9 Replies Latest reply: Jul 11, 2012 8:57 AM by Cris Coffey RSS

Custom Reports: What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?

Alejandro Araujo

Wouldn't it be great if we could do without Crystal Reports, and simply use a built-in reporting tool as the one used in FootPrints Service Core? Something that could let you create reports based on any of the available fields, without having to spend time learning Yet Another Application?

  • 2. Re: What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Alejandro Araujo

    NOTE: I have ammended this post on July 10th, 2012 - Alejandro

     

     

    Here's an actual argument to push for this cause.

     

    I have been trying to generate some reports in my TI 10.5 test environment in order to answer some questions for a customer.

    I needed to generate some date-based reports, and every time I selected one such report,when I click the calendar button to select a date, it gives me the following IE Error:

     

    An error has occurred in the script on this page.

    Line: 159

    Char: 1

    Error: Object expected

    Code: 0

    URL:  file:///C:\an html file somewhere in my Documents and Settings directory.

     

    I am then prompted if I want to continue running scripts on this page. If I click Yes, it will not do anything.  Same result if I click No.

     

     

    I found that the problem has been known for years for Crystal Reports XI installations, and apparently nobody in SAP has bothered to solve it at installer level.

     

     

    It apparently has to do with something missing within the "promptings" directory within the path: C:\Program Files\Business Objects\Common\3.5\crystalreportviewers115  or crystal reports.

     

    I found a different test machine where the reports used to work, and copied the "prompting" and "js" folders from "C:\Program Files\Business Objects\Common\3.5\crystalreportviewers115", and used them to replace the same folders in my current test environment.

    Note: If you replace the entire "3.5" folder, which is why I originally did and reported, it may not work because when you run Crystal Reports it will attempt to re-install some files that are apparently date-dependent, and that will produce the same error again.

     

    Note: A slightly different workaround, with the same results, is documented in the following article in the Support Site:

    http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/articles.asp?how=%20AND%20&mode=detail&kcriteria=3400&ID=3501

     

    This solved the problem. A functional workaround, but hardly a satisfactory solution. 

    The greater problem that I see here is that a problem inherent in a third-party solution that has been integrated with Track-It is producing a known problem that affects our product's performance. Moreover, since I can find references to this same problem that go back as far as 2006, it is plain to me that SAP does not consider solving this problem a high priority (at least not for the version that is bundled with Track-It).

     

    I suggest that if the reporting function were an integral element of the Track-It programming, we would not only have a (hopefully) consistent interface, but also a fully supported feature that can be addressed by the Track-It developer team, if necessary, and not depend on some third party company that does not care whether the product works or not.

  • 3. What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Cris Coffey

    Hopefully just copying those files over fixed the problem for good and you do not have it anymore.

     

    Switching to something home grown would be a big decision. Crystal Reports is one of the most powerful reporting tools out there and I know some of our customers have written some extremely complex reports that quite honestly I dont think you could create using the reporting built into other tools. Crystal can be difficult to learn but it can do almost anything, which has always been why many people like it.

     

    For new users, I always recommend copying existing reports to use as a base for their custom reports. This helps a lot with the learning curve.

     

    For very basic reporting, I recommend people just use the grid views in Track-It!  You can set the sort order, the fields you want and the filter, then right click and print the grid as a report or export it to Excel for further manipulation. Then the view can be saved for use later. That usually suffices for simple reporting.

  • 4. Re: What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Chris McLane

    By they way, there is an article on the BMC Software Support site (formerly Numara Software) for the Object Expected error also:

     

    http://support.numarasoftware.com/support/view_article.asp?ArticleID=3501

  • 5. What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    elledged

    I can understand the scope of changing reporting engines and the desire to go with a standard tool such as Crystal.  So if we can't use home grown, can we at least get better documentation of the data dictionary and a location to share reports we have designed with the community?  I have a dedicated Crystal Reports programmer on staff, that might not be the case for others here in the community so I would be happy to share any custom reports we design.

