A Quick Look at Two BIRT Books

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p. Let’s take a break from the press releases shall we? Let’s skim over a couple of books. With the recent release of “Zend Platform 3.0 BETA”:http://www.zend.com/products/zend_platform/zend_platform_3_0_beta there’s been no small amount of talk about it’s support for the Java Bridge and BIRT integration. Some in the PHP community may not be familiar with BIRT. Just to make sure everybody is on the same page, here’s a brief explanation from the Eclipse Project’s BIRT homepage.

bq. BIRT is an Eclipse-based open source reporting system for web applications, especially those based on Java and J2EE. BIRT has two main components: a report designer based on Eclipse, and a runtime component that you can add to your app server. BIRT also offers a charting engine that lets you add charts to your own application.

p. With the release of “Zend Platform 3.0”:http://www.zend.com/products/zend_platform/zend_platform_3_0_beta, BIRT is now easy for PHP developers to access. Here’s a quick (but relevant) quote from the Zend Platform page.

bq. Zend Platform provides integrated BIRT reporting functionality. BIRT is an open source reporting system that integrates with your application to produce compelling reports for both Web and PDF. BIRT provides core reporting features such as report layout, data access and scripting.

p. BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting Ok, now we know BIRT is relevant. But how do we use it and what can we do with it? Well, these two books attempt to answer some of that. First up “BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FBIRT-Field-Guide-Reporting-Eclipse%2Fdp%2F0321442598%2Fsr%3D8-1%2Fqid%3D1165509026%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks&tag=postcarfrommy-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325.

p. This volume was written by Diana Peh, Aletha Hannemann, and Nola Hague. It’s purpose is to take you through the basics of report designing. It helps you get BIRT installed, it walks you through installing the either the Eclipse based report designer or the standalone “RCP Report Designer”. The book also notes that you will need the BIRT Reporting Engine installed however, if you have “Zend Platform 3.0”:http://www.zend.com/products/zend_platform/zend_platform_3_0_beta installed, this is already done for you.

p. The rest of this book is a detailed walk through of creating reports in BIRT. It covers basic reporting, advanced topics, and topics like charting. The book is clearly targeted at report designers and not programmers. It requires a grasp of the concepts of report writing but does not delve into the programmatic aspects of reports. This book tells you everything you need to know about designing reports with BIRT but nothing about how to implement them. If you are implementing the BIRT Reporting Engine in your PHP application then this is a great book to have handy.

p. Integrating and Extending BIRTFor implementation details, we turn to the sister volume, “Integrating and Extending BIRT”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FIntegrating-Extending-Eclipse-Jason-Weathersby%2Fdp%2F0321443853%2Fsr%3D11-1%2Fqid%3D1165510850&tag=postcarfrommy-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325. “Implementing is written by Jason Weathersby, Don French, Tom Ondur, Jane Tatchell, and Iana Catalbasheva. This book, while useful it is written specifically for Java developers. It’s usefulness to PHP developers will be limited. However, the first ~150 pages of the book are still generic enough to contain information useful to PHP developers. They cover topics like using JavaScript to write event handlers, which is pretty cool in it’s own right.

p. The last 2/3 of the 500+ page book deal with the Java realities of using the reports you’ve designed. While some of this information will be useful to us in the PHP community, most of it is only useful at the theoretical level.

p. Chapter 13 is one to note. This chapter gives the Java sample code necessary to run your reports. It covers how to setup the report, set the parameters and execute. While it will take some experimentation and translation to get your reports running in PHP, this chapter should help you get started.

p. There is no doubt to me that to a Java programmer, the second book is a high-quality reference. However for the PHP community, it’s value is minimal. However the first one, “BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FBIRT-Field-Guide-Reporting-Eclipse%2Fdp%2F0321442598%2Fsr%3D8-1%2Fqid%3D1165509026%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks&tag=postcarfrommy-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325, is a serious asset that should be on the bookshelf of anyone designing reports using BIRT.

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