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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

About the report design environment

BIRT Report Designer provides a flexible environment that meets the needs of both beginning report developers and experienced report developers who want the power of programming. It provides the following features:

  • Report templates that include instructions to help new report developers get started quickly
  • Customizable views that enable report developers to tailor the environment to their style of working
  • User-friendly tools for designing, debugging, and previewing reports
  • Sample reports that demonstrate how to use various product features
  • Accessibility features, such as access to all report design functionality from the keyboard instead of the mouse

This section introduces the report design environment. If you are using BIRT Report Designer for the first time, reviewing the topics in this section can help you learn how to use BIRT Report Designer more effectively.

Procedures in this book apply to both BIRT Report Designer and BIRT RCP Report Designer unless the instructions explicitly state which platform to use. Both platforms provide the same reporting functionality. BIRT Report Designer appears within the Eclipse Workbench and therefore requires the installation of Eclipse. BIRT RCP Report Designer does not require all the Eclipse-specific tools because it is designed for report developers who want only the reporting functionality.

Starting BIRT Report Designer

The steps you take to start BIRT Report Designer depend on whether you are using BIRT Report Designer or BIRT RCP Report Designer. To start the designer, follow the instructions that are appropriate to the designer that you use.

How to start BIRT Report Designer

  1. Start Eclipse by navigating to the Eclipse directory and performing one of the following tasks:
    • If you are using a Microsoft Windows system, run eclipse.exe.
    • If you are using a UNIX or Linux system, run eclipse.
  2. In Workspace Launcher, shown in Figure 3-1, specify a workspace in which to store your report projects.
    Figure 3-1

    Figure 3-1 Workspace Launcher

    • To create a workspace in the default location, choose OK.
    • To specify a different location, choose Browse to select a different folder, then choose OK.
  3. From the main menu of Eclipse Workbench, choose Window rarrd.jpg Open Perspective rarrd.jpg Other rarrd.jpg Report Design to start BIRT Report Designer. The application window displays the Report Design perspective, as shown in Figure 3-2.
    Figure 3-2

    Figure 3-2 BIRT Report Designer

The Report Design perspective shows all the tools, which Eclipse calls views, for creating and managing reports. A perspective is an Eclipse mechanism for organizing the initial set and layout of views in the application window.

If you are new to the Eclipse environment, read the Eclipse online documentation at http://www.eclipse.org/documentation for information about perspectives, views, and other Eclipse user interface topics.

How to start BIRT RCP Report Designer

Start the Report Designer by navigating to the BIRT RCP Report Designer directory then running BIRT.exe. This application appears similar to BIRT Report Designer. BIRT RCP Report Designer, however, does not show the Navigator view and does not include menu items that provide access to Eclipse-specific tools.

Report design views

The BIRT Report Designer views provide tools that you use to build and customize a BIRT report design, preview the report, and debug the report. Figure 3-3 shows the views that open by default in the Report Design perspective.

Figure 3-3

Figure 3-3 BIRT Report Designer views

Each view is a window you can close, resize, minimize, or maximize. You can also move each view to a different location, either inside or outside the application window. Change or rearrange the set of views to fit the way you work or to fit in the available screen space.

Report editor

This window is where you design and preview your report. You can open multiple reports in the report editor. The report editor has five pages, which you access by choosing the tabs at the bottom of the report editor. The pages are

  • Layout editor, where you create and edit your report design. Figure 3-3 shows the layout editor.
  • Master Page, which shows items, such as the date and page number, that appear on every page.
  • Script editor, where you add JavaScript code to your report. You can create many reports without programming. Typically, you write code only if you want to change the way in which BIRT generates a report.
  • XML Source, which shows the XML content that BIRT Report Designer generates when you create a report.
  • Previewer, which runs your report and displays the output.


The palette shows all the elements that you can use in a report to organize and display data. To lay out a report, you can drag elements from the palette and drop them in the report page in the layout editor.

Data Explorer

Data Explorer shows the data sources, data sets, and report parameters that your report uses. Use Data Explorer to create, edit, or delete these items. You can also use Data Explorer to add data set fields to your report.

Resource Explorer

Resource Explorer shows the shared resources available to your reports. Resources can include images, style sheets, and libraries. A library is a collection of report elements that can be used by more than one report. Use Resource Explorer to view the resources you can use in a report or to insert report elements from a library in a report.

Property Editor

Property Editor displays the properties of the report element currently selected in the layout editor. It organizes properties by functional categories. Use it to apply style or format settings to the contents of your report.


Navigator shows all your projects and the reports within each project. Use it to manage your report files. Each project is a directory in the file system. Using Navigator, you can open files, delete files, rename files, or move files from one project to another. If you add files to a project directory through the file system, for example, through Windows Explorer, you need to refresh the project in Navigator to update the list of reports.

BIRT RCP Report Designer does not organize report files in projects. Therefore, it does not include a Navigator view.


Outline shows the structure of your report as a tree view. It shows the hierarchy of elements in a format that is similar to the outline view of a Microsoft Word or PowerPoint document. You expand or collapse parts of the report by choosing the plus (+) or minus (–) signs. Outline also shows all the resources that are used by or defined in a report, including data sources, data sets, libraries, and styles. You can select items in Outline to edit, delete, rename, or copy them.


Problems displays messages about errors in the report designs in the current project. It describes the error, says which report file contains the error, provides the location of the file, and indicates the line numbers in which the error occurs.

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