Nov 25 2009

Displaying UserResponse() Values On Separate Rows

Categories: Report Techniques, Variables!, Web Intelligence Dave Rathbun @ 7:00 am

I am often asked why I still participate so much on BOB after all of these years. The main reason is I still get inspired by questions that make me think a little bit. The puzzle for today’s post was presented as a question something like this:

How can I display each individual value selected in the UserResponse() function on its own row in a table?

I believe the reason for wanting this behavior is fairly clear. If you have a bunch of complex data it would be much easier for the report consumer to read this:


Instead of this:


As is often the case, the strict answer to the question is “you can’t do it that way” with Web Intelligence. Despite the “you can’t…” answer I am going to show how it can be done.

Printer History Lesson aka Carriage Return + Line Feed To The Rescue

Before I show my solution, I have a history lesson to share. :) In the old days (and I mean really old, like before laser printers) most business printing was done with impact printers. An impact printer was essentially a typewriter connected to a computer. It would print one character at a time. Some really expensive printers could write an entire line at a time. Some even more expensive ones would be able to write forwards and backwards to save time. Fancy stuff. :lol: But the point is, everything was characters and lines. If a program needed to print something bold, the printer would back up and print the same characters more than once on the same line. That’s where special printer control characters came in.

The print head or “carriage” was where the next character would be printed. Normally it would flow across the page printing one character at a time. At the end of the line, a carriage return signal was sent. This would tell the printer to send the carriage all the way back to the beginning of the line. If the printer started printing again at that point, it would overwrite the existing line of output. (As mentioned above, that’s one way that bold type was done.) To avoid this, another special printer instruction character was sent just before the printing started: the line feed. This character told the paper to roll the paper forward one line so that the new output would be on the next line.

To recap: carriage return sends the print head back to the left side of the page, and line feed moved the paper forward one line. Carriage return was (and still is) character 13 in the ASCII sequence, and line feed is character 10. (These are also often abbreviated CR and LF.) There are plenty of others. If my memory is correct a tab is character 9 and the “bell” if you wanted the printer to make a noise was character 7. But I digress.

Fast forward to today. The characters still retain some of their meanings, even if we don’t use impact printers anymore. So if I want to push some content down and start on a new line, I can include these characters as part of my output and they will behave the same way. Web Intelligence offers the function Char() which will allow me to introduce a specific character using the proper number. Web Intelligence also offers the Replace() function which will allow me to replace one character (or string) with another character (or string). You might see where all of this is heading…

Prompt Processing

I created a simple query using the Prestige Motors universe. The query includes a prompt that asks the user to select one or more automobile manufacturers when the report is refreshed. The text of the prompt is “Car Makers.” I can easily display the results of the prompt (the values the user selected) on my report using the UserResponse() function. What I want to do is display each selected value on its own line.

How am I going to accomplish this? I’m not going to put each value on an individual row in a table. As I already said that can’t be done. Instead, I’m going to make them show up on different rows in a single cell. The readability should be the same, even if the applied technique is different.

The final piece of the puzzle is to observe just how Web Intelligence captures and displays prompt responses. Here is a screen shot showing the prompt after I have selected four different car makers. Notice that the four values are separated by the semicolon ; character.

Prompt dialog box

With a simple formula I can echo the prompt selections in my report title cell like this:

Standard report output

Notice that the exact same format is used in both the prompt window and the output in the title cell. Each selected value is separated by a semicolon. I can work with this.

The Solution

I created a variable named “Picked Cars” with this formula:

=Replace(UserResponse("Car Makers");";";Char(13)+Char(10))

The inside portion of the formula looks like this:

UserResponse("Car Makers")

That bit captures the selections and returns them in the format shown above, where each car name is separated by a semicolon. The outer portion of the formula uses the Replace() function to find those semicolon characters and replace them with the combination of character 13 (CR) and 10 (LF). The net result?

Everywhere there is a ; it gets replaced by the CR+LF and therefore the output moves down to a new line and back to the left side of the page. Strictly speaking there is no page nor is there any paper to “line feed” but the functionality is the same. Simple enough. Here’s what the results looked like after I created this variable and used it in my header.

