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.