BIRT: A Field Guide [NOOK Book]


More than ten million people have downloaded BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) from the Eclipse web site, and more than one million developers are estimated to be using BIRT. Built on the open source Eclipse platform, BIRT is a powerful report development system that provides an end-to-end solution–from creating and deploying reports to integrating report capabilities in enterprise applications.


The first in a two-book series about this exciting technology, ...

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BIRT: A Field Guide

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More than ten million people have downloaded BIRT (Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools) from the Eclipse web site, and more than one million developers are estimated to be using BIRT. Built on the open source Eclipse platform, BIRT is a powerful report development system that provides an end-to-end solution–from creating and deploying reports to integrating report capabilities in enterprise applications.


The first in a two-book series about this exciting technology, BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting, Third Edition, is the authoritative guide to using BIRT Report Designer, the graphical tool that enables users of all levels to build reports, from simple to complex, without programming.


This book is an essential resource for users who want to create presentation-quality reports quickly. The extensive examples, step-by-step instructions, and abundant illustrations help new users develop report design skills. Power users can find the information they need to make the most of the product’s rich set of features to build sophisticated and compelling reports.


Readers of this book learn how to

  • Design effective corporate reports that convey complex business information using images, charts, tables, and cross tabs
  • Build reports using data from multiple sources, including databases, spreadsheets, web services, and XML documents
  • Enliven reports with interactive features, such as hyperlinks, tooltips, and highlighting
  • Create reports using a consistent style, and, drawing on templates and libraries of reusable elements, collaborate with other report designers
  • Localize reports for an international audience

The third edition, newly revised, adds updated examples, contains close to 1,000 new and replacement screenshots, and covers all the new and improved product features, including

  • Result-set sharing to create dashboard-style reports
  • Data collation conforming to local conventions
  • Using cube data in charts, new chart types, and functionality
  • Displaying bidirectional text, used in right-to-left languages
  • Numerous enhancements to cross tabs, page management, and report layout
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780132657242
  • Publisher: Pearson Education
  • Publication date: 2/23/2011
  • Series: Eclipse Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 794
  • Sales rank: 548,538
  • File size: 37 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Diana Peh, Nola Hague, and Jane Tatchell are members of the extended BIRT development team and have backgrounds in both computer science and technical writing. Collectively, they have many years of experience in technical consulting, training, writing, and publishing about reporting, business intelligence tools, and database technologies.

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About this book

BIRT is a powerful reporting platform that provides end-to-end reporting solutions, from creating and deploying reports to integrating report capabilities into other enterprise applications. Two companion books, BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting and Integrating and Extending BIRT, cover the breadth and depth of BIRT's functionality.

Using BIRT Report Designer's rich set of tools, report developers can create many reports, simple and sophisticated, without programming. This book teaches report developers how to create reports using the graphical tools of BIRT Report Designer. Report developers who want to go beyond the graphical tools to customize the report-generation process or incorporate complex business logic in their reports should read the second book, Integrating and Extending BIRT.

This second edition, newly revised for BIRT 2.2.1, adds updated examples and covers all the new and improved product features, including cross tabs and OLAP cubes, new chart types, web services as a new data source, new report output formats, the capability for reports to reference Cascading Style Sheets, and the localization of report parameter and data values.Who should read this book

This book is intended for people who have a basic need for reporting. You need not be an expert at creating reports nor do you need years of programming experience. Familiarity with the following subjects, however, is useful:

  • HTML, for formatting report content
  • SQL, for writing basic queries to extract data from a database for a report
  • JavaScript, for writing basic expressions to manipulate data in the report

This bookprovides many examples of formatting with HTML, and writing SQL queries and JavaScript expressions, but it is not designed to teach you HTML, SQL, or JavaScript.Contents of this book

This book is divided into several parts. The following sections describe the contents of each of the parts.Part I, Installing BIRT

Part I introduces the currently available BIRT reporting packages, the prerequisites for installation, and the steps to install and update the packages. Part I includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 1, Prerequisites for BIRT. BIRT provides a number of separate packages for BIRT Report Designer as downloadable archive (.zip) files on the Eclipse web site. Two of the packages are stand-alone modules and another requires an existing Eclipse environment. This chapter describes the prerequisites for each of the available report designer packages.
  • Chapter 2, Installing a BIRT Report Designer. BIRT provides two report designers as separate packages, which are downloadable archive (.zip) files on the Eclipse web site. This chapter describes the steps required to install and update each of the available report designers. The chapter also shows how to troubleshoot installation problems and install a language pack that provides localization support.
Part II, Getting Started

