Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crystal Reports : Drawing Attention to Summaries

The Crystal Universe, indeed the reporting universe can be condensed into two brutal distinctions; Lists of Stuff and Information About the Lists of Stuff.

An example of "Stuff" in this context could be a list of Activities, a list of Customers, a list of anything. An example of "Information about the Stuff" would be a summary, i.e. how many Activities, how many Customers.

The point I'm trying to make here is that there are really two types of Report Consumers (those who receive and act upon Data Reports); the ones who need the list of Stuff (to make calls, perhaps) and those who need the Stuff Summary (management, say).

So when you're writing a report, this means you should have two audiences in mind. There is the worker bee, who lives and dies by their list of calls to make. There is also the queen bee, who needs to know what's happening with these calls in order to plan for the future of the hive.

Here are some easy but effective ways to structure the cosmetics of a report to service both audiences simultaneously.

1. Use Boxes. (Insert | Box) It might sound stupid, but the simple usage of a box drawn around a block of Summary information can help management quickly flip through a report to glean it's information.

2. Use Indentation. In those cases where you are providing a list of records (and Grouping them), don't be afraid to Indent the "meat" of the report and leave the Group Headers left-justified to provide an outline-like look.

3. Use Different Font Sizes. Nothing looks worse and is harder to read than a report with 100% identical fonts and font sizes. Using different sizes and shapes of data on your report allows you to provide structure to an otherwise maddeningly boring list of words.

4. Consider Using a Separate Page for Report Summaries. In cases where Management and Sales care about vastly different things within a report, completely separate them. Force a page break before the Report Footer and reserve it for the Management "dashboard" of the report.

This may seem like much ado about nothing. But Real Estate is always at a premium within the Crystal Designer, and these simple tricks can help you maximize readability without sacrificing usability. Try it!

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