Just a quick note to say I'm still using Crystal Reports pretty much 90% of my work-days this week (counting making the SQL to run the reports), and I'm going to take back half of the bad things I've thought and said of it. That half would be the reporting half.

It's much much easier to turn your SQL into a report in Crystal than it is in ASP/vbscript, VB, or in an Office application with automation. The stock reports aren't bad, they are perfectly aligned for your 8.5"x11" paper, and the bulit-in translators to pdf or html or Excel aren't too shabby. Slapping a Crystal Report onto a VB6 form is quite easy with Crystal automation, and the Seagate site has an example project that makes it as easy as cutting and pasting (and modifying just slightly) some code.

The "data entry" side stinks, however. Never, ever, ever use Crystal Reports to actually put together a report. Use the Crystal SQL Query designer to paste in some SQL you wrote in a text editor or isql client, turn that into a query, and then use that query to create a report. You can even access a stored procedure that returns a result set directly from the report designer as if it were a simple table. This, of course, means you can use cursors, even external applications if you want to get really fancy, and the sky's the limit for applying your SQL skillz. The bottom line is that you can get the report as close to perfect using just SQL and [your back-end of choice] and then let Crystal do the simple formatting and a few totals for you. And if you're using Crystal and you don't know SQL, well, start learning.

Speaking of isql clients, I've been using Squirrel SQL daily now to access a Sybase back-end via the JDBC-ODBC bridge. With the jEdit plugin (two links), Squirrel really becomes the best isql client I've ever used (which is nearly saying something, as I've been using SQL for over four years now). It's nice to move to a MS-sellout shop and to use a Java-powered, open-source client to run queries directly against their database. I might be using Outlook for email now, but I'm using the Squirrel to get real work done.