Deciding on a Reporting Package



I am trying to write a paper that compares and contrasts
different reporting tools/architectures. Does anyone know
of any good web sites or other resources that present pros
and cons of different reporting options? For example, we
have a SQL Server 2000-based system and we may possibly
want to use Excel and VBA, or use Excel and its automation
interface, or use Access reports, or use a 3rd party tools
such as Crystal Reports.

And help and/or information would be greatly appreciated.

Bryan Martin

Last I heard Access is dieing. I know mrsft has been pushing MSDE for
replacing access. Personally I would look at crystal rpts for all new

Marshall Barton

Bryan said:
Last I heard Access is dieing. I know mrsft has been pushing MSDE for
replacing access. Personally I would look at crystal rpts for all new

Hogwash! Access is a UI development tool for all kinds of
database engines, including MSDE (which, along with Jet, is
included on the Access CD).

Larry Linson

Last I heard Access is dieing. I know
mrsft has been pushing MSDE for
replacing access. Personally I would
look at crystal rpts for all new

I am sorry to say, Bryan, that you are sadly misinformed.

Access is the database software component of Microsoft Office. By default,
it uses the Jet database engine that is included with it and installed by
default. It also includes MSDE, which is separately installed, and it not a
replacement for either Access or Jet. MSDE is simply MS SQL Server with
deliberate limitations in size and performance.

Access itself provides the user interface for end users and software tools
for developing database applications, using either Jet, or MSDE, or as a
client to one of many ODBC- or ADODB-enabled server databases. Access is
strong, healthy, and has a future.

It is the Jet database engine that is now "in maintenance mode", not being
enhanced, but it is still supported and Stephen Sinofsky, Microsoft's EVP in
charge of Office has publicly stated that it will be supported in new
versions to be released through approximately 2005 or later. It would appear
that replacement of Jet as a default database engine is related to the
anticipated replacement, in a future version of Windows, of the current file
system with a file system based on SQL Server -- so that no separate DB
engine would have to be installed and it would be as seamless as installing
Office is now.

The people I know who are competent in both Access reporting and in Crystal
Reports have, without exception, told me that they find Access reporting
preferrable to Crystal in ease of use and equal or better in capability. I
have seen some impressive reports done with both, but nothing that I think
would be a compelling reason to use Crystal instead of Access -- unless the
reports were being generated in a web-based environment where Access reports
couldn't be used.

Access has connectivity to server databases second to none, so I see no
reason why it would not be a highly desirable tool, even if it were _just_
used for reporting. But, in addition, it can be used to create user
interface clients for those same server databases, single-user standalone
databases, and multiuser database applications which no "reporting software
tool" can do.

Larry Linson
Microsoft Access MVP

Allan Thompson

There are many options out there, but I am not aware of any web site that
evaluates and compares all of them (and believe me, I've looked). includes a lot of articles about data management and some
reviews, but not necessarily product comparisons.

It would help to narrow the focus. Are you are interested in OLAP (the use
of data cubes for ad hoc analysis) or other ad hoc reporting tools? If
your interest is OLAP, there are published reports (for a price) that
compare the tools. Or is your interest in a tool that could be used for
creating standard production reports? Do you want to make the reports
available through an intranet/internet? I have kept links to a number of
vendor's web sites in my Favorites and would be glad to share them with you.

I agree with the other respondents that Access provides a very good
reporting environment. If you plan to use Excel, I would suggest it works
better as an add-on to a report writer than it does as a primary reporting

Allan Thompson
APT Associates/ FieldScope LLC
MS Office Automation / Measurement and Reporting Systems

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