BIRT/FAQ/Output Formats

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Output Formats

Q: What report output formats does BIRT support?

Release 1.0 supports HTML output as a single HTML page. It also supports paginated output using XML-FO via the Apache FOP project.

Unix Printing

Q: Does BIRT support printing on UNIX on non-postscript printers?

The first release of BIRT will only support printing in PDF format. However, postscript printing on Unix could be added in the future.

Our current thought is that almost all major printers support postscript or PDF. Even if a printer is claimed to be a PCL printer, the vendor often provides a downloadable postscript driver file. If a postscript printing system is to be implemented for BIRT, the postscript file will likely be generated in the following way:

  1. The printer driver is parsed and printer specific commands (i.e., printer escapes) are generated for printer-specific features, such as collation, paper tray, landscape vs. portrait, etc.
  2. Report contents, which are usually drawn in a printer-independent way, are generated as printer-independent postscript.

BIRT is designed to allow seamless extensions. So your formatting and protocol modules can be designed as plugins.

PDF Output

Q: BIRT uses XML-FO for output. Apache FOP has known performance and feature limitations. How does BIRT address these issues?

A user reported that he'd taken a look at Apache's FOP. The performance was poor for a reasonable sized document. Also, there were concerns about the memory usage while processing these documents and whether that would lead to any scalability problems during rendering.

Using FOP for the first release allows us to focus on other areas of report generation and rendering. At the same time, performance is a key goal. We're running tests to get a good sense of the actual issues. XSL:FO is a convenient way to handle conversion and be standards-compliant -- if it works. As a result, we intend to generate FO that follows CSS standard. However, since FOP does not support many features for now, we also allow generation FO that contains some workarounds so that the FOP output makes more sense.

The Engine is designed to allow extended converters, so we/others can plug in a better converter easily if/when needed.

In the first release, reports are on demand and in a single web page, so are expected to be small. In a subsequent release, reports will be stored on disk and can be any size. That will be an excellent time to determine if we need to reconsider our conversion strategy. One approach is to directly go from report design to PDF, as someone already suggested in the newsgroup.

Non-Latin Characters

Q: I've used Chinese characters in my design, but they don't appear in PDF. What do I do?

BIRT uses Apache FOP(approve sites) to generate PDF output, so you can consult with FOP documents for using Chinese characters. Using Chinese characters in FOP needs some customization, such as:

  • Create a font metrix file for the font types you used
  • Define the font used by FOP
  • Embedded the font into PDF

Font configurations are described in FOP FAQ,

We might integrate FOP configurations into BIRT configuration. But before that is done, you may have to customize FOP by yourself.