Wednesday May 20, 2015

BIP scheduleReport with Parameters

I have just spent an hour or so working on getting a sample scheduleReport web service working with parameter values. There are a lot of examples out there but none I have found have the parameters being set. Our doc is a little light on details on how to set them up :) In lieu of that, here's this!

        // Set the parameter values for the report. In this example we have
        // 'dept' and 'emp' parameters. We could easily query the params dynamically
 
        //Handle 'dept' parameter
        ParamNameValue deptParamNameVal = new ParamNameValue();
        deptParamNameVal= new ParamNameValue();
        deptParamNameVal.setName("dept");
        // Create the string array to hold the parameter value(s)
        ArrayOfXsdString deptVal = new ArrayOfXsdString();
        // For individual values or multiples, add values to the 
        // string array e.g. 10,20,30
        deptVal.getItem().add("10");
        deptVal.getItem().add("20");
        deptVal.getItem().add("30");
 
        // Asterisk used for a null value ie 'All'
        //deptVal.getItem().add("*");

        // add the array to the parameter object
        deptParamNameVal.setValues(deptVal);
 
        //Handle 'emp' parameter
        ParamNameValue empParamNameVal = new ParamNameValue();
        empParamNameVal= new ParamNameValue();
        empParamNameVal.setName("emp");
        ArrayOfXsdString empVal = new ArrayOfXsdString();
        // For individual values or multiples, add values to the string array 
        // empVal.getItem().add("Jennifer Whalen");
        // empVal.getItem().add("Michael Hartstein");

        // Asterisk used for a null value ie 'All'
        empVal.getItem().add("*");
        empParamNameVal.setValues(empVal);
 

        // add parameter values to parameter array        
        ArrayOfParamNameValue paramArr = new ArrayOfParamNameValue();
        paramArr.getItem().add(deptParamNameVal);
        paramArr.getItem().add(empParamNameVal);
 
        //Now add array to values obj
        ParamNameValues pVals = new ParamNameValues();
        pVals.setListOfParamNameValues(paramArr);

 The pVals object can then be added to the report request object.

        req.setParameterNameValues(pVals);

Hopefully, you can extrapolate to your code. JDev application available here, unzip and open the application.
Just the schedule report class is available here.

Thursday Feb 12, 2015

How do I ...

An email came in this morning to an internal mailing list,

We have an Essbase customer with some reporting requirements and we are evaluating BI Publisher as the potential solution. I'd like to ask for your help with any document, blog or white paper with guidelines about using BI Publisher with Essbase as the main data source.

Is there any tutorial showing how to use BI Publisher with Essbase as the main data source?

There is not one to my knowledge but trying to be helpful I came up with the following response

I'll refer to the docs ...
First set up your connection to Essbase
http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E28280_01/bi.1111/e22255/data_sources.htm#BIPAD294
Then create your data model using that Essbase connection
http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E28280_01/bi.1111/e22258/create_data_sets.htm#BIPDM404
Use the MDX query builder to create the query or write it yourself (lots of fun :)
http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E28280_01/bi.1111/e22258/create_data_sets.htm#BIPDM431
Add parameters (optional)
http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E28280_01/bi.1111/e22258/add_params_lovs.htm#BIPDM306
Then build layouts for your Essbase query
http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E28280_01/bi.1111/e22254/toc.htm
annnnd your're done :)

Simple, right? Well simple in its format but it required me to know the basic steps to build said report and then where to find the appropriate pages in the doc for the links. Leslie saw my reply and commented on how straightforward it was and how our docs are more like reference books than 'how to's.' This got us thinking. I have noticed that the new 'cloud' docs have How do I ... sections where a drop down will then show maybe 10 tasks associated with the page Im on right now in the application.

Getting that help functionality into the BIP is going to take a while. We thought, in the mean time, we could carve out a section on the blog for just such content. Here's where you guys come in. What do you want to know how to do? Suggestions in the comment pleeeease!

Monday Feb 09, 2015

Have your say ...

Another messaging exchange last week with Leslie ...

OK, so we practised it a bit after our first convo and things got a little cheesy but hopefully you get the message.

Hit this link and you too can give some constructive feedback on the Oracle doc for BI (not just BIP.) I took the survey; its only eight questions or more if you want to share more of your input. Please take a couple of minutes to help us shape the documentation of future. 

Friday Dec 12, 2014

Paginated HTML is here and has been for some time ... I think!

We have a demo environment in my team and of course things get a little beaten up in there. Our go to, 'here's Publisher' report was looking really bad. Data was not returning or being rendered correctly on the five templates we have for it.
So, I spent about a half hour cleaning up the report; getting things working again; clearing out the rubbish. I noticed that one of the layouts when rendered in HTML was repeatedly showing a header down the screen. Oh, I know where to get rid of that and off I click to the report properties to fix it. But what is this I see? Is it? Can it be? Are my tired old eyes deceiving me?

