Category Archives: Xcelsius tips and tricks

Limits on mobile SAP Dashboard data volumes and how to avoid them

Would you like great performance, off-line capability and 50 times more data in your mobile SAP Dashboards ?

Last week Sarah Gou from the SAP Dashboards product team posted an article on mobile best practices for SAP Dashboards. It is a good read with a number of pieces of excellent advice for deploying successful mobile dashboards. Continue reading

Dashboards, BICS and NetWeaver Portal ???


Andrew Fox (@Andrew__Fox) just asked on Twitter :-

“Before I do testing does Dashboards with SP04 allow BW connected models
via BICS to live outside the SAP portal yet , it was talked about” (link)

The answer is yes and no !

The NO answer

If you are using BICS through an “SAP NetWeaver BW Connection” from the data manager, shown here :-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then the answer is “no”. Dashboards connected like this (even in BI 4 FP3/SP4) still need to be accessed from inside the SAP NetWeaver portal, just as they did in previous versions.

 

The YES Answer

However, there is a new way of accessing BICS in BI 4 SP3/FP4 through the query browser/query panel where there is now an option to access BW (BEx) Queries :-

 

If you use this method than the dashboard no longer has to be deployed in the SAP NetWeaver portal. However, it does mean that you need the BI4 platform installed which is not the case in the connection from the data manager which could access BW directly without needing the platform to be in place.

You pays your money and you takes your choice !

 

Moving Xcelsius components using the cursor keys (or not)

UPDATE : Zahid Yener just posted an update on SCN to say that rather than clicking on the canvas you can just select a component and hit the tab key, which is much easier.

——————–

When I design a dashboard with Xcelsius / SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards, I find it impossible to fine tune the layout without using the cursor keys. As a result, I find it maddening when (seemingly at random) these cursor keys stop working for positioning Xcelsius components and almost as maddening when they (again seemingly at random) start working again.

It turns out that this is all to do with focus and the canvas. If you Alt-Tab (or use some other method) to switch windows and take focus away from Xcelsius, when you return you are left in a state where the canvas no longer has focus (at least in terms of being able to process cursor key presses). If you click on a component then the canvas still does not have the right focus, so when you press a cursor key, the component doesn’t move.

To resolve this, you need to click on the canvas itself (note: if you have a backdrop image or another component covering the whole canvas then you will have to move it as you need to click on the canvas itself). Once you have clicked on the canvas, you can then happily select any of the components and move it with the cursor keys … until, of course, you switch away from Xcelsius again, when you will need to go through this procedure again!

 

The Eleventh Day of XWIS – Personalized Dashboard Distribution

On day nine of the 12 days of XWIS, we saw how XWIS enables Xcelsius dashboards to be taken off-line and viewed when the user is away from the corporate network. This required the user to log on to the dashboard while connected to the network and click the “take off-line” button. Today, we look at how XWIS further extends this functionality so that users can receive personalized off-line dashboards directly in their email in-boxes.

This capability is directly analogous to the core BI platform capability to “burst” WebI and Crystal reports, but XWIS extends this functionality to Xcelsius dashboards.

In the video, note how:

  1. The dashboard is same one we created on day nine, nothing extra is required.
  2. The personalization (security) of the dashboard is controlled by a WebIntelligence report
  3. The publication definition screen has all the capabilities of the BI Platform scheduling (in fact, the publication is saved and run as a package in the BusinessObjects system)
  4. When the user receives the dashboard it is limited to the data specified in the WebI “recipient” report (in this case State = ‘Texas’)
  5. The off-line dashboard retains all the interactivity of the original connected dashboard.

(for best results, watch this video in full-screen mode)

Remember, in each video there is a “hidden” word or phrase from the previous day’s Xcelsius Fact. Find them all and enter the draw to win your choice of iPad or a Kindle Fire.

History of Xcelsius – Fact 12

Although Xcelsius has been one of the most successful dashboarding tools of the last decade (both commercially and in terms of the sheer volume of business information it has been used to disseminate) it is not without its detractors. Probably the best known and most outspoken of these is Stephen Few, who once described Xcelsius as a “child’s toy of a product” on his Visual Business Intelligence blog. Stephen’s issue with Xcelsius seems to be that Xcelsius makes it too difficult to create dashboards which conform to visualization best practice (in fact, Stephen might argue that this is impossible with Xcelsius, but I would disagree with him on that) and makes it too easy to create dashboards which are simply flashy for the sake of it.

As I have argued before (e.g. on the EverythingXcelsius blog) I think it is the combination of the two ends of the spectrum which have underpinned the success of Xcelsius; I guess my view is not surprising given that I authored the XComponents which contain both the XGlobe (perhaps the least best-practice-compliant component ever written for Xcelsius) and the first publically available bulletchart and sparkline components for Xcelsius.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the final installment of the “12 Days of XWIS” – why not subscribe to our blog feed, so you don’t forget!

