Crystal Reports is capable of inserting charts almost anywhere the user likes, and the choice of chart type is nearly as wide as in Microsoft Excel. The main difference is, the chart has to be inserted before choosing chart type, layout specifics, and formatting. Though this can be a little daunting at first, it’s not really too different from the way other programs employ them.

One key element, generally, is to make sure the chart can be as self-sufficient as possible. As in programs like Excel, and rather unlike PowerPoint, a chart in Crystal has to be pretty self-sufficient, since we don’t know whether someone can email to ask questions about it. And mostly, users shouldn’t have to. So labeling, choice of chart type, and so on are always important.

Charts location

Another is, when inserting charts, to make sure to select the field one wants to chart first. Crystal looks for this. The chart can actually go in any part of the report, but usually works best in a header or footer area, especially the report header. Putting a chart in the Details section of the report gets a chart for every record, and this is not frequently needed.

Charts components

There are a few items which could be considered necessities when building charts. Unchecking the Auto-Text checkbox in the Text tab of the Chart Expert, and possibly one or two others there, to allow adding more meaningful titles, will help. Making sure every element of the chart is labeled in some fashion is a good thing, as long as it isn’t cluttered with (seemingly) dozens of bits of text. Formatting the charts’ axes properly (showing dollar-sign formatting for sales numbers, for example) may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s so obvious we miss it.

And interestingly, some people mention that a chart legend is not always necessary, or even helpful. If the chart can have labeling which would make a legend redundant, one can easily uncheck Show Legend under the Options tab of the Chart Expert to remove it.

Charts labels

One apparently lesser-known trick is to format one element, such as the labels one can put on columns or pie wedges. Left-click a single number-type label, then right-click it, and use the Format Data Labels command to specify the particulars, such as the labels’ locations or appearance.

The overarching point is to do a little planning on this in advance. What should we chart? Why? (Very important question.) Where should the charts go? And by implication, what level of data are we showing charts for? The key thing is to make sure the chart serves the purpose of clarifying the data, not drawing attention away from it and/or confusing the reader.