Differences Between Desktop Intelligence and Web Intelligence

What are all the differences between Desktop Intelligence (Deski) and Web Intelligence (Webi)? The question has been asked so many times, including from clients, that I decided to attempt to put together a comprehensive list of the differences. Why is such a list important? Well, with the release of SAP BusinessObjects 4.0 in September 2011, Desktop Intelligence is no longer available, and is now completely replaced by Web Intelligence. So, for organizations that use Desktop Intelligence, it’s important to know what those differences are, as they transition from Deski to Webi.

The differences can be divided into two categories:

  • Deski features that are missing from Webi
  • Webi features that never existed in Deski

Fortunately, that first category is getting shorter with each new release of Webi. However, since that category is most important to those migrating from Deski to Webi, we’ll cover that category first.

Deski Features that are Missing from Webi

  • Display a table in multiple Columns: In Deski, you can set a table so that, when it reaches the bottom of a page, it “wraps” to the next column on the same page, similar to a how a newspaper column continues on the same page.
  • Grouping button: Deski has the ability to create grouped variables with the click of a button. In Webi, we have to write the If – Then – Else logic manually to create such functionality. This can be quite tedious. I have submitted an idea to SAP to have this functionality added to Webi. You can vote for this idea here.
  • Freehand SQL queries: I’ve never been a big fan of this, as it defeats the whole purpose of having universes, and also creates maintenance nightmares. But there is some value for it in a test environment. This idea has been submitted to SAP here, and it is currently under review.
  • Save as RTF, TXT, HTML: Currently, Webi can save as Excel, PDF, or Webi only.
  • Edit List of values: In Deski, users could edit a List of Values for a universe object, so that it would only display the values that are valuable to them.
  • List of values in formula editor: In Deski, when creating a formula, you can select values for a particular object, from a list, provided in the formula editor. This idea has been accepted by SAP, and should appear in a future version of Webi.
  • Center on page: Deski has a Page Layout option to center a block, or cell, on the page, between the margins.
  • VBA Macros: Deski support Visual Basic macros. I don’t know if Webi ever will support this, but I suspect it will support some kind of programming language in the future.
  • Delete multiple tabs simultaneously: This seems like such a simple thing, but Webi still doesn’t have this capability.
  • Export multiple documents simultaneously: That’s right. In Webi, we can only export documents to the repository one at a time.
  • Create a variable in it’s current context: In Deski, we could create a variable from a formula, and lock in the current context of the formula, even if it was not explicitly included in the formula.
  • Support for all installed fonts: Webi uses it’s own font library, not the Windows fonts. So, unlike Deski, we can’t add additional fonts to Webi. An idea has been submitted to this here.
  • Schedule to a printer: I realize that printing is becoming more and more obsolete, but it isn’t there yet. Deski reports could be scheduled to print automatically. Webi reports cannot.
  • Automatic custom sort for month names and weekday names: Deski has built in custom sorts for Months and Weekdays.

So there you have it. As far as I know, that’s a complete list of features that Webi is still missing from Deski. If you know of more, please mention them in the comments below.

