SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

Exclusive offer: get 50% off this eBook here
SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook — Save 50%

Over 90 simple and incredibly effective recipes for transforming your business data into exciting dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Xcelsius with this book and eBook

$32.99    $16.50
by David Lai | May 2011 | Enterprise Articles SAP

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly Xcelsius) is a desktop dashboard and visualization solution that is a core part of SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0. Once a user creates a dashboard model, it can be deployed in Flash format to Web portals, SAP environments, the SAP BusinessObjects BI platform, and desktop applications such as PowerPoint, Word, or PDF.

In this article by David Lai, author of SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook, we will cover the following:

  • Changing the look of a chart
  • Adding a background to your dashboard
  • Using color schemes
  • Sharing a color scheme
  • Working with themes

 

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook

Over 90 simple and incredibly effective recipes for transforming your business data into exciting dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Xcelsius

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on SAP, see here.)

Introduction

In this article, we will go through certain techniques on how you can utilize the different cosmetic features Dashboard Design provides, in order to improve the look of your dashboard. Dashboard Design provides a powerful way to capture the audience versus other dashboard tools. It allows developers to build dashboards with the important 'wow' factor that other tools lack. Let's take, for example, two dashboards that have the exact same functionality, placement of charts, and others. However, one dashboard looks much more attractive than the other. In general, people looking at the nicer looking dashboard will be more interested and thus get more value of the data that comes out of it.

Thus, not only does Dashboard Design provide a powerful and flexible way of presenting data, but it also provides the 'wow' factor to capture a user's interest.

 

Changing the look of a chart

This recipe will run through changing the look of a chart. Particularly, it will go through each tab in the appearance icon of the chart properties. We will then make modifications and see the resulting changes.

Getting ready

Insert a chart object onto the canvas. Prepare some data and bind it to the chart.

How to do it...

  1. Double-click/right-click on the chart object on the canvas/object properties window to go into Chart Properties.
  2. In the Layout tab, uncheck Show Chart Background.

    (Move the mouse over the image to enlarge.)

  3. In the Series tab, click on the colored square box circled in the next screenshot to change the color of the bar to your desired color.
  4. Then change the width of each bar; click on the Marker Size area and change it to 35.

  5. Click on the colored boxes circled in red in the Axes tab and choose dark blue to modify the horizontal and vertical axes separately.
  6. Uncheck Show Minor Gridlines at the bottom so that we remove all the horizontal lines in between each of the major gridlines.

  7. Next, go to the Text and Color tabs, where you can make changes to all the different text areas of the chart.

How it works...

As you can see, the default chart looks plain and the bars are skinny so it's harder to visualize things. It is a good idea to remove the chart background if there is an underlying background so that the chart blends in better. In addition, the changes to the chart colors and text provide additional aesthetics that help improve the look of the chart.

 

Adding a background to your dashboard

This recipe shows the usefulness of backgrounds in the dashboard. It will show how backgrounds can help provide additional depth to objects and help to group certain areas together for better visualization.

Getting ready

Make sure you have all your objects such as charts and selectors ready on the canvas. Here's an example of the two charts before the makeover. Bind some data to the charts if you want to change the coloring of the series

SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

How to do it...

  1. Choose Background4 from the Art and Backgrounds tab of the Components window.

    SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

  2. Stretch the background so that it fills the size of the canvas.
  3. Make sure that ordering of the backgrounds is before the charts. To change the ordering of the background, go to the object browser, select the background object and then press the "-" key until the background object is behind the chart.
  4. Select Background1 from the Art and Backgrounds tab and put two of them under the charts, as shown in the following screenshot:

    SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

  5. When the backgrounds are in the proper place, open the properties window for the backgrounds and set the background color to your desired color. In this example we picked turquoise blue for each background.

How it works...

As you can see with the before and after pictures, having backgrounds can make a huge difference in terms of aesthetics. The objects are much more pleasant to look at now and there is certainly a lot of depth with the charts.

The best way to choose the right backgrounds that fit your dashboard is to play around with the different background objects and their colors. If you are not very artistic, you can come up with a bunch of examples and demonstrate it to the business user to see which one they prefer the most.

 

SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook Over 90 simple and incredibly effective recipes for transforming your business data into exciting dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Xcelsius with this book and eBook
Published: May 2011
eBook Price: $32.99
Book Price: $54.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

 

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on SAP, see here.)

 

Using color schemes

Dashboard Design conveniently has a set of built-in color themes that developers can use to instantly change the look of their dashboard. Using color themes helps provide consistent coloring among your objects and allows you to change the colors for multiple objects at a time without having to go into the properties of each object to make the necessary changes.

Getting ready

Have your set of objects that you want to change the colors for ready on the canvas. In this example we have the sales by region chart, a pie chart, and a set of underlying backgrounds that we want colors modified.

How to do it...

  1. Click on the colors icon and make sure that Current Theme Colors is selected. The backgrounds will be grey and the charts bluish.

  2. Click on the colors icon and select the Concourse color scheme.

How it works...

As you can see, the default color scheme initially looked kind of bland and the coloring for each series in the pie chart is very similar, making it tough to decipher between each of the series. Changing it to the Concourse color scheme lightens up the background considerably with a light bluish background which is easy on the eyes. In addition, the series on the pie chart are more easily distinguishable; however the blues in our opinion are still too similar.