Part II provides an overview of the report creation process and introduces the report design environment. Part II includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 3, Learning the Basics. This chapter presents fundamental concepts of reporting and provides a tutorial. Report developers learn that the report design process begins with a paper and pencil sketch of the proposed report layout and continues through specifying data, laying out the report, formatting, previewing, and testing. In addition, this chapter orients the reader to the software. To accomplish that objective, the chapter provides a tutorial that walks the reader through a creation of a complete report.
  • Chapter 4, Planning Your Report. This chapter explains the planning process in greater detail. Planning is essential to creating effective and efficient reports. A thorough understanding of user requirements and objectives makes the development process smoother and achieves better results. This chapter discusses the types of requirements and other information that a report developer should consider when determining how to set up, format, and distribute a report.
Part III, Accessing and Binding Data

Part III discusses the tasks necessary to connect to an external data source, extract, and prepare data for use in a report. Part III includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 5, Connecting to a Data Source. Report data comes from many different information systems. An important step in developing a report is ensuring you can connect to a system that provides data. This chapter explains how to access data in JDBC databases, text files,
  • Chapter 6, Retrieving Data. Data sources typically contain more data than is needed in an effective report. This chapter explains how to define data sets to retrieve only the data required for a report. Specifically, this chapter describes retrieving data from JDBC databases, text files,
  • Chapter 7, Binding Data. The data sets you create retrieve the data you want to use in a report. Before you can use or display this data in a report, you must first create the necessary data bindings. A data binding defines an expression that specifies what data to display. This chapter explains how to create and manage data bindings.
Part IV, Designing Reports

Part IV describes the tasks that a report developer completes to design reports using BIRT Report Designer. Part IV includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 8, Laying Out a Report. A report developer places and arranges report data on a page to determine how report users view the information. This chapter provides an overview of the layout model and describes the report elements that BIRT Report Designer provides for organizing and displaying data. This chapter also describes techniques for creating report sections and placing report elements.
  • Chapter 9, Displaying Text. Much of the information in any report is textual. Textual information can be static text or values derived from data set fields. Text can be as short as a single word, or span paragraphs or pages. This chapter describes the different types of textual elements that BIRT Report Designer provides, and how to use each type of element.
  • Chapter 10, Formatting Report Content. Formatting different types of data within a report improves the clarity and visual appeal of the report. This chapter describes many formatting techniques, including how to change the display of dates, numbers, or currency values, format report elements based on conditions, and adjust the spacing between report elements.
  • Chapter 11, Sorting and Grouping Data. Almost all reports require that a report developer structure the data that comes into the report. Grouping and sorting are two ways of structuring data to ensure that the critical relationships among various pieces of information in a report apparent to the report user. For example, a report developer can use grouping and sorting with sales data to organize the data by region, then by office, and finally by sales representatives. This chapter also includes a tutorial.
  • Chapter 12, Aggregating Data. One of the key features of any report is the ability to display summary, or aggregate, information. For example, a sales report can show the overall sales total, sales subtotals by product type, region, or sales representative, average sales amount, or the highest or lowest sales amounts. This chapter describes the common types of aggregate calculations, and explains how to write aggregate expressions and where to place them in a report.
  • Chapter 13, Writing Expressions. To obtain the necessary data for a report, it is often necessary to use expressions to manipulate the raw data that comes from a data source. This chapter explains how to write JavaScript expressions and provides many examples of manipulating data, including how to convert numbers to strings, combine values from multiple data set fields, search and replace string values, get parts of a string, and calculate the time between two dates.
  • Chapter 14, Filtering Data. Often the data from a data set includes information that is not relevant in a particular report. To exclude this extraneous information from the report, a report developer filters the data to use only the data that pertains to the report. This chapter discusses how to use BIRT Report Designer to filter data and how to enable filtering in the external data set.
  • Chapter 15, Enabling the User to Filter Data. A report developer can use parameters to enable report users to determine which part of the data they see in the report. For example, in a report of nationwide sales figures, filtering can be used to display the data for a user-specified region. This chapter shows how to set up a report that enables a user to specify parameter values to determine what data appears in a report. This chapter also shows how to design report parameters to improve their usability and presentation.
  • Chapter 16, Building a Report That Contains Subreports. This chapter provides examples of building and organizing subreports in a report. This chapter also includes a tutorial that provides an example of a master-detail report. This tutorial illustrates and reviews many of the topics from earlier chapters. A reader can complete the tutorial and practice applying the basic principles to build a more complex report that includes both side-by-side subreports and data set parameters.
  • Chapter 17, Using a Chart. The graphical presentation of summary data is another way of improving the effectiveness of a report. A chart can serve as a report in itself or provide a synopsis of more complex data that appears in a report. Charts often provide an additional view of the data, highlighting or extending the information that appears in a report. This chapter introduces the types of charts that a developer can create and discusses the steps that are required to add a chart to a report. The chapter includes a tutorial that introduces a reader to the chart features.
  • Chapter 18, Displaying Data in Charts. Setting up chart data differs somewhat from selecting typical report data and requires some specific knowledge about how to process data to produce effective charts. To modify which data appears and the arrangement of the data in the chart, you must use series, grouping, and axis settings. This chapter discusses how to link data to a chart, use the chart builder to filter data, plot the data by defining x and y axes, and sort and group data. You also learn how to create a combination chart and a meter chart.
  • Chapter 19, Laying Out and Formatting a Chart. Like chart data, the steps to lay out and format a chart are distinct from the layout and formatting options for a typical report. This chapter explains how to work with the visual elements of a chart to produce the desired appearance. The tasks include positioning elements in the chart area, adding and formatting titles and labels, and changing the style of the series elements available in each chart type.
  • Chapter 20, Presenting Data in a Cross Tab. A cross tab is ideal for presenting summary data in a compact row-and-column matrix that looks similar to a spreadsheet. This chapter explains how to prepare data for a cross tab and how to build a cross tab. The chapter also includes a tutorial that provides an example of building and formatting a cross tab.
Part V, Enhancing Reports

