Crystal Reports vs Web Intelligence

Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence are two technologies from SAP BusinessObjects portfolio that provide possibility to build reports. Web Intelligence is a perfect tool for ad-hoc reporting. It is very easy to build report from a scratch even for a new user. However when the requirements are too specific, when it is necessary to build in a sophisticated logic or when a precise formatting is required, the simplicity becomes too restrictive and the reports turn into a terrible mix of miscellaneous tricks. In this situation, Crystal Reports is much better choice. Below is a technical comparison of Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence written by my colleague Maria Ruchko, an expert in both these technologies.

Crystal Reports

Web Intelligence

Data Source Crystal Reports can use universes or access a database directly. Some advanced features of universes (such as contexts) are disabled in Crystal. Database Direct connection and Universe cannot be used together. Web Intelligence can only use universes.
Prompts Report data not necessarily must be filtered by the prompt value. Prompts’ Lists of Values can be defined in the report. Default value can be calculated. Prompts within reports must be used for filtration of data (this restriction can be overcome but some tricks must be used). Lists of values are based on the database values. Customized or calculated lists of values require placing prompt into Universe (which means universe customization). Default value cannot be calculated. Current Date cannot be set as default in Date prompt.
Layout Many tools are available for work with layout  (rulers, guidelines). It is also very flexible because formulas can be used for determining position of the fields, suppression of rows etc. Especially good for working with single table reports. If report has more than one table, subreports must be used which might affect performance Web Intelligence is not flexible and it is difficult (sometimes impossible) to get precise layout, very difficult to get flexibility based on parameters (e.g. showing dynamic number of columns). Not a problem to place more than one table within the report.
Development Crystal Reports Designer license and Crystal Reports Writer are required to develop and modify reports. Reports can be developed or modified using Infoview or Webi Rich Client.
Viewing Reports can be viewed and scheduled in Infoview Reports can be viewed and scheduled in Infoview
Development Time It takes longer to develop simple report in Crystal Reports than Web Intelligence, but complex reports development time is more predictable (no need to invent tricks). It is easier to implement complex logic. Simple reports can be developed on fly if there is an intuitive universe. It takes a lot of time to develop a report based on a complex universe (to overcome restrictions of the tool). For complex reports it is sometimes easier to develop a customized universe specially for the report and put all logic in this universe.
Users Office employees who have to report in the same form (with some deviations which can be handled by parameters) or management for some standard reports or analytical reports (if manager’s are not technically qualified to build Webi reports or universe is too complex for understanding) Top management and executives, who use report for decision making (not for daily scheduled standard reports), want to make ad-hoc analysis, dig into data and decide what data they prefer to see in the report when they build it.
Notifications Crystal Reports can send an e-mail to users based on alerts, when report data meets some condition (e.g. if profit less than 0) The similar option is not available
Upgrade and recovery If a report is based on database directly (not using universe), upgrade can affect report only if database structure was changed. It is easy to remap fields though, which means that report can be recovered anyway. Universe changes may affect a report if an object used by the report is deleted. Sometimes it can be difficult or impossible to recover reports if the original universe was modified or removed by mistake.