SQL Server Reporting Services and Crystal Reports:
A Competitive Analysis

Copyright 2005, Brian Bischof

Exporting Reports

It's a fact of life that users want to do more than just read their data on a report. They want to export it to different formats for viewing within other applications. They also want to take that data and customize it using tools they are already familiar with (e.g. Excel). Both Crystal Reports and SSRS provide export functionality to different formats. The Crystal Reports export formats are much more extensive than SSRS; SSRS just gives you the essentials.

When exporting to PDF, the resulting file size of an SSRS generated report can be much larger than the size of a PDF generated by Crystal Reports. For example, a Crystal Reports PDF that is 300K in size can be over 1MB when generated by Reporting Services.

There are still many bugs in SSRS with exporting to Excel. Various problems occur for exporting multi-column reports, sub-reports, hidden fields, etc. Crystal Reports has improved dramatically over previous versions in this area. This is clearly a very complex process and just takes time for developers to keep working out the bugs (yes, even for Microsoft).

SSRS also has a useful exporting feature. SSRS gives you granular control over the export options of each report object. Within the SSRS designer there are DataOutput properties for toggling visibility, defining each value's name, and setting whether it is an element or attribute. This gives you full XML customization and affects other export types as well. Crystal Reports doesn't have this level of granularity for its XML output.

The following table maps out the export capabilities of each reporting tool.

FormatCrystal ReportsReporting Services
Excel SpreadsheetyesYes
MS MailYesyes
Basic TextYesNo
Excel Data OnlyYesNo
MS WordYesNo
Rich Text (RTF)YesNo
MS Smart TagsYesNo

< Prev Next >
Table of Contents
1. Executive Summary
2. Reporting Services Overview
3. Reporting Services Overall Impressions
4. Product Offerings and File Formats
5. Licensing Details
6. Connecting To Data
7. Securing Sites with Forms Authentication
8. Designing Reports
9. Passing Parameters
10. Exporting Reports
11. Subreports
12. Conclusion