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Report Formatting for Success with SAP BusinessObjects

Dec. 18, 2015
Jim Brogden


Web Intelligence is much more than just querying a database and displaying data in rows and columns. Take advantage of an extensive set of formatting options to convert data into drillable and actionable information. Highly formatted reports spawn immeasurable user confidence and make a huge difference with the ultimate goal of business intelligence - solving business problems. Get ready to extend your Web Intelligence report design journey with the formatting tips outlined in this white paper.


Being able to produce high-quality reports is the main differentiator between an average report developer and a reporting professional. This paper will focus on the finer points of report development as they relate to SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence to help you get to the next level quickly.

We'll also be working exclusively in the report panel to provide you with tips for creating the optimal analytical experience for your business users. This paper assumes that you've already queried your data source and are ready to create professional-class reporting documents with the data retrieved. Before we get started, let's cover a little housekeeping and briefly discuss viewer settings. You'll have an opportunity to choose from two types of viewers for reading and modifying reports.

Setting Personal Preferences

Accessing your preferences will allow you to make changes to several settings associated with your logon. The choices range from general settings about working within BI 4.1 to more specific settings about viewing Web Intelligence reports and Crystal Reports.

From the General tab you'll be able to select a default folder that you'll be taken directly to when you log on to BI 4.1. This is helpful because it saves time and takes you right to the content that's most important to you. You'll also have the opportunity to select several different descriptive attributes about published reports.

These attributes will give you information at a glance about the reports published to the SAP BusinessObjects platform pictured below. Depending on the size of your monitor, you might prefer a long list of reports to appear on the same page without having to go to the next page.

Changing Web Intelligence Preferences

To choose your reporting settings, click Web Intelligence from the list of preference choices. My personal preference is to use the HTML viewer to View reports and the Applet (JAVA) viewer to Modify reports (as pictured below).

The HTML viewer is faster, cleaner, and provides 99 percent of the same functionality as the Applet viewer. The Applet viewer still has a slight functional advantage though, because it allows you to create conditional formatting rules and to create a custom number format on a column. As long as you're not performing those two actions, the HTML viewer is the best choice.

Let's move on to the fun stuff and talk about reporting. It's important to understand that all modifications to a Web Intelligence report are done from design mode. Reading mode is designed specifically for viewing and analyzing data in a report, while design mode is for making report modifications.

Designing Reports for a Specific Purpose

The first rule of thumb when creating reports is to understand how the reports will be used. This single detail will give you most of the information you need to start creating reports. There are quite a few other questions you could ask that are also helpful, but knowing how users want to see the data will get you designing on the right path. Below are the four primary ways that users will often use Web Intelligence reports.

Viewing on demand

Reports will be published to the BI 4.1 platform and available anytime for user consumption when users need it. Scheduling these types of reports saves time and allows users to log on and view the latest instance of a report rather than the user having to refresh a query after every report.

Interactive viewing is a common need when reports are viewed on demand. Most users will expect to interact with a report by drilling into the data using filters. Web Intelligence has no shortage of choices here with the following options available to report developers or power users:

 - simple report filters, also known as the filter bar
 - input controls provide powerful and dynamic filtering
 - block filtering allows you to enter design mode and apply specific filters to individual data tables and charts

On-demand viewers are usually more willing to see your innovative creations of Webi dashboards and visual reports. Interview a frequent user to get ideas and an understanding for what information users would like to have. If you can include some of those ideas in your designs, you might get user acceptance quicker than expected.

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