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BIRT at Eclipse Demo Camp Juno 2012

Posted by averma , 08 June 2012 - - - - - - · 16259 views

I was awarded a speaking slot at the Eclipse Demo Camp Juno 2012 next week on Wednesday, June 13 at Oracle HQ in Redwood Shores, CA. This is a great opportunity to network and learn about various technologies that makes Eclipse a great development platform. I will give an introduction to BIRT and talk about how you can integrate it into your applications. The event is completely free to attend and snacks and drinks are provided. Sounds like fun to me, are you in?

Cick on this link to find details and register for the event


Use BIRT to analyze cross tab data

Posted by averma , 30 May 2012 - - - - - - · 4444 views

If you have used Excel, you probably have used and liked the convenience of Pivot Tables to automatically sort, count and aggregate data displayed in a compact row and column matrix. Pivot Tables, also known as Cross Tab(ulations), helps you to analyze data and recognize patterns in it. While BIRT has been supporting crosstabs for a long time, in version 11 Actuate has added support to interact with a crosstab table and automatically create charts using just a web browser. The tool that enables this interactivity is called BIRT Data Analyzer and it is well integrated with Interactive Viewer.

A crosstab report leverages a multi-dimensional data structure called Cube that is optimized for analysis. A cube organizes data into Measures, Dimensions & Attributes and can be stored in BIRT Document or BIRT Objects (.data file) (See my earlier blog on BIRT Objects). You can launch up a cube stored in either format for analyses in Data Analyzer, take a look at the short video recording to see it in action:

See the above video in full screen.

Data Analyzer helps you discover trends and analyze information by providing the following features:
  • Add, remove or reorder attributes, dimensions and measures
  • Drill down display detail data or drill up to display summary data
  • Pivot the crosstab , which swaps the colums and rows
  • Sort data
  • Filter data
  • Display columns or rows that show aggregate data
  • Create a column to display calculated data
  • Choose from several chart types to display data
  • Export content to other formats (PDF, Excel, Word etc)
You can download the sample BIRT Object used in the recording from here. Working with Actuate BIRT Analyzer requires Actuate iServer, download an evaluation copy of Actuate iServer and give it a try.


Customize parameter collectors for your BIRT report

Posted by averma , 29 February 2012 - - - - - - · 4426 views

Both open source BIRT and Actuate BIRT has its default parameter collection mechanism. If a report design uses parameters, you are prompted to enter its values though an auto generated parameter collection screen. This default parameter collection screen works well for most common needs, however there are times when you want to provide your own parameter collection mechanism in a web page (as a part of your application) and display the results.

If you are using open source sample viewer you can achieve this by using viewer tag library. The Viewer tab library has three tags that helps define parameter entry page: param, parameterPage, paramDef. You can read more about these along with an example of tag lib usage here.

Actuate Viewer comes with JavaScript API client library (JSAPI) that enables creation of custom web pages in any (java or non-java) application. It has a separate class (actuate.Parameter) that handles parameters and parameter values. You can call class methods to download the parameters from the report and display them in the assigned <div> HTML element etc. If you prefer not to use this class and instead have your own mechanism to collect parameters, you can simply pass the collected parameter values to the report using actuate.Viewer.setParameters method call. e.g
Here is a link to my recent Devshare article with a couple of examples, one that uses actuate.Parameter class to display parameters and another that doesn?t. You can download the above example and run it with your own instance of BIRT iServer. If you don?t have BIRT iServer, you can download 45 day free evaluation copy and set it up in 15 minutes or less.


Publishing reports to BIRT onDemand made easy!

Posted by averma , 18 January 2012 - - - - - - · 4187 views

The latest release of Actuate makes it possible to publish your reports to BIRT onDemand directly from BIRT Designer. In addition to easy deployment you could now even browse and download deployed content from you onDemand Account. You no longer need to install any custom plugin to your BIRT Designer since the existing iServer Explorer plugin has been enhanced to support this new feature. This enhancement comes in the form of a "Profile Type" dropdown selection that enables you to choose between a onDemand or in-premise instance of BIRT iServer.
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To publish content to BIRT onDemand you would follow the same simple procedure as you used to before starting out with defining a new profile. Here you will need to specify web service URL, login credentials and server/volume information. Once the profile is established you can use simple drag and drop operations to export content from designer. Here is a video that goes over the entire process.
Sign up for BIRT onDemand and download BIRT Designer Professional for a 45 day free trial.


Enable Interactivity in your BIRT Viewer

Posted by averma , 19 December 2011 - - - - - - · 4552 views

BIRT Interactive Viewer(IV) is an end user tool that enables you to analyze and modify BIRT reports on the web using just your browser. It is implemented as a viewing service of BIRT iServer and can be turned on for all the reports or for each report. This article explores different ways this can be achieved.

You can enable IV for an individual report by selecting "Enable Interactivity" option when you launch Actuate BIRT Viewer as shown in the screen shot below:
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There might be cases where you may want to skip though the above step and enable interactivity for all the reports by default when they are launched. This can be achieved by setting the configuration variable "AutoEnableIV" to true defined in file "[Install Dir]\iServer\servletcontainer\iportal\WEB-INF\iv_config.xml". This configuration variable is defined for each role and so you will find multiple matching entries . Choose the role for which you want to apply this setting. Role "All" would enable this for all the users. This change requires a restart of BIRT iServer.