Yes, Dexter, you see that right, 'View Paginated'! I nervously changed the value to 'true' and went back to the HTML output.
Holy Amaze Balls Batman, paginated HTML, the holy grail of HTML rendered reports, the Mount Everest of ... no, thats too easy, the K2 of html output ... its fan-bloody-tastic! Can you tell Im excited? I was immediately on messenger to Leslie (doc writer extraordinaire) 


Obviously not quite as big a deal in the sane, real world outside of my head. 'Oh yeah, we have that now ...' Leslie is so calm and collected, however, she does like Maroon 5 but, we overlook that :)

I command you 11.1.1.6+'ers to go find the property and turn it on right now and bask in the glory that is, 'paginated html.!'
I cannot stop clicking back and forth and then to the end and then all the way back to the beginning. Its fantastic!

Just look at those icons, just click em, you know you want to!

Thursday Oct 02, 2014

Multi Sheet Excel Output

Im on a roll with posts. This blog can be rebuilt ...

I received a question today from Camilo in Colombia asking how to achieve the following.

‘What are my options to deliver excel files with multiple sheets? I know we can split 1 report in multiple sheets in with the BIP Advanced Options, but what if I want to have 1 report / sheet? Where each report in each sheet has a independent data model ….’

Well, its not going to be easy if you have to have completely separate data models for each sheet. That would require generating multiple Excel outputs and then merging them, somehow.

However, if you can live with a single data model with multiple data sets i.e. queries that connect to separate data sources. Something like this:


Then we can help. Each query is returning its own data set but they will all be presented together in a single data set that BIP can then render. Our data structure in the XML output would be:

<DS>
 <G1>
  ...
 </G1>
 <G2>
  ...
 </G2>
 <G3>
  ...
 </G3>
</DS>

Three distinct data sets within the same data output.

To get each to sit on a separate sheet within the Excel output is pretty simple. It depends on how much native Excel functionality you want.

Using an RTF template you just create the layouts for each data set on a page(s) separated by a page break (Ctrl-Enter.) At runtime, BIP will place each output onto a separate sheet in the workbook. If you want to name each sheet you can use the <?spreadsheet-sheet-name: xpath-expression?> command. More info here. That’s as sophisticated as it gets with the RTF templates. No calcs, no formulas, etc. Just put the output on a sheet, bam!

Using an Excel template you can get more sophisticated with the layout.



This time thou, you create the layout for each data model on separate sheets. In my example, sheet 1 holds the department data, sheet 2, the employee data and so on. Some conditional formatting has snuck in there.

I have zipped up the sample files here.

FIN!

Friday Feb 28, 2014

Waterfall Charts

Great question came through the ether from Holger on waterfall charts last night.

"I know that Answers supports waterfall charts and BI Publisher does not.
Do you have a different solution approach for waterfall charts with BI Publisher (perhaps stacked bars with white areas)?
Maybe you have already implemented something similar in the past and you can send me an example."

I didnt have one to hand, but I do now. Little known fact, the Publisher chart engine is based on the Oracle Reports chart engine. Therefore, this document came straight to mind. Its awesome for chart tips and tricks. Will you have to get your hands dirty in the chart code? Yep. Will you get the chart you want with a little effort? Yep. Now, I know, I know, in this day and age, you should get waterfalls with no effort but then you'd be bored right?

First things first, for the uninitiated, what is a waterfall chart? From some kind person at Wikipedia, "The waterfall chart is normally used for understanding how an initial value is affected by a series of intermediate positive or negative values. Usually the initial and the final values are represented by whole columns, while the intermediate values are denoted by floating columns. The columns are color-coded for distinguishing between positive and negative values."

We'll get back to that last sentence later, for now lets get the basic chart working.

Checking out the Oracle Report charting doc, search for 'floating' their term for 'waterfall' and it will get you to the section on building a 'floating column chart' or in more modern parlance, a waterfall chart. If you have already got your feet wet in the dark arts world of Publisher chart XML, get on with it and get your waterfall working.

If not, read on.

When I first starting looking at this chart, I decided to ignore the 'negative values' in the definition above. Being a glass half full kind of guy I dont see negatives right :)

Without them its a pretty simple job of rendering a stacked bar chart with 4 series for the colors. One for the starting value, one for the ending value, one for the diffs (steps) and one for the base values. The base values color could be set to white but that obscures any tick lines in the chart. Better to use the transparency option from the Oracle Reports doc.

<Series id="0" borderTransparent="true" transparent="true"/> 

Pretty simple, even the data structure is reasonably easy to get working. But, the negative values was nagging at me and Holger, who I pointed at the Oracle Reports doc had come back and could not get negative values to show correctly. So I took another look. What a pain in the butt!

In the chart above (thats my first BIP waterfall maybe the first ever BIP waterfall.) I have lime green, start and finish bars; red for negative and green for positive values. Look a little closer at the hidden bar values where we transition from red to green, ah man, royal pain in the butt! Not because of anything tough in the chart definition, thats pretty straightforward. I just need the following columns START, BASE, DOWN, UP and FINISH. 

START 200
BASE 0
UP 0
DOWN 0
FINISH 0
START 0
BASE 180
UP 0
DOWN 20
FINISH 0
START 0
BASE 150
UP 0
DOWN 30
FINISH 0

 Bar 1 - Start Value
 Bar 2 - PROD1
 Bar 3 - PROD2

and so on. The start, up, down and finish values are reasonably easy to get. The real trick is calculating that hidden BASE value correctly for that transition from -ve >> + ve and vice versa. Hitting Google, I found the key to that calculation in a great page on building a waterfall chart in Excel from the folks at Contextures.  Excel is great at referencing previous cell values to create complex calculations and I guess I could have fudged this article and used an Excel sheet as my data source. I could even have used an Excel template against my database table to create the data for the chart and fed the resulting Excel output back into the report as the data source for the chart. But, I digress, that would be tres cool thou, gotta look at that.
On that page is the formula to get the hidden base bar values and I adapted that into some sql to get the same result.