Alternate report format

What about the formatting? It turns out I didn’t need to do too much. I made sure that my cell was set to automatically fit the content (since it could grow or shrink based on how many cars were selected) using the “Autofit Height” setting as shown here.

cell properties

The next item I planned to update turned out to be set for me by default. (This example was documented using the Web Intelligence Rich Client so other tools may require this step.) I clicked on the edge of the block and made sure that if the title cell above it grew too big that the block would move down the page. This is done by setting the relative positioning of the block, as shown here.

block properties

As I mentioned, this dialog box did not require any changes for this scenario. It was already set the way I needed it to be. Since the block is positioned relative to the cell that contains my [Picked Cars] variable it will move up or down the page based on the size (height in this case) of the cell.


Can I split out each individual user response and display it on a separate row in a table? No. Can I achieve the same visual result using other techniques? Sure. That’s what it’s all about, finding a different way to answer a question. This solution does have one problem… it will not work cleanly if there are semicolon characters in the data returned from the prompt. I did not test this with Desktop Intelligence, but since it includes all of the functions used in this example I am confident that it would work the same way.

I was challenged when I posted this solution on BOB as to why I used both CR and LF characters in my formula. To be honest, when I changed the formula so that it only included one or the other, either seemed to work just fine individually. Despite this, I opted to leave both in my formula.

What can I say… old habits die hard. 8-)

57 Responses to “Displaying UserResponse() Values On Separate Rows”

  1. Comment by nod

    Dave, i’ve noticed that if your data contains semi-colons and you picked them from an LOV you won’t get the item that contained the semi-colons in your result set because it sees the semi-colon as a delimeter. We’ve had to ask our users to refrain from using semi-colons in data that they might need to report on ;/

  2. Comment by Yoav


    this code is good for Deski reports when you want that all of your prompts will be presented in seperate rows,on under each other:

    “First prompt:” & Fill(Char(32) ,10) & Replace(UserResponse (DataProvider() , ” First prompt:”;” ,Char(13) & Fill(Char(32) ,10) ) & Char(13) & Char(13) &” Secound prompt ” & Fill(Char(32) ,10) & Replace(UserResponse (DataProvider() , ” Secound prompt:”) ,”;” ,Char(13) & Fill(Char(32) ,10) ) & Char(13) & Char(13)

  3. Comment by Yoav

    I have re-posted the formula since some of it’s syntax (the tagging) didn’t pass well:

    “First prompt:” & Fill(Char(32) ,10) & Replace(UserResponse (DataProvider((object )) , ” First prompt:”;” ,Char(13) & Fill(Char(32) ,10) ) & Char(13) & Char(13) &” Secound prompt ” & Fill(Char(32) ,10) & Replace(UserResponse (DataProvider((object)) , ” Secound prompt:”) ,”;” ,Char(13) & Fill(Char(32) ,10) ) & Char(13) & Char(13)

    the ((object)) should be with the < signs.



  4. Comment by Dmc

    Excellent post Dave! Just what I needed! I have to take it a step further however….do you know of a way to apply a filter in WEBI on the ‘User Response’ values without having to pull back the dimension in the result set?


  5. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Hi, DMC, welcome. I’m not sure I understand the question…

  6. Comment by Dmc

    Thanks Dave!
    Using your example, let’s say I wanted to view the report display by Car Maker = “Lotus”.
    Let us also say that I have a set of standard reports that cannot be modified at the query level. Therefore, I cannot add any dimensions to the query. I can only modify the displayed data in the report.
    Can a report level filter be applied on the user response selections in the table so that only “Lotus” Invoice Amounts are shown?
    Hint – We have not found a way to apply a simple filter on user response data.

  7. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    So let me see if I understand what you have…

    1. There is a report with a user response, for example on Car Maker
    2. The report has a field that shows the user response to the prompt
    3. The user can also filter on the report

    Now what you want is for the user response value to be affected by the filter, is that correct?

  8. Comment by Dmc

    Yes, that sounds correct….. Filtering on a user response variable.

  9. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    I would probably try creating a new table (block) with just that one dimension in it, and then make sure that the filters are “report” filters rather than “block” filters.

  10. Comment by Dmc

    I don’t think I’m explaining the issue well.
    I guess my question is: Can a report level filter(as opposed to a query filter) be applied only on dimension objects in a report? AND Do you know where are the “=UserResponse()” values stored?


  11. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Let me redo my explaination of what I’m trying to do and see if that helps, because your last question doesn’t make sense to me. A report filter can be applied to any object on the report, dimension or otherwise. But if you filter on a dimension, then any other values (details, measures, or other dimensions) will be impacted as well. You cannot filter just one column out of a block.

