After visiting the Pentaho London User Group, Diethard Steiner surprised me with a brand new book about Pentaho Reporting: Pentaho 5.0 Reporting By Example. I had been way to bogged down with the 5.0 release to notice much about anything, but missing a whole book is new even for me. This book is so fresh, the software it is describing has not even been released as community edition.
The book is written by the two founders of eGluBI, an Argentinian BI-Consultancy and training company. Both have a strong background as lecturers at the Univerity Aeronautic Instutute in Cordoba, Argentinia. Their teaching experience shows throughout the book, as the writing is hands on, practical and concentrates on getting the mechanics across instead of drowning you in theory or endless lists of properties.
The book starts with a quick overview about Pentaho Reporting showing examples of some of the reports you can create. It then dives directly into the learning action and gets you started by installing the report-designer and giving a tour around the user interface.
When you go through the content of the book, you’ll notice that the book swings back and forth between guided, step-by-step actions titled “Time for action” and, after you created something on the screen, an explaination section named “What just happened”, that gives you some theoretical understanding of the task you just performed.
This very hands-on approach effectively demonstrates the mechanics of the reporting engine, without distracting you with unnecessary information. Along the way it showers you in bits of instant gratification, which makes the dry topic of business reporting a rather pleasant experience.
When you work through the chapters, you will touch all the important bits and pieces, from Data-sources, parameters and formulas to groups, charts and subreports.
The books structure reminds me of a course or practical teaching session and shows that both authors have an teaching background.
The book is clearly aimed at beginners, and thus concentrates on breadth instead of depth. I think this is one of the strong points of this book . It focuses on helping you understand what is going on, and enables you to find your way around the more advanced topics in the Pentaho Infocentre or the forum.
The only thing I found puzzling was the servlet programming example hidden in the last chapter. The whole book is aimed at non-programmers and business users, and thus the coding part feels out of place. And aside from that, they covered the BI-server and publishing reports there. As a integrator, I would recommend to run a BI-server in parallel to your own web-application. It saves you from reimplementing boring infrastructure parts, like security, reposities and so on, and the servlet specs contain enough goodies to access content from other web-applications on the same server if needed.
Would I recommend ‘Pentaho 5.0 Reporting by Example’ to new users? Absolutely. This book greatly lowers the hurdles to become productive with the Pentaho Report Designer, and helps you getting started quicker. If you are a seasoned Pentaho Reporting user, you probably won’t find much new knowledge in here. But you might want to hand out copies of the book to clients to help them on their road to success.
And if your job is to teach Pentaho Reporting to new users, or to create a beginners course for Pentaho Reporting, then this book forms an ideal base for this teaching work.