Book Review: Crystal Reports .NET Programming
by Brian Bischof
review By Peter A. Bromberg, Ph.D.

Peter Bromberg

" In any bureaucracy, paper work increases as you spend more and more time reporting
on the less and less you are doing ." --

I've known Brian Bischof for several years now, and even though we've never met personally, we correspond regularly. Over this period I have come to respect Brian both for his abilities and for his advice. That's why I was excited to see Brian carry through so masterfully on an almost abandoned project to write a book about Crystal Reports, that anathema which has accompanied Visual Studio for quite some time now.

As Brian states on his web site, "This book was originally being written for Apress. When the economy took a nose dive they cancelled my contract. I got frustrated and put the entire book online for everyone to read. The first two chapters were free and the remaining chapters required a free registration. After getting 18,000 registrations during the first year, I decided to finish the book. Yes, I'm self-publishing the book instead of using a large publisher. After working many, many months and spending a lot of money, I finished the book and got it printed. The book is being sold on and at The retail price is $34.95. I hope that it benefits you and your colleagues."

Brian not only completed his book project, he became an expert at custom self-publishing to boot, and proved to me that anybody with a real drive to succeed can take control of the entire publishing process and pull off a real coup de grace.

Crystal Reports .NET Programming finally provides .NET developers with a real, usable resource for harnessing that strange Crystal Reports add-on that appears in the installation options for Visual Studio.NET, and to use it effectively to deliver real enterprise-level reporting solutions for their clients. This is the kind of material that should have been included with Visual Studio.NET, but wasn't.

Brian's book is divided into two parts. Part I is geared more toward beginners. The author takes you through installation, designing reports, and all the bells and whistles involved in "getting comfy" with Crystal Reports. After getting the basics and actually designing your first report, you will move on to grouping and sorting data, calculating totals, adding subreports, and connecting to data sources. Bischof presents critical information on methods and properties in both table and narrative form in such a manner as to make this not only a valuable learning tool, but an excellent reference book as well - one that you will want to keep handy on your desk as you work. The book's index is also well laid out and makes it easy to find critical information easily.

Part II of Crystal Reports .NET Programming is for advanced developers. It carefully lays out the undocuimented Report Object Model so that you can "get under the hood" of how reports are actually designed and created. Bischof shows us, among many other details (some of which I am sure cannot be found at all, except in this book), how to do runtime customization to integrate reports with ASP.NET pages, Winforms apps and even Webservices. For those who are upgrading to the full product, he show us how to use the RDC (Report Designer Component) and the RAS (Report Application Server).

Brian got a lot of feedback during the creation of this book, some from me and plenty of other people. He had selected chapters of the book at his special site and you can still download a free Ebook there. The full paperback, 530 pages of detailed, professional instruction on Crystal Reports for .NET from A to Z, lists for $34.95 and is worth far more, in my opinion. Thanks to Brian Bischof, developers should never again fear walking in the "Valley of the dreaded Crystal Report for .NET". The book's original run sold out so quickly, it's now in its second printing.

Peter Bromberg is a C# MVP, MCP, and .NET consultant who has worked in the banking and financial industry for 20 years. He has architected and developed web - based corporate distributed application solutions since 1995, and focuses exclusively on the .NET Platform.