XComponents Update

Given that the XComponents is a spare-time project, it is remarkable that they have now been downloaded over 10,000 times and are in use in many production Xcelsius dashboards around the world.

However because of the part-time nature of the project, I have not always been diligent in keeping people up to date with the new features which have been added, so as I have just released a new update to the XComponents, I thought I would write this short blog post to go some way to correcting this.

If you have downloaded the XComponents before, then you should have received a link enabling you to download the new version. If you want to download the XComponents for the first time then go to: Download XComponents

XGlobe bug fix

The latest version includes a fix for the fact that Yahoo turned off the geocoding API that XGlobe was using, resulting in no markers or pins appearing on the globe, which rather defeated its purpose. The latest version uses a newer Yahoo API, but from the outside should function exactly as before.

XGlobe off-line tip

While on the topic of XGlobe, there is a little know feature which you can use to allow the XGlobe to work in a disconnected, offline mode. The XGlobe needs to locate the markers on its surface and it does this using latitude and longitude values for each of the locations it is plotting. This is where the geocoding API comes in as it translates between place names and lat/long values. However, the XGlobe will also take hard-coded lat/long values if you have them and just to be helpful the “Copy location information to the clipboard” will give you just this information, ready to be pasted intot the spreadsheet for off-line viewing. It is much easier to see than to explain so here is a short video of it in action:

XScorecard Enhancements

The latest version also adds a few highly requested features in the XScorecard. These are :-

  1. Control over which nodes are open or closed the ability to specify (both at start-up and dynamically at run time) which nodes of the tree are open
  2. Number formatting using an Excel like format string (e.g. 0.00, or 0.0% or 0.##) to format numbers in the scorecard
  3. Display names the ability to provide alternative names for the labels displayed in the scorecard (which allows the same child label to appear under different parents)

The short video below shows all of these in action:

Opening an Xcelsius 2011 dashboard with Xcelsius 2008

With the GA release of Business Objects 4.0, we are now creating dashboards in multiple versions of Xcelsius. Even though you can install Xcelsius 2011 side-by-side with Xcelsius 2008 there are still times when you need to open a file in the earlier version to the one it was created with.

To revert you model to an earlier version of Xcelsius, you can simply update the XLF file as follows;

 

  1. Backup your XLF file
  2. Rename your XLF file to a ZIP file
  3. Open the ZIP file and copy document.xml to your file system
  4. Edit the XML file and update the following tag; version=”x.x” for the version you want to revert to. In my instance I am updating it from 6.0 to 5.3.1 as I am using Xcelsius 2008 SP3 FP5
  5. Copy document.xml back into the ZIP file
  6. Rename the ZIP file back to a XLF file

If you are using any components that are not part of the earlier release these will not work and remember that updating the XLF file is an UNSUPPORTED action, but it has managed to get me out of a jam a few times now.

You can find more information on the XLF file using the following links;

<!–[if gte mso 9]> 1024×768 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>
Remember that updating the XLF file is an UNSUPPORTED action so make sure you take a backup of your original XLF file as mistakes may corrupt the XLF file.

Xcelsius Top Tip – Spreadsheet Color Coding

If you were to take a look at one of my Xcelsius dashboards, you would find that the underlying spreadsheet is full of color. And, anyone who has ever maintained their share of Xcelsius dashboards will certainly understand why.

Excel is one of the most used and abused tools in the world, and since Xcelsius uses it as the “secret” sauce behind its dashboards, if you are not disciplined and organized with how you work with your spreadsheet, you will be faced with a daunting task when you come to update an Xcelsius model which you haven’t looked at for several months.

There are various websites that provide guidance on Xcelsius best practices, just enter Xcelsius Best Practices in Google and you will find the following:

For my dashboards, I have extended this color palette to include the following colors:

All of these colours are quickly accessible from the Fill tab when setting the cell format and so does not add much additional time to your dashboard development.

By using color in the spreadsheet within your dashboards, you are able to convey the usage of each cell combined with comments on cells. I am not aware of any performance overhead from using colors and/or comments within the spreadsheet layer, but the maintenance benefits are significant.

Do you use color to simplify maintenance of your Xcelsius dashboards? Do you use other techniques? I’d love to hear your comments.

Xcelsius Top Tip – Switch Circuit

There is a wealth of information out there on the internet for Xcelsius and I wanted to share one useful tip that I use within my dashboards, but I do not see widely used.

It’s called a switching circuit and I first encountered this in Xcelsius 2008 Dashboard Best Practices by Loren Adbulezer. If you have not read this book I strongly recommend you get hold of a copy, because it’s full of useful information.

Typically, a dashboard will involve dynamic visibility and this tends to be driven by a label based menu, and based on the chosen option, some components will be displayed and others will be hidden. Now we all know how to enable this type of functionality, but the switch circuit is designed to consolidate this in a single worksheet and on more complex dashboards helps with improving the maintainability of the dashboard.

Here is the link to the article: http://resources.businessobjects.com/support/cx/samples/learning/articles/article11.asp

Enjoy.