Lets assume I have the following data in a table:

PRODUCT_NAME SALES
PROD1 -20
PROD2 -30
PROD3 50
PROD4 60

The sales values are versus the same period last year i.e. a delta value.  I have a starting value of 200 total sales, lets assume this is pulled from another table.
I have spent the majority of my time on generating the data, the actual chart definition is pretty straight forward. Getting that BASE value has been most tricksy!

I need to generate the following for each column:

PRODUCT_NAME

STRT

BASE_VAL

DOWN

UP

END_TOTAL

START
200
0
0
0
0
PROD1
0
180
20
0
0
PROD2
0
150 30 0
0
PROD3
0 150 0 50 0
PROD4
0 200
0 60 0
END
0 0 0 0 260

Ignoring the START and END values for a second. Here's the query for the PRODx columns:

 SELECT 2 SORT_KEY 
, PRODUCT_NAME
, STRT
, SALES
, UP
, DOWN
, 0 END_TOTAL
, 200 + (SUM(LAG_UP - DOWN) OVER (ORDER BY PRODUCT_NAME)) AS BASE_VAL
FROM
(SELECT P.PRODUCT_NAME
,  0 AS STRT
, P.SALES
, CASE WHEN P.SALES > 0 THEN P.SALES ELSE 0 END AS UP  
, CASE WHEN P.SALES < 0 THEN ABS(P.SALES) ELSE 0 END AS DOWN
, LAG(CASE WHEN P.SALES > 0 THEN P.SALES ELSE 0 END,1,0) 
      OVER (ORDER BY P.PRODUCT_NAME) AS LAG_UP
FROM PRODUCTS P
)

The inner query is breaking the UP and DOWN values into their own columns based on the SALES value. The LAG function is the cool bit to fetch the UP value in the previous row. That column is the key to getting the BASE values correctly.

The outer query just has a calculation for the BASE_VAL.

200 + (SUM(LAG_UP - DOWN) OVER (ORDER BY PRODUCT_NAME))

The SUM..OVER allows me to iterate over the rows to get the calculation I need ie starting value (200) + the running sum of LAG_UP - DOWN. Remember the LAG_UP value is fetching the value from the previous row.
Is there a neater way to do this? Im most sure there is, I could probably eliminate the inner query with a little effort but for the purposes of this post, its quite handy to be able to break things down.

For the start and end values I used more queries and then just UNIONed the three together. Once note on that union; the sorting. For the chart to work, I need START, PRODx, FINISH, in that order. The easiest way to get that was to add a SORT_KEY value to each query and then sort by it. So my total query for the chart was:

SELECT 1 SORT_KEY
, 'START' PRODUCT_NAME
, 200 STRT
, 0 SALES
, 0 UP
, 0 DOWN
, 0 END_TOTAL
, 0 BASE_VAL
FROM PRODUCTS
UNION
SELECT 2 SORT_KEY 
, PRODUCT_NAME
, STRT
, SALES
, UP
, DOWN
, 0 END_TOTAL
, 200 + (SUM(LAG_UP - DOWN) 
      OVER (ORDER BY PRODUCT_NAME)) AS BASE_VAL
FROM
(SELECT P.PRODUCT_NAME
,  0 AS STRT
, P.SALES
, CASE WHEN P.SALES > 0 THEN P.SALES ELSE 0 END AS UP  
, CASE WHEN P.SALES < 0 THEN ABS(P.SALES) ELSE 0 END AS DOWN
, LAG(CASE WHEN P.SALES > 0 THEN P.SALES ELSE 0 END,1,0) 
       OVER (ORDER BY P.PRODUCT_NAME) AS LAG_UP
FROM PRODUCTS P
)
UNION
SELECT 3 SORT_KEY 
, 'END' PRODUCT_NAME
, 0 STRT
, 0 SALES
, 0 UP
, 0 DOWN
, SUM(SALES) + 200 END_TOTAL
, 0 BASE_VAL
FROM PRODUCTS
GROUP BY 1,2,3,4,6
ORDER BY 1 

A lot of effort for a dinky chart but now its done once, doing it again will be easier. Of course no one will want just a single chart in their report, there will be other data, tables, charts, etc. I think if I was doing this in anger I would just break out this query as a separate item in the data model ie a query just for the chart. It will make life much simpler.
Another option that I considered was to build a sub template in XSL to generate the XML tree to support the chart and assign that to a variable. Im sure it can be done with a little effort, I'll save it for another time.

On the last leg, we have the data; now to build the chart. This is actually the easy bit. Sadly I have found an issue in the online template builder that precludes using the chart builder in those templates. However, RTF templates to the rescue!

Insert a chart and in the dialog set up the data like this (click the image to see it full scale.)

