Brio Software’s BrioQuery is a well-established enterprise business intelligence suite and analytical application development platform. BrioQuery offers functionality for ad hoc database queries, reporting, and online analytical processing analysis. It supports a wide range of databases, including Microsoft Access, DB2, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and Sybase.

BrioQuery is divided into three desktop clients:

  • BrioQuery Navigator—The Navigator client offers functionality that the “average” user would need, providing analysis and reporting via predefined data models.
  • BrioQuery Explorer—The Explorer client is more powerful than the Navigator client; it targets programmers who need to create the queries for the Navigator client.
  • BrioQuery Designer—The Designer client provides database administrators with query, analysis, reporting, security, and auditing tools.

The Navigator client
The BrioQuery Navigator client doesn’t allow direct access to tables, so it’s best used for team members who don’t have any relational database experience. BrioQuery Navigator retrieves information through a data model, which is a graphical representation of a database, or through existing queries created by developers or DBAs with either the Explorer or Designer clients. Data models can be employed to create custom views of databases, add computed columns or fields, and substitute more descriptive names for table columns.

The Explorer client
The BrioQuery Explorer client offers the same features as the Navigator client; however, unlike the Navigator client, you need to have relational database expertise to get the benefit of the Explorer client’s additional features, such as the ability to customize data models.

In my opinion, the ad hoc queries you can build in the Explorer client are the core of BrioQuery. You can use these queries to create a multitude of different views of the information stored in your tables. These queries can include custom views of tables, crosstabs, drill downs, and charts. One of the more interesting features of these queries is that they can be coded to show previously retrieved information or to update the information when the query is opened. You can update information programmatically with the BrioQuery object model and JavaScript. Brio Software offers an object model explorer to make learning a new object model easier.

The Designer client
The BrioQuery Designer client provides all the features from both the Navigator and Explorer clients. In addition to these features, you can use the Designer client to create data models, perform database administrator functions, and modify security, auditing capabilities, and repository setup. The user interface for BrioQuery’s Designer client is reminiscent of the Design View in Microsoft Access, making the user interface relatively easy to learn.

Now I’ll walk through a quick example of how BrioQuery completes a basic reporting task.

BrioQuery in the real world
One of our customers wanted information on how many and what types of requests they were receiving from their internal users via a recently implemented tech support intranet. This technical request system allowed users to enter any of about a dozen types of programming requests that the support programmers would then act upon.

Using the Designer client, I quickly created ODBC connections to the technical request system’s SQL Server database and started selecting columns that I wanted to use for my first report, as shown in Figure A. I was amazed at how quickly the whole report came together, including an aesthetically appealing graph, as shown in Figure B. I presented the document in a tabular fashion so that you can navigate between the graph and the report.

Figure A

Figure B

To maintain the report, I modified it using BrioQuery’s object model and JavaScript so that the report would be updated whenever it was opened.

Slick results, painlessly
The end result of my “playing” with BrioQuery’s Designer client was that I produced a slick, professional-looking report faster than I could have using Access. The only real issue I’ve seen with BrioQuery was due to a coworker’s lack of experience with JavaScript, but this was a relatively minor problem that could be corrected with a class or a book. When given the choice, I intend to use BrioQuery whenever possible.

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