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To Flash or Not to Flash – SVG and PNG Options – Not!

Author: Christian Screen | | December 25, 2010

OBIEE 11g’s new graphing and charting engine defaults to Adobe Flash (previously Macromedia Flash) . This is fine and dandy as the rendering looks great and demos really well to clients.  I refer to it as the shiny spoon when relaying new features of OBI 11g to technical folks.  But, this offers a new paradigm for infrastructure administrators within an organization.  Basically all users of OBI 11g “must” have Adobe Flash installed on their browsers.  And, on each browser that they use.  Yes, that’s right, for those non-Flash educated readers.  Flash is browser compliant and must be installed on each browser individually.  So, for those corporations that lock down or push software to their corporate user base this may be a quick tug of war but ultimately as most of use know, Flash helps more than hurts, so this really isn’t a beefy argument at all is it?

So, where does that leave us? First, as an OBI implementer, make sure that everyone can either download and install flash on their respective browser(s) or an administrator can bulk push Adobe Flash to all users. Okay, now that that is done, let’s talk about some other options, (just in case the bulk release of Adobe Flash offends the distributive capabilities of your software administrator).

Well, the OBI 11g documentation says that it actually does offer the ability to move away from Adobe Flash as the default chart/graph rendering engine.  And, they claim that one may substitute either PNG or SVG chart/graph rendering.  The differences in my opinion are stark based on the the Web 2.0 look and feel that OBI 11g seeks to provide.

  • PNG (Portable Network Graphics –  are W3C compliant but are basically static images.
  • SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics – are W3C compliant but provide the greates degree of interaction becuase they support mouse-over behaviors (such as pop-up data labels), navigation, and drilling) just like their flash counterpart.

However, after some general testing I have found these claims to be completely false and modifying away from the default Flash chart/graph engine is NOT POSSIBLE in the R1 of OBI 11g. (Someone Please, Pretty Please, Correct me!).  After modifying said instanceconfig.xml file based on the logic provided in this section of the OBI 11g documentation, restarting and rebooting the server, the change never takes place; Flash is pervasive in OBI 11g.  What’s more is that I found out that the “copy” feature provided at the bottom of an Analysis in a dashboard, actually requires that Adobe Flash be installed.  Of course, one of the cool features of OBI 11g won’t be doused simply because some administrator doesn’t like to use Adobe Flash, What are you thinking?

Here’s what it looks like with no Adobe Flash installed on the browser.  Check out the where the “copy” link action would sit.

And, as a tid-bit, if you are wondering what the “copy” function actually does, it copies the XML structure of the desired Analysis Request to the user’s clipboard.  From there it can be pasted into any of the MS Office Applications that is running the Oracle BI Plug-in.  Once pasted the request is completely accessible as a a dynamic analysis within the MS Office application, capable of data refreshing, etc.

Here is what the chart should like when rendered with the default Flash plug-in enabled. Check out how the “copy” action link should look.

So there you have it. Adobe Flash “1”, System Administrators “0”.  Perhaps they’ll correct this in a future release, or perhaps someone will just find my findings to be incorrect.  Either way I hope I’m right.


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