Actuate Programming Journal

Report design from a guy who thinks he knows what he’s doing; you decide . . . .

Posts Tagged ‘reporting

Learning About eSpreadsheets Finally

with 6 comments

Just thought I would toss this title out there as a buoy for anyone hoping I’d write about something other than the core Actuate IDE: eRDPro.


I’ve not had cause (or time) to come up to speed with the eSpreadsheet tool despite having been mildly aware of it’s existence all the way back to when it was Formula One’s.

From what I can tell this is fine since version 9 takes a firm grip of the design metaphor and steers it in a solidly ‘drag and drop you moron’ sort of way from what I can tell.  I am definitely a moron regarding these things and look forward to delving into the ports that challenge my moronityness.

Anything you’d like to know?

Written by Douglas

20080225 at 10:33 am

The Differences Between Actuate 6, 7, 8, and 9

with 9 comments


Hopefully from that one word you can tell I am more likely to focus on opinions than facts.

In general the changes that Actuate makes to its reporting suite have influenced the server application more than the development IDE. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because there really isn’t all that much new under the sun regarding how to build reports. The server bells and whistles are what sell the product to the folks that pay for Actuate–that’s not normally a crowd full of developers looking for slicker programming environments. I’ve been far enough removed from the server side of things in these past years that I will only say that somewhere in there they added support for clustering (probably from 6 to 7).

The IDE on the other hand has had a few noteworthy, but barely braggable updates.

6 became the benchmark in my mind for IDE stability. Before that eRDPro was prone to hiccups that trashed ROD files and required restarting the app and sometime rebooting your computer. I think this is when we got the Dynamic Text Controls. Grouping and Sorting got a fancy new widget in this version or 7. I don’t use or recommend it’s use so I don’t recall.

7 added that crosstab widget that I avoid but I hear others like well enough. I think they deprecated AcGraph in favor of AcChart and the new–thank God–graph/chart widget.

8 was the biggest leap since I’ve been around. eRDPro went from in-house interface to Eclipse based. Though I wouldn’t call it a full on embrace of Eclipse since there is still some functionality I would have expected to see but don’t: code highlighting and completion being the most obvious.

9 is an extension of 8 but with the funky little do-dad for doing conditional formatting. It’s handy, but not as robust as I would have liked for my coding.

Things I’d like to see:

  • code highlighting
  • code completion
  • file manager interface
  • better server access (more clarity)
  • ability to open more than two instances of eRDPro

I am sure there are other IDE standards that I am not thinking of at the moment. I suspect I am too ingrained in the product as is to think to far outside the current feature set.

As for the question that spawned this post, there are really no difference in the ROD file types except that you can’t run newer versions in the older IDE/Server. Backward compatible, yes; forward, no. I have no evidence, experience, training, or interest in finding out why that is, but I suspect it’s nothing more complex than “file version <= IDE version?”.

A remainder not to quote me on any of the above ‘facts’. This is totally out of my brain. If you require a technical comparison of the feature sets between versions, please check Actuate’s documentation regard such.

Written by Douglas

20080220 at 11:57 am

Posted in Actuate, Requests

Tagged with , , ,

Commonly Overridden: ObtainSelectStatement( )

with 8 comments

It is entirely possible to have a significant installation of Actuate that never needs to override the ObtainSelectStatement( ) (OSS).  I haven’t seen one and I doubt it happens much.  Understanding how to override this method is a core skill for a good Actuate developer.

Overriding the DataStream object’s OSS allows you to programmatically design your SQL query based on any sort of external information: user input, configuration files, or even live data.  Users running reports directly or by proxy through schedules could feed your query simple information about the date range desired or the shipping destination of an order.  An external flat file might direct the report to use a development database instead of a production database or maybe one schema instead of another.  A report can even be designed such that one part of the report queries the database first and returns information transmitted in a second query that then populates your report.  There are lots of reasons to modify a SQL statement at run time.

Of course you may just want to preserve the whitespace and layout of your SQL as you go from one tool to build the code to Actuate to run it.

Disable the Superclass

Function ObtainSelectStatement( ) As String 
''' ObtainSelectStatement = Super::ObtainSelectStatement( )  

    ' Insert your code here  

End Function

In nearly every case you are going to comment out or remove the call to the superclass.  Your code will be doing all the work.

