Now that the foundation of our report is complete, it is time to focus on how to improve the form and aesthetic appearance of the report.
By modifying various object properties, the presentation value of the report can be greatly improved. In doing so, you will be using the Format Editor to access a variety of specific properties, such as fonts, borders, colors, and alignment. The Format Editor is a commonly used dialog to quickly and easily modify all report objects, and its contents are reflective of the specific object type being formatted (text, chart, database field, and so on). To explore these formatting capabilities, follow these steps:
- Continuing with the report from the chapter's earlier exercise, return to the Design tab of your report and right-click on the report title text object (located in the Report Header section) and select the Format Text option from the list, as shown in Figure 6.7. This opens the Format Editor dialog.
Figure 6.7. The Format Editor dialog is accessed from the right-click pop-up menu on most Crystal Reports' objects.
- The Format Editor dialog (displayed in Figure 6.8) enables you to set and adjust a variety of properties of the object. For this exercise, navigate to the Font tab of the Format Editor and select the Bold font style, a font size of 14, and a font color of Red. Also, select the Paragraph tab of the Format Editor and choose Centered from the Horizontal Alignment drop-down list.
Figure 6.8. The Format Editor dialog provides for quick and easy access to a variety of report object properties.
- Now select the Border tab from within the Format Editor and then select Single from each of the four border Line Style drop-down lists (left, right, top, and bottom). Under Color, click the Background check box and select Yellow from the drop-down list as the background color. Based on all of your selected properties in the Format Editor, you should now see a representative example of the text object in the Sample area at the bottom of the dialog box. Click OK to save these settings and return to the Design tab on your report.
- To improve the effectiveness of your report, you can modify the database field column titles to provide more meaningful descriptions for the business users of your report.
Working within the Design tab of your report, double-click on the Phone object in the Page Header section of the report. When the cursor's focus is on this object, you can delete, append, or update the text as you choose. Modify this text to read Telephone # and then click anywhere outside the object to remove the cursor's focus from the object.
As an alternative to the Format Editor, you can also use the toolbar and menu commands to quickly apply common formatting techniques, such as font and alignment characteristics.
- From the View menu, select Toolbars to present the Toolbar dialog. Make sure that the Standard, Formatting, and Insert toolbar items are all selected and click OK.
- Click on the Preview tab to see a preview display of what the report will actually look like. Again, if the Preview tab is not displayed in the application, click the Refresh toolbar button to execute the report. From the Preview mode, hold down either the Shift or Ctrl key on your keyboard and click each of the five column titles so that they are all highlighted with a dashed perimeter. With all five columns title fields highlighted, click the Bold toolbar button, represented with a large bold letter B on the formatting toolbar. See to Figure 6.9 to see the results of this action.
Figure 6.9. Common formatting properties can be quickly specified via the formatting toolbar commands (such as font styles, font size, colors, borders, and so on).
- With the five column title fields still highlighted, click the downward arrow located on the Font Color toolbar button, represented with an underlined letter A on the formatting toolbar. Select the bright blue color from the available list, as shown in Figure 6.9. Lastly, remove the contact prefix for the name fields and increase the size of these column titles to font size 12 with either the font size drop-down box or the A+ increase font size button. The fields might need to be stretched vertically to fit the new font size but can eventually be made to look like Figure 6.9.
To make the E-mail field appear more meaningful to the business users of the report, let's format the E-mail database field values to resemble and behave like standard hyperlink text.
- To remove the cursor focus from the five column titles fields, click anywhere outside these field areas or press the Esc (escape) key on your keyboard.
- Click any of the actual E-mail field values to highlight the E-mail database field objects and right-click on the same object to present the pop-up menu. From the pop-up menu, shown in Figure 6.10, select the Format Field item.
Figure 6.10. Right-clicking on any field object presents you with a list of commands for that particular object.
- Select the Hyperlink tab after you have opened the Format Editor. From the available Hyperlink Types, select Current E-mail Field Valuethis option automatically creates a hyperlink based on the values stored within this field in the data source assuming that these values are formatted as proper e-mail addresses in the data source, such as email@example.com.
You can use the Hyperlink tab within the Format Editor to create hyperlinks to a Web site, e-mail address, file, or another Crystal Report. A hyperlink is saved with your report and is available to other users as a way of linking to additional external information from your report. Hyperlink definitions can also be defined by formulas thus enabling context-sensitive, data-driven hyperlinksa very powerful feature of Crystal Reports.
- Now let's make the E-mail field appear as a standard hyperlink value, commonly known to have a blue underlined font style. Select the Font tab within the Format Editor dialog to apply the blue font color and select the Underline check box. Click OK to return to the report Preview, and then press Esc to remove the cursor focus from all report objects.
- Based on the completion of the previous step, your mouse pointer should now change into a hand icon as it floats over any of the E-mail field values on the report. This indicates that upon clicking on any of the E-mail values, you initiate an e-mail message to be sent to that address, as shown in Figure 6.11.
Figure 6.11. By applying an e-mail hyperlink, report end users can initiate a context-sensitive e-mail to any of the respective customer contacts.
By using the Format Editor, as well as the Toolbar commands, to modify report object properties, you have very quickly and easily enhanced your report's presentation quality. Not only did you enhance this report example visually, but you also easily incorporated hyperlink functionality to add an additional level of interactivity to your report.
For more information on using hyperlink functionality in reports, see Chapter 9, "Custom Formatting Techniques."