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How Does SAP Design Studio Change Dashboard Design and Performance? Q&A on What’s New in Release 1.5

June 10, 2015

Design Studio is held out as the successor to SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius), and the latest version, release 1.5, is being called the “performance release.”  What is changing in 1.5?

Jeroen van der AXavier Hacking

Review our chat with BI 2015 speaker Jeroen van der A and Xavier Hacking of Interdobs, authors of Getting Started with SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio who took questions on changes in performance and dashboard creation in SAP Design Studio 1.5.

Questions from our readers covered the basics — When is 1.5 available? How do we access it? Where do we start? — as well as technical specifics on migration and new features.

Review all their posts from the Q&A replay, below, and an edited transcript of the chat session.

Live Blog Evaluating SAP Design Studio 1.5: Jeroen van der A & Xavier Hacking, June 10 11amEDT


SAPinsider: Welcome to the chat! We'll kick off the live online chat today at 11am ET when we're joined by BI consultants and authors Jeroen van der A and Xavier Hacking of Interdobs. Our moderator today is  BI 2015 conference producer Bridget Kotelly.

Bridget Kotelly, BI 2015: Thanks for joining us for today’s chat with BI 2015 speaker Jeroen van der A and Xavier Hacking. These BI experts have been playing around with the latest SAP Design Studio release
— version 1.5 — and will be posting answers to your questions for the hour here in our online chat.
Jeroen and Xavier, thanks for joining us today!


Jeroen van der A, Interdobs: Hello, everybody…

Xavier Hacking, Interdobs:
Hi all!


Bridget Kotelly: Jeroen, Xavier, it looks like we have lots of questions already waiting for you from our readers – we’ll let you get to those now! 


Getting Started & Roadmap


Comment From Canadian Connection

What is the exact release date for version 1.5?

Xavier Hacking: Design Studio 1.5 is already generally available! You can download the software from the SAP Support Portal.


Comment From Adarsh

We are evaluating Design Studio. Where do we start?

Jeroen van der A: Try to re-create something you already have in your organization. That will help you notice where Design Studio is an improvement and where you will have issues. Design Studio can do a lot of things, so if you're evaluating, you have to have a base for comparison with what you have.


Comment From Johannes

What is the single biggest reason to go to 1.5?

Xavier Hacking: Design Studio 1.5 is already called "the performance release" in the Design Studio community. You can expect huge performance improvements, for example, by using the option to execute data sources in parallel.


Comment From Danny

What’s the most difficult thing about switching from Xcelsius to Design Studio?

Xavier Hacking: Design Studio lacks the glorious spreadsheet layer that SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (Xcelsius) had. In this spreadsheet it was pretty easy to tweak data, create dynamic visibility functionality, etc., using Excel formulas. In Design Studio you will work with JavaScript to program interactivity.


Comment From Adarsh

Can you please provide me links to Design Studio documents?

Xavier Hacking: We wrote a book — Getting Started on SAP Design Studio. We are working on an updated version which is planned for the end of this year. 

You can also check the basic user and developer documentation that SAP provides at SAP Help.

Also make sure you check the SCN space for Design Studio.


Comment From Michael

Is it possible to use Design Studio with a database that is not BW or HANA?

Jeroen van der A: If you are on a BOE platform, you can connect to other sources and via the Information Design Tool. Alternatively, you can use the custom SDK data source to connect anything you have.

Comment From Prasanna

I have a follow-up question from your earlier answer for connecting to any datasource via DS SDK. Which SDK should be installed to achieve this? If you could throw some more light on this, would be helpful.

Jeroen van der A: When you install the SDK you get a few standard examples. One of those examples is a datasource SDK. Basically what you have to do is access your datasource and change the layout of the data as described in the documentation and example. Additionally if you look at the SDK SCN community there are some additional examples. You can download the components as well as the source code.


Comment From Tammy

What is the best way to capture requirements for Design Studio, in your experience?

Jeroen van der A: Basically checking with users on what they like about the current setup and what they feel needs urgent improvement. If you can create DS reports that include many of these items, you're good to go.


Comment From Richard

What features are still lacking from Design Studio that are present in, say, Dashboards [formerly Xcelsius]?

Jeroen van der A: I would say that Dashboards has more options to configure graphs, and has the data layer in the form of the Excel sheet. Additionally you can use the web services standard (Design Studio only via SDK).


Comment From Tammy

Are you seeing customers moving from Web Application Designer to Design Studio?

