By Mark Karas, Senior Consultant

Since Express Authoring mode has been around, I have asked many of my fellow colleagues if they have used the Express Authoring Mode for creating a Report Studio report yet, which is a functionality addition in 8.3, and I believe all answers were “no.” Seems there is little experience out in the field, so here is a brief summary of some high-level information on Express Authoring mode and some comparison to the more familiar and popular Professional Authoring mode:

Some facts about, and prerequisites for, using the Express Authoring mode:

  • Its main purpose is to provide non-Cognos report professionals the ability to create Financial reports
  • Express Authoring Mode works best with a package that contains a multi-dimensional data source (DMR, Cube) but will still work with standard, relational source.
  • Reports created in either authoring mode can be edited using the other mode.
  • The mode that is set in Report Studio at the time of authoring a report is not tied to the report specification or vice-versa.
  • There is no properties window for setting object properties in Express mode.
  • The Express Authoring mode works only with Crosstabs. Lists and Charts are not available in the tool set, nor are there any prompting capabilities.
  • Like Query and Analysis Studios, the default Express authoring environment works with live data.
  • By default, the reports authored in Express mode are not Drill-Down enabled but drilling up and down is available.
  • Levels are not part of the toolset, strictly entire hierarchies and the members, a la Analysis Studio.

There are some nifty little functions added to facilitate easy report authoring using members.

  • To add all the children of an existing member in the report (Data menu, Insert Children, After | Before | Nest)
  • Toggle between creating individual Members, or Member Sets when dragging a member onto the report
  • Selection to insert a single member only, the member’s children only or both with the drag in.

To get an understanding of the differences in the 2 modes, I used the GO Finance cube as a data source to create a Balance Sheet report in Report Studio using what is now known as the Professional Authoring mode. Professional mode utilizes the full-feature/function set of Report Studio, where the Express mode only has a small sub-set of those features. I then switched to the Express Authoring mode and re-created the same report. Here are my findings and in some cases opinions about Express Authoring Mode:

Findings of the Express Authoring mode

On the positive and/or neutral side:

  • Formatting was pretty much the same from the toolbar aspect. You do not have a properties window like in Professional mode, so the toolbar is the place to change font, justification, add borders, indenting (padding), etc.
  • Creating the Balance Sheet report in Express mode was indeed faster than using the Professional mode
  • From the Financial Analyst’s viewpoint, he or she will be working with the accounts and account roll-ups… things they are already very familiar with, as opposed to levels of a hierarchy which is often confusing to them.

On the Negative side:

  • Changes in the underlying hierarchies of the source will probably break these member-only reports.
  • Additions to the Chart of Accounts will not be picked up automatically, as they would if levels were used.
  • Lack of flexibility in object usage and setting.
  • No way to turn off the data preview
  • Didn’t find a way to change the Rows per page limit. My report went to 2 pages in HTML mode… very frustrating

In Summary:

I found Express Mode to be fairly easy to use for creating a quick financial report. It is not however, going to remotely replace a truly professionally authored and formatted report when it comes to the total end-user/consumer experience, given its “Ad Hoc” feel.