    Usually when people put a UserResponse() function on their report it’s to provide documentation. In the example used in this post, it was to echo on the report header the car makers selected via the prompt. That way someone looking at the report knows what car makers to expect. However, a user can also filter the report. So if I had run the report for “Porshe” and “Ferarri” but then filtered the report (as opposed to refreshing the query) to show only Porshe, then the user response calculation would be (or would appear to be) wrong. It would show two car makers when only one was visible on the report.

    That’s what I thought you were asking for, a way to filter the user response results based on report filters. I don’t think we can do that. As a result I made my previous suggestion of adding a specially formatted table block to show a unique list of dimensions in the header of the report instead of using the UserResponse() function at all. That way if the user were to use a report filter (rather than a block filter) then the block data would be in sync.

    If that’s not what you’re trying to do then we need to start over. :)

  12. Comment by Lauren L

    Nice solution to a common problem.

  13. Comment by Sharan

    Great tip!!!!!
    Resolved my issue in a minute

  14. Comment by Badri

    Excellent tip…
    It solved my issue ..

  15. Comment by Gabriel

    Hi Dave,
    Thank for the tip.
    I am making a report as a letter.
    In this letter I put some text.
    I need to emphasize some of the text with underline and bold characters.
    How can I do it?
    (Where can I find all char (?) codes available for infoview?)

  16. Comment by Nidhal

    Hi dave,

    Can you tell us if it is possible to create somthing like this :

    =if([Catégorie(info)] inList(UserResponse(”Sector(s) choise:”));”yes”;”No”)

    Kindest regards

  17. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Hi, Nidhal, thanks for your question. The UserResponse() function does not return a list, it returns a delimited list of string values. So you cannot use InList to find an item. Instead you can use the Match() function. Suppose you have a list of responses A;B;C. What I do next is combine the ; in front of and at the end of the string, resulting in ;A;B;C; as the next step. Finally, I combine a *; in front of and a ;* behind the value I am looking for. Suppose I am looking for the value D in my list, it would be *;D;* as the string for the Match() function. If that value is found (the * is the wildcard) then I return “yes” else “no” as you have in your formula.

    If I look for *;A;* as a match, it will be found.

    Does this make sense?

    Gabriel, welcome. For your scenario you would not need character codes to change formatting. If you are viewing your report via the web you can try standard HTML formatting codes.

  18. Comment by Gabriel

    Thank you Dave.
    I need to create a PDF document and print it. ( Distribute many letters )
    I tried without success.

    For example I used ” =+”text”++ Char(10)+”text” ”
    (I only a user of the BO infoview not a programmer. I tried the URL

  19. Comment by Gabriel

    I see that I cannot sent the html code I used. but it shows in the bold letters.

  20. Comment by Justin

    Great tip!! was actually looking to build a multi-line address variable and couldn’t recall the syntax for inserting CR/LF between each element

  21. Comment by Lauren

    If I want all of the values on one line as shown below…


    …is there a way to replace the “;” delimiter with a “,”

  22. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Hi, Lauren, thanks for your question. All you have to do is use the Replace() function and substitute the , for the ; instead of the CR/LF combination I showed in the post. This should do it:

    =Replace(UserResponse("Car Makers");";";",")

  23. Comment by abhi

    I have a report with 2 columns based on the data in the first column i need to perform either sum or average for the next column

    For example for c1 the aggregation for the next column should be average
    c2 the aggregation for the next column should be sum … on

    I have created a variable v1 for user response value on column1

    is there a way where i can mention if v1= c1,c3,c5,c7 then do sum
    else average on the column2

  24. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Hi, this really doesn’t have anything to do with this post. :) Despite that, here’s a thought. Make two variables, one that does a sum() and one that does an average(). Then use an “If” statement to swap out the appropriate variable based on the value of column one.

  25. Comment by abhi

    Sorry dave , i posted in the wrong discussion but i need your advise on this

    my requirement is

    For example take efashion unv

    my requirement is if user selects california or newyork the aggregation on sales revenue should be average and sum on the other two states.but it is taking only the first option for all the states .Is there anything wrong with my formula.

    =If(Match(UserResponse(”M:”);”California”) Or Match(UserResponse(”M:”);”New York”)) Then Average(Sales revenue) ElseIf(Match(UserResponse(”M:”);”Massachusetts”) Or Match(UserResponse(”M:”);”Texas”))Then Sum(Sales revenue)

    State Sales Revenue

    California 7479999
    New York 12345
    Massachusetts 758456
    Texas 10100001

  26. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Since this is not related to the topic of this post I would suggest that you please consider posting this on BOB where you will have more eyes and brains working on your question. Please include how you are defining the prompt. Also I am not sure why you are using the Match() function since there is no need for wildcards.