If you just want a specific report to open with IV enabled, and don't want to use the global approach described above, then you can add the following code to the individual report design in onContentUpdate handler method:
if (!this.getViewer().isInteractive())

Actuate JSAPI (AJAX-based JavaScript library) is another popular way of embedding BIRT reports within your composite web application and offers APIs to enable or disable interactivity. To enable it by default, use enableIV() API as a callback to submit() function call as follows (Download complete source code):

Learn more about Interactive Viewing or download BIRT iServer with Interactive Viewer for a 45 days free trial from here and experience its rich internet application platform.


BIRT goes Mobile!

Posted by averma , 01 December 2011 - - - - - - · 6745 views

A recent release of Actuate (version 11 sp2) now makes it possible to access BIRT content on mobile devices. This is made possible with all new iOS and Android based BIRT Mobile apps. Both are native apps and allows for BIRT content to be viewed on iPhone, iPad and Andriod Honeycomb tablet devices.

To view BIRT content on mobile, all you have to do is to install these apps and add subscription to your existing BIRT reports or reportlet (part of the BIRT report) in BIRT iServer as you see in this video. This will make your BIRT content available on the mobile device without requiring you to tweak the original BIRT design for mobile layout. While subscribing to BIRT content, you can also define report parameters if any and choose default settings for portrait or landscape form. The mobile viewer lets you browse most recent version of all available subscriptions, change report parameters and supports standard "pinch and zoom" controls.

You can download free evaluation copy of BIRT iServer here. BIRT Mobile apps are free and can be downloaded from iTunes and Andorid marketplace.


Make your dashboards more productive for your users

Posted by averma , 15 November 2011 - - - - - - · 6850 views

A typical BI user logs into the system to take a look at key performance indicators (KPIs) , do quick data analysis and make decisions based on the findings. A dashboard comes in handy for this purpose since it allows for grouping these KPIs together on a single (web) page. BIRT 360 already allows the users to create and manage (see how) many such dashboards and now you can even define default dashboard so that they can get started quickly and be productive from the first time they login. This enhancement is available in the latest release (Version 11 SP3) of BIRT iServer. Here is a video tutorial of how an administrator can setup a default dashboard for a new user.
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This new release introduces more than 40 major enhancements including DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server support for encyclopedia metadata, the ability to publish content to BIRT OnDemand using BIRT Designer Professional and new mobile support options. You can download and play with free evaluation copies of BIRT Designer Pro and BIRT iServer here.


Create interactive Salesforce dashboards with BIRT

Posted by averma , 30 October 2011 - - - - - - · 6941 views

Are you still pulling your Salesforce data in Excel to do analysis? Now there is a more efficient way to visualize your SFDC data using rich interactive dashboards. Actuate's new Dashboard pack for Salesforce comes with prepackaged sales and pipeline dashboards along with several BIRT reports and gadgets.
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The setup utility quickly uploads the necessary files to your on-premise BIRT iServer and you can start working with it right after. Here is a short video that goes over installation and gives a glimpse of what you can expect to see after you set it up.
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These dashboards and gadgets are driven by a sample BIRT data object as a data source that could easily be replaced with your own data objects. This can be done by editing datadesign files to provide your SFDC credentials and making necessary SQL modifications to adapt the data set to your SFDC data model. These datadesign files can then be scheduled to generate BIRT Objects at regular intervals within your BIRT iServer environment. The datadesign files and reports can be edited using BIRT Designer Pro, which supports all the features of open source Eclipse BIRT Designer and is compatible with reports developed with it. You can download and install free evaluation copies of BIRT Designer Pro and BIRT iServer from here.


Cut that waiting time

Posted by averma , 15 September 2011 - - - - - - · 4187 views

A typical report generation cycle involves fetching data from the data source, perform sorting, filtering and grouping based on report design logic before the report is rendered. This data processing can be quite resource intensive and for a large data sets might take a long time causing delays in making report available for viewing.
Actuate BIRT Viewer solves this issue by pushing down data operations to the database layer and starts rendering the report pages while is data is still being fetched. This feature is called Progressive Viewing and allows you to view first and consecutive pages while the report is still being rendered as opposed to waiting for all pages to be generated before a page can be viewed. In the latest release (11 sp2) this feature has been enhanced to decrease response time even further by allowing report design to specify if the data is already sorted. (See Video)
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A value of false means that BIRT engine will use the sort order of the incoming data and will not attempt to re-sort based on the group keys defined for the table. This helps minimize data processing and results in faster report generation.
The enhanced Progressive Viewing feature works with all out-of-box Actuate BIRT data source types as well as custom data source types based on the ODA (Open Data Framework)

Download your free evaluation version of BIRT iServer and give it a try.


Are you up for the challenge?

Posted by averma , 01 September 2011 - - - - - - · 4299 views

If you have extended BIRT in the past or are thinking of creating a new Data Access Adapter, adding a new Output format, Report Item or a Chart type, now would be a perfect time to cash-in your good work for a 32 GB iPad 2. Actuate announced a new worldwide contest to all BIRT developers that starts today and runs till October 15, 2011. The challenge is to take advantage of Eclipse BIRT open platform and create extensions to address even wider spectrum of applications possible with BIRT. Contest rules, details and some suggestions can be found here. I look forward to seeing some great contributions!

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