How to insert th into a date field

Is it possible to enter th/nd/rd/st into the date field on a report?

This was the question recently asked of me by a client.

Unfortunately there isn’t a specific date format you can use to give you this information. However, with the use of a number of functions, you can build up a formula to achieve the desired result.

Lets break this down into small steps:

Step 1:

Let say we start with a date field with the following value: 09/Jul/2013 (dd/Mmm/yyyy).

The day part of this field will determine the text to append the day part of the date. There are four potential apend options depending on the day selected:

Day Number – Text To Append
1 – st
2 – nd
3 – rd
4 – th
5 – th
6 – th
7 – th
8 – th
9 – th
10 – th
11 – th
12 – th
13 – th
14 – th
15 – th
16 – th
17 – th
18 – th
19 – th
20 – th
21 – st
22 – nd
23 – rd
24 -th
25 – th
26 – th
27 – th
28 – th
29 – th
30 – th
31 – st

 As we want to query the day portion of the date, we need to use the Substr() function. This is used to bring back the first two characters of the date from a start position of one. But note: As our input value is a date field, we need to convert the date to a string. We do this using the FormatDate() function.

We end up with the following formula:


which returns 09

Step 2:

Now that we have the day portion, we want to identify which value to append. There are four possible values. Days 1 and 31 will have ‘st’ appended. Day 2 will have ‘nd’ appended. Day 3 will have ‘rd’ appended. And every other value will have ‘st’ appended.

We can create this formula by building on the previous statement and using the If() function. In our example we have to use a nested If() statement to evaluate three conditions. If the test doesn’t match any of the three conditions, it will default to a fourth option:

=If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“1″;”01″;”21″;”31″);”st”;If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“2″;”02″;”22″);”nd”;
If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“3″;”03″;”23″);”rd”;”th”)))

You will notice that as well as checking for any days prefixed with a zero, I am also checking for the same value without a preceeding zero.

Running the above formula for 09/Jul/2013 will return the result: th as it is the 9th today.

Step 3:

We then break out the other components of the date field to extract the month and year parts. We will use these formulas shortly:


This returns Jul.

Step 4:


This returns 2013.

We now have all the components we need to generate a date string which incorporates the th/nd/rd/st text.

Step 5:

Here we put it all together using several Concatenation() statements:

If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“1″;”01″;”21″;”31″);”st”;
If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“2″;”02″;”22″);”nd”;
If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“3″;”03″;”23″);”rd”;”th”))));
” “);Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/Mmm/yyyy”);4;3));” “);

You will notice that I have included spaces in between the individual date components. Without this all the data will be bunched up and won’t read nicely.

We end up with the following result:

09th Jul 2013


The icing on the cake is the removal of the leading zero from the day part of the date. We can acheive this by performing a check on the date field using an If() statement. If the day part of teh field starts with a zero, we start our substr() statement at position 2 and return 1 character. Otherwise we start in position 1 and return 2 characters:

If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“1″;”01″;”21″;”31″);”st”;
If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“2″;”02″;”22″);”nd”;
If (Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/mm/yyyy”);1;2) InList (“3″;”03″;”23″);”rd”;”th”))));
” “);Substr(FormatDate(CurrentDate();”dd/Mmm/yyyy”);4;3));” “);

This gives us the following result:

9th July 2013

Bear in mind that adding the th/nd/rd/st text means this field is now a string an not a date. The effect of this is that you won’t be able to use any Date specific functions on this new field. You can overcome this by performing any date calculations prior to appending the text.

So while not the most elegant of solutions, it is perfectly possible to achieve. Does anyone know a more elegant solution?


Practical Business Objects Developer Tips

I’ve been meaning to write up a good practice guide for Business Objects developers for some time now.

I have finally managed to find some time to put together a list of tips I’ve used over the years. I hope you find the following list of tips useful in some small way.

If, after reading this article, you come away with something new, then I’ll be very happy.

