Crystal Dashboard in a Flash-free world

By | 22nd August 2017

Hint: It involves HTML5!

I first used Crystal Dashboard (then known as Xcelsius) in 2004 or 2005. Back then, the fact that the dashboards were deployed as Flash files was a selling point. Flash was available on over 90% of clients and Adobe had great plans for further developing the platform.

Then, it all changed. The iPad ignored Flash to save battery life. Lots of users (myself included) blocked Flash by default in their web browser to turn off the annoying adverts. Then the security problems started! It’s safe to say that deploying anything outside your organisation using Flash is no longer viable.

So where does that leave Crystal Dashboard? SAP aren’t developing any further, but they are supporting it for the forseeable future (recent update improved support for recent versions of Office). There is a theoretical migration path to Design Studio (which itself is to become part of Lumira), but there’s a very different skill-set needed and there’s no file conversion available.

Assuming Crystal Dashboard provides all the functionality you need, the only problem is how to deploy. As the mobile client for Dashboards has been using HTML5 for years, it seems only sensible to reuse the mobile content. Tricky bit is getting to the HTML5 as there’s no option to ‘Save As’.

Here’s the step by step:

  1. You’ll need Crystal Dashboard installed (obviously). This has a dependency on Flash and Excel.
  2. In Windows Explorer, find your temp folder. Easiest way to do this is to type ‘%temp%’ in the address, press enter and you’ll be in the temp folder:
  3. Sort the temp folder into Date order by clicking the Date header. You need the most recent files at the top. This is where you’ll find the HTML5 shortly.
  4. Design your Dashboard (see lower down for HTML5 limitations).
  5. In the designer, preview the Dashboard using the mobile option:
  6. Go back to your Temp folder. A new folder should have been created. It will probably start with js:
  7. In the folder, you will find a file called ‘dashboard.html’ plus 3 subfolders.
  8. This folder is deleted when the preview is closed, so take a copy of the folder, subfolders and all the files inside.
  9. Open the dashboard.html in a browser. This is your fully functional dashboard.
  10. To publish, you save the files to a web server or simply store in a folder on your PC or network. The dashboard will work in any recent browser, including mobile browsers.

Limitations

  1. Some dashboard components aren’t supported at all. Some have slightly reduced functionality. Make sure you keep the ‘Mobile Compatibility’ window open. Refresh it after you add each component to avoid any problems:In the example above, the Value component isn’t supported at all. The Line Chart has a minor issue with mouse interaction. There’s a full list of what’s supported in the Dashboards help file.
  2. Not all Data Connections are supported: Only those with an asterix are supported. This limitation also affects Dashboards in Crystal Server and SAP BI that are being consumed by mobile devices. If you have one of the Server products, all Query Browser data sources are supported.
  3. Only the Nova theme is supported. Not a major problem as it’s the cleanest and most modern looking of the themes.
  4. Test different canvas sizes. It doesn’t resize, so it’s a good idea to work with a 1024×768 canvas for broadest support.
  5. Not all fonts are available in all browser. This is mostly an issue with iOS.

Some Good News

  1. You can freely distribute the dashboards even if they have a live database connection. This is a change from earlier licensing.
  2. If you have Crystal Server 2016, you already have all the design licences you need.
  3. If you don’t have licences, we sell for £380. Retweet this blog and it’s £375.

A Simple Sample

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