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Crystal Reports 2008 Gains Some Pizazz

Business Objects is having quite a month. Its quarterly numbers are due on October 24 and it's in the middle of a $6.7 billion merger with SAP. But that's not slowing the firm down. It's shipping the first new version of Crystal Reports in three years.

This latest version, Crystal Reports 2008, is getting a pretty big upgrade and includes a number of features designed to make reports less static and more interactive. Thanks to technologies such as Adobe Flash and Flex and BO's own Xcelsius technology, reports are about to get a lot more showy.

"While reports are good, we wanted to change the way people interact and consumed reports," James Thomas, vice president of BI content and tools for Business Objects said to InternetNews.com. "So we put a lot of work into the consumption of the report itself and added features that make reports much more visually appealing."

One of the new elements is that it's easier to do "what-if" types of projections. This is done through the Xcelsius technology which had previously been sold as an add-on to Excel to do the same thing in a spreadsheet. It allows users to change some variables to do hypothetical projections.

This is all done within the report itself, so there is no need to run several scenarios with different numbers and then print out multiple copies showing how things change with each set of variables.

Backing up the "what-if" feature is the Flash support, which allows for actions to be taken. For example, it's possible to fiddle with multiple inventory scenarios and, once a course of action is determined, initiate the plan directly from the report. "What we wanted to do is tie reports to more of a business process to make reports actionable," said Thomas. "So if you have a list of inventory you can order more from within the report."

Reports can be displayed in a number of formats, including PDF. BO added XML exporting so the report can be rendered and deployed in numerous industry standard formats that read XML. They can be read online, offline, within applications or on-demand by saving reports directly to crystalreports.com.

Because it's available online, BO changed the layout so it's no longer restricted to just 8.5"x 11" presentations, the dimensions of a sheet of paper. For Web reporting and viewing in online applications, the report can be resized to any dimension.

Crystal Reports 2008 is expected to be generally available in November 2007 at a suggested price of $495. More information can be found at the Crystal Reports 2008 Web site.