Its just a vertical stacked bar with the BASE_VAL color set to white.You can still see the 'hidden' bars and they are over writing the tick lines but if you are happy with it, leave it as is. You can double click the chart and the dialog box can read it no problem. If however, you want those 'hidden' bars truly hidden then click on the Advanced tab of the chart dialog and replace:

<Series id="1" color="#FFFFFF" />

with

<Series id="1" borderTransparent="true" transparent="true" />

and the bars will become completely transparent. You can do the #D and gradient thang if you want and play with colors and themes. You'll then be done with your waterfall masterpiece!

Alot of work? Not really, more than out of the box for sure but hopefully, I have given you enough to decipher the data needs and how to do it at least with an Oracle db. If you need all my files, including table definition, sample XML, BIP DM, Report and templates, you can get them here.

Monday Feb 24, 2014

Wildcard Filtering continued

I wrote up a method for using wildcard filtering in your layouts a while back here. I spotted a followup question on that blog post last week and thought I would try and address it using another wildcard method. 

I want to use the bi publisher to look for several conditions using a wild card. For example if I was sql it would look like this:

if name in ('%Wst','%Grt')

How can I utilize bi publisher to look for the same conditions.

This, in XPATH speak is an OR condition and we can treat it as such. In the last article I used the 'starts-with' function, its a little limiting, there is a better one, 'contains'. This is a much more powerful function that allows you to look for any string within another string. Its case insensitive so you do not need to do upper or lowering of the string you are searching to get the desired results.
Here it is in action:

For the clerks filter I use :

<?for-each-group:G_1[contains(JOB_TITLE,'Clerk')];./JOB_TITLE?>

and to find all clerks and managers, I use:

<?for-each-group:G_1[contains(JOB_TITLE,'Clerk') or contains(JOB_TITLE,'Manager')];./JOB_TITLE?>

Note that Im using re-grouping here, you can use the same XPATH with a regular for-each. Also note the lower case 'or' in the second expression. You can also use an 'and' too.

This works in 10 and 11g flavors of BIP. Sample files available here.

Monday Feb 10, 2014

Alternate Tray Printing

Since we introduced support for check printing PCL escape sequences in 11.1.1.7 i.e. being able to set the micr font or change the print cartridge to the magnetic ink for that string. I have wanted to test out other PCL commands, particularly, changing print trays. Say you have letter headed paper or pre-printed or colored paper in tray 2 but only want to use it for the first page or specific or for a separator page, the rest can come out of plain ol Tray 1 with its copier paper.

I have had a couple of inquiries recently and so, I finally took some time to test out the theory. I should add here, that the dev team thought it would work but were not 100%. The feature was built for the check printing requirements alone so they could not support any other commands. I was hopeful thou!
In short, it works!



I can generate a document and print it with embedded PCL commands to change from Tray 1 (&l4H) to Tray 2 (&l1H ) - yep, makes no sense to me either. I got the codes from here, useful site with a host of other possibilities to test.

For the test, I just created a department-employee listing that broke the page when the department changed. Just inside the first grouping loop I included the PCL string to set Tray 1.

<pcl><control><esc/>&l4H </control> </pcl>

Note, this has to be in clear text, you can not use a formfield.
I then created a dummy insert page using a template and called it from just within the closing department group field (InsertPAGE field.) At the beginning of the dummy page I included the PCL string to get the paper from Tray 2:

<pcl><control><esc/>&l1H</control> </pcl>

When you run this to PDF you will see the PCL string. I played with this and hid it using a white font and it worked great, assuming you have white paper :)

When you set up the printer in the BIP admin console, you need to ensure you have picked the 'PDF to PCL Filter' for the printer.



If you dont want to have PCL enabled all the time, you can have multiple definitions for the same printer with/with out the PCL filter. Users just need to pick the appropriate printer instance. Using this filter ensures that those PCL strings will be preserved into the final PCL that gets sent to the printer.

Example files here. Official documentation on the PCL string here.

Happy Printing!





Monday Feb 03, 2014

Memory Guard

Happy New ... err .. Chinese Year! Yeah, its been a while, its also been danged busy and we're only in February, just! A question came up on one of our internal mailing lists concerning out of memory errors. Pieter, support guru extraordinaire jumped on it with reference to a support note covering the relatively new 'BI Publisher Memory Guard'. Sounds grand eh?

As many a BIP user knows, at BIP's heart lives an XSLT engine. XSLT engines are notoriously memory hungry. Oracle's wee beastie has come a long way in terms of taming its appetite for bits and bytes since we started using it. BIP allows you to take advantage of this 'scalable mode.' Its a check box on the data model which essentially says 'XSLT engine, stop stuffing your face with memory doughnuts and get on with the salad and chicken train for this job' i.e. it gets a limited memory stack within which to work and makes use of disk, if needed, think Windows' 'virtual memory'.

Now that switch is all well and good, for a known big report that you would typically mark as 'schedule only.' You do not want users sitting in front of their screen waiting for a 10,000 page document to appear, right? How about those reports that are borderline 'big' or you have a potentially big report but expect users to filter the heck out of it and they choose not to? It would be nice to be able to set some limits on reports in case a user kicks off a monster donut binge session. Enter 'BI Publisher Memory Guard'!