Part V discusses features you can add to a report to improve usability and increase productivity when working with suites of reports. Part V includes the following chapters:

  • Chapter 21, Designing a Multipage Report. Most reports display on multiple pages. Often, report developers want to specify where page breaks occur and they want to display information, such as page numbers and report titles, on every page. This chapter explains how to control pagination in a report and how to design a page layout.
  • Chapter 22, Adding Interactive Viewing Features. To make a report more useful, you can add interactive features, such as hyperlinks or bookmarks. This chapter describes how to create and use bookmarks and tables of contents. It also describes how to add interactive features, such as highlighting and Tooltips, to charts.
  • Chapter 23, Building a Shared Report Development Framework. To support a consistent appearance for a suite of reports, BIRT provides two ways to share the report development among designers. A report library contains standard report elements, such as data sources, a company logo, or a set of styles. A report template combines report elements from libraries or the BIRT palettes to provide a predefined layout and master page. Report designers who use these tools increase their productivity.
  • Chapter 24, Localizing Text. To support international data or produce reports that can be viewed in multiple locales or languages requires planning and an understanding of the issues that are associated with working with resource files. This chapter provides an overview of the localization process and procedures for localizing text in a report.

Glossary contains a glossary of terms that are useful to understanding all parts of the book.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xix
Preface xxiii
Acknowledgments xxix

