Crystal Reports Charting Fundamentals
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by Jeff McWherter
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Working with Axes

After you have selected your chart type and the data that you would like to include in the chart, you have the ability to modify the axis settings. On charts where data is listed on the different axes, having the ability to set minimum/maximum values, format of the number and how the data is divided in the axes can help the look of how the data is rendered to be more simplistic.

Figure 4: The Chart Expert Axes Tab

The Charting Expert contains features that allow you to modify and format the chart legend and any text on the chart, such as the title, subtitle or footer. Options that are more specific to the chart type will also appear under the options tab. Figure 5 is an example of the options screen for a pie chart. You will notice options in the "Customize settings" region that allows you to set the size of the pie and also detach pie slices.

Figure 5: Chart options specific to the chart type

The Charting Expert is not the only place to create settings for a chart. If you right click on the chart and select "Chart Options," you will be presented with a dialog that allows you to set more options that are specific to the type of chart that is being rendered. Notice in Figure 6 that you are able to "Explode" the pie chart. This feature allows the pieces of the pie chart to be separated.

Figure 6: Chart Options Dialog

Chart Templates

Newer versions of Crystal Reports support the ability to use Chart Templates. Chart Templates are similar to the Report Templates feature included in Crystal Reports XI and 2008. Crystal Reports provides a set of built-in templates that you can use to format your report. The built in templates include options to solve many formatting issues. Situations, such as rendering data with grey scale colors, rendering data in larger fonts to adhere to accessibility standards, and also a template to organize a chart that has a large dataset, are included. The advantage of chart templates in Crystal Reports is that you can use a user defined template. User defined templates are great if you have worked hard to format a chart to meet style requirements or need to adhere to a corporate standard. After you create styling for the first chart, you can save the template (templates are saved as 3tf Chart Template Files) and then use the template to format other charts. Style components such as font, font size and colors are inherited from the selected template.

Figure 7: Selecting a chart template

Chart Expert Color Highlighting

The Charting Expert allows you to select which color will be used for the data that it represents. The "Color Highlight" tab found on the Chart Expert allows you to select a data point and set the exact color that you would like this data point represented in.

Figure 8: Setting the color of specific data

Beyond the Default Crystal Reports Charts

Crystal Reports 2008 is a robust tool that satisfies the reporting needs of many businesses. However, some companies may find the charting features included in Crystal Reports 2008 incomplete and may be looking for additional features. For years in the developer community there has been an outcry for better charting functionality. Crystal Reports 2008 has responded and extends upon the existing Crystal Reports functionality, but there are still gaps for some companies. Sometimes having the ability to add shadows or having the ability to add more intense image features to charts helps give a report the style that it needs.

There are many third party controls that will allow you to pass a set of data to the control, set a few options and the control will render a chart. Controls, such as .net Charting and Dundas, provide a very powerful API to create charts that are both complex and stylish. Most of these third party charting controls have the ability to save the chart as an image such as PDF, PNG or JPG. Since Crystal Reports XI, the Dynamic Image feature has allowed us to set the path of an image dynamically, and therefore, allows us to include charting images from 3rd party controls.

The chart in Figure 9 is a pie chart that was created in Crystal Reports 2008. Someone who is familiar with the business domain that this report was created for would be able to look at this chart and have a good idea of where their customers are located. This chart contains all data that is needed for someone to get the job done, and also looks aesthetically pleasing.

Figure 9: Pie chart created with Crystal Reports 2008

The chart in Figure 10 represents the exact same dataset, but has more pizzazz. The chart in Figure 10 was created using a 3rd party control for .NET called .NET Charting.

Figure 10: Pie chart created with 3rd party control .net Charting

It is not in the scope of this article to cover exactly how each of the third party charting controls creates the chart, it is merely important to be aware of this pattern. Figure 11 creates a chart image (a PNG file) from a set of data and then saves the chart as a PNG to the disk.

Figure 11: Code to create a pie chart with .NET Charting

public string GetChartPath(ref Chart chart)
  string tmpRtn = string.Empty;
  // set the title, legend box and label options
  chart.Title = "Customer Regions";
  chart.TitleBox.Padding = 10;
  chart.TitleBox.Background.Color = Color.LightBlue;
  chart.TitleBox.Background.GlassEffect = true;
  chart.TitleBox.Background.Bevel = true;
  chart.LegendBox.Background.Color = Color.LightBlue;
  chart.LegendBox.Background.GlassEffect = true;
  chart.LegendBox.Background.Bevel = true;
  chart.XAxis.Label.Text = "Regions";
  chart.YAxis.Label.Text = "Count of Customers";      
  chart.Width = 800;
  chart.Height = 600;
  // set the chart type options
  chart.Use3D = true;
  chart.Type = ChartType.Pie;
  chart.ChartArea.Background.Bevel = true;
  chart.ShadingEffectMode = ShadingEffectMode.Three;
  chart.DefaultSeries.DefaultElement.Transparency = 20;
  chart.DefaultSeries.DefaultElement.ExplodePieSlice = true;
  chart.DefaultSeries.DefaultElement.ShowValue = true;
  chart.DefaultSeries.DefaultElement.ShowValue = true;
  // set the charting data
  return chart.FileManager.SaveImage();

After you have rendered the chart image, you need to get the path where the image was saved to the report. The easiest way to do this is just pass the chart image path with the set of data you are using to render your report. When the chart image path is included in the dataset, you can easily grab the path to set the dynamic image.

Figure 12: Code to add the chart path to a dataset

DataSet chartData = new DataSet();
DataTable chartTable = new DataTable(); 
// build the chart and set the image path to the ChartImagePath field
chartTable.Rows.Add(new object[] { 
GetChartPath(ref chartCustomers) });

Adding a dynamic image to your report

Follow the steps given below to add a dynamic image to your report.

·         Add an image to your report.

·         Right click on the image and selecte "Format Graphic."

·         On the "Picture Tab," Click the formula button (X+2 button).

·         Create a formula to pull the chart image path from the dataset.

Figure 13: Graphic location

Figure 14: Graphic location formula

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User Comments

Title: i agree andy!   
Name: Pooja
Date: 2011-02-26 12:24:52 PM
you mentioned every comment, but you could have went little more indepth.
like i had problems in understanding the working of various things in data tab, bt u did not explain anything in detail.
Title: Yes, but documentation is rather poor   
Name: Andy Foreman
Date: 2009-07-17 10:23:34 AM
Your article on Crystal Reports 2008 charting was very good, and very honest too. However, two things you did not mention are rather important...

1 - Documentation for Crystal 2008 is overall, rather poor. Although they give you the basics, the inevitable detail questions that popup are not covered. For example, I did a chart on Crystal 2008 where some of my formulas were available for the chart, while others were not. Why? I have no idea - its not documented and indeed the documentation suggests that ALL formulas can be used, but in fact, they cannot. And that leads to...

2 - Support for Crystal is well, horrible. You have to go through SAPs web forums and if you have ever visited the SAP web site - well, there is an example of a web site run amock! You submit a question there and if you are lucky, you will get an answer a day or so later - sometimes not at all.

Amazing to spend this much money for Crystal and they cannot provide good documentation or support.

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