Thursday, March 6, 2008

BIRT Reporting - Overview

I have just finished reading the final Harry Potter book and I couldn't stop thinking how wizards would have done TDW reporting. In Harry's world, one would issue a summoning charm, "Accio Report" or go to the Room of Requirements to get exactly the report he/she needed.

However, in the "muggle" world, it is a lot different. One has to first develop reporting template, develop necessary SQLs and then use one of the reporting engines to generate a report in various formats. Only a few reporting "wizards" knows how to do this. IBM's reporting solution tool, BIRT, is no exception to this muggle way of reporting, but it offers a few very notable improvements to make life easy without magic.

Report Designer

BIRT's report designer, where most of us would spend time designing report templates, is very easy to use and one of its greatest strengths. Designing and formatting the reports is as easy as working in MS Word. Add to that, there are lot of convenient features such as Report Preview, Master page layout, etc that makes the reporting very easy.

Web based Reporting

Setting up a reporting server in BIRT is relatively easy. You need to simply copy the report design files and a reporting server application (.war file) to an app server such as Tomcat and you should be able to generate and view reports easily.

Multiple Data Sources

Sometimes one query may not be enough to feed the whole report. Though other reporting solutions such as Jasper provides sub-report feature to fetch data from multiple data sources, I liked the BIRT way of binding multiple data sources to a template. Very intuitive.

Reporting formats
BIRT now supports various formats such as Excel, PPT, Word, PDF and HTML for report output. It does a good job on most of them. My only gripe is that only data can be exported into Excel format NOT charts/graphics.

Java Scripting Functions
BIRT uses JavaScript for functions, so you can write functions without having to learn a whole new proprietary langauge such as one used in CrystalReports.

Bear in mind though BIRT has just entered into the reporting area and many of its features are relatively new. While it still has to go a long way, its feature set is impressive and with IBM's behind it, it is a very good solution for Tivoli Data Warehouse reporting.

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