It essentially lets you set those limits on memory and report size so that users can not run a report that brings the server to its knees. More information on the support web site, search for 'BI Publisher Memory Guard a New Feature to Prevent out-of-memory Errors (Doc ID 1599935.1)' or you can get Leslie's white paper covering the same here.

Thursday Oct 10, 2013

Mobile App Designer

Back in August a new Oracle mobile solution jumped out of the gate, the Mobile App Designer (MAD). I seem to have been on the road every week for the last, goodness knows how many weeks. I have finally found some time this week to get down and work with it. Its pretty cool and above all, its capable of providing a mobile platform independent reporting solution.

But you already have a mobile application! Yep, and I think they both sit quite comfortably together. The Oracle BI Mobile Application is available from the App Store for Apple users. Its a great app, build reports, dashboards and BIP reports for your browser based users and your Apple app users can take advantage of them immediately.

MAD takes the next step forward. Maybe you don't use or can not use Apple mobile devices? Maybe you need to build something more specific around a business area that provides users with a richer experience, beyond what Answers and Dashboards can offer. However, you do not want to have to rely of the tech folks to build the mobile application, thats just piling more work on them. You also want to be platform agnostic, you might have a mix of mobile platforms. MAD can help.

For those of you that have already used the Online Template layout editor with BI Publisher, you already know how to build a mobile application. The MAD interface is essentially the online template builder user interface, tweaked for a mobile destination ie a phone or tablet.

You build your data model as you would normally including the newer direct data model build on a subject area from OBIEE.

Then start to create the 'pages' of your application and the content to sit on those pages. All the normal stuff, tables, pivot tables, charts, images plus accordians, filters and repeating objects. On top of that is the ability to then extend the visual objects that are available to users. Maps (google or oracle), D3 visuals, gantt charts, org charts, if you can either write the code or leverage an existing javascript library, MAD has the extension framework to support it.

You can build and test in a browser and then deploy to your own BI App Store. Users, on their mobile devices, can then subscribe to an application. They can open and interact with your app using their phone or tablet's interactive features just as they would with a native application.  As you update your app and add new features the changes will be picked up the next time your users open the application.

Interested? Want to know more? The Oracle MAD home page has a ton of content including tutorials, etc. We are planning to dig into MAD in forthcoming posts. The geek in me wanted to be able to build plugins using the D3 and other visuals. I have been working with Leslie on some of the documentation and we'll be sharing some of that 'plugin' doc and how tos in the coming weeks.

Wednesday Sep 18, 2013

BI Publisher Trial Edition News

Whoooo hoooo! Theres finally a new version of the BI Publisher Trial Edition available for download from OTN.

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/middleware/bi-publisher/downloads/index.html

11.1.1.7.1 is the imaginative release name. Nevermind your iOS7's get some blazingly fast BIP '.7.1'!

I'll be digging into some of the new features in the coming weeks!

Wednesday Jul 03, 2013

Siebel BIP Integration

This post is more of a bookmark for me so that I stop bugging the brown stuff out of the John the Siebel-BIP product manager. I have had multiple customers over the past two weeks asking for help around the integration. What's its capable of? How can I allow my users to click a button to run a BIP report? How can I kick off a report from a Siebel workflow?

Start right here - this is a great white paper explaining whats now available with the integration using, the Siebel Report Business Service. Once you have consumed that from start to finish.
Get on over to Oracle support and look for the following note that has code samples and lots of other good stuff!

Siebel BI Publisher Reports Business Service (8.1.1.7+) [ID 1425724.1]

The Reports Business Service enables BI Publisher reports to be executed from the Siebel application via a Workflow Process, or through scripting. The report is generated in the background by connecting to the BI Publisher server. The report output is stored in the Siebel File System and accessed from the My BI Publisher Reports view. Alternatively using appropriate methods, the report can be attached to an entity or sent to a particular delivery channel.

Friday May 10, 2013

Building on Subject Areas

The new release of BI Publisher 11.1.1.7 has a very nice new feature for those of you wanting to build reports on top of the BI Server data model. In previous releases you would need to either write the logical sql yourself or build an Answer request and copy the SQL from the Advanced tab and paste it into the BIP data modeler.

With the new release comes the ability to create reports without the need for a data model at all. You have the option when creating a new report to use a subject area directly.

 Once you have selected the subject area you are interested in you can decide on whether to continue into the wizard to help you build the layout. Or to strike out on your own and build the layout yourself.


If you go for the latter and load up the layout editor, you get to see all of the data items you would see in the Answers builder in the data tree. Its then a case of dragging and dropping the columns into the layout, just as you would normally with a sample data source.

Once you are back to the report editor, the final step is to add some parameters. 

This is a little different to a conventional BIP report. There is no data model definition per se i.e the logical SQL is not stored but rather, the columns you added to the layout and the subject area(s) you pulled them from. Yes' you can go across subject areas, but you need to know if its going to make sense or even work before you add more. You add more subject areas click on the subject area name where the data model name normally resides. You'll then get a shuttle dialog that lets you add more subject areas. You can then add columns in the layout builder.
Getting back to the parameters, on the report editor page, click the Parameters link (top right.) This will open the parameters dialog.

You can add parameters and set how they will be displayed; whether folks can select all; do they see check boxes, a drop box or text box; whether other parameters should be limited by the choice made for this box. Everything you get with a regular BIP parameter.


