Friday, December 06, 2013

Oracle APEX Reporting Tips & Tricks - Book Review

Just after my not-so-positive previous book review, another author dared to ask me for my review. I asked him whether he was sure, and he - confidently - answered positive. This book, written by George Bara from Romania, is called "Oracle APEX Reporting Tips & Tricks", so - from the title -  it seems to be covering similar subjects as the previous one. 
Chapter 1, "Introducing APEX", covers the install of APEX and the creation of a first application. The good thing here is that the author doesn't rewrite the docs, but just links to them. Right after that he introduces the two main report types: the Classic Report and the Interactive Report.
Chapter 2, "Interactive Reports Basics", covers the cool options from the Action menu as well how a developer can dis- or enable these options. Also the Alternate and Icon view is explained, followed by a brief example on styling an IR using CSS. After that multiple download options are covered, including an extensive custom download format.
Chapter 3, "Advanced Interactive Reports", dives a little bit deeper (as you could expect with a title like that). Reports based on APEX collection as well as some neat tricks to get the current filtering settings from the APEX dictionary are explained.
Chapter 4, "Beyond Interactive Reports",  dives even deeper on the subject. Adding and managing checkboxes in reports and how you can use Dynamic Actions on these checkboxes is explained. This is followed by a few paragraphs on dynamic filtering (using the APEX_UTIL.IR_FILTER procedure). The last paragraph covers how you could show images in your report. In this chapter I am missing two things: The first is the option of filtering through URL parameters, as described here. The second one is the alternative for showing images, using the APEX Listener, as described in Kris' blog.    
Chapter 5, "Reporting on Web Services Results", explains how to create web services references and how to create a report on the results of a web service call.
Chapter 6, "PDF Report Printing", dives deep into Apache FOP with a lot of XLS-FO examples. Obviously the author has a lot of experience in this matter. As the final chapter, Chapter 7, "Complex Report PDF Printing", goes even deeper than that. Alas, other options for printing, like PL-PDF or even BI Publisher are not covered at the same depth. Also the more modern alternative (or replacement) for Apache FOP - using the APEX Listener for PDF printing - is not covered. In my opinion the book should get an update on that (as I never used all the XLS-FO tricks mentioned here myself)!

So as a conclusion, the book covers what it promises. Reporting and printing. Nothing more, nothing less. It is aimed at beginner to intermediate developers.
One (more) remark though. While reading you notice the book has lacked a proper editor review (it is self published). The author is not a native english speaker and that now and then that is noticeable - sort of similar when reading this blog ;-). There are some errors and sentences that don't flow smoothly. But if you go over that, it is a good book for a starting APEX developers (and for some parts for intermediate ones as well), who wants to know more about the reporting solution APEX offers.