Webi Features that never existed in Deski

  • Track Data Changes: Allows you to see the difference between two different refreshes of a document, and compare the results.
  • Hyperlinking Wizard: You can create an OpenDocument link in about 5 minutes, as opposed to the days or weeks spent doing this in Deski.
  • Most built in formulas: Webi has more built-in formulas than Deski. These formulas come in the way of standalone cells that you can simply drag onto your report.
  • Save as Excel with 65K+ rows: You can save a Webi document to the Excel 2007 format, which allows for over 1 million rows in a single worksheet.
  • Add temporary values to custom sort: When creating a custom sort, you can add values that are missing, to the sort, so that, when they eventually show up on the report, they will sort in the correct order.
  • Box chart: A new chart in Webi that allows you to see a measure at five different data points across a dimension.
  • Tag cloud chart: A new chart in Webi that allows you to easily compare two measures against a single dimension.
  • Heat map chart: A new chart in Webi. It’s the equivalent of a crosstab table, but in chart format.
  • Bubble chart: A new chart in Webi that compares two measures against a single dimension, in an easy to read format.
  • Optional Prompts: Prompts created in the query can be marked as optional, allowing users to ignore the prompts, if they wish.
  • Display query summary on report: Webi has a QuerySummary function that allows you to easily display information about the query on the report.
  • Inner join between queries: Webi’s Merge Dimension feature allows you to choose how the data is displayed on the report. It doesn’t have to be a full outer join, like in Deski,
  • Query Drill: Allows you to keep your data set small, while drilling through large amounts of data.
  • Drill in InfoView: Webi document, of course, can enter drill mode in InfoView (BI Launchpad). Deski documents cannot.
  • Edit in InfoView: Webi documents can be easily edited in InfoView (BI Launchpad), by anyone who has permission.
  • Alternate row shading: We used to have to do some slight-of-hand with variables to get this to work in Deski. But Webi has it built in.
  • Input Controls: This allows for user interaction in the reports, making What-if analysis quite simple. It also make it easy to build powerful dashboards in Webi.
  • Advanced formatting rules: That’s the new name for Alerters. Webi’s Formatting Rules editor allows for more powerful options, including using formulas in the rule.
  • Publish as a BI Service: Individual blocks in Webi can be published as a Web Service that can be consumed by other BI applications.
  • Compatible with Live Office: Report parts form Webi documents can be consumed by Live Office, allowing integration with MS Office.
  • Compatible with BI Widgets: Webi report parts can be consumed by BI Widgets, allowing them to be dropped onto the desktop as standalone objects.
  • BEx queries: Webi can run queries directly against BEx queries.
  • Query stripping: Allows for the automatic removal of objects from a query against an OLAP cube, that do not directly contribute to the report(s).
  • Synchronize drill on report blocks: When drilling on one report block, other blocks on the same report can drill at the same time, staying in sync.

As far as I know, that’s everything that Webi offers over and above what Deski had. If you know of any others, feel free to mention them in the comments, below.


So there you have it. By my count, Webi wins, 24 to 14. While there are still some features missing from Webi, there aren’t that many, and hopefully, none of them will be show stoppers for you.


60 Responses to Differences Between Desktop Intelligence and Web Intelligence

  1. raymond says:

    Thank you very much for this overview. Very handy. One thing I could think of is grouping rows like in excel. You know with those “+”and “-“signs

  2. I prefer Webi (3.1 that is), but the one feature I would like from Webi is the Complex Calculation Wizard which I still use for constructing subqueries to generate a derived table in the universe

  3. Jansi D says:

    Wow, you impressed me as always!. 🙂

    Is hiding a column (under Pivot in Desk-I) available in Web-I, Michael?

  4. Another Great List. Thanks for taking the time to compile this information.

  5. Reblogged this on All Things BOBJ BI and commented:
    Great List

  6. Mohammed Imran Alam says:

    Thank you Michael. This is very good and precise list of things we all can benefit from.

  7. kvonmurphy says:

    Very interesting.

    In my experience THE missing feature in Webi is grouping. Doing it at universe level is the best option… but never quick enough, if even possible. Some customers refuse to migrate to Webi because of this.

    Reducing on 1 page was another major problem, but it’s back in BI4.

    Sorting of days or months is part of a larger problem: I cannot put any sorting in the universe. That’s possible in the list of values, but only for filtering, not in the blocks.

    Support for installed fonts does exist, that’s just painful (modifying fontalias.xml). Well, I could not use Wingdings in BI4 but that’s probably one more bug.

    Linking to another document is easy, but only if you use the correct editor. In BI4 the two editors even look the same, users are confused.

    BTW I’m still searching how to add a picture stored in the database, have a running page numbers across the whole Webi document, or add easily a regression curve.

    I hoped that IDT would add some of this features at the universe level, but I’m disappointed. (I still do not see the point for IDT if you do not need to access more than one database).

