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Every business needs reporting.

While your business systems may collect a large amount of vital data, you’re not always equipped with a reporting tool that will help you analyze it all. That’s where Crystal Reports can step in and help.

Crystal Reports offers a robust reporting application that can connect to virtually any database, spreadsheet, text file, or combination thereof. With advanced grouping and sorting, you can look at your data in creative ways to help you make smart business decisions.

A basic report from Crystal is typically thought of as static because its fields and filters stay the same each time the report runs. But, changes to the data are shown on the report.

When the connected data source is updated with new records, the report pulls the latest information. The data is often refreshed — typically upon opening the report — but the criteria to filter that data doesn’t change each time the report is viewed.

However, Crystal is equipped with a powerful featured called a “parameter field” that can be built into any report to give it some flexibility. A parameter field allows the user to change the criteria of a report each time it is opened, by either choosing new values for the parameter or picking from a dynamically populated list of values.

For example, an “Orders” report may look at your customers and all of the orders they make. You are constantly changing the order date values of the report to see the previous week’s sales. In a basic report, you would have to go into the filters and change the date range. Using a parameter field for the order date, you can enter in a new date range each time the report opens. Your report becomes reusable for the following week with no additional work necessary.

Parameter fields can also be populated dynamically in Crystal Reports. The parameter can look at the values of a field and give you a dynamic list to choose from. If you wanted to see a report for an existing customer, you can use a dynamic parameter to show you a list of customers to choose from. This dynamic feature is ideal in this case, as it is easy to misspell a customer name and miss the the proper results.

The parameter field is one of many advanced features of Crystal Reports that I teach all of my students at the Digital Workshop. By mastering these types of Crystal Reports features, you will be able to create reports like never before for your business.

[Originally posted in the Coloradoan on 5/22/14]