July 8th, 2010 by Mark Rittman
Now the launch of OBIEE 11g is behind us, we can start to take a look at some of the key new features in this release. One of the most obvious changes in OBIEE 11gR1 compared to the 10g release, is around the visual look and feel of the web-based components. OBIEE 11gR1 has a new, “Fusion” user interface that takes a task-orientated approach to working with the tool, making it easier for first time users to create a new report, access existing reports and dashboards, and take advantage of new functionality such as agents, KPIs or scorecards.
Oracle call this new interface the “Unified Framework”, and it combines the functionality of Answers, Interactive Dashboards and Delivers into a single interface. In addition, products such as BI Publisher (referred to as “Published Reporting”) and Marketing are integrated into the same screen, together with new Performance Management features such as KPIs and Scorecards. This unified framework can be broken down into three areas of functionality:
- The Home Page, shown in the screenshot above, that provides quick links to existing reports and to create new ones;
- The common Catalog page, which provides list of reports, dashboard and other objects, plus a search facility, and
- The common Header, the section at the top of each page (including the home page) with buttons for key function
The Home Page, shown in the screenshot above, is itself divided into several sections. On the left-hand side is the Create… section that provides links to create a new Analysis (reports, or the old “requests” in the 10g version), Dashboard, Published Reporting (BI Publisher reports), as well as agents and other objects. It also makes the process of creating dashboard prompts and shared filters more obvious (in 10g these were hidden away in the Answers interface), and also makes it possible to define “conditions”, a new web catalog object that formalises the process of defining boolean tests around report results.
If you select, for example, the Analysis option in the Create… list, a list of subject areas are displayed for you to choose from. Once you select the subject area, the interface opens up in a view similar to Answers in the previous release. We’ll look at this in a moment.
Under the Create… list is a set of shortcuts for browsing or managing your set of reports. The whole area within the home page is scrollable within a frame, and in the screenshot below I’ve scrolled down to reveal the Browse/Manage… area with Get Started… underneath it.
Over to the right of this panel is an area showing at the top, your Recent dashboards and other objects, and below that, the most Popular ones accessed by others on your system. Under each of these objects are links to open the object, edit it, print it and perform other tasks.
This area together makes up the homepage, which scrolls within a frame header up by the common Header area. The common Header area can be found on all of the various product pages, and provides a consistent set of buttons, options and other links that are used across all of the OBIEE 11gR1 application.
Starting with the bottom row first, there are buttons for Home (to take you back to the homepage), Catalog for opening the common Catalog page, buttons to create New reports and Open existing ones, and a link with your logged in name on it for opening the My Account page.
Clicking on New displays a list of the objects that you have permission to create. The most commonly used one will probably be Analysis, which opens Answers to create a new report, Dashboard, to create a new dashboard, Dashboard Prompt for a drop-down list for the dashboard, Report for a BI Publisher report and Agent, to create what in 10g was called an iBot.
Selecting Analysis from the New menu will firstly ask you to select a subject area, and then will open the new version of Answers (called Answers+ in the lead-up to 11g). Answers looks similar to the 10g release in that it has two panes, and in one of the panes you can switch between Criteria, Results, Prompts and Advanced tabs.
We’ll look at the new Answers in a future posting, but for now we’ll click on the Catalog link in the common Header area. This opens up the common Catalog view, which in 11g benefits from a search facility that indexes and crawls the web catalog in the background.
In the Catalog view, you can navigate through the web catalog on the top left-hand side, which in 11g also includes BI Publisher content.
On the right-hand side you can see the list of objects currently selected, and which also includes a preview facility that allows you to see the report before you open it (you can disable this by minimising the Preview area below the listing. Also on the bottom left-hand side are a list of Tasks, actions that you can perform on the object that is selected. All of the objects that you can see, and the tasks that you can perform on them, are secured based on your profile in the web catalog.
New to the Catalog link in the header area is a drop-down list of Dashboards. Clicking on this displays a hierarchical list of the dashboards you can open, organised into group folders if you’ve set these up.
Next to the New drop-down list is one for Open, which initially displays the same list of recent and popular objects that are shown on the homepage (in case you’ve got another page open when you click this list).
Clicking the Open link at the top of this list opens a dialog, again new in this release, where you can navigate through the web catalog.
On the line in the header above the New and Open links is a Search area, with an object-type drop-down list and text box for simple searches, and an Advanced search button that opens the Catalog view and allows you refine the search, sort the contents and so on.
Next to the Search area is a button for Administration, that when pressed shows (assuming you are have the BIAdministrator application role) the Presentation Server administration page. This is similar to the same page in OBIEE 10g, but now includes links to reload server metadata, manage maps and also manage BI Publisher (which in fact just takes you to the standard BI Publisher administration screen).
So that’s a quick guide through the new Unified Framework and homepage in OBIEE 11gR1. In the next couple of postings, I’ll be looking at hierarchical columns, enhancements to dimension handling in the RPD, and enhancements to pivot table views that can also be used dynamically in the dashboard.