We can fix that by modifying the color scheme, which will be explained in the next recipe.

There's more...

Using a good coloring scheme requires a lot of trial and error and there are many best practices that need to be accounted for. For example, different series on a chart should be colored differently so that users don't have to spend a lot of time figuring out which bar belongs to which series.

We also want colors that are soothing for the eyes. Colors that are too bright or too dark may cause strain to the eyes, thus making it more difficult to find information.

When going through color schemes, it is best to demo to the end users who will be using the dashboard and go with a coloring scheme that is most comfortable to their eyes, as it will allow them to find information more easily.

 

Sharing a color scheme

Developers may want to customize a dashboard's charts and objects to follow a company's coloring guidelines. Most likely, the company's coloring guidelines will not match any of the built-in coloring schemes, so we'll need a way to create a coloring scheme that we can re-use every time a new dashboard is built for the same company.

Getting ready

You must be able to view hidden files and folders in the c:\Documents and Settings\your_user_id folder. If you are a Windows Vista or Windows 7 user, you will need to be able to view hidden files and folders in c:\Users\your_user_id.

How to do it...

  1. Click on the colors icon and select the Create New Color Scheme at the bottom of the list.

    SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

  2. Change the background color to whatever color you want by clicking on the colored square.

    SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

  3. Click on the Charts tab and change the Series color to something other than the default color.

    SAP BusinessObjects: Customizing the Dashboard

  4. Click the Save button when you are finished.
  5. Your color scheme has now been saved and you can now transfer it to other computers. Copy the XML files of the theme that you want to share from the following two folders to the exact same directory in the destination computer. The XML filenames will have the same names as the files that you saved at the following location: c:\Documents and Settings\your_user_id\Application Data\XcelsiuscustomThemes and c:\Documents and Settings\your_user_id\Application Data\XcelsiuscustomThemesAutoInfo.
  6. For Windows Vista and Windows 7, the directory path before Xcelsius will be: c:\Users\your_user_id\AppData\Roaming\.

How it works...

Every time you save a custom coloring scheme, it will create two XML files in the directories mentioned earlier. From there, you can easily share the coloring scheme with other developers or other machines that have Dashboard Design installed.

As you can see, once you have the coloring scheme XML files in place, you will be able to select them from the Color Scheme Toolbar.

 

Working with themes

Dashboard Design 2008 has a library of themes that developers can use to change the chart and object styles to the look that suits them most. The ability to select different themes is important because it gives developers more options on customizing the look of their dashboards to what fits best. There are eight themes that developers may choose from. In this recipe, we will be showcasing the default theme and two other themes.

How to do it...

  1. Click on the Themes icon and by default, you will see that Aqua is selected.

  2. Change the theme to Aero.

  3. Change the theme to Halo.

How it works...

As you can see, Dashboard Design provides a large library of themes allowing you to customize the style of your backgrounds, objects, and charts. For example, some themes may have more gradient backgrounds and charts such as the Aero theme, whereas the Halo theme has a flat but bold look.

Summary

In this article we learnt how to tweak the visuals and user experience of the dashboard by customizing the look of components.


Further resources on this subject:


SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook Over 90 simple and incredibly effective recipes for transforming your business data into exciting dashboards with SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Xcelsius with this book and eBook
Published: May 2011
eBook Price: $32.99
Book Price: $54.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


David Lai

David Lai is an SAP Business Objects Consultant from Toronto, Canada.

He has a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto.

He currently specializes in SAP Business Objects and Data Warehousing work for clients which include SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 (Xcelsius), Universe Design, and Web Intelligence.

David has a passion for data visualization and best design practices with dashboards, which has led him to create his blog (http://www.davidlai101.com/blog) in 2008, as well as co-author http://myxcelsius.com and finally author “SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards 4.0 Cookbook”.

David also enjoys speaking at conferences about best dashboard practices and making sense out of data.

In his spare time he loves to spend time on many physical activities such as working out at the gym, salsa dancing, rock climbing, basketball and volleyball.

Books From Packt


Mastering SQL Queries for SAP Business One
Mastering SQL Queries for SAP Business One

Oracle Warehouse Builder 11g R2: Getting Started 2011
Oracle Warehouse Builder 11g R2: Getting Started 2011

Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2010
Microsoft Data Protection Manager 2010

JIRA 4 Essentials
JIRA 4 Essentials

Oracle JRockit: The Definitive Guide
Oracle JRockit: The Definitive Guide

SAP NetWeaver MDM 7.1 for Functional Consultants: RAW
SAP NetWeaver MDM 7.1 for Functional Consultants: RAW

Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook
Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook

Oracle GoldenGate 11g Implementer's guide
Oracle GoldenGate 11g Implementer's guide


Code Download and Errata
Packt Anytime, Anywhere
Register Books
Print Upgrades
eBook Downloads
Video Support
Contact Us
Awards Voting Nominations Previous Winners
Judges Open Source CMS Hall Of Fame CMS Most Promising Open Source Project Open Source E-Commerce Applications Open Source JavaScript Library Open Source Graphics Software
Resources
Open Source CMS Hall Of Fame CMS Most Promising Open Source Project Open Source E-Commerce Applications Open Source JavaScript Library Open Source Graphics Software