BIRT: A Field Guide / Edition 3

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Overview

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.

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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.

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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.

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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
  • 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: 9780321733580
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 2/23/2011
  • Series: Eclipse Series
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 848
  • Sales rank: 409,048
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.70 (d)

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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Read an Excerpt

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

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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