Since acquiring Crystal Decisions in 2003, Business Objects has been working to integrate Crystal Reports into its business intelligence suite. Crystal is now part of BusinessObjects Enterprise XI, but it also continues to be available separately. And Crystal Reports XI is no mere rebranding — it’s a significant advancement in the Crystal reporting world. Crystal XI has several new features that make it not only easier to author, but also to manage and view reports.
After a very easy installation, I dove into one of the key new features, dynamic and cascading prompts. Creating these prompts was very easy; but more importantly, it’s well documented. Dynamic prompts read their values from a data source, and cascading prompts generate their values from the values in other prompts. I’ve been waiting for this feature, which makes reports not only easier to build but also easier to maintain because you can update report data without recompiling the report. I’m happy to see it finally get added, and that it works as expected.
Other new features are overdue. Crystal finally allows you to store pointers to images in the reports database instead of storing the images themselves, so you no longer have to worry about keeping the images with the reports. You can now preview reports in HTML before publishing them, a significant enhancement for those who have noticed that reports don’t always render the same in HTML as in other formats. And finally, Crystal’s new drag-and-drop charts allow you to automatically create charts from report data. Here again, Business Objects got it right — Crystal now rivals SQL Reporting Services in ease of authoring.
Crystal Reports XI is a significant improvement over previous versions. With publishing and usability enhancements galore, users will be very pleased to make this upgrade.
Cost: Starts at $495 per user (Professional Edition)
Available: Jan. 31, 2005
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