A crystal report is one created by the software application Crystal Reports. This application is designed to generate reports from a wide variety of sources of data. It became widely used thanks to its inclusion with Microsoft Visual Studio.
The main selling point of the software used to generate crystal reports is the extremely wide range of data it can work with. Some of the common sources include spreadsheets from software such as Microsoft Excel, plain text files, and data from collaboration and sharing applications such as Lotus Notes. The software also works with many types of databases including Btrieve and Microsoft Access.
Another type of data compatible with the software is XML files. These are similar to the HTML files used to create the simplest web pages. However, whereas HTML coding solely controls the way content appears on the page, XML is able to define what type of information is in the content. This makes it much easier to manipulate content across multiple pages or sites.
The second main advantage of the crystal report software is that it uses a graphical interface. This means that the user can use her mouse to set up connections between different sets of data. The user can also view and try out different layouts for the final report that the software generates.
Arguably the main reason that so many people choose to produce a crystal report is that the software is bundled with a variety of Microsoft products. These include early editions of Visual Basic and now Microsoft Visual Studio. This is a tool used mainly for creating Microsoft-compatible applications.
Several different companies have produced the crystal report software. Initially, it was the work of Crystal Services Incorporated, which is the source of the name, although the software was initially known as Quik Reports. The company was then taken over by Seagate Software and renamed Crystal Decisions. In turn, this was bought out by Business Objects, which itself was taken over by German software giant SAP in 2008.
The software is now so well established that the format is widely recognized. This has led to a number of associated businesses. For example, several training firms run seminars on the best way to produce a crystal report. There is also a wide range of books and manuals that discuss how to use a crystal report within particular types of business.