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.
Let’s start by looking at the design area, where we find 5 tabs on the top of the application (“Report element”, “Format”, “Data access”, “Analysis” and “Page Setup”).
The new WebI XI 4.0 tries to centralize similar features in a more logical manner. In such way, under “Report Element”, we find the basic elements for the initial design.
This section is divided into 3 areas, where initially we’ll find these tabs: “Table”, “Cell” and “Section”. We won’t find any new characteristic added here, though a significant change lays in the way we interact with the elements.
What is worthy of mention is that we can now insert elements into a table in the habitual drag & drop way or by simply using a new interface to set any of them more rapidly.
The second section is focused entirely on “Charts”. This area has undergone major improvements and we now have many more graphic options to work with. WebI includes new chart types, new properties and other features developers have been expecting for quite some time.
The third section instead is based on how we allocate the report elements. We will therefore find the regular “Turn Into”, “Set as section”, “Order”, “Align” and “Hyperlinks” functions.
Apart from these three sections, if we click on an active report element, a new section pops up complementing the options that are available to us when right clicking over a report element. For example, if we click on a table, we can set up the Breaks or Insert/Remove Rows.
In the “Format” tab we now have a better distribution of all options which are now centralized and easy to access in order for us to format in any aspect our element. Previously all these options were spread across the report and accessed either by right clicking on the element or by selecting from the formatting bar or the “Data” tab. Moreover, what I believe is well worth of mention is that WebI now adapts dynamically to each formatting option that fits with the selected item. In other words, if we select a cell, the tab is adjusted to modify multiple cell parameters; the same stands for table, report etc.
In the “Data Access” tab we find all the options related to data access and data manipulation. The first section involves working with the query panel (“Data Providers”). We can now create new queries to new data sources. It basically adds a new query to our document with the selected data source. Alternatively, we can edit one of the active queries, do a data purge or even refresh it. Under “Tools”, instead, we can change the data source specifically for one of the active queries or export the data to a flat file, CSV or PDF. The second section called “Data Objects” is where we can create our report data variables or merge specific dimensions.
Under the “Analysis” tab, the related functions are much more consistent. This is the case, for example, if we want to filter the data; now individual reports like “Filters”, “Ranking” or “Input controls” are grouped in one same block. Still under “Analysis” we find “Data Tracking” with no significant developments. The “Breaks” and “Sorts” options are centralized aswell, now grouped under “Display”. Special mention goes to the “Conditional” tab, which includes a feature, legacy from the former WebI: “Alerters”. Finally, we can move on forward to the last set of options under the ”Interact“ tab where we’ll find the “Drill”, “Filter Bar” and “Outline” options and, as for the “Functions” tab, we’ll find the default aggregation functions such as sum, count, min, max etc.
The last tab to consider is named “Page Setup”. This is one of the parts which I find particularly useful as it is more defined if compared with the old version.
Divided into three parts, the first block manages the reports. No new functionalities have been added here. The second block focuses on the distribution for each page of the report, defining the orientation and the page size, and the “Show/Hide” and “Height” for the header and footer. Finally, in the third block we have a new feature called “Scale to Page” where we can adjust our items either in width or in height fitting them in single or multiple pages. Additionally we can also control the report margins as well as the page display by toggling between quick display and view page.
Last but not the least, we find three new menus “Reading”,”Design” and “Data” that are quite useful.
These are intended to be shortcuts to the three main actions that a developer would carry out in WebI offering different views for each action. In case we want to evaluate the report results, all we need to do is right click on “Reading” and the “Summary View” will appear along with the report results. If we want to go back to the creation area, we simply click on “Design” and it will display the canvas either in structure mode or populated with data. Finally the “Data” shortcut shows us a nice overview of all the data providers involved in our queries.