- COM drivers. cViewIMAGE allows you to dynamically include images. Because cViewTEXT does the samedynamically inclusion (but for text), we include it here also.
- Enhanced graphing tools. Summarizing important information in the right type of chart or graph makes a huge difference in how quickly and correctly people understand the information.
cViewIMAGE and cViewTEXT are both dynamic inclusion COM drivers. From the names, you can tell that one's for images and the other is for text.
Why dynamically include an image, rather than statically? Images are compelling and give a report great eye appeal. So including an image per se isn't the real question. It's almost always better than not including one. The question is why you should include an image based on the result of a formula or other conditional in a report.
Dynamic images have all kinds of potential uses. Here are just three.
- Suppose you want to highlight problem accounts: you can have a red thumbs down image triggered when a formula value is below 60%, a blank image when it's within a certain range, and a green thumbs up if it's above 90%.
- Perhaps you want to highlight the best-selling product in each sales region, every week: rather than manually changing the images every week, just use cViewIMAGE to pull up the one with the most sales.
- Upper management wants to recognize the sales person with the most improved profitability over the previous quarter: a little addition and algebra, and this is easy to establish.
Did you notice that the image fields automatically populate with the correct image based on simple formula outcomes? Pretty slick, and it saves you time while eliminating manual errors. What conditionals do you have in your reports already, where an image would enhance the report? Probably several.
"There's a fly in this ointment," you might be thinking. "We don't have the images in our database." cViewIMAGE comes with a flyswatter; just type in thepath is to the image folder and you're all set. The images don't have to be in your database. You can have your database can hold the reference path as a text field. cViewIMAGE will retrieve the images from the folder you specify.
A couple of key advantages might now be rather obvious to you:
- Not storing images in your database reduces its size.
- Adding, changing, or deleting images is simpler if youstore them in a folder rather in a database. Simpler management of processes is never a bad idea.
Example of using cViewIMAGE
Suppose you want to dynamically include a product image in your Crystal report. You can do it in two steps:
- Create a new connection using cViewIMAGE. This is in addition to your normal Product database/file connection.
- Write your conditional to result inthe file path ofthe image.
Dramatically improve the quality and clarity of your Crystal Reports.
With CR Chart, you can do many things. Here's a partial list.
- Set chart properties at runtime.
- Create boxplots,error bars, and waterfall charts so you can convey exactly the impression that's needed.
- Provide Pareto charts that crystallize where resources really need to be applied.
- Use pivot functions (e.g.,data reversal or swap series/group) to relate one set of data to another, avoiding leaps of logic.
- Use conditional logic, so the chart type is appropriate for the conclusion needed.
- Usedrop shadow and alpha channel transparency effects to dramatize and emphasize.
Have superior control over:
- Axis labels. You can determine the decimal precision, scale range, andskipping you need.
- Color. Make your risers and markers contrast or blend with other colors as you see fit.
Take advantage of user-programmable:
- Lines. These can be free-floating or on any axis.
- Markers and labels. No matter where they are on the chart.
- Label names. If you want to get fancy, make them conditional.
- User-defined datasets. The ultimate in chart flexibility, and how many ways can you use this?
Are good charting and dynamic images burning needs in your reporting system? If users saw what you could do with these tools, they probably would be.
Some designers are reluctant to do much charting, because charts tend to obscure the data. That's a very good reason to do it, actually.
Unfortunately, most reports are just reformatted data. The report developer isn't thinking about providing actionable answers to business questions. This mentality is a holdover from the days where we were limited to writing queries and getting data in response. However, today's business intelligence tools are designed specifically to move past that.
The concept is that, by properly designing the report, you relieve the manager, executive, or other decison-maker from having to wade through data. A good report allows this person to see answer to key business questions. And usually at a glance. Especially where the designer understands the power of visual elements and uses the right chart types.
When users are exporting data into Excel instead of doing their jobs, your report has failed. It's as simple as that.
You might be able to dress up a data dump, but it's still a data dump. And it still wastes the communication power that Crystal Reports gives you. The typical report, being merely dressed up data, leaves nearly all of its potential value unrealized.
Suppose you walk into a car dealership.Do you expect the sales person to show you piles of car parts or to show you cars that are ready to drive? That's how data and information are so profoundly different.
To be truly useful, your reports must provide business information rather than business data. If they are merely intermediary data sources, they aren't truly business decision tools.
Avoid this mistake
You "could" use these tools to just reformat the data to fit a cool-looking chart type. Or you could dynamically includean image for no particular reason. Doing either of these is a mistake
Instead, begin by defining the goal of that particular report. Make that goal the central design criterion for the report. For example, suppose the purpose of the report is to show people which accounts havethe highest service cost over the past 30 days. Several of the graph types in CR Chart would clearly make these stand out. At a glance,managers will know which accounts they first need to focus on. Or maybe you would have the costliest accounts flagged with a dynamically included dollar bill image. Accounts that are in serious trouble might be flagged with an image of the Titanic.
You want the graphics to be useful, not just serve as eye-candy. They can, and should,clearly convey business intelligence points. In many cases, it's best to make the graphic the point of the report . If you take this route and still want to provide details, do that drilldown fashion with the .rpt file. We have Crystal Reports viewers if you need to implement this for users who don't have a Crystal Reports license. You can provide them one of our viewers, allowing them to enjoy full .rpt features without a CR license.