Happy Halloween to all. I am going to try to start publishing short to medium length lists of my favorite tips. These have helped me a lot over the years and I think if I just try to jot them down as I use them I can end up with a fairly decent list of Business Objects tips and tricks that I can post with some kind of regularity.
- Use the “View my documents…” preferences setting of “fullscreen browser window”: There are actually two options and I believing that I am a power user, prefer to use the “in multiple fullscreen browser windows, one window for each document” option. If you don’t use one of these “fullscreen” options you are probably working less efficiently than you would otherwise. Do yourself a favor and try this tip out!
- Save New Versions Often: For many years, in full client (a.k.a. Desktop Intelligence) and in Web Intelligence Report creation and modification I have regularly used the “Save As” option every time I make a change that is just a bit more complex than a few formatting changes. I use the technique of starting with a base report name and then appending the date numerically to it. I don’t get down into a numerical representation of the time as it would be tedious I just use letters, starting with “a”. For example, the first version saved off today would be saved as the name “My Awesome Report 20091029a”. Doing the date and the letters in this format allows for simple alphabetical sorting within the InfoView or CMC object list. Later if the report becomes corrupt, or my great idea causes a huge mess I just start stepping back in version until I find the last known good one.
- Relative Positioning of Tables, Charts, and Cells: If you haven’t yet used this feature then your report design must be rather limited or just simple. I relatively position all of my tables, charts and cells. Always. Even if there is just one table on the report table I use relative positioning to get teh table exactly where I want it in relation to the page margins. Many times I am mixing tables, cells, and charts on the same report tab/page and I use relative positioning to make sure they never bleed together and that they are always spaced the same no matter how much data I pull in. My favorite trick is to create multiple tables and relatively position them to look like a single table. This is great when trying to make BO’s reports look and feel like the business user thinks they should.
How do you do this Business Objects magic trick. Easy, just click on the table, chart, or cell until you see a border around the object with a very small checkered pattern (with tables you need to click the border, with the other just click the object anywhere). Then right-click (with table, right-click the border) and select “Position”. Then your choices are flexible: horizontal, right and left, and vertical, top and bottom. Each one allows the space to be defined in pixels (px). Experimentation will pay off in allowing to to create some very professional looking reports and possibly even satisfy some otherwise impossible business requirements!
- What you see is not always what you get: For 98% of the components of a report what you see in the Java Report Panel is what the users will see in the regular HTML viewer they will use to open, refresh, and view the report. But there is that 2% that is not really quite the same (I just picked a low number, don’t quote me on the number). Most notably the prompts; they do not work exactly the same. Date prompts have different controls and selected dates in the HTML viewer will append the time to the date.
- Where is my data cube? What exactly was returned by the query?: Open the WebI report in the HTML viewer and click on Document > Save to my computer as… > CSV. The output will include all of the data from each query. The first query’s data followed immediately by the second query’s data ans so on. This is a good way to check things out without any concern about whether a BO table with all of the query objects is actually aggregating the query’s data when you don’t want it to.
- Cross-tab tables with totals in the first column: OK, this is nitpicking, but I keep finding business requirements that specify the totals should be in the first column and then the cross-tabbed data. Try to do this and you will find yourself in cross-tab hell. That is unless you click on the last dimension on the left and then add a column after. You just added a column in the “dimension” zone and now you can throw a measure variable in it. However, be prepared to format the column quite a bit to get it to look like a measure column; by default it will inherit the formatting given to measures.
- Alerts don’t work on dimensions: Yeah, this one sucks. I try about once a year to get an alerter to allow me to manipulate a measure in the header, for example create borders around quarters. It won’t do anything. Alerters are intended to bring attention to or apply condition formatting to measures. The alternative is to come up with some compromise involving semi-complex variables using the dimension objects.