About the Author
The authors 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
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, XML documents,and web services.
- 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, XML sources, and web services.
- 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 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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