Xavier Hacking:  Yes, I already worked on a project at which the old BEx Web Application Designer reports had to be migrated to a new Design Studio environment. The BEx Web Application Designer hasn't been updated/improved by SAP in ages. It was/is a terrible buggy environment to create complex BI applications. Also, nowadays customers expect more and more mobile applications for their BI dashboards/reports in a formatting that conforms to their company standard. Design Studio can deliver that.


Comment From Todd Greenwood

With HANA SP09, there seems to be a general movement to cloud-based development - and potentially away from HANA Studio (local version) over time. Assuming that this is a correct observation, is the same type of migration in the future plans for Design Studio?

Jeroen van der A: Nothing has been said, but I think that will be happening. If you look at the technical side you see that the tool is built on Eclipse, is using JavaScript libraries, and uses the same libraries as HANA. So I expect them to move at some point.


Wow, I really enjoy working with DS. I'm always looking for the next release. I have been working with different reporting apps for 30 years. Design Studio is one of the best. Great vision by SAP. Are there plans to do scheduling or broadcasting with DS?

Jeroen van der A: Nice to hear, I had the same experience. Broadcasting is mentioned in the roadmap for December.


Comment From Guest

Do you see Design Studio replacing BEx Web?

Jeroen van der A: I don't know if SAP will stop supporting BEx Web. I do think that Design Studio is able to do almost everything that you can do in BEx Web, and they continue developing. So in that regard it replaces BEx Web.


Comment From Scottie

With so many other SAP applications out there such as Lumira, what makes Design Studio the centerpiece for SAP dashboards in the future?

Jeroen van der A: Design Studio is, more than any other tool, a jack of all trades. You can create dashboards and OLAP apps, and you can create formatted reports to be exported in PDF. The latter is expanding in December.

Comment From Richard

I am of the same opinion as Scottie that the BI portfolio is quite corded, especially around dash-boarding. Recently I have been implementing more dashboarding in WebI rather than Dashboards, as I've found the backend design easier to understand/maintain. I've also been using WebI as a replacement for traditional static Crystal Report reports (again, because it's easier to support). Do you have any links to comparisons online which clearly shows the capabilities of each product?

Jeroen van der A: I don't have any links at hand. Ingo Hilgefort has always big lists with comparisons -- Google him. Basically, WebI and Crystal are different tools. Crystal is specifically for ready-made documents and WebI allows some interaction.

[Editor’s note: For a general product matrix, we also point readers to Jayne Landry’s “Business Intelligence Made Simple” piece in SAPinsider, where she includes a BI tools matrix.]


New Features & Performance


Comment From Shwetha Bangera

Will a scorecard component be available in Design Studio in the future?

Jeroen van der A: Not directly. But a text component can be linked directly to numbers via data binding. Combine some text elements in a panel component, some CSS, and you have everything you need for a scorecard component.


Comment From Canadian Connection

What key mobile features will be supported first?

Xavier Hacking: Unlike SAP BusinessObjects Dashboards (formerly known as Xcelsius), Design Studio is completely HTML5 compatible. This means that all its features are available on pretty much any modern device and browser. So you can use/execute the same Design Studio apps on mobile devices as on your desktop computer.


Comment From Jozsef

Will there be significant performance differences when executing a dashboard through the BI platform, NetWeaver, or HANA? This if the data is in the HANA DB for all three options.

Jeroen van der A: Well, HANA DB can only be accessed via HANA or BI Platform. Didn't notice much difference in the projects I did, where we sometimes had up to 20-30 data sources.


Comment From Todd Greenwood

Are there any limits to the number of parallel connections that can be used simultaneously in version 1.5?

Xavier Hacking: Yes, this depends on your source system (for example SAP BW). Executing data sources in parallel requires multiple sessions, and these take up resources of the source system.

Jeroen van der A: It depends on performance, there is more information in note 1177020 - SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio - Sizing Information.

Comment From Todd Greenwood

OK, thanks - will look at the note. So to further clarify, are the resources on the source system primarily those of available memory, or licenses, or both? Thanks.

Jeroen van der A: What I've read is that additional connections should be read as additional concurrent users.


Comment From Randy Pearson

Do you have any advice for using processing groups to improve performance?

Jeroen van der A: The processing groups make queries in that group run in parallel. Watch this in combination with any BEx variables. A good way to group queries is to know the longest-running query and add a number of queries that can be done within that time.