I’m going to keep this post going for a while, adding to it as and when I can. But more importantly, I’d love for you to share your developer tips. I know there is a wide community of Business Objects experts out there, so please help develop this list so we can all benefit from our shared experiences.

If you’d like to share a tip or two, please add a comment to the post. I’ll then add it to the main list and give you a name check!

Universe Designer Application

• Use business terminology for all universe objects – always. The universe is the semantic layer between the business and IT.
• Wherever possible, and certainly for measures and calculated objects, add a description to the object.
• Ensure your object is formatted correctly. Pay particular attention to dates and numeric fields.
• Create filtered prompts wherever possible. Anything which can help the user get their data more efficiently helps. Remember to allow the selection of all data.
• Ensure your List of Values (LOV) is sorted. Don’t assume it will be.
• Don’t create a LOV on a measure.
• If you have to create a LOV on a dimension with many data items, consider grouping those items.
• Group your universe objects into a logical order. Create something that the business will understand and be familiar with.
• Create different time periods – users like to compare current year to date to last year to date, quarter to date, month to date, etc.
• Contexts – these can be incredibly useful. But they can become terribly confusing to the end user. If you really have to put in a context, do so, but make sure it has a meaningful name and description. If your user is presented with a context prompt box, it should be absolutely clear to them which context to choose. If it isn’t, you need to revisit your context or approach. The purpose of the tool is to help the end user get their results. Remember that.
• For fields based on free form input text, consider trimming the field. Profiling your data beforehand should help you identify these fields.

Reporter Application

The Query Panel

• Only use objects that you are going to use in your report.
• Put the objects in the order that you would like them sorted on the report if possible.
• Move your measures to the end.
• Use pre-defined (universe) filters if available.
• Avoid hard coding values wherever possible – use prompts instead.
• If you are not familiar with your data set, restrict the number of rows returned by your original query. If you are happy with the result set, you can remove this restriction. The last thing you need is to run the mother of all queries.
• Make prompts meaningful. If you are prompting for a date, include an example of the expected format. If a user can enter a ‘*’ to select all values, say so.
• Get the server to do the work rather than the report. Not all end user PC’s are high spec.
• If you are going to use multiple queries, give each query a meaningful name.

