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Crystal Reports: Box and Shadow

See also: Box and Line

Here is a Crystal report of a company, fictional of course, showing pictures of the staff in rounded boxes with shadows, giving a 3D effect.

In this workaround, you draw two boxes, round them to the same percentage, have one box colored slightly darker than the other.

More, below....

 

Place one box on top of the other but offset them by having the lighter one positioned slightly lower and slightly to the right of the other.

Have the lighter colored box positioned in front of the darker box, the darker one behind as a shadow.

The detailed steps are to draw a box around your text or image and round it.

Format the box to color the line with a medium color.

In this example, it is a custom color of mid grey.

A key step is to color-fill the box with exactly the same color as the box line.

To help you do this, you can use the Red, Green, Blue numbers on the bottom right.

   
 

 

Then copy the box and change the format of both the line and fill with a slightly lighter color, Silver in this example.

Place the lighter box on top of the darker one, offsetting them.

Incidentally, this report was written in CR 8.5 and the images were stored in a folder, not directly in a database.

The images were picked up using our cViewIMAGE utility.

 

 

Take care with boxes and shadows that you don't overdo it. You can find some good Web design books that explain this concept very well, and just transition that knowledge over to your Crystal Reports. Some basic tips:

  • Don't put boxes around everything. That defeats the purpose of using a box.
  • Avoid horizontal lines that go across the page. Those tell readers "stop reading here," and many eye path studies have shown that's exactly what readers do.
  • Use boxes to set things off from the rest of the report. For example, highlight critical material or show a sidebar.
  • Go easy on the shadows and other effects. You want those to help guide the eye, not distract the reader.

Some good things to put in a box:

  • A "call to action" such as "Register for the Conference Today."
  • References such as bibliographical information.
  • Contact information (e.g., an e-mail address or phone number).
  • Sidebar information.
  • Static information that changes only when you manually update it, because it's not in the database.
  • "Important Note."
  • Message from the CEO.
  • Deadline notices.

Now, the box and line tool is just one formatting tool in Crystal Reports. It has many others, such as:

  • A full range of text formatting options
  • Text rotation
  • The ability to set object foreground and background colors
  • Settable unique borders
  • Drop shadows
  • Special fonts
  • Ability to include bitmapped images
  • An actual highlighting feature that changes background colors conditionally
  • A host of conditional formatting options
  • A host of absolute formatting options
  • The Suppress Property, which allows you to hide information (such as zeroes or empty field items)óthis is similar to Wordís ability to suppress unused fields in a mail merge. It also allows you to do some cool things with page headers and footers.

In addition, you can use Report Alerts that activate every time you refresh the report. This feature provides a separate dialog box to give you a report history. Itís got some automation to it to reduce the drudgery of digging through large report histories.

Formatting enhances the usability of your Crystal Reports. For even more functionality, you can use third-party programs, such as the ones available here.

All that said, here's a caution. Don't get carried away with formatting. A report is not the place to demonstrate how many formatting techniques you can use.

Instead, you want to use the formatting to accomplish such goals as:

  • Present a clean but compelling appearance.
  • Guide the reader's eye to what's important. That means very little highlighting or bolding.
  • Separate information or visually group it.
  • Make the report consistent with other company literature. For example, use company colors, company logo, and the official font (if there is one).
  • Create a different flavor or appearance for each type of report. For example, financial reports have a green border, sales reports have a salmon border, production reports have a blue border, and so on.
  • Show what has changed.
  • Highlight problem areas.

 

 

  • Questions? Please write to mark@crystalkeen.com. We do want your business.
  • Do you have your own tips for Crystal Reports administrators and designers? Write to mark@crystalkeen.com and we'll post your tips with a link to your Website (or with some other attribution if you choose).
  • Crystal Reports is a subsidiary of Business Objects, which is owned by SAP.