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Oracle Discoverer 10g Handbook Review

T he following review of the Discoverer 10g Handbook was written by Karen Cannell, from the Integra Technology Consulting Corporation. It was published in the December 2006 edition of the ODTUG  technical journal. To download a copy of the review you will need to be a full ODTUG member.

Note: Supplemental information is in dark blue, while comments in light blue were done by us to highlight sections of the review.

We waited a long time for a worthy Discoverer 10g text. It's not an easy topic to tackle—Discoverer is now a collection of eight separate tools to serve both relational and online analytical processing (OLAP) databases: Desktop, Plus, Viewer, Administrator, Portlet Provider, End User Layer (EUL) Command Line for Java,  Business Intelligence (BI) Spreadsheet Add-In, and the Enterprise Manager Application Server control.

In this second edition of The Discoverer Handbook, authors Michael and Darlene Armstrong-Smith have done an exceptional job of describing how to productively use all components of the Oracle Discoverer toolset. End users, developers, administrators, and managers will all find parts that will enhance their use of Discoverer. This book will become, if it has not already, the essential Discoverer 10g reference.

The Armstrong-Smiths have made a business of Discoverer, specializing in Oracle Discoverer training and implementation through their company Armstrong-Smith Consulting, an acknowledged leader in Discoverer training. For additional expertise in completing the configuration and OLAP chapters, the Armstrong-Smiths consulted with contributing authors Chris DeYoung of Oracle Corporation and Mark Rittman of SolStonePlus (now Rittman Mead Consulting ). Mr. DeYoung, an Oracle University instructor, has been a lead trainer on the Oracle Application Server and Discoverer for the past six years ( as of 2006 ). Mr. Rittman is a respected and well-published consultant specializing in Oracle data warehousing and business intelligence applications. These are the experts on Oracle Discoverer—just the persons to learn from.

The Discoverer 10g Handbook flows much like one of the Armstrong-Smith's courses or presentations: Key concepts are presented as a foundation, then the reader is led through increasing levels of knowledge by a series of workflows—step-by-step descriptions of how to accomplish a task. The combination of text and workflows forms the tutorial. All of the examples in the book build from and reference the tutorial database.

Every task is described clearly and succinctly. Where there are options, the authors fully describe all paths and comments on the merits or pitfalls of each. Notes and recommendations are interspersed in the workflow descriptions.

Instead of focusing on Discoverer Plus, then Discoverer Viewer, then Discoverer Desktop, the authors focus on the workflow —how to complete the task at hand—and within the workflow describe the subtle or not-so-subtle differences of performing the same task in the different Discoverer tools. This side-by-side comparison is very helpful to those of us that use a mixture of Discoverer tools in our development process.

The book is organized in four parts: Getting Started, Editing the Query, Advanced Discoverer Techniques, and Using the Discoverer Administration Edition, followed by four appendices.

The first three chapters of Part I: Getting Started provides an overview of the Discoverer toolset and lay the groundwork for effective use of Discoverer. Chapter two, Users and Databases, presents the Library and Report Writer concepts and suggests a sound approach to planning for optimal use of Discoverer. While the tendency is to skip the introductory chapters and jump to the meat, these early chapters are worth reading. The latter two chapters of Part I describe the essential and optional steps of the Workbook Wizard.

Part II: Editing the Query leads the reader into editing queries and using Discoverer to analyze data. This section addresses formatting, graphing, report refinement, and analyzing data through the various Discoverer tools. Chapter 10 is devoted to Discoverer Viewer, highlighting the advantages and limitations of this HTML-only Discoverer interface.

Part III: Advanced Discoverer Techniques chapters include Drilling and Hyper Drilling, Building Effective Conditions, Refining Parameters, Calculations, Sorting and Percentages, Query Management, and User Preferences. Experienced Discoverer users will spend most of their time in these chapters, as the authors describe how to achieve results with Discoverer that one may not have thought possible before.

In Part IV: Discoverer Administration, the first three chapters cover the expected groundwork and detail to create and maintain the End User Layer, Business Areas, and end user access and privileges. The Configuring Discoverer chapter describes all aspects of Oracle Application Server configuration for Discoverer: HTTP Server, OC4J, Oracle Enterprise Manger (OEM) for configuration of Discoverer, Single Sign-On, Oracle Process Manager and Notification Server (OPMN), Oracle Internet Directory (OID), the Metadata Repository, Discoverer Preferences, and Web Cache. This configuration chapter is not a full how-to for configuring the Oracle Application Server, but does give the basics of Discoverer configuration in each of these areas. This is the only consolidated source of such information that I am aware of. The Setting Up Portal for Use with Discoverer and Summary Management chapters round out the administration section. 

The Appendices are as valuable as the rest of the text. Appendix A is indeed a gold mine of answers to common Discoverer questions. The SQL Functions appendix is a valuable reference for all SQL function available within Discoverer, including analytic functions. The Database and Views appendix explains key database concepts, Oracle Applications Business Views, and Noetix Views. The final appendix is a full description of the tutorial database used throughout the book.

I actually tried to find a Discoverer topic that was not covered in The Oracle Discoverer 10g Handbook—I couldn't. Of course some topics, like Advanced Techniques and Analytics, are covered in greater depth than others, such as Application Server configuration. For any issue or topic not addressed in the text, the reader is invited to the author's Web site and blog.

As I said at the beginning, we waited a long time for a worthy Discoverer text. The wait was well worth it.

About the Author

Karen Cannell is an associate principal with Integra Technology Consulting Corporation, a quality technical service provider for the greater Boston area.

She has analyzed, designed, developed, converted, upgraded, enhanced, and otherwise tweaked database applications for more than 20 years, focusing on the Oracle Database and toolsets since 1994.

At the time of the reviews she was involved in various ETL, Application Express, and Discoverer projects leveraging the Oracle 10g platform and tools.




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