Spreadsheets without Tears Save Your Time and Eliminate Headaches by Automating Spreadsheet Production with the Free BIRT Spreadsheet Designer

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1 The people behind BIRT TM Product Brochure Spreadsheets without Tears Save Your Time and Eliminate Headaches by Automating Spreadsheet Production with the Free BIRT Spreadsheet Designer With Microsoft Excel installed on virtually every desktop and used daily by most business professionals, it should come as no surprise that when business users want to view and analyze information, the great majority of them want to do so using Microsoft Excel. As a result, numerous hours are spent by IT and business users, creating and updating spreadsheets by cutting and pasting the latest data into Excel and then defining the necessary Excel logic such as live charts, live formulas, pivot tables, conditional formatting, VB macros and many others. The process is not only inefficient, but also error prone. If you or your colleagues are spending time updating spreadsheets with the latest data, you should download and try out the free BIRT Spreadsheet Designer. Using this free-of-charge, personal-productivity product, you can automate the tedious task of updating Excel spreadsheets with the latest data. This tool not only saves your time for more important tasks, but also eliminates the errors associated with handcrafting spreadsheets - errors which too often lead to major headaches such as poor decisions, audit failures and compliance risks.

2 Overview Microsoft Excel is installed on virtually every desktop and used daily by most business professionals. So, it s no surprise that when business users want to view and analyze information, the great majority of them want to do so using Excel and will accept no substitutes. As a result, in many organizations Excel spreadsheets are the established mechanism for communicating and representing the state of the business. Since data changes often however, numerous hours are spent by IT and business users updating spreadsheets with the latest data by cutting and pasting the needed values into Excel and then reapplying Excel logic such as live charts, live formulas, pivot tables, conditional formatting, VB macros and many others. Previously, getting the project summaries took up to four days just to get information to the finance people. It could be two weeks before the relevant information was fed to the individual project managers half way through the new month! - Atkins Corporation The process is not only tedious and time consuming, but also error prone as it s so easy for example to cut and paste data into the wrong cells, over-select the cells when defining a formula or chart etc. The result is spreadsheets with incorrect logic and data, which too often leads to bad decisions, audit failures and compliance risks. 88% of business critical spreadsheets have errors. - Prof. Raymond R. Panko, University of Hawai i 1 The free BIRT Spreadsheet Designer (formerly known as Actuate e.spreadsheet Designer) provides an intuitive method to automate spreadsheet production allowing you to efficiently produce the accurate, up-to-date, analysis-ready Excel spreadsheets you and your colleagues need. Unlike other reporting tools, the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer looks and feels a lot like Microsoft Excel, thus empowering a broad range of users to produce the data-driven, analysis-ready Excel documents required by business professionals in the enterprise. These documents can be everything from simple listing reports to pivot tables to the more complicated multidimensional matrix Excel spreadsheets used in financial planning, forecasting and reporting. Efficient, Automated Spreadsheet Generation To automate spreadsheet production, you use the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer to create BIRT Spreadsheet report designs for all the Excel spreadsheets that you manually create or update today. A report design specifies how the actual Excel Spreadsheet should be generated based on the latest data. It defines: 1. Where the data for the spreadsheet should come for - which data sources, queries and data filters are to be used. 2. How to present the data in the body of the spreadsheet - how should it be formatted, grouped, sorted, charted, presented as a pivot table etc. Once you create the necessary report designs, all it takes to update an Excel spreadsheet with the latest data is to open the corresponding report design in the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer and click the Run button. This will produce an Excel spreadsheet based on the latest data, which can then be opened in Microsoft Excel for analysis and can be ed to others. Fast Report Creation The BIRT Spreadsheet Designer looks and feels a lot like Microsoft Excel and as a result is approachable by any skilled Excel user. Powerful Excel-like menu options and wizards contribute to making the report design creation process intuitive and straightforward by enabling you to format cells and worksheets, adjust formulas and data grouping, summarize data automatically, insert charts, pivot tables and many more. Familiar Microsoft Access-like query builders enable you to get the data for your reports from any JDBC compliant database, Peoplesoft and SAP application data stores, XML and web-services data sources quickly and easily. 1. What We Know About Spreadsheet Errors By Raymond R. Panko, University of Hawai I College of Business Administration. 2

