CRYSTAL REPORT DESIGN CONCEPT
Basic report design
The purpose of this section is to suggest a structured approach to preparing a Crystal report. This approach includes the following elements:
What is the overall purpose of the report?Reports are management tools. Their purpose is to help you quickly grasp the essential elements and relationships found in raw data, to help you make effective decisions. For a report to be effective, it has to present the correct data in a logical way. If it presents the wrong data, or if it presents the right data in a haphazard manner, the report may slow the decision-making process or may even encourage incorrect decisions.
A good starting place in the development of a report is to write out the purpose of the report in a sentence or two. The purpose statement helps you focus on your primary needs, and it gives the report both a starting point and a goal.
Here are some examples of purpose statements.
- The purpose of this report is to show monthly and year-to-date sales by sales representatives, compare this year's numbers to last year's, and flag representatives whose sales figures do not meet company standards.
- The purpose of this report is to show sales activity for each item in inventory, and to suggest reorder quantities based on that activity.
- The purpose of this report is to calculate bowling averages and handicaps for each member of the bowling league.
A single report is often used by many individuals. A detailed, company-wide sales report, for example, may be used by sales representatives, the regional sales manager, the national sales manager, and the Chief Operating Officer (COO).
These individuals will be interested in different aspects of the report:
- A sales representative will use the report to evaluate individual sales performance and compare this performance to that of other representatives in the region.
- The regional sales manager will use the report to evaluate regional representatives and compare the region's performance to that of other regions.
- The national sales manager will use the report to evaluate the performance of regional managers and compare overall sales to the current sales forecasts.
- The COO will use the report to evaluate the performance of the Vice-President of Marketing and the sales department as a whole, and to project such things as manufacturing needs and warehouse locations.
Determining the layout of the reportWrite out a working title for the report. You may decide to change it later, but at least you will have a title to use when creating the prototype report.
You may wish to include the print date, information on who prepared the report, a block of text to describe the purpose of the report, the range of data covered, or something similar. If you are going to include such information, write it down so you can use it in preparing your prototype.
The information can come from a variety of sources, depending on the kind of information you plan to use.
- Information on who prepared the report might be drawn from individual data fields in the database table(s) used. If it is to be drawn from a database table, what table? Or, what combination of tables?
- A block of text can be created as a text object and placed anywhere on the report.
- Crystal Reports can generate information such as the print date or page numbers.
Finding the dataDo you know the type of database you are reporting from? Will you be reporting off a data file, SQL/ODBC, a Business View, or a Dictionary?
If you do not know, ask the database administrator in your organization for help in setting up the database type and location of the data. For more information,
Are you familiar enough with the data to find the necessary information? When looking for a Customer Contact name, can the field be found in a database table?
If not, your MIS professional, database administrator, or co-workers will have to help you become familiar with the data.
The body should contain all the data needed to fulfill the statement of purpose you wrote for the report. It should also contain all of the data needed by the various users that you have identified.
This step requires you to look at the available database table(s). Crystal Reports allows you to combine data from different databases when you create reports, so you have a great deal of flexibility in your work.
- Much of the data in a typical report is taken directly from data fields. Which data fields will be used, and where are they located?
- Other data will be calculated based on data fields. Which data fields will be used in the calculations?
- Still other data will be placed directly into the report using text objects (headings, notes, labels, and so on).
You should take the time to get to know the data type for data fields that will be used in your calculations. Since formula functions and operators work with specific kinds of data, it is important to recognize the data type you are working with, before you start any calculations. For example, some functions require numeric data, while others work with only string fields. For more information on specific functions and operators, search for "Functions" and "Operators," or for the function or operator by name in the Crystal Reports online help.
Do you want the data organized into groups?How? By customer? By date? By hierarchy? Or by other criteria? Crystal Reports provides several options for grouping data in a report.
Crystal Reports gives you both alternatives.
Crystal Reports gives you the opportunity to base a report on all records in a given database, or on a limited set of records from the database. Crystal Reports can be used to select records based on simple date ranges or comparisons, or to create complex formulas to identify the records to be included. Take a few minutes to determine the records needed for the report and list the criteria to be used for selecting those records.
Do you want to total, average, count, or determine the maximum or minimum value included in all the values in any column on the report?
Crystal Reports allows you to do this, and it also allows the grand total (or the grand total average, grand total count, and so on) to be placed at the bottom of the selected column.
You may want to call attention to some data by flagging it on the report. For example, non-moving inventory items are often flagged on inventory reports so they can be given special attention. You might want to flag each item that has shown no activity during the last month, during the last three months, or during some other defined period. To flag information, identify it and any conditions that will trigger the flagging.
You may want to flag items with an asterisk or some other symbol, or you may want a word to appear as a flag. In any case, you should write out flagging instructions so they are handy.
Crystal Reports gives you the opportunity to underline report elements, and change the font type, size, or color used for specific report items. It allows you to put borders around items and to draw lines and boxes (to break the report into sections), set off headings, and so on. All of these formatting tools can be used to highlight key data on a report.
Determining printing area characteristicsEach report area has its own printing characteristics. It is important to understand these characteristics because they affect when and how often different report objects get printed.
Areas print in the order they appear on the Design tab (top to bottom). If there is more than one section in an area, the sections print in the order they appear. For example, if you have three Report Header sections, all three of those sections will print, in order, before the section(s) in the Page Header area begin to print.
The way objects print will determine how you design your report. This will help you decide where to place charts, Cross-Tabs, and formulas to get specific results.
Objects placed in the Report Header area print once, at the beginning of the report.
Note: Both charts and Cross-Tabs can filter report data by using a Group Sort; in such cases, the data shown in the chart or Cross-Tab is a subset of the data for the entire report.Objects placed in the Page Header area print at the beginning of each new page.
- Charts or Cross-Tabs cannot be placed in this section.
- Formulas placed in this area are evaluated once per page, at the beginning of each new page.
- Charts and Cross-Tabs placed in this area contain data just for the group.
- Formulas placed in this area are evaluated once for each group, at the beginning of the group.
- Charts or Cross-Tabs cannot be placed in this area.
- Formulas placed in this area are evaluated once for each record.
- Charts and Cross-Tabs placed in this area contain data just for the group.
- Formulas placed in this area are evaluated once for each group, at the end of the group.
Note: Both charts and Cross-Tabs can filter report data by using a Group Sort; in such cases, the data shown in the chart or Cross-Tab is a subset of the data for the entire report.Objects placed in the Page Footer area print at the bottom of each page.
- Charts and Cross-Tabs cannot be placed in this area.
- Formulas placed in this area are evaluated once per page, at the end of each new page.
Developing a prototype on paperWhile a paper prototype is useful regardless of your level of expertise with Crystal Reports, it is particularly valuable when you are first learning the program. With the paper prototype in hand, you can put your full effort into learning and using the commands, rather than into trying to design and learn at the same time.
- Position the title and other descriptive header information, using boxes or lines to represent report elements.
- Look at the information you intend to include in the body of the report:
- Count the number of fields being used and estimate the appropriate spacing between fields.
- Use rectangles to pencil in the fields within the estimated spacing.
- Change the spacing if you need to.
- Decide on a logical sequence for presenting the data in the body of the report.
- Label the fields to indicate that sequence.