Finally, the report rendered with the parameters.


If you have a need to build a more highly formatted report on the BI Server data then this is definitely the way to go. This approach really does open up BIP reporting to business users. No need to write SQL, just pick the columns you want and format them in a simple to use interface.

Before you ask, you can not build report layouts in MSWord or Excel for this type of data source, not yet anyhoo :0)



Tuesday Dec 04, 2012

Interesting fact #123423

Question from a customer on an internal mailing list this, succintly answered by RTF Template God, Hok-Min

Q: Whats the upper limit for a sum calculation in terms of the largest number BIP can handle?

A: Internally, XSL-T processor uses double precession.  Therefore the upper limit and precision will be same as double (IEEE 754 double-precision binary floating-point format, binary64). Approximately 16 significant decimal digits, max is 1.7976931348623157 x 10308 .

So, now you know :)

Tuesday Sep 18, 2012

Ubiquitous BIP

The last number I heard from Mike and the PM team was that BIP is now embedded in more than 40 oracle products. That's a lot of products to keep track of and to help out with new releases, etc.
Its interesting to see how internal Oracle product groups have integrated BIP into their products. Just as you might integrate BIP they have had to make a choice about how to integrate.

1. Library level - BIP is a pure java app and at the bottom of the architecture are a group of java libraries that expose APIs that you can use. they fall into three main areas, data extraction, template processing and formatting and delivery. There are post processing capabilities but those APIs are embedded withing the template processing libraries.

Taking this integration route you are going to need to manage templates, data extraction and processing. You'll have your own UI to allow users to control all of this for themselves. Ultimate control but some effort to build and maintain. I have been trawling some of the products during a coffee break. I found a great post on the reporting capabilities provided by BIP in the records management product within WebCenter Content 11g. This integration falls into the first category, content manager looks after the report artifacts itself and provides you the UI to manage and run the reports.

2. Web Service level - further up in the stack is the web service layer. This is sitting on the BI Publisher server as a set of services, runReport and scheduleReport are the main protagonists. However, you can also manage the reports and users (locally managed) on the server and the catalog itself via the services layer.

Taking this route, you still need to provide the user interface to choose reports and run them but the creation and management of the reports is all handled by the Publisher server. I have worked with a few customer on this approach. The web services provide the ability to retrieve a list of reports the user can access; then the parameters and LOVs for the selected report and finally a service to submit the report on the server.

3. Embedded BIP server UI- the final level is not so well supported yet. You can currently embed a report and its various levels of surrounding  'chrome' inside another html based application using a URL. Check the docs here. The look and feel can be customized but again, not easy, nor documented. I have messed with running the server pages inside an IFRAME, not bad, but not great.

Taking this path should present the least amount of effort on your part to get BIP integrated but there are a few gotchas you need to get around.

So a reasonable amount of choices with varying amounts of effort involved. There is another option coming soon for all you ADF developers out there, the ability to drop a BIP report into your application pages. But that's for another post.

Thursday Sep 13, 2012

Dynamic Bursting ... no really!

If any of you have seen me or my colleagues present BI Publisher to you then we have hopefully mentioned 'bursting.' You may have even seen a demo where we talk about being able to take a batch of data, say invoices. Then split them by some criteria, say customer id; format them with a template; generate the output and then deliver the documents to the recipients with a click. We and especially I, always say this can be completely dynamic! By this I mean, that you could store customer preferences in a database. What layout would each customer like; what output format they would like and how they would like the document delivered. We (I) talk a good talk, but typically don't do the walk in a demo. We hard code everything in the bursting query or bursting control file to get the concept across. But no more peeps! I have finally put together a dynamic bursting demo! Its been minutes in the making but its been tough to find those minutes! Read on ...

It's nothing amazing in terms of making the burst dynamic. I created a CUSTOMER_PREFS table with some simple UI in an APEX application so that I can maintain their requirements. In EBS you have descriptive flexfields that could do the same thing or probably even 'contact' fields to store most of the info.

Here's my table structure:

Name                           Type
------------------------------ -------- 
CUSTOMER_ID                    NUMBER(6)
TEMPLATE_TYPE                  VARCHAR2(20)
TEMPLATE_NAME                  VARCHAR2(120)
OUTPUT_FORMAT                  VARCHAR2(20)
DELIVERY_CHANNEL               VARCHAR2(50)
EMAIL                          VARCHAR2(255)
FAX                            VARCHAR2(20)
ATTACH                         VARCHAR2(20)
FILE_LOC                       VARCHAR2(255)

Simple enough right? Just need CUSTOMER_ID as the key for the bursting engine to join it to the customer data at burst time. I have not covered the full delivery options, just email, fax and file location. Remember, its a demo people :0) However the principal is exactly the same for each delivery type. They each have a set of attributes that need to be provided and you will need to handle that in your bursting query. On a side note, in EBS, you use a bursting control file, you can apply the same principals that I'm laying out here you just need to get the customer bursting info into the XML data stream so that you can refer to it in the control file using XPATH expressions.

Next, we need to look up what attributes or parameters are required for each delivery method. that can be found in the documentation here.

