No. It's just not natural. Sometimes presentation is almost as important as content. When you create a report, the goal is to provide information for readers in a format they can readily understand.
Crystal Reports 10 For Dummies, the latest version of the most popular report writer in the world, shows you how to create simple or sophisticated reports, turning data into interactive, actionable reports that convey what's happening in your business. You can progress cover-to-cover or use the index to find out how to:
Give your reports more pizzazz by using the correct fonts, color, drop shadows, graphic elements, and more
Integrate elements from multiple, non-database sources
Group sort, total result sets, cross-tab reports, and add formulas, charts, or maps
Use customized Business Views gleaned from the same information to provide each reader with information he or she needs to know without spilling all the beans, sales figures, marketing information, or whatever
Present multi-dimensional data in OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cubes
Get ideas from sample reports on the companion Web site
Written by Allen G. Taylor, nationally known lecturer, teacher, and author of over 20 books, including Database Development for Dummies, Crystal Reports 10 For Dummies makes it crystal clear how to:
Store your information securely in Crystal Repository
Use Crystal Analysis 10 to display OLAP data so you and your report's readers can analyze the information in an online environment
Use Crystal Enterprise to put Crystal Reports online for viewing by hundreds or thousands of people in your organization
Whether you want to dazzle your company's CEO and shareholders, motivate the sales force, or simply share database information cogently, with Crystal Reports 10 For Dummies you not only make your point, you an impression. When your reports look professional, you look professional.
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June 03, 2004
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Excerpt from Crystal Reports 10 For Dummies by Allen G. Taylor
Transforming Raw Data
into Usable Information
In This Chapter
Outlining the major features of Crystal Reports 10
Discussing the four editions
Viewing an existing report
Computers can store and process enormous amounts of data, and with
the relentless advance of technology, those capabilities will soon become
even more mind-boggling. Even now, the major challenge of getting value from
computer systems is not to make them more powerful but to harness the
power they already have -- in a way that delivers useful information to people.
Megabytes or gigabytes of raw data are neither meaningful nor useful to
people. Instead, we need organized information, distilled and focused on
answering specific questions. In businesses and enterprises of all kinds, organizing
and presenting information has traditionally been the job of documents
called reports. These documents generally consist of multiple pages that can
include text, numbers, charts, maps, and illustrations. The best reports convey
the facts needed to make the best decisions, unobscured by a clutter of data
irrelevant to the task at hand.
Crystal Reports has been a leading report-writing application package for
more than a decade -- and is by far the most commonly used report writer
in the world. Many people have been using Crystal Reports unknowingly for
years because it has been integrated with other applications and not specifically
identified by name.
Major Features of Crystal Reports
Crystal Reports 10 includes all the features that made Crystal Reports 9 a
worldwide best-seller, plus exciting new features that save you time and effort
as you develop your reports. Crystal Reports 10 is tightly integrated, so all the
individual components of the system work together seamlessly to support
the creation, modification, distribution, and viewing of reports. The tight integration
extends beyond Crystal Reports 10 to Crystal Enterprise 10, making
the sharing of reports across large enterprises not just feasible, but downright
Data Explorer and Report Experts provide highly intuitive visual tools that step
you through the process of creating a report. Features such as the Crystal
Repository (which now can be shared across the enterprise) and report templates
allow users throughout the organization to reuse components or entire
reports. There is never any need to reinvent the wheel. If a component in the
Repository or a report template comes close to meeting your requirements
but doesn't meet them exactly, you can make minor modifications and have
a usable report quickly -- a vast improvement over creating an equivalent
component or report from scratch.
Formatting a report
The primary job of a report writer such as Crystal Reports is to take data from a
database and put it into a pleasing, logical, and understandable format for viewing
by users. With Crystal Reports, you are well equipped to give your reports
the appearance you want -- without having to become a formatting guru.
Crystal Reports offers both absolute and conditional formatting:
Absolute formatting enables you to put text, titles, charts, maps, columns
of figures, cross-tabs, and graphics pretty much anywhere you want on
the screen. You can handle preprinted forms. You can optimize for screen
display or for printing on paper. This is close to the ultimate freedom in
report creation -- but not quite.