Report Design

• Create a report header tab/page – this should list the report title, parameters used, descriptions, values entered at the prompts, last refreshed date.
• Ensure the report opens on this header page. This should result in a faster opening report.
• Keep the report look and feel the same throughout – table positions, headers, fonts and colours.
• For tables that span across several pages, repeat the header on every new page.
• Dates – who is your target audience? US and UK data formats differ. If you do not know who your audience is, or if it is a worldwide audience, specify the format of the dates in the header page of the report or the column heading.
• Decimal places – how many decimal places do you need to report on? How many decimal places are used in the calculation?
• When working with large numbers with several digits, consider dividing by a thousand or a million. Ensure the report states that you are reporting in that way.
• Include error handling in any calculations performed on the fly. Pay special attention to DIV/0 errors. Use the IsError function. This post may help.
• For all new formulas you create, consider putting them into a variable to allow reuse and easy maintenance. Prefix the variable name with v_ to make them easily identifiable.
• Include a cell at the bottom of your report to show the last refreshed date.
• Build in a very visible partial refreshed alert. All too often that yellow triangle is overlooked by users. This post may help.
• Number your report pages. ‘Page n of n’ works well.
• Give the report a meaningful name. Include a description. Keywords are helpful too for searching.
• Consider a numbering scheme for your reports. E.g. first digit represents dept/function, second digit represents area, etc. E.g. 104 – Sales Report London, 105 Sales Report New York, 204 – Finance Report London. This will allow rapid identification of a report series.
• Use autofit width or wrap text for longer fields. If you only want to display the first n characters of a field in a report, create a formula to do so (e.g. Left(,20))
• Be consistent with your fonts.
• Use a sensible font like Arial. Some of the more fancy fonts do not print too well, especially if a smaller size font is used.
• Consider how your users will use the report. If they tend to print reports, and they do not have a colour printer, avoid colour on your report. Colours on report don’t lend themselves well to output on a black and white printer. If you must use shading, consider greyscale. If you users only view reports on screen, colours can help identify sections of data.
• Use alerters. These are a great tool for bringing data to the users attention. Given them a meaningful name and description.
• Optimise your report for speed – reduce or eliminate unused formulas, alerters and formatting. Keep it simple.
• Consider the use of section breaks to break up large tables. These can be easily searched in the side panel.
• Before publishing or releasing a report to production, do a print preview. Does the report print out as you’d expect? Do you need to save the report in landscape. Also save to Excel. Are any fields appearing incorrectly formatted?
• Big reports – Do your users really need that 100 page report? Really? If all they are after is a data dump, a more efficient way to deliver this is to write a piece of SQL code and save the result as a CSV file. But always ask why they want a data dump in the first place. What they do with the data? BOBJ is a powerful tool. Show them how to do what they want to do. Use it.
• Save your work regularly. You never know when the power will go, or an application will crash. If you have spent the last couple of hours working on a report, it’s not going to hurt to hit that save button. I normally save every significant change as a new version. Once I have a report ready for production, I’ll delete those versions.
• Images such as a corporate logo can be inserted into reports. But keep the images small. Use a file format that compresses the image to a sensible size. Don’t even think about inserted a large 1mb image on every page. This post may help.
• Make use of multiple tabs in the report. However, avoid hard coding date values in these tabs. You will have to maintain these later.
• If you have a particularly complex report, add a tab that provides the detail behind the report. This will aid future developers.
• If you have one set of users that simply love to play with data, and others who want a formatted report, consider adding a Data Dump tab at the end of your report. This should be a simple table with zero formatting.
• Prior to release to UAT/Production, delete any unused variables and formulas.
• If running multiple queries, ensure the relevant dimensions are linked.
• Purge your report before release to production. The data may be obsolete by the time the user retrieves the report and it will be bigger than it needs to be.
• For corporate reports, consider developing a standard report template
• If your company reports in several currencies, ensure the measures on your report are clear as to what currency is being used.
• Avoid falling into the trap of creating several versions of essentially the same report. Remove hard coding and make the report as generic as possible. Use prompts. If a user wants a new field, can it be added to an existing report or do you need to create a duplicate with the new field?
• If you use graphs, keep them simple. Avoid 3D graphs. Read a good book on Data Visualisation to understand how to deliver data in a visual format. This post may help.
• If you have multiple tabs in a section, ensure that they are positioned relative to each other. Same applies to floating cells. Ensure they are relative to something so that they don’t overlap with other objects on your report.
• Percentages should be calculated within the report to ensure it is in context.
• If you create a grouped variable, you need to check that all possible values for that dimension are grouped. If not, the next time you run that report, you may find data that is not sitting in a group. This could lead to misleading results.

Handling formula errors in Web Intelligence

Don’t you just hate it when you see a report with DIV/0 errors?

Thankfully, Web Intelligence provides us with a function to handle these types of errors, allowing us to provide a more meaningful message.

Lets look at IsError

IsError() is a function which will return a boolean value.

A 1 is returned is the formula being evaluated is in error. A 0 if there is no error.

This function is particularly useful when embedded into an IF statement:

Lets assume x = 6 and y = 0

IF (IsError(x/y);”The y object is zero – a DIV/0 error has occured”;(x/y))

In this example, the statement x/y is being evaluated within the IsError function:


As you can’t divide by zero, a DIV/0 error has occured and a 1 is returned by the IsError statement.

The IF statement then presents one of two outcomes depending on this boolean value.

