From the homepage:
BIRT is an open source Eclipse-based reporting system that integrates with your Java/Java EE application to produce compelling reports.
Being reminded by the introduction that reports can consist of lists, charts, crosstabs, letters & documents, compound reports, I was encouraged to see:
BIRT reports consist of four main parts: data, data transforms, business logic and presentation.
- Data – Databases, web services, Java objects all can supply data to your BIRT report. BIRT provides JDBC, XML, Web Services, and Flat File support, as well as support for using code to get at other sources of data. BIRT’s use of the Open Data Access (ODA) framework allows anyone to build new UI and runtime support for any kind of tabular data. Further, a single report can include data from any number of data sources. BIRT also supplies a feature that allows disparate data sources to be combined using inner and outer joins.
- Data Transforms – Reports present data sorted, summarized, filtered and grouped to fit the user’s needs. While databases can do some of this work, BIRT must do it for “simple” data sources such as flat files or Java objects. BIRT allows sophisticated operations such as grouping on sums, percentages of overall totals and more.
- Presentation – Once the data is ready, you have a wide range of options for presenting it to the user. Tables, charts, text and more. A single data set can appear in multiple ways, and a single report can present data from multiple data sets.
I was clued into BIRT by Actuate, so you might want to pay them a visit as well.
Anytime you are manipulating data, for analysis or reporting, you are working with subjects.
Topic maps are a natural for planning or documenting your transformations or reports.
Or let me put it this way: Do you really want to hunt down what you think you did six months ago for the last report? And then spend a day or two in frantic activity correcting what you mis-remember? There are other options. Your choice.