3 Intuitive Excel-like commands (called Report Functions) enable you to quickly and with minimal training create report designs for Excel spreadsheets with very complex business logic, irregular formatting and layout requirements. Error Free Solution A report design that you create using the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer acts as a template for how the resultant Excel spreadsheet should be generated based on latest data. The report design abstraction separates the report s logic including formulas, format and layout specifications from the report s data to better support repeated use, and to make it easier to identify and fix errors. After you validate the logic captured in a report design, you can execute this report indefinitely and it will be correctly populated with the latest data every time. Features and Benefits BIRT Spreadsheet Designer Familiar Excel Design Metaphor The BIRT Spreadsheet Designer is modeled after the Excel interface to help users of the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer become productive in no time. Enter formulas, format cells, insert rows and columns, etc. using all the Excel commands and syntax that you are used to. In addition, the designer provides powerful features to extend the Excel model to make data retrieval and dynamic layout of variable result sets easy. Data Range Editor From simple listing reports to crosstabs to complex, matrix-style spreadsheets, this graphical reporting editor uses the click of a mouse to help you build layouts that in traditional reporting tools would require programming or tedious manual steps. For example: Spreadsheets with complex, dynamic layouts based on data from hierarchical data sources, such as star schemas, PeopleSoft trees or SAP business hierarchies Spreadsheets that display complex ragged hierarchies and perform roll-ups of lower levels Fully dynamic, three-dimensional crosstabs that dynamically expand across the page, down the page and across multiple worksheets to accommodate the incoming data Reports with complex inter-row and inter-column calculations, such as financial statements or compliance spreadsheet reports Spreadsheets with irregular formatting and layout, where selected cells are formatted differently than others, or use a different data source OLAP style spreadsheets, with expand-to-detail capabilities using Excel s ability to expand-to-detail and collapse-to-summary-data. The Data Range Editor is a 2D Banding Guide that allows users to easily create spreadsheets with complex, data-driven layouts The BIRT Spreadsheet Designer closely resembles the Excel interface, thus leveraging the existing Excel expertise to speed up report development. BIRT Spreadsheet Designer can easily produce truly data driven, three-dimensional crosstab Excel spreadsheet reports that dynamically expand across the page, down the page and across multiple worksheets to accommodate the incoming data 3

4 Data Explorer The BIRT Spreadsheet Designer Data Explorer simplifies the process of defining the queries and parameters to be used to populate your Excel spreadsheet reports. In the Data Explorer, you can retrieve data from all of these sources: RDBMSs with SQL and SQL stored procedures Flat Files XML Web service data sources Application data sources such as PeopleSoft and SAP Actuate Information Objects In addition, developers can leverage the Eclipse Foundation Open Data Access (ODA) mechanism built into BIRT Spreadsheet to define access to custom, legacy and home-grown data sources. Query Editor Define and modify the queries in a report design using a drag-and-drop graphical query editor much like that available in Microsoft Access. This enables you to build sophisticated parameterized queries leveraging your existing knowledge, and with the click of a button, you can switch to a textual mode to review or elaborate the generated SQL statements. Report wizards make report creation fast and easy Fully Functional, Analysis-Ready Excel Spreadsheets Rich Excel Features The spreadsheets generated by BIRT Spreadsheet are delivered as live, fully functional Excel documents. This means that the full range of Excel viewing and analysis features are available for report consumers, including: Formatting that makes use of the full range of Excel cell, row, column and sheet options Embedded formulas, enabling what if analysis and modeling Pivot tables to sort and summarize data in new ways Data filtering to focus on just the desired information Embedded charts to allow what if changes in data to be visualized immediately in the chart types supported by Excel Grouping (expand/collapse) to view information at different levels of detail depending on interest Hyperlinks to navigate to other Excel documents, reports or web pages The Query Editor users Microsoft Access-like interfaces to guide users through the query creation process Report Wizards Powerful Excel-like menu options and wizards in the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer make report creation fast and straightforward and eliminate the need to write code. Use wizard-based selections to format cells and worksheets, adjust formulas and data grouping, summarize data automatically, insert graphs, pivot tables and more. BIRT Spreadsheet Designer can easily produce Excel spreadsheets that have live charts and formulas embedded within them, enabling users to perform interactive analysis efficiently. BIRT Spreadsheet supports the full range of Excel chart types and formulas. 4