Part I: Installing BIRT 1 Chapter 1: Introducing BIRT Report Designers 3 Understanding BIRT components 3
Understanding Eclipse BIRT packages 4
About types of BIRT builds 5
Chapter 2: Installing a BIRT Report Designer 7 Installing BIRT Report Designer Full Eclipse Install 7
Installing BIRT RCP Report Designer 8
Troubleshooting installation problems 9
Installing a language pack 10
Updating a BIRT Report Designer installation 11
Updating BIRT RCP Report Designer installation 12
Part II: Getting Started 15 Chapter 3: Learning the Basics 17 About BIRT reports 17
Overview of the report design process 17
About the report design environment 19
Tutorial 1: Building a simple listing report 24
About report files and supported formats 45
Viewing sample reports 48
Chapter 4: Planning Your Report 51 Identifying the content of the report 52
Determining how the report will be viewed 53
Considering international reporting requirements 54
Deciding the layout and format of the report 54
Drawing a mock-up 56
Considering reuse of report components 56
Managing report design resources 57
Deciding how the report will be deployed 57
Part III: Accessing and Binding Data 59 Chapter 5: Connecting to a Data Source 61 About BIRT data sources 61
Connecting to a database using JDBC 62
Connecting to a text file 68
Connecting to an XML file 70
Connecting to a web service 72
Creating reusable data sources 73
Setting connection properties when a report runs 77
Troubleshooting data source problems 84
Chapter 6: Retrieving Data 85 About data sets 85
Selecting data 86
Viewing and changing output columns 107
Adding a computed field to a data set 108
Joining data sets 110
Verifying the data returned by a data set 112
Specifying the data to retrieve at run time 113
Chapter 7: Binding Data 117 Understanding column bindings 117
Creating column bindings 120
Editing and deleting column bindings 122
Copying data elements 123
More about column-binding expressions 124
Part IV: Designing Reports 125 Chapter 8: Laying Out a Report 127 Understanding the layout model 127
Creating the sections of a report 130
Placing report elements 138
Chapter 9: Displaying Text 149 Types of textual elements 149
Deciding which textual element to use 151
Using a dynamic text element 153
Using a label element 155
Using a text element 155
Displaying text from right to left 159
Chapter 10: Formatting Report Content 163 Formatting data 164
Formatting with styles 171
Formatting data based on conditions 181
Alternating row colors in a table 186
Specifying alignment of content in a table or grid 189
Adjusting the spacing of content in a report 190
Specifying auto-expand layout for HTML output 195
Displaying data values in one row 197
Displaying content across multiple columns 200
Specifying alternate values for display 202
Hiding elements based on conditions 204
Chapter 11: Sorting and Grouping Data 207 Sorting data 208
Grouping 213
Tutorial 2: Grouping report data 232
Chapter 12: Aggregating Data 253 Types of aggregate calculations 254
Placing aggregate data 257
Creating an aggregation 259
Filtering aggregate data 265
Calculating percentages 267
Creating a summary report 271
Chapter 13: Writing Expressions 277 Basic concepts 278
Using the expression builder 279
Manipulating numeric data 282
Manipulating string data 285
Manipulating date-and-time data 294
Using Boolean expressions 297
Chapter 14: Filtering Data 299 Filtering opportunities 299
Specifying conditions on row retrieval 300
Filtering data after row retrieval 304
Chapter 15: Enabling the User to Filter Data 317 About report parameters 317
Planning to use report parameters 318
User filtering options 319
Enabling user filtering at query run time 319
Enabling user filtering after data retrieval 326
Designing the presentation of report parameters 329
Testing the report parameters 351
Tutorial 3: Creating and using report parameters 352
Chapter 16: Building a Report That Contains Subreports 367 Creating the report structure 367
Tutorial 4: Building a report containing side-by-side subreports 372
Chapter 17: Using a Chart 399 Surveying the types of charts 399
Tutorial 5: Creating a stand-alone chart 406
Exploring the chart builder 419
Using a chart in a table 423
Chapter 18: Displaying Data in Charts 427 Linking data to a chart 427
Understanding the axes of a chart 430
Grouping and sorting category data 434
Grouping optional Y value data 438
Using multiple y-axes 442
Transposing chart axes 443
Filtering data 444
Changing default report parameters 444
Creating data bindings 445
Previewing data and chart 445
Creating a combination chart 447
Defining a meter chart 449
Chapter 19: Laying Out and Formatting a Chart 453 Overview of formatting 454
Formatting specific types of charts 454
Setting chart area format attributes 472
Formatting the chart legend, plot, and title 478
Formatting axis titles, markers, lines, and labels 488
Formatting a series 500
Chapter 20: Presenting Data in a Cross Tab 511 Tutorial 6: Creating a cross tab 512
Setting up data for a cross tab 527
Building a cross tab 537
Displaying empty rows and columns 550
Displaying user-defined values in row and column headings 551
Sorting cross tab data 554
Limiting the amount of data the cross tab displays 556
Chapter 21: Presenting Different Views of the Same Data 559 Ways to share data 560
Building a dashboard report 561
Part V: Enhancing Reports 575 Chapter 22: Designing a Multipage Report 577 Planning the page layout 577
Controlling pagination 578
Customizing the master page 587
Using multiple master pages 598
Chapter 23: Adding Interactive Viewing Features 601 Creating hyperlinks 601
Creating a table of contents 611
Adding interactive chart features 614
Adding interactive elements to an HTML report 618
Identifying report elements for data export 620
Chapter 24: Building a Shared Development Framework 623 Sharing report elements using a library 624
Designing libraries for a shared environment 629
Using a library 635
Sharing a report layout as a template 643
Chapter 25: Localizing Text 651 Overview of the localization process 652
Assigning a resource file to a report 653
Assigning resource keys 655
Editing a resource file 664
Previewing a report in different locales 665

Glossary 667
Index 739
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