In the case of an error, the user is presented with some meaningful text:

“The y object is zero – a DIV/0 error has occured”

If we change the y value to 3, the IsError function returns 0 – no error, and the second part of the IF statement is evaluated: x/y – which gives us a value of 2.

It is good practice to include error handling into your reports, particularly when you are performing any type of division task. Wrapping an If IsError check around your formula ensures that these type of errors are handled in the correct manner and should help the user identify how the problem can be fixed.

How to calculate the number of days in a month in WebIntelligence

A quick method of determining the number of days in a month in WebIntelligence is through the use of the LastDayOfMonth function.

For a specified date, the LastDayOfMonth will give you the last day in that month.


To extract the number of days, we want to use the first two digits of this result. The following formula will acheive that:


We’ve added two functions here. The first is FormatDate. LastDayOfMonth returns a value held as a date field. We ultimately want the first two digits of this field. However, using the Left() function means we have to have a string input, not a date input. We have to convert the input into a string format first.

This requires two steps.

The first is to convert the LastDayOfMonth value into a string. We do this using the FormatDate function:


We now have a string.

We then extract the first two digits to give us the number of days in a month:


If we want to subsequently use this in a calculation, we need to further manipulate this value and convert it to a number. This is achieved using the ToNumber function:

number ToNumber(string number_string)

This takes a string value and converts it to a number.

In our case, we create the following formula:


We now have the number of days for a particular month that we can use in our calculations.

Missing FirstDayOfMonth() function…

Sadly, there isn’t a function to determine the first day of the month. However, we have a method of extracting the last day of the month using LastDayOfMonth() and using the formulas described above, we can work out the first day:

=RelativeDate(LastDayOfMonth(CurrentDate());-ToNumber(Left(FormatDate(LastDayOfMonth(CurrentDate()) ;”dd/MM/yyyy”);2))+1)

Despite looking complex, we are subtracting the number of days in the month (plus one) from the last day of the month. If we subtracted the total number of days in the month, we would end up with the last day of the previous month! We don’t want this. So we add a 1 to give us the first day.

Also note that in order to subtract days, we have prefixed the ToNumber function with a minus symbol.


Hat tip to JB for pointing out that we can avoid the string conversion by using the DayNumberOfMonth function. 

Hence, to calculate the last day of the month:


And the first day of the month:

=DayNumberOfMonth(RelativeDate(CurrentDate(); 1-DayNumberOfMonth(CurrentDate())))

How to convert a string prompt into a date in WebIntelligence

 There are occasions where we need to prompt the user for a date. This can be done using the prompt functionality in the query panel.

We can display the value entered by the user at the prompt using the UserResponse function.

The UserResponse function is made up of two parts:

string UserResponse(string data_provider;string prompt)

The first part is the Data Provider that contains the prompt that you want to use. This is an optional field and is only required if your report contains multiple data providers. If you are only using one data provider, ignore this first part.

The second part is the EXACT text of your prompt string.

This needs to be a perfect match to your prompt. A way to ensure this is to copy and past the prompt string before you refresh the report.

When refreshed, the function will return the prompt value.

Note that the value returned from the UserResponse function is a string. Despite the value being shown as a date, the value is stored as a string. This means we are not able to perform date calculations on this field as it stands. The error message that will be shown is:


To overcome this, we expand the formula slightly and nest the UserResponse function inside a ToDate function.

The ToDate function is made up of two parts:

date ToDate(string input_string;string date_format)

The first part is the input string (in our case the UserResponse formula), and the second part is the format of the input. Note that the format has to match the input exactly.

We end up with the following formula:

 =ToDate(UserResponse(“Enter Date:”);”dd/mm/yyyy”)

At this stage, the user prompted date is converted to a date format and can be used in date calculations.


If you subsequently want to display the user prompted date in a specific date format, we would nest the formula further and include a FormatDate function:

string FormatDate(date date_to_format;string date_format)

This function takes two values. The first is the date you want to modify and the second part is the format string you want the date to appear in.

