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XML Publisher in E-Business Suite

Oracle XML Publisher is Oracle’s tool for the production and delivery of all types of Business Reporting requirements within Oracle E-Business Suite. It can produce a wide variety of business documents, from Invoices and Purchase Orders to Contracts and Tax Forms.

Some key features are:

  • Report layouts can be designed using familiar desktop tools
  • It can accept and process any well-formed XML data file, or even generate the data itself
  • The report output can be delivered to the end recipient via printer, email, fax or it can even be published to your company Portal
  • The output can be created in a wide variety of file formats, including Adobe Acrobat PDF, MS Word, MS Excel and HTML
  • The transformation of XML data to one of the required output format is based on XML Stylesheets Transformations (XSL), an open industry standard

XML Publisher comes in various versions, as well as bundled as part of Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, under the new name “BI Publisher”. However, I am going to concentrate on the version that is embedded within E-Business Suite. Up to and including Apps 11.5.9, XML Publisher was not particularly well integrated into the application; since 11.5.10 it has been fully integrated into the underlying infrastructure, closely linked to the Concurrent Manager.

From a developer’s point of view, creating a report in XML Publisher can be boiled down to three relatively simple steps:

  • Design the XML data file
  • Use one of a variety of methods to create an XML data file
  • Use one of a variety of transformation methods to turn the XML data into an output file.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) provide two standards for defining the content of an XML data file: Document Type Definition and XML Schema. Personally, I think that XML Schema files (with the extension .XSD) are easier to read and provide a more detailed description of the data. Having said that, I’d highly recommend using a tool like Altova XMLSpy or oXygen XML Editor, as it makes the design process more visual. Once the data file has been defined, the next two development stages can be performed in parallel, if necessary. This can be a useful way to reduce the number of elapsed days taken to develop a report.

Once the format of the XML data file has been agreed, we need to write a program to create it. The program can be written using any of the technologies supported as a Concurrent Manager Executable, as long as the XML is written to the CM Output file. I will cover the various methods of XML production in later Blogs, but for now here’s a short list of the options:

  • Oracle Reports RDF
  • PL/SQL Stored Procedure
  • Java Stored Procedure
  • Stand-alone Java program
  • XML Publisher Data Template

Finally, a method must be chosen to transform the data to the required output format. Templates can be designed in a number of ways; one of the simplest is to use Microsoft Word to design an RTF template file which holds placeholders for all of the elements of the XML file. When the RTF file is uploaded to XML Publisher it automatically converts this into an XML Stylesheet. The Stylesheet can then be used to create a final output in RTF (for Word), Excel, HTML or, most importantly, Acrobat PDF.

This will give the developer the ability to create averagely complex reports, as you are limited to the capabilities of MS Word. If you need pixel-perfect precision, XML Publisher supports another one of the W3C standards, XSL-FO. This is the combination of XML Stylesheet Transformations (XSLT) and Formatting Objects (FO). Essentially FO is a page description language, much like PDF and PostScript, but completely open and technology-agnostic. When XML Publisher comes across an XSL-FO template two passes are made: the first uses the Stylesheet to convert the XML data into FO data, the second converts the FO data into the required output format, usually PDF. XSL-FO Stylesheets are considerably more complex to code, but the benefits come when creating the layout.

I hope that this has given you a useful insight to XML Publisher, in particular highlighted that there are a large number of new standards, technologies and languages that you will need to become acquainted with in the near future. Familiarity with XML technologies will not just help you write reports with XML Publisher: XML is fast becoming the “lingua franca” of the Internet – don’t get left behind!

9 Jul, 2009 by

E-Business Suite

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