Monday, August 28, 2006

Pentaho Report Designer versus Pentaho Report Design Wizard

The Pentaho Reporting client toolset can look a bit confusing at first glance. We have the Pentaho Report Designer, and then we have the Pentaho Report Design Wizard. Two products that perform seemingly very similar functions, but are separate tools. What's THAT all about??

Well, first, I'm here to tell you it won't be this way for very long:) And second, these two tools are powerful and unique, and compliment each other very well. Our vision for Reporting in the Pentaho BI Suite is well, sweet. With a little history, it's easier to understand how we got where we are, what should be used when, and where we are going with all this.

So how did we get here? Well, we really loved JFreeReport. JFreeReport provides a robust, full-featured reporting foundation for the Pentaho BI platform. However, at the time that we brought JFreeReport on board the Pentaho ship, the available open source report-building UIs for JFreeReport were lacking. So, that provoked our captain (Mr. Dick Daley) to hail the crew and shout "Go forth yee and build a Report Design Wizard!". Aargghhh. And thus the Report Design Wizard was born (thanks to the mighty efforts of one rather savvy shipmate, Mike D'Amour).

<Insert A.D.D. tangent here>
If at this point, you all are wondering about the sea-faring dialog, my husband often describes the thoughts in his head as a scene from Moulan Rouge. Mine are a bit more Pirates of the Carribean:)
</Insert A.D.D. tangent here>

At this point in the story, we are very excited about the Report Design Wizard, when we are introduced to a company out of Germany that has built a JFreeReport Report Designer. This tool is pretty spiffy and approaches report design a bit differently than the wizard, so Pentaho purchased the Report Designer, and donated it to the world as open source. And that is how we ended up with two tools, that initially look the same.

In reality, the only similarities that the Report Designer and the Report Design Wizard are their names, and their end goal, being to generate a JFreeReport to use in the Pentaho Open BI Suite. These tools actually bring unique sets of features together to provide a complimentary toolset, that will in the near future be much more tightly coupled. Let's take a look at each tool on it's own.

The Report Design Wizard was designed with to be just that - a wizard. A tool to get you from a dataset to a report in the shortest number of steps possible, easing the startup time for building JFreeReport reports. This makes the Report Design wizard inherently focused on the data. You start building your report by telling the wizard where your data is and what query you wish to perform. The next steps allow you to tweak numerous report features, as well as incorporate charts into your final product.

The Report Designer on the other hand, while it can be dataset-centric, provides more power in allowing you to define your report without specific data, as well as giving you the abillity to customize every feature and aspect of your report. The Report Designer supports the vast majority of JFreeReport features, and can render them through it's UI. It shields the user from the JFreeReport XML, almost completely.

My favorite way to use these tools is to start my report creation with the Report Design Wizard ( I can't think in terms as abstract as a report layout without data - too many years as a programmer, I guess), building up as many report features as I can. If I still need to tweak the report, I import it into the Report Designer and polish it there.

And where is all of this going? In the future, we envision the Report Design Wizard as a feature of the Report Designer, as well as our Pentaho Design Studio. Definitely an integration that makes sense, and will make for a nice experience building Pentaho solutions and reports. As the Pentaho Community leader, it's my job to know what's important to you, our community. I'd love to hear about your experiences using these tools, what you think of our plan, and what great ideas you have for the toolset. Please comment, or feel free to email me at :)


Anonymous said...

Finally this is explained!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Matey, Did you celebrate "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" on Sept 19? Arrgh!

Gretchen said...

Aw, you're kidding, right? I am terribly disappointed to have missed it!!!!

That's going in my calendar... by the way, my 8 1/2 month old daughter's first word..."mommom"... second word... "argghhh!!!!"


Anonymous said...

LOL ? u feel fine wih pentaho ? it's like the most open source products: not good enough to use it. first problems starts with installing.

Gretchen said...

Pentaho is absolutely ready for production use - notice I didn't say it was easy...YET! Our mission is to make open source BI possible, and we are there. Our next direction is to make it easy, and many of our '07 roadmap goals are revolving around that.

Please let me know what the install issues you are having are, and let's work it out... Pentaho is well worth the effort!

Anonymous said...

yep, finally this is explained...