Comment From Guest

Beyond what's new, I would also be interested in hearing about how Design Studio can be used as a tool for web-based ad hoc data analysis, much like how the old SAP BW WAD [Web Application Designer] tool could be used for the same purpose.

Jeroen van der A: The best way to find out is to have a look at the OLAP template when you create a new application. You will see you can add a query and have a lot of ways to navigate, filter, etc. Additionally I wrote a blog on how you can use external parameters to link to an OLAP application here.


Comment From Scottie

What is the best way to account for different devices? And has Design Studio 1.5 improved front-end performance?

Jeroen van der A: It improved a lot. They reduced the number of calls and round trips. Even on an empty app with only one component in it, you could already notice a difference.


Comment From Prasanna

In Design Studio, with universe as a datasource, there is a limitation on the number of rows shown in crosstab. Is this something that will be addressed in the future? What is the workaround for this?

Jeroen van der A: I have heard no news regarding increasing this. In the SDK there was a 10,000 cell restriction that you now can increase.

Comment From Prasanna

Thanks, Jeroen. Another question I had is for the limitation on the number of rows when connecting a datasource via universe. Is there a workaround to overcome this 5k row limitation or is it something that will be addressed in future releases?

Jeroen van der A: Well, if it will be addressed, I don't know. As you can't fit 5000 rows in one page, the workaround would be to filter to a size that fits on the screen, and then when the user scrolls down change the filter -- sort of pagedown scroll.


Comment From Scottie

When will full offline mode come to Design Studio 1.5?

Xavier Hacking: Design Studio 1.5 has an option to record a scenario in a Design Studio app that can be replayed. Full offline browsing isn't available in this release. SAP did put "offline enhancements" in the future feature roadmap for Design Studio, but it is still unclear what exactly this will include.


Comment From Todd Greenwood

In earlier versions of Design Studio, there were some challenges regarding formatting of numbers — especially with regard to decimal point length for chart mouseovers — particularly when manipulating numbers with calculations, etc., before displaying them. Has functionality been updated to address this, and if so, where does it exist?

Jeroen van der A: Mouseovers on charts are not easy to configure. Basically it uses what the datasource says. When you have numbers in text fields, you can use data binding and use a central function to do formatting.


Comment From Lori M

Has the row restriction limitation when using a universe as a data source been increased?

Xavier Hacking: No, there is still a fixed limit of 5000 rows or 50000 data cells when using a Universe as a data source. Unfortunately!

Comment From Lori M

Back to the limitation on results against a universe — is the limitation on the size of the data source or on the filtered results of the query?

Xavier Hacking: This limit is on the result set.


Comment From Todd Greenwood

Does Design Studio 1.5 have any "caching" capabilities so that initial queries that run on startup can be "accelerated"? In the past, when using BW connections, it seemed that once a query was run at least once, there was a significant increase in performance in subsequent executions of the query (queries).

Jeroen van der A: Design Studio uses the same cache — actually it is BW that does the caching. In transaction RSRT, there are caching options to optimize them. If you have fixed queries, it helps to pre-run them in BW.


Comment From Edward Garst

How do I get a negative number to be formatted in a graph, i.e., to display in a graph -100 as (100). The dropdown only has a few options and I have not been able to find a format that will work in the additional properties.

Jeroen van der A: That option is not available in the graph. You might have more luck changing the format in the data source. The datasource is passing formatted values as a string to graphs. That could help. In addition to changing it in the data source, another option is SDK. But that is a resource only if the requirement is big, as you introduce JavaScript programming.

To answer your questions about displaying negative numbers: In the user manual page 152 you’ll find the documentation. If you have a specific issue, post it on SCN. We are quite active and I expect you will have answers within a day.

Comment From Edward Garst

Regarding negative numbers:  The data source is BW. When displaying in a crosstab the negative display with brackets. In any chart they appear with a leading "-" sign. Is there any way to format in the additional properties?

Jeroen van der A: You don't have a way to format numbers like that in the additional properties at the moment.


Comment From Todd Greenwood

How does the iPad display functionality of Design Studio 1.5 compare to that of using WebI reports (version 4.1) if connecting with SAP BI? WebI seems to have occasional formatting issues unless you are very diligent in your setup.

Xavier Hacking: Yeah, if you publish a WebI report to the SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app, it will have a pretty fixed, basic output and look and feel. Design Studio, on the other hand, lets you create an app that will look and function exactly as you built it!


