While Crystal Reports may have some nice features, WindWard Report's AutoTag is leagues ahead in usabilityFor more info check out my blog on WindWard's autotag here: WindWard AutoTag
For those of you who don't know, Crystal reports is a reporting software solution. Reporting software takes in your data sends it to a report template and spits out a pretty looking, informative report.
Upon opening it up and creating my first report I was greeted to a screen that reminded me of an IDE, bars with information everywhere and more icons than you can shake a stick at. At first glance Crystal reports appears to pack enough features to give competing reporting software, such as Windward Report's autotag, a run for their money.
Creating a report template is done by creating fields and objects that take data from your data source and displays them in various ways. Crystal reports also keeps a handy list of all the fields you have created in its field explorer, unlike Autotag's "tags". A very robust field is the formula field which allows you to manipulate data in countless ways through the formula workshop shown below. You can apply mathematical functions such as abs, floor and ceiling, you can even create conditional statements with the formula workshop.
An important object for any reporting software is the Chart object and Crystal Reports offers an extremely customizable chart. There are over 20 different chart types and it has the ability to make any of them horizontal or vertical and it can add a depth of field option to any of the charts.
One cool feature Crystal has that the competition lacks is the preview window, which generates a report with your data inside Crystal Reports so you do not have to generate a file to see how your data actually looks. From the preview Window you can also manipulate the template.
Another interesting feature in Crystal is the alert feature that alerts the user if data meets certain conditional statement. In a complex report with lots of data this would be very useful to tip of the user of a problem, in a similar fashion to unit tests.
A quick look at Crystal Reports will show it is definitely a feature rich reporting solution.