Reporting Program Advice/Recommendations

Crystal Rouse
Crystal Rouse used Ask the Experts™
I am researching the best Reporting Programs out there to fit our needs.  I've used both Crystal Reports and Cognos - years ago (I know they've changed).
I need to be able to connect to our database and allow users to create their own reports.  Of course I would want to create some and publish those to our website.

Any recommendations on the best programs out there (that don't cost a fortune) to configure and get something out there for our users?  I don't need something that is going to take
me months to get reports available.
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Professor of MIS at Penn State Erie and Owner, Millet Software
I prefer solutions that combine Crystal Reports with 3rd-party Crystal Reports tools. But as a developer of such tools, I'm biased.
See list of 3rd-party Crystal Reports tools here:

Most of these solutions allow users to partially "modify" existing reports via parameters that control aspects such as filtering and grouping.
And some of these solutions allow you to provide users with automatically refreshed Excel Pivot Tables or Data Visualization tools that allow them to create their own reports/visualizations on top of the data curated via existing reports. But I would advise you to rethink the idea of letting users create reports from scratch.
Dean ChafeeIT/InfoSec Manager

Microsoft PowerBI has become one of the leading tools, more for visualization but reporting as well.

The desktop tool is free, but it costs to publish to their cloud service, or have your own on-prem server.  You can create from the tool and distribute with other free methods.
Mike McCrackenSenior Consultant
Most Valuable Expert 2011
Top Expert 2013

I tend to agree with Ido.  I have used Crystal for many years and find it to relatively easy to create reports.  Without 3rd-party tools like Ido mentioned, it will be relatively difficult to publish reports to a website unless your hosts its own website since Crystal does require installation of a runtime.

SInce you seem to be using SQL Server (from the topics selected) have you considered MS SSRS?

I agree with Ido that allowing the general user to create their own reports is probably not in your best interest and with many tools will not really be possible since they need to have the tool installed on their machine.


in case of SQL Server I would use the reporting services. The user can create own reports and publish them if he uses the Business Intelligence Studio (a kind of light version of Visual Studio, but easier to use). Also the developers can prepare reports, they can also be prepared to call each other using drill-down efects, the user can select filters and there is already a ready web frontend available out of the box to select reports, execute them, filter them, drill-down and change other settings. The user can also create notifications so he gets automatically an email with a new version of the report whenever he wants it (i.e. daily). That reporting service is completely free, it can also be installed for SQL Server Express.

Power BI (the desktop version) is also a good tool, but not so easy to prepare the data in a way that it can be maintained if you do not use Windows authentication on the SQL Server. But it is easier to use for an end user as it is possible to do many things just with some clicks and drag&drop, for example depending charts which automatically refreshes and many things more. For a classic report like data lists and so on I would say Reporting Services are better, they also of course support charts, but not just as easy as with PowerBI.

I don't know Crystal Reports or other solutions so these are the only two I can say something about.



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