By Tim Tow
Recently, I did a presentation on the new Smart View 18.104.22.168.102 at the ODTUG Hyperion SIG event in Dallas. In the presentation, I listed all of the technical innovations that brought this version of Smart View closer to the functionality of the classic Excel add-in for Essbase. I also spent some time talking about the remaining differences between Smart View and the classic Excel add-in. It was during this part of the presentation that I was asked a question I was completely unprepared for. Someone asked me,“Why should we upgrade to Smart View over the classic add-in?”
At that moment, my mind went blank. Maybe it was due to lack of sleep or maybe it was due to the fact that when I look at the new feature list, I feel the reasons to upgrade are pretty self-apparent. Since that presentation, however, I have stepped back and tried to look at it from more of a user's perspective. In doing that, I came up with this list of reasons to upgrade. Of course, some of the reasons are more compelling than others, so I decided to rank them based on what I would want as a user.
10. Smart View has integration with other Oracle products; the classic add-in does not. Okay, if you exclusively use Essbase, this argument may not help convince you to move to the new Smart View. If, however, you use any of the other products, this can help you get a better return on your investment in Oracle technology.
9. Smart View has integration with other Microsoft Office technologies; the classic add-in does not. This can save you time if you have a recurring need to bring Essbase data into Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint.
8. Smart View allows you to setup favorite private connections that make it much easier, and faster, to connect to your favorite cubes.
7. Smart View has new options for formula and format fill that leverages Excel formatting in ways not available in the classic Excel add-in. These options automatically apply Excel formatting from the Zoom-In operation source cells. Here is a simple example. In this grid, you can see that the cell containing the member name Cola has been formatted with a background color.
After a Zoom-In operation, the children of Colas also get the same formatting. This could be a very useful functionality for some users as they explore data in Essbase.
6. Smart View has a number of VBA functions which were not available in the classic Excel add-in. These VBA functions help customers who would like to do lightweight automation tasks with Essbase. Of course, in the classic Excel add-in, you could revert to the Essbase API to do some of these tasks, but that added its own level of maintenance and deployment problems. Further, many customers have tried to use Excel as a development platform to build robust Essbase applications. Excel is a very good end user tool, but it is not a very good platform for building robust applications. Instead, if you need a robust Essbase development platform, save yourself a lot of time, effort, and pain and by checking out Dodeca. (Disclosure: I am the founder of, and lead the development team for, the company that publishes Dodeca.)
5. Multiple range operations are easy to use in Smart View; they are not easy to use in the classic Excel add-in. This gives companies much more flexibility in designing their templates without the need for VBA coding. The multiple range operation functionality embeds information about the different cubes within the workbook so that it can be refreshed without the need for the user to manually select a given range and connect to different cubes. This makes these operations faster, more dependable, and much less susceptible to user error in Smart View than in the classic Excel add-in.
4. When you perform a cascade in Smart View, the Excel sheet tabs are appropriately named. Cascade functionality is a very powerful feature of multidimensional databases, but it was severely limited by the way it was implemented in the classic Excel add-in. In the classic add-in, users had the choice of splitting the cascade into different worksheets or workbooks, but the worksheets or workbooks were named using a numbering system. Users had to look at an optional tab of contents to determine which worksheet contained data for a specific member. In the new version, the sheet names are based on the sheet member in the cascade.
3. The ability to query more than 65,535 rows of data gives users the ability to see more data if necessary. You may say to yourself, “Why would anybody need to see this much data?” With today’s larger and larger datasets, it is easily possible for a ‘Next Level’ zoom to exceed the row limit enforced in the classic add-in. Further, the classic add-in does not display the first 65,535 rows, but rather it puts up an error messages and prevents users from seeing those rows. Here is a screenshot showing a large retrieve where I did a zoom-in to all levels of the largest four dimensions of Sample Basic.
Of course, if you try the same thing in the classic Excel add-in, you don't even get that far as you very quickly get an error message telling you that you have exceeded the maximum retrieval size.
2. Smart View users can have multiple instances of Excel open at once. This may not seem like a big deal, but those of us who live and die in Excel feel very constrained if we have to be careful not to launch a second Excel instance. What's the big deal, you ask? The big deal is that the classic Excel add-in cannot do this. Once you open a second instance of Excel, the add-in becomes very undependable as it can lose track of its connected worksheets. I posted a fifteen-second video on my blog a couple of years ago that shows just how easy it is for multiple Excel instances to get mixed up. Check out the video at http://timtows-hyperion-blog.blogspot.com/2009/09/fun-with-excel.html.
1. Smart View is the strategic direction for Oracle; the classic add-in will start to sunset in the next four to five years. This isn’t something you can wait out hoping the issue will go away. The classic add-in will be done. When Oracle first started working on these improvements, they asked my opinion of their proposals. I told them that, if they implemented the proposed changes, then Smart View would be good enough that people could use it to author Dodeca templates. I am glad they have finally hit that milestone with the new Smart View 22.214.171.124.102.