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Chapter 1: Common Ground: Creating a Simple ReportBusmesses, large and small, continue to find new innovations for personal computer-based information systems. Many of these systems are conversions of older "mainframe"-type computer sYstems. The world was largely spared maljor computer problems when passing into the year 2000 partially because so many corporations have moved to these new computer systems. Two buzzwords that have entered or invaded (depending on your point of view) the industry during this trend are enterprise resource planning (ERP) and business intelligence (BI). ERP systems from such vendors as PeopleSoft, Oracle, Baan, SAP, and others are organizing and managing human resources, accounting, inventory, and billing functions for businesses of all sizes. Other more specialized PC-based applications used in manufacturing, medicine, service businesses, and countless other areas are also in wide use. And, no one can ignore the huge influx of Internet-based "e-commerce" sites that are becoming part of our everyday lives. Most of these new PC-based systems all have one core thing in common: an industry-standard database program to manage the data. But after thousands, or often millions, of pieces of data have been put into these databases, how can you extract the right data in a meaningful form? That's where the BI tools come into play. A tool must exist to extract and summarize all of this data in a meaningful fashion-in a way that allows key decision makers to know what's really happening with their business and how to move forward in the best possible direction.
While these varied information systems may have certain BI capabilities "out of the box," manyusers of database-based systems need more capabilities to create their own specialized views of their centralized data. There is a plethora of query, graphic, spreadsheet, and analysis tools. Still, probably the most often used method of garnering information from corporate information systems is the tried-and-true report. Enter the database report writer.
Introducing Crystal Reports 8
Crystal Reports, now in its eighth major revision, remains the market leader and de facto standard for business and corporate report writing. In 1984, a Canadian shipping company wanted to produce custom reports from its accounting system. When the vendor said "We can't help you," the company created Quick Reports, the precursor to Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports' first "bundle" was with that vendor's next version of its accounting software.
Crystal Reports is now bundled with over 150 leading software packages, including many of the aforementioned ERP and accounting packages from vendors including ACCPAC International, Great Plains Software, and PeopleSoft. Versions of Crystal Reports are also included with Microsoft's BackOffice and Visual Studio packages. Crystal Reports is aimed at three general types of users:
Casual business users, such as data analysts, executive assistants, and marketing directors, who will design reports around their corporate data to make intelligent business decisions.
When you first start the program, the only two main functions that you'll usually want to perform are creating a new report and opening an existing report. Like most functions in Crystal Reports, these functions can be accomplished in several ways. If the Welcome dialog box appears, you can choose either function from it by using its various radio buttons. If you've closed the Welcome dialog box, you may redisplay it from the Help menu and choose options from there. You may also open an existing report or create a new report with pull-down menu options, keyboard shortcuts, or toolbar buttons, as described later in the chapter.
Crystal Reports Screen Elements
The Crystal Reports screen consists of four main parts you'll want to familiarize yourself with: the pull-down menus, the toolbars, the report design/preview area, and the status bar.
The pull-down menus are standard Windows-type menus that you can pull down with your mouse. In some cases, you can also use shortcut key combinations (such as CTRL-N to start a new report) to choose pull-down menu options. You'll notice these shortcut key combinations next to their menu options when you pull down the menus. You can also use the standard Windows convention of holding down the ALT key and typing the underlined letter in the menu, and then choosing a menu option by typing another underlined letter from within the menu. For example, you can add a database field to the report (Insert menu, Database Field option) by typing ALT-1-D.
When you first start Crystal Reports, three toolbars are displayed across the top of the screen by default. One additional toolbar is available for display by choosing View I Toolbars from the pull-down menus. The toolbars contain buttons for almost all of Crystal Reports' available functions (some options still require use of pull-down menu options, but not many). Many of the icons on the toolbars are self-explanatory. In addition, tool tips are available for each toolbar button-just point to a toolbar button with your mouse and wait a few seconds. A small yellow box containing a short description of the toolbar button's function will appear...