Comment From Edward Garst

I’m having an issue with conditional formatting and the walk graph; you can only select the first column. Difficult to color backs when there are overlapping values.

Jeroen van der A: Yes, I think you ran into a limitation here. If you post this on SCN people can help with workarounds or otherwise.


Integration, Export & Compatibility


Comment From Canadian Connection

Will Design Studio have an option to convert Xcelsius (XLF) files to Design Studio?

Jeroen van der A: SAP promised to have something in place, but I don't think that will be something like importing, as the way that an Xcelsius dashboard is built up (from Excel) is very different.


Comment From Canadian Connection

Does Design Studio support export/save as PDF and PPT with interaction?

Jeroen van der A: In 1.5 there is export to PDF, either in the panel, the screen, or the dashboard. You have interaction when adding headers and footers, and some other small things before you create the PDF. PPT looks like it’s in the roadmap for the next release.


Comment From Jakob

How does the RRI functionality compare against Analysis for Excel?

Xavier Hacking: Hi Jakob, Check out this tutorial on creating an RRI target that can be jumped to from a Design Studio app.

Comment From Jakob

Thanks for the link for RRI configuration. Is it possible to make the jump from a Design Studio app to Analysis for Office, and not the SAP Portal? I have configured from DS to DS, but would like to create a jump to Excel if possible.

Xavier Hacking:  I don't think that is possible, as Analysis for Office is a locally installed tool. You can make an RRI jump from Design Studio to Analysis edition for OLAP on the SAP BusinessObjects BI Platform, though.


Comment From Guest 

If you are using a native HANA connection, how easy is it to configure an RRI-like jump from an aggregated report to a separate WebI report with line item details?

Xavier Hacking: You can use OpenDocument parameters to pass variables from Design Studio to a WebI document. Check out this blog.


Comment From Guest

Many of your comments focus on the BW backend. I have a couple scenarios where we are using native HANA for BI with BusinessObjects on top. Can I connect Design Studio directly to HANA or do I have to go through a UDT/IDT?

Jeroen van der A: You can go in local mode and directly link to HANA. If you have SP9, that can be via the XJSJ engine. You can install Design Studio on HANA. Then you have a direct link. In the BI platform you can set up a connection and then link to HANA.



Comment From Todd Greenwood

Are there any plans to reduce the reliance on the amount of JavaScript required for Design Studio components? Do you recommend any best practices to help streamline the JS coding process?

Jeroen van der A: Yes, indeed, and it's already started. A lot of properties can be set using data binding instead of scripting. For example, if you use a dropdown box, you can use data binding for setting the items and passing a filter without having to script anymore.


Comment From Klaus

Coming from Xcelsius/Dashboards, you really miss the ability to do local calculations in Design Studio (i.e., combining key figures from separate sources). What is the best way of overcoming this limitation?

Jeroen van der A: It is a limitation. The best way is to move the calculations to the backend. If that is not possible, use the central functions, which can have multiple input parameters and return a value. Additionally there is now a math object with additional formulas.


Comment From Guest

What programming skills does one need to build Design Studio projects? Is JavaScript it, or can you advise any other programming skills that you think are required?

Jeroen van der A: It is good to have CSS, HTML, and a broad knowledge of JavaScript. You don’t have to know those in detail, but have an understanding of how methods and properties work in general and some basic syntax



Bridget Kotelly: That wraps up our Q&A, but before we go, I want to again thank Jeroen van der A and Xavier Hacking of Interdobs B.V. for joining us today and taking questions.   

Thanks Jeroen and Xavier, and thanks again to everyone who joined us today! You can follow Jeroen at @Hyronimous and Xavier at @xjhacking.  For more on next steps for Design Studio, be sure to visit Jeroen’s session in Nice at BI 2015, as part of our Dashboards track, and look for additional sessions and hands-on labs on Design Studio.

Xavier Hacking: Thanks for joining us guys! Great questions. Make sure you check my blog at and follow me at @xjhacking. Also check our Getting Started with SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio book at the SAPinsider Store. Cheers!

Jeroen van der A: Great chatting with you guys, you can contact me at @Hyronimous. See you soon in Nice. :-)

SAPinsider: A big thank you to Jeroen and Xavier! Your questions certainly kept them busy - thanks again to everyone who joined us. We'll be posting the edited transcript soon, and you can view the chat replay at any time. Best of luck with your dashboarding projects!

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