    I’m still wondering if BO uses its own product. So much complexity, so many bugs, so many lacking features that were there 10 years ago…

  8. Pingback: BO 4.x Migration Challenges « My life as a BI consultant

  9. Chris Carter says:

    What’s the recommended alternative to putting a break on multiple columns? As far as I know, there isn’t a way to do that in Webi yet.

    Otherwise a fantastic and comprehensive document!

  10. Xavieri says:

    Webi can save as .txt, from 3.1 SP2 I think.

  11. Brad says:

    The other feature which we use in Deski that I don’t see in Webi is the ability to break on sections that are not displayed in the Block, we end up having to leave it in Webi turn the font and background to white. It works but is difficult to manage especially when exporting to excel, would be nice if you could do it like Deski apply the break and then remove the column from the displayed report.

    Another feature is Fit to Page when exporting to excel, there is fit to page, but only for PDF and printing from the tool. This is a big issue for our users.

  12. Roland says:

    Michael, thanks for a great list. I really miss the data cube which we used for analysis. I agree with the posters above, grouping is a major gap. Also, is there a way to use an external data source (like Excel) in WebI? I have not found it.

  13. Christy says:

    What about when running a Webi query with fields a,b,c and then realizing you need d in your results, when the query is re-ran, d doesnt show up in the query results layout and it has to be dragged over from the objects list. Deski puts the new field in the query results automatically. Maybe my company is using an older version. Please advise.

    • Hi, Christy;

      Yes, that is a minor difference, and something I would consider an improvement. Deski always added the new objects to the block automatically. Dimensions would be added to the right of existing dimensions, and measures would be added to the right of existing measures. But invariably, I would end up moving them someplace else, or removing them the block, because I didn’t want them in that block. I never liked having to fix Deski’s assumptions. Webi doesn’t make any assumptions. It leaves the control in my hands. I like that.

      • Christy says:

        Thanks, I just use BO to pull the data and then manipulate in Access or Excel if simplistic enough, I’ve never educated myself to be a power user (complex queries/reporting) which is why I like that Deski puts it in the results. Also, does #6 under “not in Webi yet” list refer to how you can go into a universe and tie a .txt file of values to a field in that universe so when you criteria on that field the Show List of Values can be brought up and you can choose all the values that were in the .txt file? And what version of BO Webi lets you export to Excel 2007, we must have a prior version as we still have .xls. Thanks for the info, my company is going to Obiee but it will take forever for them to get everyone on it but I’m sure we will not get any newer Webi versions.

      • Christy, none of these features are universe features. The 6th one is the list of values that you can select from when building a variable in the Variable Editor. Deski provides a list of values, Webi doesn’t. Also, this list is based on Webi 4.0, which is the first version to have the capability to save as .xlsx format.

      • Christy says:

        And do you know how to “wrap” the Result Objects in Webi when creating a query?

  14. Christy, Webi always wraps the result objects in the query panel. There’s no other option, like there is in Deski.

  15. Christy says:

    We get a scroll bar on the Result Objects box once more fields are listed then you can see, the fields don’t wrap to the next level in Webi. Could it be that my company has set it that way?

    • OK, Christy, you made me look. 🙂 I just check both 3.1 and 4.0, and the objects wrap in both in of them, and there’s no option to change that. I wonder what version you’re using, or if there was a service pack that caused that to happen.

  16. Jorn says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the great review on both products. Webi has come from far and is finally getting somewhere in comparison to DeskI. The most important thing that is still missing is the “grouping” function we already had in the stone age with version 5.1

    With every version or new release it is every time waiting which features have been changed… For example linking in an easy way to other documents based on a report has disappeared again in BO 4 FP3… (well it’s the version I’m currently using)

    From the menu’s (both on top and right click) I can add in a hyperlink, but as before in XI3 and XIR2 you need to give the complete opendocument URL to have the report linked… There is no more possibility to use the handy wizard that was in Version XI 3.1.
    I think that is one point down again for SAP and WebI

    If it is still in, then it would be great to help me out in getting it working.