5 BIRT Spreadsheet Designer makes it easy to create dynamic, data-driven Excel Pivot Table reports complete with filtering and drill down functionality BIRT Spreadsheet is designed to make the creation of sophisticated multidimensional Excel matrix reports easy. Full Range of Support for Excel Versions Excel spreadsheets generated by BIRT Spreadsheet can be opened and analyzed in all mainstream Microsoft Excel versions such as Excel 2002, 2003 and BIRT Spreadsheet Designer can easily produce Excel spreadsheets with automatic or custom data filters Worksheet Bursting Excel documents, particularly ones created for financial applications, are often delivered as workbooks with multiple worksheets. For example, each worksheet may be used to represent the results from a different sales region or department. BIRT Spreadsheet makes the production of such Excel spreadsheets easy by allowing for dynamic generation of an arbitrary number of worksheets per workbook based on the incoming data and the layout logic defined in the corresponding BIRT Spreadsheet report design. Sophisticated Multidimensional Matrix Reports Modern financial reporting practice calls for sophisticated matrix reports of several dimensions, with each dimension varying dynamically based on the row or column categories used within it. In addition, each category may have several levels of hierarchy. For example, expenses by department code may be summarized by month, quarter and year. BIRT Spreadsheet Designer is designed to make dynamic creation of such reports easy, and can incorporate Excel s grouping (expand/collapse) capability as appropriate to make varying levels of detail visible. Support for PDF Output In addition to Excel output, BIRT Spreadsheet also provides out-of-box support for PDF output, allowing more generalized reporting requirements to be addressed. Parameterized Reports Excel spreadsheets generated by BIRT Spreadsheet can be personalized or customized by user-provided values. For example, a budget versus actual report can be run for a particular department and for a particular date range by defining department and date parameters in the report design. Users running the report can be prompted to select values for a particular parameter from dynamically populated or static pick lists, text controls, calendars or type in custom values. Cascading parameters are available, with which the parameter values that a user selects from one pick list can filter the values in other parameter pick lists. For example in a customer details report, after selecting a country from the first parameter pick list, the values in the second parameter pick list are updated on the fly to include just the customers for the selected country. 5

6 How to get started To learn more and get started with the free BIRT Spreadsheet Designer, go to: There you will find: The download link for the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer The BIRT Spreadsheet Designer product documentation Technical white papers and webinars recordings A discussion forum focused on designing BIRT Spreadsheet reports The DevShare library with code, report designs, helpful tips and tutorials, many of which were contributed by other BIRT Spreadsheet developers. After you download and install the BIRT Spreadsheet Designer on your desktop, refer to the two step-bystep report development tutorials included with the product. If you used the default installation options, you can find these tutorials under: C:\Program Files\Actuate10\espreadsheet\ examples\tutorials As these tutorials were developed using the Actuate 9 BIRT Spreadsheet Designer, you may spot various minor UI differences from the current Actuate 10 BIRT Spreadsheet Designer. the Run report button. This automated process not only saves you time, but also eliminates the errors associated with cutting and pasting the latest data into a spreadsheet. To share the produced Excel spreadsheets with others though, you still have to resort to , which is not ideal, because it s not very efficient and doesn t provide recipients with ondemand access to the Excel spreadsheets they need. To allow you to securely and efficiently share BIRT Spreadsheet reports with others, so they can schedule or execute them on-demand, Actuate provides commercial deployment options suitable for any size user audience: from just a few users all the way to potentially millions of users. With these commercial deployment options, which include the BIRT Spreadsheet Engine, BIRT Deployment Kit, BIRT iserver Express and BIRT iserver, you can deploy your reports and seamlessly integrate BIRT Spreadsheet functionality into your web-based and desktop applications, allowing authorized users to execute BIRT Spreadsheet reports with the click of a button to receive the up-to-date, analysis-ready Excel spreadsheets they need to support their business decisions. To learn more about these commercial deployment products and to download their trial versions, go to: How can I share BIRT Spreadsheet reports with others? Once you download and start benefiting from the free BIRT Spreadsheet Designer, chances are that in no time you will create BIRT Spreadsheet reports for all the Excel spreadsheets in your organization that you or others have to update manually with the latest data to analyze or to others to analyze. The produced BIRT Spreadsheet reports enable you to generate the needed Excel spreadsheets on the fly by simply opening the corresponding report design in the BIRT Spreadsheet designer and clicking Actuate Corporation 2207 Bridgepointe Parkway Suite 500 San Mateo, CA Tel: (888) Web: 6

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