New WebIntelligence™ layout in XI 4.0 (First Part)

After a long time working on developing reports either with Deski or WebI documents on the old XI 2.0 and XI 3.0 platforms, I was eager to see what new functionalities SAP was able to offer us with the new releases of BusinessObjects 4.0. There are many articles that illustrate the main new features, but I couldn’t find any that would show how the tool looks like and what the real capabilities and functionalities are for a developer. This is the exact and main purpose of this first article; to give real insight into the new fancy application web version in terms of layout.

First and foremost, it is important to clear out the confusion generated around the nomenclature of Web Intelligence. Previously SAP had considered changing this from Web Intelligence to Interactive Analysis; this is why installer name and documentation refer to it as Interactive Analysis. SAP has decided to maintain the original nomenclature and so we shall continue referring to this application as Web Intelligence (WebI).

As soon as we select the “Interactive Analysis” button, the application is launched. It is interesting to note that a new tab called “Interactive Analysis” is added to the BI Launch Pad (formerly known as InfoView), next to the regular Home and Documents tabs.

The tab itself offers 3 possibilities, close, pin the tab, and open a new window to maximize the working area. This option is perhaps the most interesting of all as it responds to the long-standing demand from behalf of developers, to be able to work on a larger canvas area without having to pre-configure global options in the BI Launch Pad.

Below the tab we find a greyed out bar with the usual properties for editing and formatting as well as a drop combo box (Interactive Analysis) that will prove to be really helpful to manage the different bars and panes. Momentarily, we can only interact with the “new”, “open a document”, “user preferences button” and “help button”.

The user preferences button offers a new feature on the web version of WebI called "Manage BI services" used to manage the web services available in the hosts. It is also interesting to see that we can open a new a document from the server, either from a folder or a category.

If we decide to create a new document, the application prompts us to create a new data provider by selecting the data source it will be based on. The options available are “no data source”, “universe”, “BEX” and “Analysis View”.

The new and most significant options amongst these are “BEX” and “Analysis View”. BEX (acronym for Businness Explorer queries) is used to retrieve data directly from the queries mounted on the Infocubes from  SAP BW environment. Instead, View Analysis uses the results from an Analysis workspace, exported as an analysis view and created within an OLAP source system. I highly recommend the reader to explore these possibilities in forthcoming posts.

In this post I will use the everlasting universe efashion as an example.

As you can notice in the below illustration, the query panel isn’t any different from the old query pane in terms of layout.  It is still based on the same interactive functions and we can continue playing with the options to show or hide panels. The main new feature is the data preview panel which provides us with a first preview of the data depending on the objects dropped.

Minor changes are worth being taken into consideration such as for the “SQL” button that has now become the “View Script” button, or the reshaped “Master Perspective” drop down box that basically enables to display the objects sorted by class or by hierarchy. A new handy and interesting option is the new “Close” button offering us the possibility to choose between applying changes and closing or reverting changes and then close.

However the major enhancement of the query panel is one that is not visible. The outstanding feature is that now we can add new multiple queries to our document combining different data sources  (other universes, queries or analysis BEX View) answering a fundamental request from Webi developers.

The real feel of this being a new product release comes when we run a query and we use the new design mode. The first impression we have is that WebI is in line with the layout of the newest Microsoft Office products. The WebI canvas has experienced a total revolution. The static old bars have made way to a much more logical design using integrated tabs distributed throughout the application, which improves tremendously the usability for the developer. At a first glance, we can identify two main parts, the navigation area and the creation area.

Let us focus on the navigation area; this too is mainly divided into two parts. The first is the historical file menu where we can create, open, save, and print documents…nothing new. The second is a more centralized area where we can set up global properties at both document and application level. This last level is segmented into 3 parts. The first is the "View" menu, where we can show and hide all toolbars, tabs and panes. Now, we also have the possibility to expand to full screen.  In short, WebI has now more options centralized than the previous versions, which were distributed across the report and the query panel.

Finally under "Application" we find the same “user settings” present in the previous version of WebI, where we can set up the Measurement unit and the Grid properties.

Still, in the previous WebI, we used to have five tabs on the left hand side of the canvas (Map, Templates, Properties, Data and Input Controls). Now, in the latest WebI version, this part has been totally renewed. This new area is more focused on navigation and customization of the global document rather than the report elements. The first is the summary document which outputs a summary of the main options established in the WebI document. An interesting new option within this section is an area where you visualize the prompts parameters defined in the doc as well as the KeyData. The next two icons correspond to a new partition of what we used to find in the old “map” tab: report map and document structure and filters. Input controls and Available objects (former “Data” tab) present nothing new. Finally the structure is completed with the web service publisher.

I hope you enjoyed this article and that it has allowed you to gain a better understanding of the new WebI layout. Stay tuned for the second part of this article for more insight on what’s new in WebI.

Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask for clarifications and I will readily reply to you.