 Now we know the combinations of parameters and delivery methods we can construct the query using a series a decode statements:

select distinct cp.customer_id "KEY",
     cp.template_name TEMPLATE,
     cp.template_type TEMPLATE_FORMAT,
     'en-US' LOCALE,
     cp.output_format OUTPUT_FORMAT,
     'false' SAVE_FORMAT,
     cp.delivery_channel DEL_CHANNEL,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE', cp.file_loc 
      , 'EMAIL', cp.email
      , 'FAX', cp.fax) PARAMETER1,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE', c.cust_last_name||'_orders.pdf'
      ,'EMAIL','cc@BIPublisher.com'
      ,'FAX', 'faxserver.com') PARAMETER2,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE',NULL
      ,'EMAIL','customer_service@bipublisher.com'
      ,'FAX', null) PARAMETER3,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE',NULL
      ,'EMAIL','Your current orders'
      ,'FAX',NULL)    PARAMETER4,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE',NULL
      ,'EMAIL','Please find attached a copy of your current orders with BI Publisher, Inc'
      ,'FAX',NULL)  PARAMETER5,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE',NULL
      ,'EMAIL','false'
      ,'FAX',NULL) PARAMETER6,
     decode(cp.delivery_channel,'FILE',NULL
      ,'EMAIL','reply@bipublisher.com'
      ,'FAX',NULL) PARAMETER7
from cust_prefs cp, 
customers c,
orders_view ov
where cp.customer_id = c.customer_id
and cp.customer_id = ov.customer_id
order by  cp.customer_id

Pretty straightforward, just need to test, test, test, the query and ensure it's bringing back the correct data based on each customers preferences. Notice the NULL values for parameters that are not relevant for a given delivery channel.

You should end up with bursting control data that the bursting engine can use:

 Now, your users can run the burst and documents will be formatted, generated and delivered based on the customer prefs.

If you're interested in the example, I have used the sample OE schema data for the base report. The report files and CUST_PREFS table are zipped up here. The zip contains the data model (.xdmz), the report and templates (.xdoz) and the sql scripts to create and load data to the CUST_PREFS table.  Once you load the report into the catalog, you'll need to create the OE data connection and point the data model at it. You'll probably need to re-point the report to the data model too.

Happy Bursting!

Tuesday Sep 11, 2012

Hey, Wheres your field?

I have finally been getting back to playing with Publisher this past week and actually building demos!
I came across a nice feature in the online template builder. I had been tweaking the data model of an already built report including an existing online template.

I finished my data model changes and re-opened the online template to make changes and got this:

Nice! It recognized that some of the fields were now missing from the data model and was asking me to map new fields into the template. Once I had mapped them it then opened the template for editing. Very neat!

Wednesday Sep 05, 2012

Trigger Happy

Its been a while, I know, we’ll say no more OK? I’ll just write …

In the latest BIP 11.1.1.6 release and if I’m really honest; the release before this (we'll call it dot 5 for brevity.) The boys and gals in the engine room have been real busy enhancing BIP with some new functionality. Those of you that use the scheduling engine in OBIEE may already know and use the ‘conditional scheduling’ feature. This allows you to be more intelligent about what reports get run and sent to folks on a scheduled basis. You create a ‘trigger’ analysis (answer) that is executed at schedule time prior to the main report. When the schedule rolls around, the trigger is run, if it returns rows, then the main report is run and delivered. If there are no rows returned, then the main report is not run.
Useful right? Your users are not bombarded with 20 reports in their inbox every week that they need to wade throu. They get a handful that they know they need to look at. If you ensure you use conditional formatting in the report then they can find the anomalous data in the reports very quickly and move on to the rest of their day more quickly. You could even think of OBIEE as a virtual team member, scouring the data on your behalf 24/7 and letting you know when its found an issue.

BI Publisher, wanting the team t-shirt and the khaki pants, has followed suit. You can now set up ‘triggers’ for it to execute before it runs the main report. Just like its big brother, if the scheduled report trigger returns rows of data; it then executes the main report. Otherwise, the report is skipped until the next schedule time rolls around. Sound familiar?

BIP differs a little, in that you only need to construct a query to act as the trigger rather than a complete report. Let assume we have a monthly wage by department report on a schedule. We only want to send the report to managers if their departmental wages reach and/or exceed a certain amount.

The toughest part about this is coming up with the SQL to test the business rule you want to implement. For my example, its not that tough:

select d.department_name, sum(e.salary) as wage_total
from employees e,
departments d
where d.department_id = e.department_id
group by d.department_name
having sum(e.salary) > 230000

We're looking for departments where the wage cost is greater than 230,000 Dexter Dollars! With a bit of messing I found out you can parametrize the query. Users can then set a value at schedule time if they need to.

To create the trigger is straightforward enough.

You can create multiple triggers for users to select at schedule time. Notice I also used a parameter in the query, :wamount. Note the matching parameter in the tree on the left. You also dont need to return multiple columns, one is fine, the key is if there are rows returned. You can build the rest of your report as usual.

At scheduling time the Schedule tab has a bit more on it. If your users want to set the trigger, they check the Use Trigger box. The page will then pop fields to pick the appropriate trigger they want to use, even a trigger on another data model if needed.


Note it will also ask for the parameter value associated with the trigger.