    • Jorn, I haven’t had access to FP3 yet, but what I’ve heard form Tech Support so far, I’m concerned about it. I know that at least 3 nice features from IDT have been removed in FP3. And now, what you’re telling me here has me concerned.

      • kvonmurphy says:

        Are you saying that they now fix bugs by removing features?!!?

        Surely the best way to reduce massively the number of support calls :o)

    • kvonmurphy says:

      @Jorn : The assistant does still exist, but only in the Web interface (NOT Rich Internet aka Java Editor, NOT Rich Client)… like it was in XI 3.1. in fact.
      At least I used it with BI 4.0 SP2 Patch 13, it could have disappeared later 🙂

  17. Vlad says:

    How about the “Paste Format Only” feature? Does it exist in WebI? Thanks!

  18. david poulton says:

    PageInSection is in Deski but not in Webi. “Page In Section” in webi appears to be the equivalent solution but it doesn’t work.

  19. sandy says:


  20. Eisa says:

    This is a very good list of differences, Thanks.

    My question is we are used to run huge reports some 100mb in size, will it makes any differences since from Deski it is very quickly saved in the computer but I don’t know about Webi ??


    • Eisa, if you’re using Webi Rich Client, you can run large reports, just as in Deski. However, I have to wonder what you’re doing with that much data. No reporting is optimized for reporting that much data.

  21. Srinivas Susarla says:

    Hi Michael,

    Is it possible to see the UserID/Name that is accessing the database(report source) in WebI 4.0
    as in Deski?


  22. John Meehan says:

    In Deski we could write queries to import data held in Personal Data Files. This feature does not seem to be available in Webi Xi R3. Is there a way to import data held in an Excel spreadsheet
    in Webi Xi R3 ?

  23. Vadi says:

    Hi Michael

    Thanks for your blog.

    Is it possible to convert a number to a string in webi?

    Thanks in advance for your help.


  24. BO)_User says:

    Excellent List, very helpful.

    One feature in Deski that I liked a lot was the use if Templates.

  25. Houston says:

    With Deski we could add a secondary Y axis to a line chart, but with Webi this appears to not be possible.

  26. Guido De Cokere says:

    Hi Michael

    Thanks for your blog.

    Do you have an idea about the changed functionalities in the convertor to BO XI 4.1. We try to prepare the conversion from Deski 3.1 directly to XI4.1 (so not to XI4.0). Most information, as also your blog, are telling me about the missing functionalities of 4.0 but I am hopefull some of them will be resolved in the later version 4.1.

    Do you have a view on this or can you tell me where I can found this specific information ?

    Thanks a lot
    Guido De Cokere
    White EM (Belgium)

    • Hi, Guido. I haven’t done a full analysis on 4.1, but I can tell you that the gaps are fewer. Webi has some of the missing functionality now, that was present in Deski. I would suggest trying a few of your more complex reports, and see how they convert. If all goes well, proceed with the rest.

      • Guido De Cokere says:

        Hi Michal, thanks for your feedback. We will try some tests and I will give you feedback after is (I think between 1 month).

  27. Pingback: Differences Between Desktop Intelligence and Info View (BO 3.1) | busintblog

  28. jon herbert says:

    Hi Micheal, I am unsure if you still monitor these comments. but just in case you do here is a quick question. In desk if I ran three queries. q1 with one set of transactional data and customer codes, q2 with another set of transactional data and customer codes, q3 with customer codes and lots of reference data for the customers. All our objects are dimensions or values no details. The customer codes are all then linked in deski and all the data can be pulled into the same table. In webi I can easily merge the objects. However to be able to bring any of the customer reference data against transactional revenue data i need to create varibales as dimensions of the customer dimensions. This is obviously very tedious with 30 reference data objects, am i missing something very obvious with regard to ‘linking’ these objects in webi?

  29. Uday says:

    Hello Michael, we have requirement “Stacked Column Chart with Line” in Webi,is this feature exists?same feature exists on Deski.how can we achieve on Webi.

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