Many companies have taken to using Crystal Reports for their Database Generated Documentation – but is it the best tool for the job?
What is Crystal Reports?
For those of you who are new to the idea of Crystal Reports, you might not entirely understand exactly what they are. Those of you familiar with the idea of Crystal Reports, bear with me.
In its simplest form, Crystal Reports is a piece of software that allows ‘programmers’ to generate reports based on data that it pulls from a selection of pre-determined databases. The data that has been collated via Open Database Connectivity can then be transformed into easy-to-digest reports through the use of automation tools. These elements can be arranged in any way that they see fit.
Why Would I Use Crystal Reports?
Crystal Reports are also fairly versatile, allowing the user to deliver anything from an annual report to a mail merge. However, you need to know what you are doing and have some development expertise to create professional looking reports. With automated graphic design and the ability to either export the reports to PDF or convert them to HTML for web publishing, Crystal Reports can be very handy for businesses. Especially if you work with a lot of data that you are required to share.
Sounds Great, So Why Shouldn’t I Use Crystal Reports?
Changes to Crystal Reports can take time and be expensive as there is a reliance on skilled developers to make even simple changes.
Although Crystal is great for lists of data, it is not easily customisable. Unless you’re particularly well-versed in software programming or coding, Crystal Reports isn’t all that easy to use. When it comes to creating minor reports, the user interface is simple enough to navigate, but if you’re interested in creating anything a little more complex you’re going to need a developer just to customise your reports. And when you’re shelling out for the product in the first place, the last thing you want to do is spend more money just to use it.
All in all, it’s worth considering generating your reports using something simpler, like Microsoft Word.
What’s So Good about Microsoft Word?
Alongside Microsoft’s spreadsheet saviour, Excel, Word has to be one of the world’s most-used computer applications. And there is a reason for that – not only is it versatile and simple, but most people are familiar with Microsoft Word and Word templates.
One of Word’s many talents is report generation. It is quick, it’s simple and it doesn’t require you to go on an extensive course in computer programming. Word templates can be created for most documentation and then in a similar style to mail merge, merge fields are entered, which pull information from the database allowing tailored letters, certificates, invoices and other documentation as required. The bonus is …once set up Word templates can be altered by non-technical staff, saving money and time.
To start with you may need help re-programming your database to use Microsoft Word rather than Crystal Reports. Software development companies can build tailored Word Add-ins for you to simplify the process further.
Ultimately each program has its pros and cons, but when it comes to accessibility, usability and longevity, there is one winner, and it’s been around now for over 30 years.