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BIRT Wrapper for JSF Applications

For those of you that have been trying to integrate BIRT into JavaServer Faces (JSF) applications, the jsf4birt component library should make things easier. This library was created by Exadel and supports the rendering of BIRT-based reports on pages wthin JSF web applications.There are two components; a birtWrapper, and actuateWrapper. The birtWrapper component displays BIRT reports created in the Eclipse BIRT Report Designer. This component uses the BIRT runtime API and calls the appropriate part of the API to get generated HTML code to put on the page. Everything is done on the server side following the usual JSF lifecycle processing.The actuateWrapper component loads reports from an installed Actuate server. The component uses the Actuate Javascript API to load and run BIRT reports and allows the integration of the AJAX-based BIRT Interactive Viewer.Max Katz and I demonstrated the jsf4birt component library in an online webinar. Watch the webinar recording hereInstructions for installing and testing the jsf4birt component can be found here 

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Sorting a Crosstab by a Field Not Displayed in the Crosstab

Say you want to create a crosstab showing payments or orders by year for each customer. That is easy enough. You create a dataCube with Customer and year as groups/dimensions and their payment/order totals as you measure. In your dataSet, you also have a credit limit for each customer. You would like to sort by this so that your “typically” bigger customers are at the top of your list.If you went to the sorting tab in the property editor for the crosstab with things setup as described above, you wouldn”t find the option to sort by credit limit available because you aren’t displaying it in your crosstab. You don’t want to put this value in your crosstab though, so you’re stuck, right? Wrong. There is a feature in BIRT that is somewhat hidden if you don’t know the right place to look that will solve this.If you open your dataCube and double click on the group/dimension that you’d like to sort, a group level editor will pop up:As you can see in the above image, there is an attribute section for the grouping. If you click where it says “Create New Attribute”, you can select your credit limit field and it will then be listed under the attributes section as you can see done above. Now when you go to your sorting tab for your crosstab and click on “Add” and select the group you added the attribute to, if you click on the function button next to sort key, you’ll be able to see and select the attribute as your sort key.The new sort key will be in the form of dimension[“groupName”][“dimensionName”][“attributeName”]. The resulting crosstab will now not be sorted alphabetically by customername or by the summary field, it’ll be sorted by the credit limit value from your dataSet. The following link is to devShare entry on this with this example included. http://www.birt-exchange.org/devshare/designing-birt-reports/1172-sorting-a-crosstab-by-a-field-not-in-the-crosstab/#description

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Check out the BIRT Mashboard

One of the nice benefits of the BIRT Exchange Marketplace is that it is a great showcase for some really cool things you can do with BIRT. The BIRT Mashboard is an excellent example of how BIRT can be leveraged in rich information applications to create world class solutions. This fully featured app is designed for managers who need to make decisions based on varied cuts of business data. Specifically, the BIRT Mashboard allows executives to create their own custom dashboards and data visualizations with interactive drill-down capabilities.The BIRT Mashboard starts with a blank canvas that can be populated with pre-defined controls called portlets to construct a page of interactive BIRT charts, tables, graphs and other data elements that describe your (and others’) data. No programming knowledge is required to make the page – just drag and drop portlets from a palette to the canvas and it just works. Once these portlets are placed on the canvas, they adapt dynamically to each other based on the user’s actions.As an example, let’s say that three portlets exist on your canvas, the first is a pie chart that divides your company’s total sales by region, the second is a table that lists total sales by product line and a third is a map that marks each of your sales offices worldwide. Since the portlets communicate, you can click on one of the regions in the pie chart and the table next to it changes from showing a global representation of product line sales to just the data for that region. The map also shifts from a world view to show a regional view – plus, in this example, adds pins for each customer located there. Clicking on one of those pins then pops up a list of your products purchased by that customer as well as a contact name and phone number.The BIRT Mashboard comes with some predefined portlets and more can be created by developers and analysts. These portlets are able to pull data from many different sources (internal and external) and inter-portlet communication is managed by simple javascripting. Once created, these portlets can be reused across many custom dashboards and reports, and security and scalability is ensured by Actuate’s backend iServer technology.Note that you can present content built in BIRT and served by the iServer right alongside any other web accessible content too. The BIRT Mashboard allows you full control of your own application experience. Whether that content is built inside BIRT or not, the BIRT Mashboard brings it all together in a cohesive easy-to-use interface.I encourage you to take a look at the Overview video (under the BIRT Mashboard demo tab) and then download the app and try it out. You can find 6 separate ten minute how-to videos (also under the demo tab) to help you get started.Don’t have an iServer? No problem, you can get a free trial version of iServer Express from BIRT Exchange or even better, choose the 1 Click Install option for BIRT Mashboard and open a free account on the new BIRT onDemand service which will set up and pre-configure everything you need at no cost to evaluate the BIRT Mashboard on our servers.And please don’t forget to let us know what you think of the BIRT Mashboard or any other apps you evaluate on theBIRT Exchange Marketplace by adding your comments under their corresponding review tabs. 

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Extending BIRT Just Got A Little Easier

One of the strongest features of BIRT is the ability to extend BIRT in order to support very specific requirements. These BIRT extension points support building your own custom report items, charts, output types, functions, and even custom editor pages. There is a nice article on building your own extension here if you are interested.This week in the BIRT Exchange Marketplace, a couple of items were submitted that will make building your own extensions quite a bit easier. These free libraries were jointly created by Innovent Solutions and Blackboard Inc. and serve as example BIRT extensions as well as best practices for anyone developing their own BIRT extensions.The examples I downloaded and tested were:* BIRT Controls Library – This library uses the ReportItem extension point and includes two example controls, the DotBar control and a RotatedText control. This example was easy to install and use by following the directions with the download at http://www.birt-exchange.com/be/marketplace/app-showcase/?app=22. There are screenshots of these controls and a video showing them in use at the same link.* BIRT Functions Library – This library uses the Aggregate and Script Function extension points and includes examples that allow you to create your own summarized total functions as well as how to make custom Javascript functions available to BIRT scripting. Instructions to install this library, plus screenshots can be found at http://www.birt-exchange.com/be/marketplace/app-showcase/?app=24 

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