This article will show you how to report XML data with Crystal Reports and a Windows Forms client.
Figure: 1 – Example in run-time mode
Reporting on data sources such as MS Access, SQL Server, and Oracle is common with Crystal Reports (CR). How about XML as a data source? Well, sure, you might be wondering
how to do that. Is it even possible? Well, with the help of this article, I'll show you how to use an XML data source and report on it using Crystal Reports.
I assume the reader has a basic understanding of the Visual Studio (VS) 2005 IDE and Crystal Reports. You should also be comfortable writing code in C#. A basic understanding
of XML schema and ADO.NET is desirable.
What is XML Data?
Before we see the demo, let's get to know what XML data is! If I can put it in simple words, XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It is an initiative by W3C
to allow the exchange of information which is easy to understand by both humans and computers. Information stored in XML format can work on cross platform scenarios.
For example, if you have information in XML format, it is easy to share between the UNIX and the Windows platforms. The data inside an XML file is presented with user defined tags.
Following is a partial listing from the sample XML file which I am using with this demo:
As you can see, each
<CD> tag is equivalent to a row with information related to CD. Further, each column is uniquely identified as a tag. You can learn more
on XML from here: http://www.w3schools.com/xml/xml_whatis.asp.
All right, let's start with our demo and see how easy it is to report on XML data with Crystal Reports and Windows Forms.
Step 1: Let's Create a Windows Application Project
If VS 2005 IDE is not already started, then you can launch the IDE by clicking on the Windows Start button -> All Programs -> Microsoft Visual
Studio 2005, click on the icon Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. You may have other ways to lunch the IDE, such as clicking a desktop shortcut, and so on.
Please do the following steps to create a Windows Application Project:
- Click on menu File -> New -> Project…, or you can press the hot key Ctrl + Shift + N (please see Figure 2).
- From the New Project dialog box, select Visual C# -> Windows.
- From Templates, select Windows Application.
- Please give a name to the application; I've called the project "XMLCRReport". You may choose a different location for storing the application files
as per your preference. Please see Figure 2 for an illustration of the naming process.
- Click on the OK button to finish the process. VS 2005 will create a new project and add
Form1 to it by default.
Figure: 2 – Process to create a new Windows Application Project
Let's set the properties of
Form1 according to Table 1. In case the property toolbox is not visible in the IDE, you may hit the F4 key to make it visible.
Please make sure to select
Form1 before applying changes to the properties using the property toolbox.
Table 1. Properties of Form1
|Reporting XML data using Crystal Reports
Step 2: Let's Add CrystalReportViewer to Form1
The Crystal Report Viewer (CRV) control is needed for us to show the report to the user. Report Viewer gives life to your reports. It not only previews the output,
it also allows you to generate information in the various popular formats (PDF, Excel, etc.). You can also take a hard copy print of the report while you are viewing the output.
You can add a
Form1 as follows:
- Make sure
Form1 is currently open in designer.
- Drag ToolBox -> CrystalReports -> CrystalReportViewer and drop it on
Form1. This step will create a new instance of
with the name
crystalReportViewer1. You can name it anything; I'll stick with the default.
After step 1 and step 2, your project should look similar to Figure 3.
Figure: 3 – Form1 designer surface after adding CRV
Step 3: Add a DataSet to the Project
Although there are different ways you can get data to a
CrystalReportViewer, I'll show you here the DataSet technique. Let's go ahead and add a
DataSet to the project.
The following step is needed to have a
DataSet added to the project:
Select Add -> New Item -> DataSet from Solution Explorer. Change the name from
dsCDCatalog and click the Add button.
Please cancel the TableAdapter Configuration wizard; we'll add a
DataTable using the DataSet Designer.
Let's add the
DataTable to our newly created
DataTable is essential to load the reporting data; we'll use information from
DataTable while designing the report. The following step is required to have a
dsCDCatalog from Solution Explorer; it'll open the designer view. Right-click the designer surface and select Add -> DataTable.
Click the header and change the name to
dtCDCatalog (see Figure 4).
Figure: 4 – Add DataTable to DataSet
Let's start adding columns to the
dtCDCatalog). Your designer screen should look like Figure 5. Right-click on
dtEmployee and select Add -> Column to start adding columns to the
Figure: 5 – Add columns to DataTable
Repeat the action for the following columns:
- Title (
- Artist (
- Country (
- Company (
- Price (
- Year (
As you are adding columns, by default they will be the
String data type. Go to the Properties window after selecting a column to change it from
Int32. After you are done with adding columns, it should look similar to Figure 6.
