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Comparison of Crystal Reports & Windward Studios

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TL;DR

The process of building reports using Windward's Designer is straightforward. Designer’s has simplicity, has a lightweight, intuitive feel, and provides explicit control over report layout. Crystal Reports is a complex monolith, and the design environment takes time to understand, but it provides better charts with drill down capability, automatic record selection, and nearly codeless report designing capability.

-- Tomas Ramirez

Comparison & Features of Crystal Reports vs. Windward Studios

In this report, the features of the Windward Report Designer are compared to the features of Business Objects’ Crystal Reports. Many of the tools in Designer feel like lightweight versions of Crystal Reports’ tools. For example, Designer's set tags are like lightweight versions of Crystal Reports’ Parameter Fields. Another example is the small set of functions Designer’s function tags offer compared to Crystal Reports’ extensive library of predefined functions.

The process of building reports using Designer is straightforward. This is because tags are explicit. Maybe a user wants to repeatedly create a new row in a table for each item in an inventory list – a forEach tag will be used. Suppose part of a report should only print if a condition is met – an if tag will be used. On the other hand, with Crystal Reports, users have to figure out how to manipulate the Group section and Details section of the development environment to do simple for-each-record actions, and they have to set up Parameter Fields and Formula Fields to get the effect of the conditional actions.

Crystal Reports’ sectioning scheme brings up another point: Designer’s development environment is simpler and easier to learn than Crystal Reports’ environment. In fact, it’s likely that users will already be very familiar with it because it is MS Word! Why would anyone waste time learning a whole new piece of software when they could stick to one that they were already familiar with (and if they are not, it’s very easy to figure out) and reduce the amount of information they would have to trudge through before they could get going on serious report creation?

Well, there are at least a couple of things that might drive one to that decision. One is that it’s actually possible to get away with creating a lot of reports without having to look at any code in Crystal Reports due to its Link Tab, Group Sections, and Linked Subreports. Basically, those three things cause automatic record selections to occur. Actually, automatic record selection is probably the best part of Crystal Reports, especially for those who are not very good with databases. Unfortunately, automatic record selection can only be taken so far, and on its own, it can generate reports of only a low level of complexity. Another reason to spend the extra time learning Crystal Reports is for the beautiful charts with their powerful drill down capability.

Returning to Designer’s straightforwardness, suppose a user wants to print a table, then an image, then some text below that, then another image, and then some more text. Well it certainly makes sense to lay them out on their page that way, which is exactly how the laying out would be done in Designer, but it would take some tricky (or at least unintuitive) work to achieve this layout in Crystal Reports.

Awkward report design seems to be the biggest problem with choosing Crystal Reports. The Cross Tab object – which is a grid that allows users to return values based on criteria they enter – is a good example of the problem. This object looks and sounds spectacular – until the developer tries to use one. In fact, it is so hard to figure out that Business Objects actually made an entire template wizard just for reports that include a Cross Tab object. The Windward alternative to using Cross Tabs is to simply place tags in a Word table, which feels much more natural.

Indeed, it is in the nature of Designer to grant users with intuitive control over their reports’ layout – even down to the cells of tables. For example, Designer’s Table Sample report demonstrates how tags can be used to make special arrangements of data within a table. Although replicating this particular example is probably achievable, users will find it difficult to accomplish in Crystal Reports without struggling with special selection formulas and studying the manual for a while.

The last features to compare here are Desinger’s Xpath and SQL wizards to Crystal Reports’ Formula Workshop. It’s still true here that Designer is much simpler than Crystal Reports, because the Formula Workshop is loaded with so many buttons and frames that it is quite intimidating. However, Formula Workshop provides users much more power in constructing whatever formulas that they require. The Designer wizards are incredibly efficient for building simple selection formulas were no comparison to other data from the data source is needed, but unlike Formula Workshop, they cannot compare one node to another.

Designer’s has simplicity, has a lightweight, intuitive feel, and provides explicit control over report layout, but it lacks some of the power of more functionality. Crystal Reports is a complex monolith, and the design environment takes time to understand, but it provides better charts with drill down capability, automatic record selection, and nearly codeless report designing capability.

Feature

Windward Studios

Crystal Reports

Conditional Logic
IF/ELSE/SWITCH/CASE
Backwards Compatibility
Templates are compatible with older versions and platforms (.NET or Java).  Tags are automatically upgraded on first run.
Customization
Free form design allows users to intuitively make layout and formatting changes in Office a tool they know.  Create modern looking reports that impress clients
Data Selection
Drag/Drop Intuitive SQL, XPath and OData wizards make selecting data as easy as creating an email filter
Data Source Connectivity

All SSRS supported data sources plus...

  • File Based (XML, XLSX, Access)
  • Web Based (Salesforce, JSON, REST)
  • Big Data (MongoDB, Cassandra)
    Continued support of emerging  datasources
Data Sources

All SQL supported data sources plus...

  • File Based (XML, XLSX, Access)
  • Web Based (Salesforce, JSON, REST)
Design Environments
  • Microsoft Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
Interview Capability

Not Supported

Learning Curves

Easily design template in tools you know through the Microsoft Office Suite, create tags with drag and drop design/wizards.

Open Formats

Templates and Output created to specifications allowing editing in native applications.  Open Office and make layout changes at any time.

Output Formats

PDF, Printer, HTML, DOCX, WORDML, RTF, XLSX, XLS, PPTX, TXT, PostScript, EPS, SVG, PNG, JPG, GIF, BMP, CSV

Reporting Components Reuse

Windward PODs

Server

Windward provides the user with live support (phone, email, & forum), tutorials, free webinars, comprehensive documentation, strong internet presence, and more.

Server

Library can be deployed via .NETor Java (Office does not need to be installed)

Template Formats

DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, HTML

Reporting for high-volume output and a familiar user-friendly design environment

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For over 10 years, Windward has lead the industry with our world-class document generation platform that creates visually stunning, data-powered documents designed exactly the way users want and are created in a fraction of the time and cost compared to existing solutions. Proudly located in Boulder, Colorado, Windward Studios is the premier solution for developers and business users adding reporting and document generation capabilities to their applications in over 70 countries around the world.