Crystal Reports 2011 for Developers, by Cynthia Moore (Hardcover, 2011)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
At 466 pages (plus a 26-page appendix), this book is predictably thorough.
Something any reader will notice while reading it is the large number of
screenshots. While we've grown used to seeing screenshots in books about Crystal
Reports or other software, I think this book makes especially good use of them.
It also includes other helpful graphics.
As with any other book on Crystal Reports, the author assumes the reader
understands some basics about business reports. That's a good assumption, as
somebody without that understanding should not be designing reports. And the author provides some good tips on making those reports best serve their purpose.
The author also assumes a computer competence level that I find quite reasonable for anyone who would be reading this book. So, there's no page space wasted on telling you how to save a file. Have you noticed books that do this also make a sudden jump in skill level to assume you are a database expert and
you can whip out a VB script left-handed and blindfolded while simultaneously
writing code in .net with the right hand?
Yes, I exaggerate a bit, but some books have left me frustrated after boring
me to tears through 18 pages of how to open a file in Windows Explorer and then
suddenly assuming the reader has all these ancillary skills that probably only 1
senior programmer in 1,000 has. This reminds me of an actual Chrysler service
manual from the 1960s that listed Step 1 as "Remove engine." Why that kind of
thing keeps cropping up, I have no idea. But I'm glad it did not crop up in this
Unfortunately, the lingo in the trade uses the term "developer" to mean the
person designing the report. Most report designers are really end-users, not
developers in the traditional sense. I'm glad Ms. Moore "gets it" in this
regard. She's produced a very useful book, as a result.
My company sells third-party tools, such as
Crystal Reports. I've edited all kinds of articles for the Crystalkeen Website
and routinely do first-level tech support. But ask me to design a report, and I
will find a reason not to (the dog ate my mouse).
So I laughed aloud when Ms. Moore said, on the first page of the
Introduction, that she's found many people who are intimidated by Crystal
Reports or quickly decide they don't like it. That's pretty much my own
attitude. Unlike my associates (who truly are developers), I just don't enjoy
report design. It's just me, I guess. I don't like mucking around in databases,
either. Consider MySQL, for example. A great tool. But I don't get all happy
while using it. That said, my company also sells a great
SQL command processor.
Like anything else, good report design takes practice. You aren't going to
whip out great reports right off the bat. However, Crystal Reports is making
that whole process much easier and less time-consuming. Like any powerful
software application, it tends to make the casual or first-time user feel
overwhelmed. That's where a book like this really earns its keep. It can help
you establish a framework for doing reports efficiently and with much less
Experienced users will probably find this book helps them expand their
existing repertoire. Something that I've seen over the years also is people
who've been creating reports for a long time make mistakes they aren't aware of.
A good read of this book, followed by some effort to learn the correct way, will
save these people hours of troubleshooting and frustration. Ms. Moore makes it
easy to follow along, and I think as a reference book it would not be hard to
locate what you need at the moment.
This book consists of two Parts and an Appendix.
Part I consists of the first 12 chapters. The first 10 of these walk you
through using Crystal Reports. Chapter 1 is an introduction and overview.
Chapter 2 is "Getting Started." The next eight chapters are themed around
specific operations, such as creating a report, formatting a report, and
The last two chapters of Part I are really for more advanced users. They are
an introduction to .Net Visual Studio and an introduction to Crystal Reports for
Part II is an introduction to Crystal Reports for Enterprise XI 4.0. Unless
your company shelled out the bucks for the Enterprise software, or is planning
to, Part II probably won't apply to you. Which is why, I think, this material is
set off a bit from the rest of the book.
The Index is a reference on formula functions. I was impressed just at the
fact it was included. Readers and users of this book will be pleased with how
well it was done.
Crystal Reports keeps evolving. To provide the best reporting experience for
report users at your company, you must continually avail yourself of online
articles, user groups, third-party tools, and books like this one. If you stand
still, you fall behind and become vulnerable to job loss or other career
setbacks. So, stay informed and keep sharpening your Crystal Reports skill set.
Consider this book a good whetstone.