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With the release of XI 3.1 SP2 came quite a few new features for Web Intelligence.  For the next few weeks, I will be presenting and discussing the features.  In addition, I will try to provide my opinion on how the features can be used to improve the interactions with users (of the casual and power variety).  For this post, I will be focusing on the new Input Controls available with Web Intelligence.

What are Input Controls? 

The Web Intelligence input controls provide a quick and easy way for users to filter the content that is displayed within a Web Intelligence document.  The use of filtering for a user allows them to not only cut through the information to get to what is important, but also aids the user in analyzing the information before them by determining insights that were not previously visible before a filter occurred.  For example, if I am looking at a report that shows me all sales revenue by quarter and year for my many store locations then it is likely that I am not going to get to the information that I need quickly.  I could use an input control available within the report to quickly filter the displayed content down to a specific year, quarter, region, or store. You could also use an input filter applied to a measure. This would allow you to use a slider control to easily see how the measure changes over time.

How do Input Controls work?

The screenshot below shows a report that displays all of the stores from the eFashion Universe with their 2005 sales revenue values in a table format.  This report has been filtered using an Input Control.

To see the actual input control, you must click on the “Input Control” icon at the bottom left of the Web Intelligence report viewer.  This is a new icon that has been added at the very bottom of the left panel (where the navigation map is made available). 

As you can see from the available options within my radio button input control, I can filter the content of the report to 2004, 2005, 2006, or all of the above.  This quick filtering makes it easy for me see only the content that is interesting to me.

Let’s take a look at how the input control is created.  First you need to click the “Edit” button to get into edit mode for the Web Intelligence document.  Then you will need to navigate to the “Input Controls” tab in the left panel (same place as the data and properties panels).

Next, you will need to click on the “New” button to start the process of creating a new input control.  This will display the following screen.

To create the input control you will first need to select the dimension or measure that you want to control.  For my purposes, I chose “Store Name”.  Choose your dimension or measure and click on the “Next” button.

Now, you get to select the type of control you want to use.  When you select a dimesion as your base object, then you get to choose from controls like combo boxes, radio buttons, and list boxes.  If you were to choose a measure, then you would be presented with different controls.  For the purposes of this post, I will not go into the different properties for the dimension-based input control.  I selected combo box and clicked “Next”.

This screen is one of the most interesting ones out of the whole input control functionality.  I can either apply my control to the entire body of the report or to a specific block.  In my current report I only have one block – the table.  So, I’ll leave the default and click “Finish”.

Upon clicking on Finish, you will be taken back to the document edit screen and your new input control will be available in the left panel. Now, I can apply by new input control to my block.  For the purposes of only demonstrating the new input control, I set my previous input control based on Year to show “All Values” and have set my new input control based on “Store Name” to a specific store.  You can see this in the screenshot below.

You can also combine input controls – as seen in the screenshot below.

You can see from the above screenshot that I have set my “Store Name” control to display a sales revenue for a specific store.  I then used my “Year” control to only display the sales revenue for 2004. Thus, I only see the Sales Revenue for e-Fashion Boston Newbury in 2004.

What about Multiple Report Blocks?

As mentioned above, you can use input controls to apply to the entire report content or specific blocks within a report.  If I were to add a line chart to this report, then the current input controls would filter the content of that line chart the show the same data as my table.  The results of this can be seen below.

Now, if I edit my Web Intelligence document and modify my input control to only affect block one (my table), then my chart will continue to show data for all years and all stores while my table can show data for only 2004 and all stores.  You can edit an existing input control by clicking on the “edit” button for the specific input control (it’s a little wrench icon to the left of the arrows on the input control in the left panel).  The “edit” button only shows up when you hover over the input control with your mouse.

Once you have the edit window open for the input control, you navigate to the dependency tab and can select the specific block for which the input control should apply.  For my purposes I only want the input control to affect my table (block 1).

Click “OK” and you will be taken back to your report and the following view.  Notice that the table is filtered, but the line chart is not.

 

How about Measures?

I also mentioned previously that input controls can be used for measure.  When you create your new input control and select a measure object (like Quantity Sold), you will be presented with controls like data entry text boxes and sliders.  I chose a slider for my example.  You can see from the properties of my control that there are some parameters that need to be set for the measure-based input controls to function correctly.

The first thing that needs to be set is the “Minimum Value” and the “Maximum Value”.  These parameters control what each increment in the slider will mean.  For my example, I used a measure of quantity sold and it ranged from 5 to 37,067.  So, I chose a minimum value of 5 and a maximum value of 40,000. The next important parameter is the “Operator”. If you leave this to the default of “Equal To”, then when you save your input control, your chart or table will disappear.  This is because the input control determines which parts of the chart or table are visible based on the value of the measure defined in the current position of the slider.  In short, your chart or table will only display when an exact data point is found within the slider.  This is not necessarily what I want.  I would rather my chart always be visible and as the slider progresses, data points to be added and removed.  So, I chose to use an operator of “Greater Than or Equal To”.  This means that the data points displayed in my chart will always be either greater than or equal to my current selection in the slider.

