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An Overview of Eclipse's BIRT

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An Overview of Eclipse's BIRT

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BIRT stands for Business Inteligence and Reporting Tools and is a free open source product of the Actuate Corporation. It is integrated in the Eclipse IDE or it can be downloaded as its own product. You can also download the API and the sources as well. Alternative free reporting[ref] products include Jasper Reports or Pentaho Community Edition.

You can get more information about BIRT from the wiki page[ref], or the web project page[ref]. There is also a refcard about BIRT here on DZone as well, which you can download for free after succsessfull registration[ref].

The work with BIRT can be separated in two sections:

  • Creating Reports
  • Integrating and Extending BIRT

Creating Reports

With creating reports it is meant to create the templating of the report as XML file better known as rptdesign, rptlibrary or rpttemplate where rpt stands for report. In this XML-file is a description of the sources which are passed to the report, your rules for the layout and the description of the layout itself in form of HTML. As incoming data sources you can use data bases, XML-files, Web-Services, Java Objects or even your own ODA (Open Data Access) implementation. The output can be PDF, the Microsoft Office document formats (rtf, doc, docx, excel),  representation in the web as HTML, or the open formats like odt, etc. or even you own implemented emmiter (output module).

The reports can be created in two ways by using:

  • The report designer
  • The BIRT API

The Report Designer

The Report Designer comes within the Eclipse IDE or can be installed from the Eclipse install menu [ref]. There is also extra RCP (Eclipse like) product customized for the report designer. The first steps of using the BIRT report designer can be learned by watching the video tutorials[ref]. After that you will be familiar with the main functions and report items of the report designer and you can start creating your first reports. If you need to implement some logic in the reports themselves you can do that by using Rhino[ref], a JavaScript implementation for Java from Mozilla Coorporation. In all tutorials from Actuate, the Rihno scripting is propagated as JavaScript.


If you want to use the API of the reporting tool than you can see one example about using that in your java application from this wiki page[ref][ref]. There you can see the how the report are created using simple Java example. It is the main source information about the approach how the BIRT API can be used for creating reports, which I have also followed.

Recommended Books

  • Birt: A Field Guide (Eclipse) - Diana Peh, Nola Hague und Jane Tatchell - (4. Februar 2011) - ISBN-10: 0321733584 ISBN-13: 978-0321733580
  • Birt 2.6 Data Analysis and Reporting - John Ward - (15. Juli 2010) - ISBN-10: 1849511667 ISBN-13: 978-1849511667

Integrating and Extending BIRT

You can extend BIRT as well, creating new:

  • ODA - [ref][ref] sources - input
  • Emmiters [ref] - output
  • Charts - new charts using the chart API
  • Report Item - via the report API

In the past there were contest about this thema. New ODA sources were implemented, including some which were based on the social network API's like Facebook or Linkedin. Also contests about report items were organized. The bar-code report item won the contest last time.

If you want to create own custom reporting items then your first articles should be these [ref][ref]. I had the opportuny to create new report items and the tutorials gave me the first information about it.

Recommended Books

  • Integrating and Extending BIRT - Jason Weathersby, Tom Bondur, Iana Chatalbasheva - (10. August 2011) - ISBN-10: 0321772822 ISBN-13: 978-0321772824


This article was an overview of BIRT with links to several tutorial pages. More information about BIRT you can get from the community which can be found in the Eclipse forum[ref]. Another useful source of information about this reporting tool is the Actuate developer forum (former BIRT exchange) where you can met many experts who are frendly and ready to help you with any problem about BIRT[ref].


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