Local Variables

Function ObtainSelectStatement( ) As String  

    dim sqlstmt      as String 
    dim NL           as String 
    dim sqlSchema    as String 
    dim beginDate    as String 
    dim endDate      as String 
    dim category     as String  

    sqlstmt          = ""                    'used throughout to contain the growing SQL statement 
    NL               = Chr$(13) & Chr$(10)   'easier to read output 
    sqlSchema        = cfgSchema             'aids scaling from one schema to another 
    beginDate        = reqBeginDate          'allows for user or schedule input at run time 
    endDate          = reqEndDate            'same 
    category         = reqCategory           'user input  

    [snip - sql statement]  

    ObtainSelectStatement = sqlstmt  

End Function

Plain Substitution

Function ObtainSelectStatement( ) As String  

    [snip - variable declarations]  

''' SELECT '''''''''' 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & "SELECT c.customer_name as NAME "    & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & ", c.customer_id        as CUSTID"   & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & ", c.address            as ADDRESS " & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & ",               as CITY "    & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & ", c.state              as STATE "   & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & ", c.postal_code        as ZIP "     & NL  

''' FROM '''''''''' 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & NL & "FROM " & sqlSchema & ".customer c " & NL  

''' WHERE '''''''''' 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & NL & "WHERE c.active_dttm BETWEEN timestamp('" & beginDate & "') " & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & "                             AND timestamp('" & endDate   & "') " & NL  

''' ORDER BY '''''''''' 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & NL & "ORDER BY NAME " & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & ", CUSTID "           & NL  

    ObtainSelectStatement = sqlstmt  

End Function

Above you should locate five of the local variables used in the construction of the SQL statement.  ‘sqlstmt’ and ‘NL’ are employed in constructing the statement itself.  ‘sqlSchema’, ‘beginDate’, and ‘endDate’ are used for replacement of strings based on implied user input for the date range and configuration information for the schema.

Yes, I am a little nuts when it comes to whitespace and readability.

Conditional Code

Function ObtainSelectStatement( ) As String  


''' WHERE '''''''''' 
    If myCategory = "Active" Then 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & NL & "WHERE c.active_dttm BETWEEN timestamp('" & beginDate & "') " & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & "                             AND timestamp('" & endDate   & "') " & NL 
    ElseIf myCategory = "Closed" Then 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & NL & "WHERE c.closed_dttm BETWEEN timestamp('" & beginDate & "') " & NL 
    sqlstmt = sqlstmt & "                             AND timestamp('" & endDate   & "') " & NL 
    'No Where Clause 
    End If  


    ObtainSelectStatement = sqlstmt  

End Function

Based on the value a user (or a pre-made schedule) submits for the “Category” parameter a different date field can be used to filter the data.  ACTIVE_DTTM when “Active” or CLOSED_DTTM when “Closed”.

I’ve seen the OSS overridden to swap out values for every aspect of the SQL statement; swap out values in the select, choose different tables–even add additional tables, drastically remodel the filtering of the where, or resort the ordering.  Most typically I see it used to customize the where clause.

Written by Douglas

20071120 at 18:44 pm

Overriding ObtainSelectStatement( ): Why

with 2 comments

20061218 Update: Sorry for the big tease.  Life slapped a big old “Hold” on me and it’ll be a bit before I can get to the other parts.  Check back, leave comments, or for God’s sake subscribe to the RSS.

This is one part of a five part series: Why, How 1, How 2, How 3, When, Conclusion

Without reservation I always override the ObtainSelectStatement (OSS( )) in lieu of using the Graphical Query Builder (gQE) or even the Textual (tQE) one. It’s been years since I wrote a simple SQL statement without parameters or other dynamic elements, but I am sure I would find myself typing it out by hand in the OSS( ) even if I did get a chance to write something plain.


I like to work with my hands. And, while I wouldn’t go so far as to claim to be a real programmer, I do like to be able to manage the SQL at the written code level rather than just draw pictures of it. Overriding the OSS( ) allows me to program old school.

The gQE is a great tool for visualizing the database and even constructing SQL (more so than it used to be). You can easily indicate what fields you want to report on, create reasonably sophisticated predicates for filtering data, and even add different kinds of parameters to change things on the fly. The first project I went on back in ’98 used a combination of the gQE and the OSS( ) to build out the SQL logic. SQL statements that could be designed in the gQE was. The more complex needs were worked out by an unholy dovetail of the gQE and the OSS( ).

Even the years I taught the Actuate Suite, I relied upon the gQE. It was fast and obvious and something the students could see. Plus the official materials used it. At the time I hated the syntax for identifying parameters and to this day don’t know how to write them into the gQE.

But let’s fast-forward to my more recent efforts…

In order to meet the often schizophrenic needs of our customers I need to be able to write flexible SQL. SQL that can add an additional table and the requisite joins based on a runtime parameter. Or I need to collect a piece of data from another query in the report and use it in some nested Report Section. Or I need to conditionally modify the predicates in the Where Clause. Or I just have a big-ass database and can’t be bothered with waiting on all the thousands of tables to load in the browser.

In any case, I need more control.

More access.

Less hand-holding.

Overriding the OSS( ) gives me the power I crave.

I’ll show you how.

Written by Douglas

20061201 at 12:33 pm