Crystal Reports Polished with New Release
Seagate Software released version 8 of Crystal Reports. But while this iteration has a new focus, it has not completely broken its ties to the past.
Seagate is shifting the targeting of the product, increasing its Web uses and positioning it as more than just a developer tool. Crystal Reports' focus is now on the enterprise and Web reporting. "This release is for the Web," says Kathy O'Donoghue, product manager for Crystal Reports at Seagate. "It's all about the Web and bringing enterprise Web reporting to the market."
Seagate (www.seagatesoftware.com), however, is not forgetting its heritage. In 1993, Seagate got a big break when Crystal Reports began shipping with Microsoft Visual Basic (VB). Earlier versions of Crystal Reports still ship with VB, and Seagate plans to continue shipping with VB even with Windows 2000's release.
Mike Schiff, director of data warehousing strategies at Current Analysis (www.currentanalysis.com), says Seagate's move to the Web is a good one. "By rearchitecting Crystal Reports to be Webcentric, Seagate Software has shown its commitment to meet the changing needs of customers and protect their technology investments."
Schiff also sees this move as a strategy that can make Seagate more well known. "Everyone knows Crystal Reports, but they may not know it as Seagate Crystal Reports. It is a good way for Seagate to remind everyone that it is more than a disk vendor, and potentially to gather more publicity and excitement for version 8 of its other products as well."
Crystal Reports 6 had Web-based technology built into it, but the main difference between the earlier versions and the newest release is scalability. An enhanced multithreaded architecture allows more users to view reports faster and limits the wait time for accessing reports. "Before there could only be about five concurrent users. Now with the multithreaded architecture, you can have 50 to 100 concurrent users, with support for thousands of users within an organization," O'Donoghue says.
In addition to the increased scalability, Crystal Reports 8 has other features that make it more of a Web reporting solution. Web folders make it possible for users to update a report online, then save it to the Web server without having to download the report, correct it locally, and then upload it to the Web server again. "With the newest version of Seagate Crystal Reports, reports can be built once, moved to the Web, and then easily updated and shared by all," Schiff says.
Users can now insert hyperlinks directly into a report, including links to Web pages, images, text, database fields, or other Crystal Reports. A DHTML report viewer permits users to see reports on compatible Web browsers without needing additional software. A Netscape plug-in makes the report viewer for Active X compatible within Netscape browser.
A new button on the tool bar allows business users to export from Excel to Crystal Reports. Plus, its OLAP reporting capabilities enable it to take data from Seagate Analysis -- the company's free OLAP client -- and create an OLAP report from it. Some other OLAP functionality, such as drill-down and slice-and-dice, is included, as well.
In addition to the new features, Seagate is boasting its souped-up existing features. A smaller multithreaded reporting engine runs reports faster, for instance, and changes to the Web component server enable much of the Web functionality in the new release. The page-on-demand feature lets users download only the report pages they wish to see. This then enables reports to be pulled down from the Web server to the browser so they can be drilled down into for more detail.
Seagate's Crystal Reports already is one of the most popular reporting tools on the market today, but company officials realize the Web is an important and efficient way to get information to the people that make decisions, Schiff says. "What I like about this is it completes or significantly enhances the migration to the Web that Seagate started with Crystal Reports 7."