Introduction to Crystal Reports

Crystal Reports is a widely used report-writing tool and has been in existence for more than two decades. It is synonymous with formatted reporting and provides users with an intuitive design interface for simulating the layout of a report. It is an open tool and allows users to  connect to multiple databases and data sources. Crystal provides a very powerful library of functions that can be added to the report and also allows you to add custom logic using Crystal’s language.  

Initially marketed by Crystal Services, it first caught the public eye in 1994 after Seagate Technology acquired the technology. During the latter half of the nineties, Seagate branded and sold the product as Crystal Decisions. During this timeframe, Seagate continuously enhanced Crystal Decisions and took it from version 4.0 through 9.0. Crystal Decisions gained widespread global adoption during these years and established itself as a preeminent report-writing tool. BusinessObjects acquired Crystal Decisions in late 2003 and incorporated it as part of its reporting suite and ultimately as part of the XI suite. In late 2007/early 2008, SAP acquired BusinessObjects and Crystal became an SAP offering.Versions of Crystal Reports.

Broadly speaking, with the release of BI 4.0, there are two versions of Crystal Reports:

Crystal Reports 2011 is a successor to Crystal Reports 2008 with a few new features. Crystal Reports 2008 itself is a continuation of the original Crystal report writing application that has evolved over the years. SAP will support and enhance this version in order to ensure that there is minimal (if any) disruption for existing Crystal customers.

Crystal Reports for Enterprise is the version that SAP built as an enterprise reporting tool closely integrated with NetWeaver BW. The primary audience for this application is SAP users who have been using BW reporting tools (such as the BEx Query Analyzer) for analytical reporting. It allows users’ easy data connectivity to SAP BW. The greatest difference that users will notice is that SAP completely revamped the designer interface in this version.

These two versions are likely to co-exist for several years even as SAP strives towards a single version. SAP roadmaps indicate that future iterations may look more like the Enterprise version with all of the features that are currently in the 2011 version.

Crystal Reports 2011 has a very friendly user interface with numerous intuitive features. Let us take a look at these. Launch Crystal Reports from your Start Menu


When Crystal Reports is launched, you will see an initial screen that looks like the screenshot


Report creation and access area titiled “Start A New Report”. This area provides you with links that you will click on tocreate reports.

A “My Recent Reports” area that displays recently accessed reports. This area will be blank if you have not created and/or accessed a Crystal Report yet and will fill up as you begin creating and accessing them. The Informational Section consists of three tabs namely highlights, key resources, eLearnings. Do keep an eye on these areas especially the “Key Resources” and “eLearning” because SAP keeps them updated with information and links that should help you build your proficiency in Crystal.