Monday 23 June 2014

Review of QlikView for Developers Cookbook

Packt Publishing have been slowly but surely securing themselves as the one stop publishing house for QlikView books. With no less than 6 titles now available and more in the pipeline, there can be no doubt they've been busy, but are they worth spending your hard earned cash on?

Some time ago I reviewed their first QlikView book QlikView 11 for Developers which was written by Miguel Garcia and Barry Harmsen and released back in November 2012. The subject of this review is the next book released, QlikView for Developers Cookbook written by Stephen Redmond. I confess I've had this book since it's release, but with a baby QlikView addict at home and endless work commitments, time really hasn't been on my side lately. And as with my previous book reviews, I like to ensure I've not just skimmed through the book but given it a thorough read. There isn't much point in me spouting opinion, and I certainly wouldn't recommend a book unless I honestly knew it's contents in detail. So here goes...

Stephen is a very experienced and highly regarded QlikView techie. What he doesn't know about implementing QlikView isn't much worth knowing and so I had high expectations of his first QlikView publication. When it was released, some were expecting QlikView for Developers Cookbook to be a sequel to QlikView 11 for Developers, and in a way it is, solely because where as QlikView 11 for Developers was aimed at those new to QlikView and intermediate users, this book targets those intermediate users and above who have a good foundation in QlikView, but who wish to take their skills and experience to a more advanced level. And that's where the similarities end.

As the title would suggest, this book has a very different format to the last; rather than being a "teach yourself" book, this is a technical cookbook. For those that aren't familiar with technical cookbooks, they consist of a series of small, commonly occurring problems and the "recipes" to solve them. This makes it more of a reference book that you can dip in and out of, picking the bits you need to learn or to solve your development problem.

So what does it cover?

The short answer is, a lot. In fact this would be an insanely long review if I listed all of the contents; the table of contents in the book covers over 3 pages. So I'll stick to just giving you a very high level overview and then pick out a few of what I think are the highlights.

The back of the book gives a pretty good set of bullet points that describe it's contents as follows:
What you will learn from this book
  • Use QlikView charts to create more advanced visualisations 
  • Layout your screen and use different colour schemes
  • Get to grips with set analysis
  • Use TOTAL and AGGR for advanced aggregations
  • Use macros to perform advanced tasks
  • Overcome data modeling challenges
  • Use some of the most useful functions in QlikView
  • Improve the performance of your application
  • Secure your application
There isn't a lot I could add to that description so I won't bother trying. But there are some sections that stand out to me as great tips. They might not be the most advanced tips in the book, but they are the solutions to some of the most common questions I get asked as a QlikView consultant. These include:
  • The sections on creating box plot and bullet charts cover some of the most common data visualisation questions I see as a QlikView consultant. 
  • I also can't possibly leave out the section on creating a "Redmond Aged Debt Profile" chart which I've personally used on several customers' financial reporting solutions. 
  • I've lost track of how many times I've been asked if it is possible to change QlikView's green, white and gray selection colours. Stephen shows how this can be achieved relatively simply.
  • There is no doubt that the static reporting capabilities within QlikView are somewhat lacking; its the reason why tools such as nPrinting exist. So the recipe for how to export sheet objects to a Microsoft Word document is a very useful tool to have in your QlikView toolbox.
  • The section on extension objects is a superb starting point for anyone interested in building their own.
  • On an almost daily basis I'm asked if it's possible to sort values in an application based on a business rule. Setting the default sort order for values within a field, like most problems in QlikView, has more than one solution. Stephen shows one of the simplest by controlling the order values are loaded in the script. 
  • Being able to control QlikView security using Active Directory can be a real plus point for enterprise implementations. Surprise surprise, there is a recipe to show you how. 
  • OMIT is one of the lease used features in QlikView and in my opinion one of the most powerful. Stephen shows you how to use it to good effect to truly secure your data.

The bottom line?

The bottom line isn't quite as simple as it was in my last review. There is no doubt that there are some great tutorials in this book and coming from Stephen I wouldn't expect anything less. If you have been working with QlikView for some time and want to take your skills and experience to the next level, you could learn a lot from this book.

That said, I do have a concern with using a technical cookbook as a source of learning. The concern is related more to the cookbook format than to this book's specific content. The format for each recipe is pretty simple, describe the problem/aim, give step-by-step instructions on how to implement the solution, then give a very brief explanation of why the solution works. And it's this last point that gives me the concern, for anyone trying to learn from a cookbook rather than simply solve a problem, the short nature of the explanation can sometimes leave them more puzzled than anything.

With that in mind, I do also have to wonder if the technical cookbook format really works in the world of the internet and more specifically the medium within which I'm writing this review, blogging. Each recipe is essentially a good blog post and in fact, some of the tips in QlikView for Developers Cookbook have actually been posted on Stephen's blog in the past. So with that in mind why would anyone pay their hard earned money for this book when a quick Google search could through up solutions that are equally as good?

Thankfully I can offer an answer to that question. The internet is full of people eager to offer their advice based on their experience. Some will have a wealth of experience and expertise to base their advice on, others will not. And no one has done it all! So for someone less experienced, how can they hope to separate the good advise from the bad? QlikView for Developers Cookbook has been written by one of the best, and more importantly, it has been technically reviewed by several others who can be considered amongst the best also. And so the tips, tricks and advice offered can be relied upon.

So to finally get to that bottom line, I am happy to recommend QlikView for Developers Cookbook. I'll be recommending it to customers for sure. 

How do you get a copy?

You can get QlikView for Developers Cookbook in both paperback and ebook versions. I'll include a few links here for places where you can buy the book but I'm sure I'm sure it's available from other places too.  - Paperback and Kindle eBook - Paperback and Kindle eBook - eBook
Packt Publishing - Paperback and various eBook formats

The legal bit: I did receive a copy of the book free of charge from the publisher Packt in exchange for writing this review. I received no other incentive from either the publisher or the author and neither had any input into the content of this review, thus the opinions expressed are solely my own.


  1. Great review Matt. I can't argue with anything, all the points were well made.

    I will clarify one thing - while some of the recipe ideas did come from my own blog, they weren't just copy/paste. I recreated all of the samples from scratch so as to be sure that they were fully correct and up to date based on additional experience gained since writing the originals. I hope that they add more value than the originals.

    Again, great review.

    1. Hi Stephen
      Good point about the posts inspired by your blog!

      Now I've got that this one out the way I best crack on with technically reviewing chapter 3 of a future title ;o)