Figure: 6 – DataTable after adding needed columns
Step 4: Add a report to the project
So far we've created the project, and added a
CrystalReportViewer and a
DataSet. It's time to work on the report. Following are the steps required to add
a report (rptXMLData.rpt):
Select Add -> New Item -> Crystal Report from Solution Explorer. Change the name from CrystalReport1.rpt to rptXMLData.rpt and click the Add button to complete the action.
A dialog box of Crystal Reports Gallery will appear, select the "As a Blank Report" option, and click the OK button to complete the process to add a report.
By default, you will see the rptXMLData.rpt is open for you in designer mode and its default setting. For this example, I'll make use of only the page header and footer.
I'll reduce the height of the report header and footer. Typically, after all this, your report designer should look similar to Figure 7.
Figure: 7 – Newly added report in design mode
To add a report to a project is easy, the challenge is to fill in the empty report layout. Whether this is your first report or you are a reporting junkie like me,
we must deal with the most basic building blocks of report writing; that is, the header, the detail, and the footer.
Typically, reports are designed with a specific page size and layout in mind. Our report is Letter size and Portrait layout. You can explore the various properties attached
to the report layout by right-clicking anywhere on the open designer surface (gray area) and selecting Report and Design Properties.
It is always advisable to draw a prototype of your report on a paper before you start the design process. As you can see in Figure 1, we have the report name and report
date in the header section. The body section has the employee list information; the footer carries the page numbers.
Our header section consists of five Text Objects, two Line Objects, and a Special Field. Please drag and drop a Text Object and Line Object from Toolbox -> Crystal Reports.
You can drag and drop "Print Date", a special field, from Field Explorer -> Special Fields -> Print Date. You'll also notice that I've changed the color and font after placing
the report object on the designer surface. Please make sure your header looks similar to Figure 8.
Figure: 8 – Report header and footer
The footer section is simple, just one special field and one Line Object. As you've done with the header section, you can add a Line Object from Toolbox -> Crystal Reports.
Similarly, you can drag and drop "Page N of M", a special field, from Field Explorer -> Special Fields -> Page N of M. Please see Figure 8 and make sure the footer looks similar.
The details section of the report will have the CD catalog list details. Now the question is, from where will we get the data for it? Well, as you know, in the beginning, we added
DataSet to this project, we will use this
DataSet as the source of data to our report.
DataSet as the source of data to a report is easy. You'll start with right-clicking on any open area on Report Designer -> Database -> Database Expert… As a result
of this action, a Database Expert dialog box will appear. You can click on Project Data and expand the node ADO.NET DataSet. Please select the
DataSet and click on the ">" button to move it to the Selected Tables section on the right-hand side (please see Figure 9).
Figure: 9 – Adding a DataSet as a report data source
Once a report source is specified, all we have to do is drag and drop the fields from the
DataTable inside the Detail section on the report designer surface.
You can drag and drop the Title from Field Explorer inside the Detail section.
As you drag and drop the fields inside the Detail section, you'll notice that the title of the filed is also added to the report designer. As we've already taken care of the field header,
just delete the default added field header. Please make sure the final report designer layout looks similar to Figure 10.
Figure: 10 – Final repot design layout
Although the report design looks complete, we have not yet worked on the hierarchical functionality of this report. As you can see in Figure 1, all the employee names
should form a hierarchy based on the ManagerID association.
Step 5: C# interface code
All right, we have got all we needed as a report design. Please make sure to have the following C# code behind Form1.cs:
public partial class Form1 : Form
private void Form1_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
DataSet dsReport = new dsCDCatalog();
DataSet dsTempReport = new DataSet();
rptXMLData rptXMLReport = new rptXMLData();
crystalReportViewer1.DisplayGroupTree = false;
crystalReportViewer1.ReportSource = rptXMLReport;
catch (Exception ex)
Let's build and run the example
Let's build the project. You can build a project in several different ways if you just have one project in a solution; building the solution and project are the same.
You can click on the small green Play button on the main toolbox or hit F5 on the keyboard to start the application in run time. If all goes well, then your report output should
look something similar to Figure 1. If you face any issues, then I'd advice you to validate all the steps and try again.
You can see how simple it is to present XML data using Crystal Reports. Thank you for reading; as always, I'm looking for comments and suggestions.
Feel free to drop them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asif Sayed has over fifteen years experience in software development and business process architecture. He has a consulting firm in Toronto, Canada. His firm provides IT solutions to all sizes of industries. He also teaches .NET technologies at Centennial College in Scarborough, Ontario. Recently he has become member of team as a subject matter experts with Microsoft's Learning Division. He has a book published by Apress with the Title "Client-Side Reporting with Visual Studio in C#".