Business Objects Tips and Tricks for Web Intelligence Reports – October 2009

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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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16 thoughts on “Business Objects Tips and Tricks for Web Intelligence Reports – October 2009

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for your posts. But do alerters dont work on dims,i am able to do it. Need more clarity on your post.

    Vamsi Ch

  2. I need to take another look at this then. When I was working on a report at teh time of writing I was not able to get the format of any dimension to change when applying an alerter. Maybe I was up to late. I’ll check this again soon. Thanks!

  3. Hi,

    @Vamsi: Can you please tell me which versionyou are using

    Coz, as far as in my experience with webi – I have used webi in BOXI 3.0 and XI 2 but alerters don’t work with dimensions. It really irritates when you seriously getting on and it stops you.

    Vamsi if you can able to use alerters in BOXI, could you please let me know where you have used and how ?

    Thanks in Advance

  4. Hi Julian,

    I like that tip on the use of relative position, it really helps in aligning several reports (or several parts of a report)in a page. I used to have a hard time doing this before. Thanks.

  5. Hi,
    I have generated a report in a pdf format.
    That pdf has blank pages.
    The users doesnt want the blank pages
    At the report level how to delete these blank pages?
    I need to send the report in pdf without blank pages.
    Please advise….


  6. Hi Ram, before export I suggest you go through each page of the report using the “results” view in Java Report Panel. You should see those same blank pages and be able to discover their cause by analyzing them. Click around with your mouse on the blank page and you should find something. In some cases blank pages come from cells that are too long and spill over onto another page. Please update us on what you find.

  7. Ram, I just remembered that PDF export sometimes can make things a little bigger than they are otherwise. If my other suggestion doesn’t help, look to any report objects that touch the right or bottom borders. I have seen images grow by almost 30% when the PDF export is generated.

  8. is it possible to apply the sort on csv files in BOXIR3(If i want to export the report to csv file)

  9. Nice question. I have not looked at XI 3.1, but I can tell you that XI R2 was just a raw dump of the data cube so no custom sort definition possible.

  10. Hi Julian,

    One of the requirement from my users is to have a chart, with bar and line at the same axis.

    I have told them that we can have the same line and bar in one chart, but they will be in different axis.. they asked me to really look at it as they said they can do it in excel so why not in Webi?

    Appreciate if you know any tricks of tips?

    Thanks ,

  11. Hi Farra, Excel is trouble for BO developers and admins. It has become the standard and as a result users hold BO to it. To the best of my knowledge there are no tricks to accomplish what is asked. The chart modules are pretty much “untweakable”.

  12. This is possible in an indirect way. Create a Xcelsius chart using a Combination Chart with a QaaWS or BI Web Services as data connector. This allows a line and bar diagram to be plotted on the same axis. You can then embed the resulting SWF inside your Webi report. It is little tricky but achievable.

  13. I Have created a Horizintal table & have entered different Dimensions in each row. The issue is when I try to create a graph it shows the data only for the first row. Any way I can get the graphs for all the rows?

  14. Hi Anand, you say you “have entered different dimensions in each row”. I am not sure I understand what this means. Normally you have different dimensions in each column, so I assume you are using a horizontal table. If so, then how many columns does your table have? If it only has one, then you will only get that in your graph. Graphs expect data that have multiple entries, not multiple dimensions. Any graph, to be useful in Business Objects, or even Excel, will need to have at least two points of data. For example, if you are looking at sales orders you could have the dimensions of month and region. You would also need a measure, such as revenue. Now, if you only have one record in your table then you can’t graph that in any meaningful way. If you do have lots of records then you might choose to make a simple crosstab, with region on one axis and month on the other. Now you could turn that into a bar/line graph that makes sense and provides value.

  15. Any way to export the contents of a table to .csv. Exporting the contents of the data provider is nice, but I have concatenated some things and need the results in a .csv. Excel or .PDF are not viable options, I need it in .csv. Exporting to Excel then saving as .csv is available, but not optimal.

  16. Sorry Don, as far as I know this is not possible in XI R2 or XI 3.x. I am not sure about BI 4.0, I haven’t tested this there.

    If you build your concatenation into the object at the universe level then you would be able to see it exported in the CSV. Of course, this would be true of any other modifications or aggregations; if they come from the SQL then you will be able to see them in the CSV.

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