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
Export formats XLS, PDF, CSV, TTX, RTF, HTML, XML XLS, PDF, CSV
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.

7 thoughts on “Crystal Reports vs Web Intelligence

    1. dmytro Post author

      You can define a query filter as:

      Object = Prompt
      or 
      Object  Prompt

      In this way, you will have an answer to a prompt but the data will not be filtered on this value. The value can be used for some calculations. E.g. if we want to ask user if he wants to see figures in thousands.

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  1. Shobhit Acharya

    Not buying your comparison at all. Have been working as a BusinessObjects report writer and architecting BusObj solutions for the past 10 years. Crystal is so rigid and limited in its data presentation options. Just ask another developer if he sees a crosstab with summaries not derived from body, what he would do to create such a thing. Many of the points you raised are meaningless banter. E.g LAYOUT: Crystal has markers, rulers etc where as Webi does not. True, but completely meaningless. Webi report writers don’t use markers rulers, they use pixel level relative positioning. Another one “Web Intelligence is not flexible and it is difficult (sometimes impossible) to get precise layout” – Speculation and clear lack of experience working on WebIntelligence. This statement is true for Crystal and not Webi. Never met a layout requirement that can’t be met with Webi. Reverse, show me in your next blog how you could create a ‘sparkline’ based table in Crystal. Or how you could show 2 tables (i wont even try crosstabs) side to side with different aggregations i.e groups. Also – lets try creating a 4 panel – Panel 1 Sales by Quarter, Panel 2 Sales by Customer, Panel 3 Sales by Month, Panel 4 Sales by Product. All 4 as tables without sub-reports.

    I could go on and on about other points, but you seem to favor a “de-centrallized” control of data. Just reading your “Upgrade and recovery” section makes me laugh. Easy to recover crystal report … deleting a Universe object impacts all reports (Ha ha – of course it should just as deleting your system dll would crash your PC). Anyway – Larger organizations have realized the importance of central data. Universes achieves that. Letting people go on their own merry path of creating connections and queries via crystal is probably the worst possible architecture that anyone could ever support.

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    1. dmytro Post author

      Hi Shobhit

      Thank you for your opinion. Personally I am also biased towards Web Intelligence. However I believe you agree there are requirements that are easier to implement in Crystal and not so easy in Web Intelligence (and of course vice versa).

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  2. KrisMaly

    Please note a correction on Data Source for WebI Reports in 4.0 onwards is as below:

    — No Data Source
    — Universe
    — Bex Query
    — Analysis View

    To verify the above
    Login in to BI Launch Pad
    Click on the WebI Document
    Click New
    System displays the dialog box with above Data Source Options

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