Crystal Decisions provides VS.NET with a familiar feel

Today Microsoft officially launches Visual Studio.NET, Crystal Decisions says with its VS.NET add-on, developers can turn business intelligence into Web services faster.

As Microsoft Corp. officially launches its Visual Studio.NET application development suite today at VSLive! in San Francisco, long-time partner Crystal Decisions is once again along for the ride.

Microsoft has dubbed Palo Alto, Calif.-based Crystal Decisions' interactive report-making environment, Crystal Reports, as its official .NET business intelligence Web services provider, and has bundled it with its VS.NET development package.

Crystal Reports product manager Jesse Sims said a developer can use Crystal Reports to create a graphical description based on any data source in the Visual Studio environment. From there, the graphic can then be offered up as a Web service.

For example, a stock exchange could use Crystal Reports to display organization data, such as stock prices, on the Web as a graphical chart. Web surfers could then click on the chart, and "drill-down" for more detailed information or other charts.

Dan Vesset, research manager for analyst firm IDC in Framingham, Mass., said because Crystal's report-building environment is "baked into" Visual Studio, Crystal Reports can reduce the time developers would otherwise spend coding an application or Web service from scratch.

To turn raw data into a Web service, a developer first uses Crystal's report file creator, which finds and displays all available databases. After creating connections and specifying the applicable database fields, a developer then chooses how that data will be displayed (pie chart, bar graph, etc.).

"Then, once you've started your Web application (within Visual Studio), the only thing you need to do is select the Crystal Report file by right clicking on it, and select 'Publish as Web service.' It can take just one click to create it as a Web service," said Sims.

Since Crystal Reports has been a part of Microsoft's Visual Basic development environment since 1993, Sims said developers are already familiar with it. For that reason, the numerous other changes in VS.NET may be easier to adapt to.

"A lot of developers are trying to learn a lot right now. There're a lot of new bells and whistles in Visual Studio," said Sims, "but the same way they build their applications is the same way they can build Crystal Reports."

Microsoft could have chosen to develop its own reporting software for VS.NET, said Vesset, but it likely chose to continue its relationship with Crystal because Crystal is an established company and its products are widely used among developers.

Crystal Reports is included with Visual Studio.NET at no additional charge.

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