For example, if the user has entered the value 14/01/2012 at the prompt and we want to display this as Saturday 14 January 2012, we would create the following formula:

=FormatDate(ToDate(“Enter Date:”);”dd/mm/yyyy”);”Dddd dd Mmmm yyyy”)

In the above example, note that the output of the FormatDate function is a string, not a date. This is important to remember. If you need to perform calculations on a date, make sure it is in a date format (using ToDate).

Once you have finished your date calculations, you can then format the output in any way you like using FormatDate.

For a list of available date formats, take a look at this post.

Note: If you receive #ERROR messages in your calculations, ensure that you are not using a date and time string. The examples above are based on dates in the format mm/dd/yyyy and not mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm:ss

Web Intelligence Date Formats

A simple post to highlight the different date formats that are available in Web Intelligence.

How to display the previous working day in Web Intelligence

Through the use of the DayName function, we can display the day name of the week for a particular date.

Today is Monday 13th February 2012.

What would be the result of creating the following formula in WebIntelligence?


The answer is Monday. Today is Monday 13th February 2012.

Now, if I wanted to display the previous working day, I couldn’t use the RelativeDate function on it’s own. Remember we are looking for previous working day and not previous day.

In order to do this, we need to check the current day and determine if the previous day is a weekend. If it is, we need to adjust the output accordingly.

We can develop this logic within WebIntelligence using a nested IF statement.

Let’s work through an example:

Create a new WebIntelligence report. If you have a CurrentDate object in your universe, we can use that. If you don’t, then bring back any object (preferably one that doesn’t bring back many rows – we don’t actually want to use that value, but we do want to end up with a table).

If you do not have a CurrentDate object, create the following formula in WebIntelligence:


Note that the format of the date value returned depends on how the universe object has been set up or how your WebIntelligence setup is configured. In some cases it may be formatted as dd-Mmm-yyy or dd/mm/yyyy. If you want to use a specific format and you are using the =CurrentDate() formula in WebIntelligence, you can format the date using:


For the purposes of this article however, we will be using the default format.

Add a second column to your table. We will call this column ‘Current Day Name’ and we will use the DayName function to return the day of the week:


Now to get the previous working date.

We need to check the value (Day Name) of the current date. If it is a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday, we will be fine using the RelativeDate function, as the previous day to the above listed days is a working day. (I’m ignoring Bank Holidays, Festive Days, etc. That’s for a future topic!)

However, if we find that the current Day Name is a Sunday or a Monday, then using RelativeDate is going to retrieve a weekend day. We need to handle these two scenarios using a nested IF statement.

The statement is built up as follows:

If the current day name is a Monday, then subtract three days from the current date
If the current day name is a Sunday, then subtract two days from the current date

The formula is made up as follows:


Lets break down this formula.

An IF expression has three components:

If(boolean_expr;value if true;value if false)

The boolean_expr part is the statement that we test.

In our case, we want to check if the CurrentDate() is a Monday.

If it is true that it is a Monday, we want to use the RelativeDate function to subtract 3 days from the CurrentDate().

If it is false, i.e. the current date is not a Monday, we need to perform a further check. This requires a second IF statement to perform this second check.

The second check asks if the CurrentDate() is a Sunday.

If it is true that it is a Sunday, we want to use the RelativeDate function to subtract 2 days from the CurrentDate().

If it is false, i.e. the current date is not a Sunday, and we know its not a Monday as we checked for that previously, then we know that the day is a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday and hence we can safely use RelativeDate with a value of -1 to give us the previous working day.

The formula above displays the result in a date format. If we wanted to display the result as a Day Name only, we can tweak the formula a little to incorporate the DayName() function:


So using this formula we should end up with the following result:

Current Day Previous Working Day

Monday         Friday
Tuesday        Monday
Wednesday  Tuesday
Thursday     Wednesday
Friday           Thursday
Saturday      Friday
Sunday         Friday

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