity isn't a reason to purchase a product. I've seen plenty of purchasing managers suckered by the sales pitch of "Fortune 500 Company X is using it and they love it" and buying it after a hasty (crap) demo.

    I suspect folks that are pissing and moaning are doing so because someone else saddled them with the tool and said "Make it do this! The vendor said we could" after a demo like that.

    Crystal does one thing very very well. It takes a query and makes it presentable to your end users. When used like that it's a valuable tool. When coupled with tools like business objects (DeskI or WebI) or Microstrategy and a business plan that allows the tools to play to their strengths it becomes even more valuable.

    Having been saddled with a "one tool fits all" environment, I can see why folks would be pissed (it was microstrategy in my case, which sucked at handling presentable reports).

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