Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Seagate Crystal Reports Version 7.0

PRODUCT REVIEW

By Rebecca Warriner

Reporting has always been one of those things that most end users "must have" and most developers seem to avoid doing until the end. As we all know, it takes some tweaking to get a Notes view print out to look like a true "report". So, when a user asks for a report with information from a Notes application, what is one of the first two things we, as administrators, try to do? First, we could try to just create a view that will temporarily appease them. Or if we really have some time left in our project schedules, we could make an entirely new set of documents to act as reports. Ugh!

Well with Crystal Reports Version 7.0, one of our prayers has been answered.

Crystal Reports 7.0 overview

Seagate has definitely released a great product with Crystal Reports 7.0. This version provides the ability to create reports using the standard ODBC and OLE DB, while adding the ability to create reports from the IIS Event Log, NT Log, Exchange 97, and Outlook, to name a few data sources. The interface continues to be straightforward, so those of us already Crystal proficient have a minimal amount to learn. As you can see in Figure A, users new to Crystal will recognize the standard menu and tool bar look that is becoming a client/server standard.

FIGURE A

The Crystal Reports user interface has a number of standard features that provide for a short learning curve. (click for larger image)

Integration with Lotus Notes

In order to get Crystal Reports 7.0 to connect to a Lotus Notes database, you must install the NotesSQL drivers. These are ODBC drivers that allow your document- based Notes database to be used as a relational database.

When linking to Notes databases, each document and view -- hidden or not -- is considered a separate database table, as you might expect. Here is your warning: if you have a large amount of inheritance between your Notes documents, get ready for some ugly relationship diagrams. Every field that is named the same is linked together. It is important to note that this is by all means not the doing of Seagate, but rather the way NotesSQL works. However, this is your only option available. The downside that I found in linking to Notes databases was that Crystal Reports is totally dependent on this interface. This reliance on ODBC could make deploying Crystal Reports 7.0 in a large environment somewhat more difficult than it might otherwise be.


"The entire installation of Crystal 7.0 took no more than five minutes."

Yet another simple installation

The installation of Crystal 7.0 couldn't be easier. Put the CD in, and the auto-run process kicks it all off. With the click of a few buttons and one simple restart, I was ready to start reporting. The entire installation of Crystal 7.0 took no more than five minutes. Before you start using Crystal Reports with an ODBC data source, make sure that you have the data source set up to save yourself a few steps. When you are going to be using a Notes database, you will need to have NotesSQL installed and ready to go with a data source configured. You can be on your way to Crystal reporting in ten minutes.