Conditional formatting takes you one step further toward the ultimate:
Using it, you can change the format of the data you're displaying in
response to the content of the data itself. With conditional formatting,
every time the data in a report changes, a formula that you include in
the report can make the appearance of the report change accordingly.
One especially useful feature of Crystal Reports 10 -- carried over from version
9 -- is the report alert. Suppose that a value being displayed crosses a
critical threshold that requires immediate action on the part of the report's
target audience. When that threshold has been crossed, not only is its value
displayed, but also a report alert dialog box pops up that can't be ignored.
10 Part I: Reporting Basics
Format Painter is a new feature of Crystal Reports 10. It saves you a lot of
work if you have numerous objects in a report that all require the same formatting.
You simply format the first of those objects and then -- with one
click -- "clone" that formatting onto another object.
Another labor-saving feature is the Template Expert, which enables you to
create and save a report template for later use. Imagine how much time you'll
save if you have to quickly format multiple reports with a common look.
Enhancing a report with formulas
and custom functions
Did I mention that conditional formatting makes use of formulas to change
the format of a report? Well, you can use formulas for far more than that. A
formula is like a little computer program that can do computations or other
manipulations of data before displaying the result. This makes Crystal Reports
more than merely a report writer that puts your data in a nice format. By
using formulas, you can make it select specific records (or groups of records)
and display them the way you want, controlling that process by declaring
and using variables in your formulas. All the common flow-control structures
(If-Then-Else, Select Case, For, While Do, and Do While) are available.
After you create a useful formula that you might want to use again later, you
can save it as a custom function. Custom functions are added to the standard
functions that come with Crystal Reports, keeping them available in one place.
Getting visual with charts and maps
Crystal Reports has excellent capabilities for the graphical display of data.
All the most commonly used chart types are available, so you can display
your data in the most meaningful way. If you have geographical data, Crystal
Reports can display it in maps that show countries, regions, provinces, or
cities. A variety of methods are available to associate values with specific
regions, including colors, symbols of various sorts, and even charts.
Displaying a report
Crystal Reports is designed for distribution in today's highly connected business
environment. You can build reports that are optimized for viewing by
people at any computer attached to your organization's local area network.
You can also put a report on the Web, for viewing by anyone who has a Web
connection and a browser. Of course, you can also distribute your reports the
Chapter 1: Transforming Raw Data into Usable Information 11
old-fashioned way, printing them on paper and putting them on the target
Distributing a report
You can get your report into the hands of its intended recipients in many
ways -- print it and deliver it by hand, fax it directly from your computer
to a fax machine anywhere in the world, or export the report to a file.
If you choose the latter approach, Crystal Reports supports many output file
formats, including HTML for viewing over the Web. At least one of these formats
is bound to be readable by the people in your audience. The one caveat
here is that if you export a report to any format other than the Crystal Reports
native format (.rpt), you may lose some of the report's formatting in the
process. You can even export directly to an application such as Microsoft
Word or Lotus Domino. In such a case, Crystal Reports launches the target
application and opens your report in it.
A major new distribution mechanism in Crystal 10 is the Business Views feature
(actually a component of Crystal Enterprise, a companion product to
Crystal Reports that enables users on client machines to view, schedule, and
keep track of published reports). As discussed in Chapter 17, Business Views
offer a new data-abstraction layer that simplifies the process of connecting to
enterprise data sources. At that layer, you can combine data from multiple
data sources of different kinds into a single data source.
Supplying Crystal Reports with data
As important as the output formats of a report are, the inputs to the report are
equally important. Crystal Reports shines in this area too. It accepts data from
a wide variety of data sources, including both personal computer databases
such as Microsoft Access and enterprise-wide client/server databases such
as Oracle, IBM's DB2, and Microsoft's SQL Server. In fact, Crystal Reports
can accept data from any ODBC-compliant database or any data source that
complies with Microsoft's OLE DB standard. Essentially, if your data exists in
a commonly used modern data source, Crystal Reports can use it.