Crystal Service Packs – time to take a bit more notice

I’ve always thought that Service Packs for any product were a way of fixing bugs in software after release. If a software company wanted to introduce new features, they waited until the next full or point release. When I install software, I always patch to the latest Service Pack. I normally leave any in-between patches as they can introduce more problems than they solve due to less testing.

Following installation, unless a customer had a specific problem, I would always advise not to apply a new Service Pack. The thinking being that there’s no point fixing ten bugs that aren’t causing any problems, then introducing one new bug that breaks something important. The exception to all this has been security or compatibility fixes in a Service Pack, but they’re normally solved at the operating system or application server level.

Looks like I need to change my recommendations!

Last year (2012) there were some major changes in functionality for the Crystal products introduced through Service Packs. SAP have justified this by renaming Service Pack to Minor Release but as the installer still says Service Pack, it looks like marketing have been getting involved rather than there being any technical change.

Let’s take a quick look:

Crystal Server 2011 was released at Service Pack 2. Bit of an oddity, but due to being the same platform as Business Objects Enterprise. I seem to have missed Service Pack 3 (they were released thick and fast), but Service Pack 4 fixed a lot of the problems with the migration wizard. More importantly for the purpose of this post, the add-on for Mobile Solutions was made available. This had previously been available for the higher products, but not for Crystal Server. Dreadful name for the add-0n, but just meant you could use a native app for the iPad to access your Crystal Reports. This first release was very basic, just rendering an image of the report with none of the interactivity you expect with a Crystal Report.

This lack of interactivity was fixed with the introduction of Service Pack 5. Now I can start to get excited about the iPad app as it supports drill-down, interactive parameters, search and has a proper group tree. There’s no longer a need to send complicated opendoc links to users.

Sadly, none of this has been extended to Android users yet. The current mobile solution of Android doesn’t support Crystal Reports at all. I’m sure it’s on the way, let’s just wait for Service Pack 6 or 7!

On another note, if you do decide to install a Service Pack on Crystal Server, make sure you have all your custom configuration files saved somewhere safe. They disappear when the application is redeployed to Tomcat.

Crystal Dashboard (neé Xcelsius) had some mobile functionality added recently too. It seems strange that when I first started selling Xcelsius, its big selling point was the as it was flash based, most client computers could be used to view the dashboards! This all changed with the introduction of the iPad which is lacking flash. There are two options for application developers now – HTML 5 or a native application. I’m glad to say that SAP have gone for HTML 5 which will hopefully avoid all the issues of different functionality between platforms.

We’re not quite there yet – when you save a dashboard to Crystal Server, you have the option to ‘Save for mobile’. There are currently two caveats. The first is that not all the widgets are available, so some just won’t render. The second is that not all data access options are supported. I’m frustrated that Web Services aren’t there as it prevents use of the excellent Flynet. I guess that will be introduced in the future.

Crystal Reports for Enterprise Despite my initial reservations this product is rapidly improving. Graph support when you upgrade an existing rpt file is a bit odd, but other than that, I’m getting happier with every Service Pack. Native connections to databases (the important ones) has been around for a while now. The best bit about the native connections is that they’re stored centrally when you save the report to Crystal Server. That means that when you change your database password or connection information, you only have one connection to edit rather than every report.

I still wouldn’t recommend dropping Crystal Reports 2011 yet (could we call it Crystal Classic?), but I think it’s worth examining Crystal Reports for Enterprise ready for the next release.

Crystal Reports 2011. Sorry to get you excited, but there’s nothing going on here. Yes, we’re up to Service Pack 5, but it’s just bug fixes as far as I’m aware. I’ve no doubt I’ll still be writing Crystal Reports in 5 years (that’ll make 22 years of Crystal Reports for me), but we should all be preparing for the new kid on the block – Crystal Reports for Enterprise.

Where are they then? I had a strange discussion with my account manager the other day as I was struggling to find the Service Packs for Crystal Reports 2011. The initial response was that you had to buy an upgrade to get the latest Service Pack. Seemed a bit extreme given how frequently they’re being released, and how minor some of the changes are, so I persevered.

The Crystal 2008 Service Packs are available for download at

Crystal 2011 from here:

Crystal Dashboard is in there somewhere too.

For Crystal Server, you need to have a current support contract, then download from support .

Needless to say, if you’re struggling with this, and you’re a customer of mine, just give me a call and I’ll sort it out for you.

To end, a big thank you to whoever was reading my blog on Christmas Day. I salute your dedication to all things Crystal. There was also a lone reader on New Year’s Day. Possibly an accident induced by a hangover, but thanks anyway.

Happy New Year!

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