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  1. #1
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    Alternative to Access (XP)

    I'm a great fan of Access, but I've been asked to look at alternative report writer that we could embed into our main product.
    One I've seen is Stonefield Query. Has anyone done a comparision of it with Access <img src=/S/question.gif border=0 alt=question width=15 height=15>
    Also are there any other products <img src=/S/question.gif border=0 alt=question width=15 height=15>

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    *shudder* Crystal Reports.
    <font face="Comic Sans MS"><font color=blue>~Shane</font color=blue></font face=comic>

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    What are your misgivings about Crystal Reports? I ask because we are trying to learn CR--it appears our new PeopleSoft program uses it.

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    ... Although familiar with crystal reports, I am a fan of Cognos. Give them a look. They have a report writer that works well but I prefer to use powerplay / transformer in creating and viewing data as data cubes. Typically use access as a front end to pass the data for analysis. The more data, the better.

    HT
    Regards,

    Gary
    (It's been a while!)

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    Is your application written in Access or are you just using Access to store the data? The Access report generator is one of the best around. <img src=/S/shrug.gif border=0 alt=shrug width=39 height=15>
    Charlotte

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    And certainly one of the cheapest !

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    I use Crystal Reports a lot. The editor is not so friendly as Access (Modal dlgs instead of modeless in Access) but it is very powerful with what one can do with it.

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    Charlotte,
    the current application(s) are written in Access, with some local tables, but mainly linking to an Oracle database

    Agree, I really like Access, but I'm getting pushed for an alternative, factors like :-
    - independent of Office version,
    - ability to provide the reports via the web (both intra and internet),
    - reports as a web service (don't get me wrong, I like web services)
    - simple ad-hoc user report designer, with which they can customise their reports
    -- Oh and this simple designer should allow users to change/add parameters, sorting & grouping, layout of report, etc.
    I did suggest a little program I know called, now what was it ..... oh yes, Microsoft Access, but they didn't bite <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

    I think a lot of this is being driven by our sales & marketing people, who've seen some nice things, but there is just me who does the Access side, so they come up with "neat" ideas, which can be a LOT of work

    Also many thanks to the rest with their suggestions. I've taken a quick look at Crystal (as part of Visual Studio .NET) and Active Reports.NET
    - the plus for Active is the end user designer is royalty free
    - the plus for Crystal is it's used in a lot of places

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    Oh, yes indeed, I know about marketing types! <img src=/S/crazy.gif border=0 alt=crazy width=15 height=15> A lot of our product design is driven by what the customers "might" want and what would be "really neat" to offer them. However, we do not let them change the application. They're welcome to link to the tables and design their own reports and they can export most of our reports (the ones without graphics) to Word or Excel and play with the data there. They have all sorts of ways to select parameters for the reports, but they don't get to design or redesign their own ... at least not within our application. <img src=/S/evilgrin.gif border=0 alt=evilgrin width=15 height=15>

    Why independent of Office version? An Access runtime is independent of Office version, and that's what we distribute. <img src=/S/shrug.gif border=0 alt=shrug width=39 height=15> The web stuff is what currently makes marketers salivate, but they don't have the least clue as to what's involved. <img src=/S/sigh.gif border=0 alt=sigh width=15 height=15>
    Charlotte

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    My feeling is, everything is being driven by the need for new sales
    - which is interesting when a recent report highlighted the fact that it cost 5 times as much to get a new customer, as to keep an current customer <img src=/S/exclamation.gif border=0 alt=exclamation width=15 height=15>

    The office independence is partly driven by the company concerns, as the Office versus Star Office debate rages amongst our customers,
    - should we provide reports in both Office and Star Office (no, please, no <img src=/S/crazy.gif border=0 alt=crazy width=15 height=15>),
    - or do we provide in an independent format, thus my enquiry about alternatives to Access

    Also my own concerns over the possible support issues if e.g. I went with say Office XP and distributed the run time.
    What effects would there be with clients who've got full versions of either Office 97 or 2000 already installed <img src=/S/question.gif border=0 alt=question width=15 height=15>

    Web stuff, yeap, absolutely dripping <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>
    - that said, I'm really taken with the web deployment of a thick client with .NET, seems to be the best of both worlds, I can give them a nice thick and juicy client, but the deployment is just point at a web page.

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    We've been distributing runtimes for years without problems. You have to plan ahead and make sure you put the runtime files in their own folder and avoid using ActiveX controls that might conflict with earlier or later versions installed with Office and you need to avoid using any features that rely on other Office apps or make sure that the application is smart enough to turn those capabilities off if the other apps aren't there. If you're using any email capabilities in your app, you have to take extra pains to make sure it will keep working in spite of security patches, presence or absence of the CDO library, etc.

    You also need to invest in a good 3rd party installer like Wise or InstallShield and the SageKey scripts to go with them. The packaging wizard that comes with Office developer isn't flexible enough or intelligent enough to keep you out of trouble. If you're using Access security, you need to be sure the mdw file has a unique name so it won't overwrite or conflict with and mdw files already on the target machine.

    As for Office vs StarOffice, if your company wants to build something that will work in both, are they willing to invest in the training (and time) required to teach someone new programming languages or to hire new people and bring them up to speed in your products while the debate still rages? Are they willing to build and maintain two different versions of the application to cover all the bases? If that's their intent, then they'd better stop doing "research" about alternative report generators and start overhauling their programming department. <img src=/S/hairout.gif border=0 alt=hairout width=31 height=23>
    Charlotte

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    I've had a quick look at Crystal in Vis Studio.Net and it seems to be a really cut down version of the full blown product. (It was a very quick look).

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    Oh by the way with Crystal reports. Users can customise their reports (if you supply that functionality) but you may find you have/ought to purchase extra licences for them to use that functionality.

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    Charlotte,
    very much appreciate the pointers.
    Not sure which of the installers we have, I think it's Wise. I've seen comments about SageKey, all pretty positive.
    As to overhauling, well I've not got much hair left anyway but I'm with you on the <img src=/S/hairout.gif border=0 alt=hairout width=31 height=23>

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    Re: Alternative to Access (XP)

    I've not had any programmatic experience with CR; only as an end user, and supporting other end users, for other people's products. In that capacity, I've never, and I mean never, seen a stable, user friendly implementation of Crystal Reports. Granted, it may be that I've just never come across a product whose development team was up to the task, but...
    <font face="Comic Sans MS"><font color=blue>~Shane</font color=blue></font face=comic>

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