At this point you should note that the data model does not make a distinction between trigger and data model (extract) parameters. So users will see the parameters on the General and Schedule tabs. If per chance you do need to just have a trigger parameters. You can just hide them from the report using the Parameters popup in the report designer, just un-check the 'Show' box

I have tested the opposite case where you do not want main report parameters seen in the trigger section. BIP handles that for you!

Once the report hits its allotted schedule time, the trigger is executed. Based on the results the report will either run or be 'skipped.'


Now, you have a smarter scheduler that will only deliver reports when folks need to see them and take action on the contents.

More official info here for developers and here for users.

Tuesday Sep 04, 2012

14540059 - UPDATE FOR BI PUBLISHER ENTERPRISE 11.1.1.6.0 AUGUST

Its been a while, I know :( I have posts in the pipe just gotta smoke em out!

The latest update for BIP 11.1.1.6 was released last week. A bunch of defects have been addressed as you can see below.

 13473493 - XMLP TRANSLATION ISSUE OF MILLION (ENG) TO MILLIONES (SPANISH)
 13521951 - BIP UPGRADE FROM 10G TO 11.1.1.5.0 IS NOT SUCCESSFULL FOR TIAA-CREF
 12542914 - ACC: REPORT VIEWER STRUCTURE HAS ERRORS - NO IFRAME AND NO LANG ATTRIBUTE
 13562801 - XML TAG DISPLAY SHOULD DEFAULT TO 'FOLLOW THE DATA
 13568043 - BIP QUERY FAILING VALIDATION DUE TO 'COALESCE' KEYWORD
 13592901 - THE REPORT IS THROWING AN SQL ERROR THAT REFERENCES CHECKING FOR NULL VALUES
 13836696 - BI PUBLISHER REPORT NOT GENERATED WHEN A TEXT FIELD START WITH "E.<SPACE>"
 13879206 - DM MIGRATION ISSUES
 13888939 - DM: LOV SEARCH CAUSING DB CONNECTION LEAK
 13904225 - XSLX ERROR DUE TO URL LINK AND USE OF LIST
 13930795 - RTF TEMPLATE GIVING DIFFERENT RESULTS IN DIFFERENT
 13942064 - XDOEXCEPTION THROWN WHEN RUNNING PEOPLESOFT TEMPLATES AND XML FILE
 13981523 - BI PUBLISHER ON 64-BIT WINDOWS CAN'T CONNECT TO MS ANALYSIS SERVICES CUBE
 14039229 - BIP 11.1.1.5.0 REPORTS ARE NOT WORKING ON BIP 11.1.1.6.0
 14055793 - BIP 11.1.1.6.0: DATE TYPE INPUT PARAMTER IS NOT DISPLAYING THE CORRECT VALUE USI
 14059851 - UNABLE TO GRANT PRIVILEGES TO ROLE: DOMAIN USERS; THE ROLE DOES NOT EXIST
 14109967 - LARGE OUTPUT CAUSES OUT OF MEMORY DUE TO LEFT OVER DEBUG CODE
 14163973 - ISSUES USING DATA MODEL EDITOR IN BIP 11.1.1.6
 14167915 - ORG.XML.SAX.SAXEXCEPTION: DATE FORMAT CANNOT BE NULL
 14240045 - EDITING SCHEDULED REPORTS DOES NOT REFLECT VALID VALUES FOR UPGRADED SCHEDULES
 14304427 - SEARCH DIALOG NOT BINDING PARAMETER VALUE - INVALID PARAMETER BINDING(S).
 14338158 - PASSWORD FIELD SHOULD NOT BE DISPLAYED FOR FMW SECURITY MODEL
 14393825 - OBIEE11G: LARGE NUMBER OF OBIPS SESSIONS CREATED WHEN USING SSO AND BI PUB
 14558377 - CONT. BUG 14240045:EDITING SCHEDULES IN BI PUBLISHER IS DEFAULTING TO 'ALL'

This patch is just for BI Publisher standalone installs. For those of you using BIP within the wider BIEE suite there is the 11.1.1.6.2 BP1 patchset. More details on that here.

Friday May 18, 2012

Secrets Revealed to Advanced Charting

We get a lot of emails and questions here at Publisher Tower concerning charts and how to do X. I write about some of the solutions here if I think they could be useful to a wider audience but its tough to document everything for everyone's specific features.

The chart dialog in the template builder gets you so far but there are cases where you are going to have to get into the code to make things work the way you want them to. I have documented a bunch which I have pulled together as links below. But if you do venture into the chart code, where do you start?

I have re-documented the location of the chart DTD document recently as it disappeared from OTN and having bugged a few people about it, its still not there, c'est la vie. But those of you with the Template Builder for Word (TB) have your own copy you can refer to. Just dig into your TB install directory and look for the dvt-jclient.jar (11g) or bipres.jar (10g) files open them with a zip utility a dig down through the directories to oracle\dss\graph\.
There you will find the fabled and rare, graph.dtd ... this is the golden fleece of the BIP charting world. In it, you will find secrets beyond your imagination, treasures beyond compare ...  OK, its not that exciting but there is a lot of charting info to be gleaned. There is not much in the way of comments but you can at least look up features and then see what attributes they will need to achieve your needs.

Just remember, Word has almost unlimited undo's, just get stuck in a try stuff out you are not going to break anything!

Some blogged chart solutions via google.

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