  • 6. What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Cris Coffey

    I believe we do have a data dictionary that support maintains. I will try to find the URL for you. I am open to the idea of a report sharing area here on the community as well. Let me check on that.

  • 7. What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Cris Coffey

    Ok, as far as sharing reports, the best way to do that is on the Documents tab here in the Track-It! community. You can upload a Crystal Report as a document, put in a title, description and add some tags that are relevant, then other users can browse those reports or use the Search feature on the community to look for specific reports. The documents tab is next to the Discussions tab on the main Track-It! Community page. You can also get to it here.

  • 8. Re: What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Alejandro Araujo

    Thanks everyone for the helpful answers and insights. Based on an experience I had yesterday, and Cris's comments, I edited my original answer (Answer #2), and will share the following additional comments.

     

    First of all, I made a call to support yesterday because I needed to understand better how reports are modified, in order to explain it to a prospective customer. I was my great luck that the call was answered by an extremely helpful guy who happens to be quite an expert on Crystal Reports. As much as I want to publicly thank and praise him for his wonderful practical lesson on CR, I don't want to risk having him singled out as the Crystal Reports Guy, so hopefully Cris will know who I'm talking about and deliver my praise personally.

    In any event, I learned more about CR during that call than in two days of reading the manual. Based on that I feel more comfortable writing the next few lines:

     

    Addressing Cris' Answer #3, yes, I can definitely understand that changing CR for a built-in reporting tool is not a minor undertaking, and is also one that could in fact result in a decreased reporting capacity.

    Doubtlessly, Crystal Reports is one heck of a powerhouse for reporting, and as Cris stated, it can do just about anything you can possibly want or need. I can see how those who are expert users of Crystal Reports would strongly object to it being removed from Track-It.

     

    Also, I kick myself hard for not having thought of using the grid views to make quick and simple reports. Obviously these can also be exported to Excel to make graphs and what not. That is definitely an important and useful feature I shall not overlook again in the future.

     

    Having said that, the fact remains that yes, Crystal Reports is awesome... but it s far from simple or intutive.  As I quickly found out trying to follow the manual, and in my mini-tutorial with Support, even modifying Track-It!'s built-in reports is not a trivial undertaking. There is no escaping it: you need to know Crystal Reports, and you also need to have the Database Dictionary handy (yes, this is available in the support site), and know how to use it.

     

    So my central concern remains: Track-It provides a first-rate reporting tool, yes, but unlike Track-It! itself, it is not easy or simple to understand and use. It is not an integral part of Track-It!, so it demands a separate and steep learning curve in order to master it. As Dennis points out, not everyone has a CR expert on board, and of those who don't, many may lack the time or resources to train someone to the level of expertise required.

    My argument in favor of an integral reporting tool is that, while it may not be even remotely as powerful as CR, it ought to be a lot simpler and more intuitive. I believe that being able to generate the reports you need, even if they're not as sophisticated, is better than having the power to generate awesome reports, but not knowing how.

     

    To close, I thank and greatly appreciate Dennis's suggestion and generous offer to have a Reports Repository, where Track-It! users can share the custom reporst they have created. I also want to thank Cris for being open to the idea and letting us know how it can be done.

    If everyone with the expertise to create or modify reports were to share their custom reports, this could become an extremely valuable resource for those who lack the expertise to make their own.

     

    Thanks again!

  • 9. What if we got rid of Crystal Reports?
    Cris Coffey

    Thank you for all the kind words Alejandro. We will keep your suggestions in mind as we move forward. Hopefully the grid view tips will help with some basic reporting.

     

    I also just posted 2 new documents in the Documents area. One containing a link to the Track-It! 10.5 ERD which should help and one post containing a PDF document of the Track-It! 9 Data Dictionary. It appears that since the database changes between 9 and 10 were very small, the data dictionary may not have been updated. I am working to see if I can find or get an updated version of it for 10.5. For now, the Track-It! 9 version should be helpful.