Reporting FAQ

What does Pentaho use for its reporting engine?

Pentaho Reporting uses the JFreeReport engine. The JFreeReport project is owned and sponsored by Pentaho.

What types of companies can use Pentaho Reporting?

The Pentaho Reporting Project was built to serve production, operational and end-user reporting needs.

What types of users can use Pentaho Reporting?

Anyone who can access a browser, email, or is capable of reading a printout.

Can I use Pentaho Reporting out-of-the-box?

Yes. It was designed to be used as both an out-of-the-box reporting application and as a reporting component for use in other applications. Some companies will simply want to download the project in a standalone manner and start building, scheduling, and distributing reports. While others will want to embed and integrate the project into their own applications, only using the components they need, and customizing it to fit their application.

Can I embed Pentaho Reporting into my applications?

Absolutely. The first step would be to create a report definition and add it to a solution definition (everything revolves around a "solution" in Pentaho). Then, the server-side components make that report available with the additional features of auditing, web services and so-on. You can then link to the solution from your own JSP, execute the report through web services, embed the report within your portal, etc.

Can I customize how reports look?

Yes. Pentaho Reporting styling is flexible, and allows the report designer to choose the granularity at which they want to manipulate the look and feel, right down to font styling on individual characters. Of course images and logos can be added to reports.

Reports use styles based on Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), the standard for styles in web pages and web applications. Pentaho Reporting takes full advantage of CSS, allowing the report designer to apply a style to the entire report, a report section, or a single report component.

The report navigation and report viewer components use XML, XSL Stylesheets and CSS styles to generate the user interface seen by users.

How do I embed or integrate Pentaho Reporting into portals or other web apps?

Pentaho Reporting includes report navigation and report viewer components that can be integrated into portals or web pages. We also include JSR-168 compatible portlets and example Java Server Pages (JSPs) that use these components.

Can Pentaho Reporting do bursting?

Yes it can, as integrated with the Pentaho BI Platform.

So, um, what is bursting?

Bursting is when a single report is generated but has sections that are grouped and intended for specific individuals. For example, an overtime report has a section for employees in each department. Bursting "by department to manager" would send each manager just the overtime report for people in that managers department.

The term 'burst' comes from the olden days (yesterday for certain ERP vendors) when printer paper had holes and perforations and green all over them. The paper was six hundred miles long and the pages needed to be manually separated. This act of this manual separation was called 'bursting' meaning 'to tear apart' and was usually accomplished by flicking the middle finger at the perforation and pulling the pages apart.

Who designs reports?

It depends on the specific report requirements. Simple reports can be built by business users (someone familiar with building reports in Excel for instance). The more sophisticated reports would be built by a more tech-savvy person who can understand security rules, use the scheduler, setup bursting rules, create delivery options, etc. Many Pentaho Reporting users create "self service" reports through the use of parameterized reports. This allows a report designer to create one report definition, with pull-down menus that allow users at runtime to select the territory, time period, or product line they're interested in and run the report. This provides a high degree of end-user self service without turning casual users into report designers.

Pentaho provides multiple, integrated options for report design, including the Pentaho Report Design Wizard, which is built on the Eclipse framework and walks a user through a serious of steps to create a report. Pentaho also provides the Pentaho Report Designer, which provides a complete drag-and-drop report design environment to create simple or sophisticated reports.

Does a developer have to create all the pieces of the report?

No. The developer needs to initially define the data sources, then any business user can use the wizard to create the report. They can choose from reusable components including queries, templates, business rules, and delivery options to help build the report.

Does Pentaho Reporting use Eclipse as the report building environment?

The Report Design Wizard works with Eclipse, but Eclipse is not required for the Pentaho Report Designer.

How do I create a report?

There are a few options:
  • Use the wizard to guide you through a brand new report
  • Pick a data source
  • Select the information you want to report on
  • Define the layout template
  • Choose where it should go, when it should run, and who gets it
  • Use Pentaho Report Designer
  • Go directly into the underlying XML and either define a new report or modify an existing

Can I schedule reports?

Yes. We include an open source scheduler, Quartz by OpenSymphony, which can be used to schedule any activity of the system including running a report.

Can I track report usage?

Yes. The Pentaho BI Platform is built with audited workflow under the covers and the system can track report access, parameter selection, and report delivery. Report auditing requires minimal administration and is transparent to report consumers. Additional audit reporting capabilities are available as a feature of Management Services, which are part of an annual Pentaho Subscription.

Can I monitor performance?

Yes. The same auditing system that captures report usage information captures performance information.

Are starfish fish?

No. Although they live underwater, they do not have a backbone, and therefore are not fish. Starfish is an echinoderm, in the same family as sea urchins, sand dollars and sea cucumbers. Jellyfish aren't fish either by the way.

Will Pentaho Reporting email reports to users?

Yes. Business rules can be used to determine the recipient(s) for any report or parameterized report. Pentaho includes several business rules engines for flexibility.

Can end users select and save their own parameters?

Yes. Parameters and parameter groups can be saved, and re-used in multiple reports.

Are there reusable components in the reports?

Yes. Styles, data sources, queries, parameters and parameter groups can be saved and loaded when designing a report.

Can Pentaho Reporting do production reporting?


Ideally you want to reduce the amount of noise that a user receives and just pipe relevant, timely, important information to them. That is why there are triggers, bursting, email/portal/web-page delivery and rule-based capabilities.

Can Pentaho Reporting do parameterized reporting?

Yes. Reports can be setup to accept parameters directly from users or from other applications. Parameters are defined in the report definition, and also in the data source. When the report is run, the report component generates an xform user interface to prompt the user to enter the parameters. These parameters can then be displayed, or used in the query to filter data.

What OLAP capabilities does Pentaho Reporting provide?

Pentaho Reporting is a part of the Pentaho BI Platform which has an Analysis module comprised of an Analysis Engine (ROLAP) and advanced analytical views.

Where are report definitions stored?

Pentaho Reporting definitions are stored on a centralized server under the control of the BI Platform's security layer.

How does Pentaho Reporting scale?

Pentaho Reporting uses a sophisticated combination of business rules, services, assured messaging, workflow, clustering, and auditing, to scale.
  • Business rules are used to identify exception cases (reduces spam)
  • Workflows with subflows are used to process each exception
  • Subflows use assured messaging to call services to generate reports
  • Clustering can be used to distribute report generation and delivery
  • Auditing tracks that each exception is handled successfully

How does Pentaho Reporting use workflow?

Pentaho Reporting uses the workflow engine for advanced functions such as bursting. Report generation can be initiated from an activity within a workflow.

What advantage does this provide?

Using workflow to provide advanced reporting features provides automated logging, auditing and recovery. Failures during reporting and delivery can be reported to responsible parties. The workflow engine also provides deadline support that can send an alert if the report is taking to long to complete.

What data sources can I get to?

Pentaho Reporting supports access to relational, OLAP, XML, and web services data sources

What security is available?

Pentaho Reporting, through the Pentaho BI Platform, supports user authentication at the user level, allowing you to control which users can access the system and which cannot. Out-of-the-box integration with external directories like LDAP, and the ability to define security at the individual report level are both features of the Pentaho BI Platform.