Published: 28 Jun 2007
By: Asif Sayed
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This article will show you how to report on XML data with Crystal Reports and 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 the data source? Well, sure, you might be wondering how to do that? Is it even possible? Well, with help of this article I’ll show you how to use the XML data source and report on it using CR.

I assume the reader has basic understanding of the Visual Studio (VS) 2005 IDE and Crystal Reports. You should also be comfortable writing code in C#. 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! Put in simple words, XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It is an initiative by W3C to allow the exchange of information. XML is easy to understand by both humans and computers. The 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 them between the UNIX and the Windows platform. The data inside an XML file is presented with user defined tags. Following is the partial listing from the sample XML file which I am using in the demo:

As you can see, each <CD> tag is equivalent to a row with information related to a CD. Furthermore, each column is uniquely identified as a tag. You can learn more on XML here. All right, let’s start with our demo and see how easy it is to report on XML data with CR 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 windows Start button -> All programs -> Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 -> click on icon Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. You may have others ways to lunch the IDE, such as clicking it on your desktop and so on.

  1. Click on menu File -> New-> Project… or you can press the hot key Ctrl + Shift + N (please see Figure 2)
  2. From New Project dialog box select -> Visual C# -> Windows
  3. From Templates select -> Windows Application
  4. Please give a name to the application; I’ve called the project as “XMLCRReport”. You may choose a different location for storing the application files as per your preference. Please see Figure 2 for illustration of the naming process.
  5. Click on OK button to finish the process. VS 2005 will create a new project and add Form1 to it as default.

Figure 2: Process to create New Windows Application Project

Note: You can always access the menu View -> Toolbox or press Ctrl + Alt + X, to make Toolbox window visible. To get the maximum space on designer surface, you may like to use Auto Hide feature of Toolboxes.

Let’s set the properties of the Form1 according to Table 1. In case the property toolbox is not visible in IDE, you may hit the F4 key to make it visible. Pease make sure to select Form1 before applying changes to properties using the property toolbox.

Table 1: Properties of Form1

TextReporting XML data using Crystal Reports

Step 2: Let’s add CrystalReportViewer to Form1

Crystal Report Viewer (CRV) control is needed for us to show the report to the user. Report Viewer gives life to your reports. Not only it lets you preview the output; it also allows you to generate the information in 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 CRV to the 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 CRV with the name crystalReportViewer1. You can name it as you prefer; I’ll stick with the default.

After the 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 the data to CRV, I’ll show you here the DataSet technique. So, let’s go ahead and add a DataSet to the project. The following step is needed to have the DataSet added to the project:

Select Add -> New Item -> DataSet from Solution Explorer. Change the name from DataSet1 to 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 DataSet. A DataTable is essential to load the reporting data; we’ll use the information from the DataSet/DataTable while designing the report. The following step is required to have DataTable added to DataSet (dsCDCatalog):

Double-click on dsCDCatalog from Solution Explorer; this will open the designer view. Right-click the designer surface and select Add -> DataTable. Click the header and change the name to dtCDCatalog (see the Figure 4).

Figure 4: Add DataTable to DataSet

Let’s start adding columns to the DataTable (dtCDCatalog). Your designer screen should look like Figure 5. Right-click on dtEmployee and select Add -> Column to start adding the columns to the DataTable.

Figure 5: Add columns to DataTable

Repeat the action for the following columns:

  • Title (String)
  • Artist (String)
  • Country (String)
  • Company (String)
  • Price (Double)
  • Year (String)

As you are adding the columns, the default data type is string. Go to the Properties windows after selecting a column to change it from string to Int32. After you are done with adding columns, it should look similar to Figure 6.

Figure 6: DataTable after adding needed columns

So far we’ve created the project, and added a CRV and a DataSet. It’s time to work on the report. Following are the steps required to add 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 “As a Blank Report” option and click the OK button to complete the process to add report.

By default, you will see that rptXMLData.rpt is open for you in designer mode and its default setting. For this example I’ll make use of only Page Header and Footer. I’ll reduce the height of 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

Adding a report to the 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 the report writing. That is, the header, the detail, and the footer.

Typically, reports are designed with specific page size and layout in mind. Our report is Letter size and Portrait layout. You can explore 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 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.

Header Section

Our header section is consists of five Text Object, two Line Object and one Special Field. Please drag and drop Text Object and Line Object from Toolbox -> Crystal Reports. You can drag and drop the “Print Date” 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

Footer Section

Footer section is simple; just one special field and one LineObject. As you’ve done with the header section, you can drag and drop a LineObject from Toolbox -> Crystal Reports. Similarly, you can drag and drop “Page N of M” special field from Field Explorer -> Special Fields -> Page N of M. Please see Figure 8 and make sure the Footer look similar.

Detail Section

The Details section of the report will have the CD Catalog list details. Now the question is: From where will we get the data? Well, as you know, at the beginning we added a DataSet to this project. We will use this DataSet as the source of data for our report.

Adding a DataSet as source of data for 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, the Database Expert dialog box will appear. You can click on Project Data and expand the node ADO.NET DataSet. Please select the dtCDCatalog DataTable from our DataSet and click on “>” button to move it to selected tables section on right-hand side (Please see Figure 9).

Figure 9: Adding DataSet as report data source

Once the report source is specified, all we have to do is drag and drop the fields from DataTable inside Detail section on report designer surface. You can drag and drop all the fields from DataTable starting with “Title” from Field Explorer inside the details section.

As you drag and drop the fields inside the detail section, you’ll notice that the title of the field is also added to report designer. Since we’ve already taken care of 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 report design layout

That’s it. This is what we need for the design part. Now let’s write some cool C# code to bring our report to life.

Step 5: C# interface code

All right; we got all we needed as report design. Please make sure to have following C# code behind Form1.cs:

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 solution; building 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. If all goes well then you report output should look similar to Figure 1. If you face any issue, then I’d advice you to validate all the steps and try again.


As you can see, presenting XML data using Crystal Reports is easy and straightforward. A small tweaking can bring value to the quality of data presentation. Thank you for reading. As always, I’m looking for comments and suggestion. Feel free to drop them at

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About Asif Sayed

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Subject Author Date
placeholder report is coming empty Jas jas 11/5/2009 7:33 AM
RE: report is coming empty Sonu Kapoor 11/5/2009 11:42 AM
placeholder Reporting Sotwares for Database Program William Devore 5/19/2010 12:19 AM
Reporting Sotware for Database Programming William Devore 5/19/2010 12:20 AM
placeholder Crystal Report with XML data source Jaypee Huda 9/15/2011 9:56 AM
Link Down Crash Marcelo Abarno 7/17/2007 9:28 AM
placeholder Good Article Ooi Eric 8/13/2007 10:02 PM
Help needed ..Thanks Ooi Eric 8/13/2007 10:04 PM
placeholder Help needed ..Thanks Ooi Eric 8/13/2007 10:04 PM

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