This will yield the following display when you click “OK”.

You can see my input control in the left panel with a slider button.  As I move the slider button to the left my chart changes as it shows different data points.

As the slider moves, you will see the the data points displayed are modified within the chart.  I am now only able to see specific Product Categories as those are the only product categories that fit my criteria of greater than or equal to my current value selected in the slider.

That is pretty much it.  There are obviously many scenarios that you can come up with for where these types of control will be useful.  In addition, there are other parameters that I did not discuss for the input controls, but this should give you a good start to start including input controls into your Web Intelligence documents.  If you have any questions, please feel free to let me know.

Coy

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17 Comments

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  1. Joshua Fletcher
    Hi Coy,

    This is a great overview of the new functionality.  Having not had a chance to use it yet, I’m looking forward to using it.

    Kind regards,

    Josh

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    1. Edward Zawatski
      Thanks for the update, its amazing how this functionality is nearly identical to what can be done in the BEx Web App Designer and also in Xcelsius. The differences among all the different tools are very subtle.
      (0) 
      1. Coy Yonce Post author
        Great comment Edward. 

        Which client products have you deployed within your organization?  Are you finding it difficult to determine which client to use for a given business situation?

        Coy

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      2. Michael Thompson
        The primary difference between the workflows available between the tools is the persona who is capable of creating the input controls. Coy shows a half-dozen screen shots, and it is literally about 8 clicks for a business user to create an input control. Web App Designer is certainly not an end-user tool and Xcelsius is most typically used by the more power-user side of the business users who understand both the data and the model they want to expose to other end-users of the Xcelsius content. WebI’s input controls are simple enough that we (business users) even add them for personal use. 60 seconds to provide click-simple filtering each time I (or others) is definitely worth it.
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    2. Coy Yonce Post author
      Thanks Josh.

      My next post will get into more details about where the input controls are useful. I thought that I would start with an overview of the feature first.

      Coy

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    1. Ted Ueda
      Yes – with XI 3.1 Service Pack 2, you should see an “Input Control” tab within the left-hand-side Data/Properties frame in WebI Rich Client.

      Sincerely,

      Ted Ueda

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  2. hunain kochra
    Hi Coy,
            Thanks for this wonderful article. I did install SP2 and i was really happy to see what we could do with these input controls. I created a variable and assigned it to a slider. The variable was also part of a formula and i was able to do what if analysis using the same. Increasing a paricular measure + or – minus -50 to 100% percent would have an effect on my measure. I would be glad if you could cover this topic what if analysis and also can you advice if these controls can be dragged onto the report as well or not. If these controls can be put on to the webi report it could do wonders. What i mean is i have a chart on my webi report and next to it i have a listbox or a radio button right on the report itself.Please advice. Many Thanks.
    (0) 
    1. Coy Yonce Post author
      Great suggestion. I will do a post about using the input controls for what-if analysis.  I start working on this during this week and have it up shortly.

      The controls cannot be dragged/dropped onto the report at this time.  I can see if this is something that is being planned, but I have not heard of anything along these lines.

      Coy

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  3. Harshavardhan Reddy M
    Hi Coy,

    This is a great overview of new functionality of Input Controls in Web Intelligence XI 3.1 SP2.Input Controls looks to provide some of the dashboard features,like components which are available in Xcelsius.

    Thanks,
    Harsha

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  4. Jeanine Hoffmann
    We are finally getting ready to move to SP2 and my powerusers asked me a very good question: Input Controls are basically filters.  So why does SP2 still have “Filter” functionality (the 5th icon from the left of the webi interface with a yellow funnel & help text ‘Document Structure and Filters’, or the ‘Filter/Add Filter’ functionality when an enduser right clicks on data) when it does the same thing (without the pretty interface)?  Thanks, Jeanine
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  5. Kapil Malik
    Currently there is no function to returns the values users selected from Report Fitler and Input Control. ReportFilterSummary() returns in the format of where clause, which is not end user friendly. ReportFitler() returns the
    end result value, not the value user selected when the multiple level of filters exist.
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  6. Subhodeep Bhattacharya
    @What If Analysis:

    Is anyone able to do what-if analysis using the Input-control button? As I understand, this feature enables only to “filter” existing data – not modify/add data to the report.

    Please clarify.
    Thanks

    (0) 

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