Deploy FOCUS Six applications over the Web

If your business uses Information Builders' FOCUS Six to create and distribute business reports within your company, you can now extend that capability over the Web. Information Builders' WebFOCUS Application Server lets you provide online reports to users in your intranet or your external Web sites.

WebFOCUS is part of Information Builders' WebFOCUS Applications Suite. The software consists of two components: an executable program and a data access program. You install the executable program in your Web server's cgi-bin (or scripts) directory. When you enter the name of a FOCUS Six report you wish to run, the program executes the report and displays the results in an HTML format that you can view through a Web browser. The data access component lets the WebFOCUS executable program retrieve data from various sources.

WebFOCUS runs any report you create with FOCUS Six. The product generates simple reports or complex master-detail reports. Master-detail reports let you look at a master report (e.g., a list of invoices for the day) and select the detail you want to view (e.g., the items on the invoice you select). The product also generates graphical reports.

Using WebFOCUS to let users run reports is easy. You simply place an HTML command in a hyperlink. For example, to run the latest quarterly earnings report, you embed the following HTML code in a Web page on your server:

<A HREF="/cgi-bin/ibi_cgi/ibiweb.exe?IBIF_Ex=QUARTERN">Quarterly Earnings Report</A>

This code tells the WebFOCUS executable (ibiweb.exe) to run the QUARTERN FOCUS Six report (which you must have already installed and configured to run with WebFOCUS). Screen 1 shows a FOCUS Six report after WebFOCUS has executed it. In some cases, you might want a parameterized report. For instance, you might want to let users access the quarterly earnings report for any quarter of the current year or any prior year. Your HTML code will be more complicated because it lets a user input the desired quarter and year for the report. The easiest way to create a parameterized report is to create an HTML form. A user adds the parameter information to the form, and the form passes the parameters to the WebFOCUS executable. The following is sample skeleton code that lets you run a quarterly earnings report:

<FORM METHOD="get" ACTION="/cgi-bin/ibi_cgi/ibiweb.exe">

<INPUT NAME="IBIF_Ex" TYPE="hidden" VALUE="QUARTERN">

<B>Enter Quarter:</B> <INPUT NAME="EARNQR" TYPE="text" SIZE="2">

<B>Enter Year:<B> <INPUT NAME="EARNYR" TYPE="text" SIZE="2">

<INPUT NAME="submit" TYPE=SUBMIT VALUE="Submit Request">

<INPUT NAME="reset" TYPE=RESET VALUE="Reset Form">

</FORM>

The first line of code defines the form and the WebFOCUS executable where you want to send the form's data. The hidden variable, IBIF_Ex, defines the name of the FOCUS Six report you intend to run (in my example, QUARTERN). The next two lines ask users which earning quarter and which year they want to view. The WebFOCUS executable uses these parameters to create the report. The next two lines create a submit and a reset button, and the final line ends the form's creation.

I had difficulty installing WebFOCUS because the program lacks good installation documentation. After running the setup program, I had to answer several questions about where to install the software and what components to install. Furthermore, as part of the data access component, I had to identify which relational databases I wanted to install support for, provide usernames and passwords for them, and configure the communication gateway. I was unsure about much of the configuration data, and often I had to guess. Even the online documentation didn't contain any installation instructions.

WebFOCUS is simple to use (except for installation). The software's installation included several demonstration components. I configured my Web site to execute these demonstration components, and I was able to view the sample reports from a client machine running Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0.

If you aren't already using Information Builders' FOCUS Six product to generate business reports, WebFOCUS has little use in your Web environment. However, if you use FOCUS Six, WebFOCUS Server is the logical choice for distributing the reports over the Web.

WebFOCUS Application Server
Contact:
Information Builders * 212-736-4433
Web: http://www.ibi.com
Price: $7200
System Requirements:
Windows NT Server, Web server, FOCUS Six (to create your reports)