  27. Comment by abhi

    For example take efashion unv

    The prompt is on state:
    If the user selects
    New York

    The user reponse value will be stored as california;new york;massachusetts;texas

    My requirement is if for california or newyork the aggregation on sales revenue should be average and sum on the other two states.

    =If(UserResponse(”State:”)=”California” Or UserResponse(”State:”)=”New york” ) Then Average([Sales Revenue]) Else Sum([Sales Revenue])

    this formula is not working , iam getting aggregation for sum under sales revenue column as it is taking the else part

    Is there something to do user response function because it returns values as california;new york;massachusetts;texas

    could you please post the correct formula

    State Sales Revenue
    New York

    it is really urgent so iam posting here for your advise

  28. Comment by Andreas

    Why not use:

    =If ( [State] = ”California” Or [State] = “New York” ) Then Average([Sales Revenue]) Else Sum([Sales Revenue])

  29. Comment by Dave Rathbun
  30. Comment by Rajesh

    This is created in a cell, Can this be introduced as a dimension ?

  31. Comment by sweta

    using replace(User response();”;”;Char(13)+Char(10)), i am getting all the values in one cell…. is there any way we can get all the values in different rows?because i want to use the variable in a cross tab.

  32. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    This is a formatting change only. There’s no way that I am aware of to split out user responses into separate values in order to support a cross tab format.

  33. Comment by Sri

    Hi Dave,

    Can we do it this way.
    I have a column Cities having values:

    New York

    I want to show these values in tuple as:
    New York;Washington;California;Dayton;

  34. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Brio used to offer a feature that would allow a report developer to collapse a column of values into a single cell. Business Objects has never provided the option to do the same thing. What I have done in some limited scenarios is create a stored procedure to concatenate the values together prior to sending them to the report.

  35. Comment by Chakri

    @Sri,Could you try the below steps and see if it meets your requirement?
    1. select a horizontal table from templates in Webi and include [Cities]+” ;” .Please remove the table header.
    2. Remove all the borders and choose white color as the “Alternate Row/Column colors”. select autowidth (to bring the values closer) and reduce the horizontal padding to zero.
    This may not be the perfect solution but the result looks pretty much the same.

  36. Comment by Noman

    Hi Dave,
    It is really informative blog and the topic you have dicussed is really helpful to understand the functions clearly.
    My question is let’s say if i want to add an additional title before the FOUR ROWS( Car Makers)which you mentioned above.
    For example if i want to add the word “Sales Revenue for” in the title bar before the Prompted object i.e Porsche
    Aston Martin
    What would be the syntax for this?
    I would appreciate your response.
    Thanks in advance

  37. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Text strings can be added with the + symbol, so something like:
    ="Sales Revenue For " + Replace(UserResponse("Car Makers");";";Char(13)+Char(10))

  38. Comment by Adnan

    Thanks Dave for this great tip…

    I found your comments to Nidhal something that relates to the issue i am facing. My report has an InList prompt on “Survey Name”. Due to an outer join in the SQL of the report, it is bringing in “Survey Names” that was not selected in the Prompt and i am trying to filter them out.

    I got the idea of using Match() function to do this, but not sure how to go about doing it.

    I created the following variables:

    1. User-response = User-response(”Select Survey(s): “)
    2. Add-delimiter = Concatenation(”;”;Concatenation([User-response];”;”))

    How can i define the Match() variable that would flag the Survey(s) i had selected in the prompt? This will allow me to filter out the unnecessary Survey(s)?


  39. Comment by Santhosh

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your nice post.

    we have similar requirement but we are using ‘number’ and reportfilter values should come to second(next) line when the first line is completed with values.

    Is it possible the way? Please help!


  40. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Would it not be as simple as turning on the automatic wrap feature of the cell?

  41. Comment by Colin

    Hi Dave,

    Fantastically helpful formula, but with one issue when we use it. I am using =Replace([varMaxConcatContact];";";Char(13)+Char(10)) to generate a list of client contacts. However, on the second, and every subsequent line, a space is generated before the name. I am assuming this is because the Carriage Return / Line Feed instruction also (historically) inserts a space before continuing. I’ve tried everything I can think of to remove this space – Char 10 (backspace) isn’t recognised and inserts a weird character before the name, and LeftTrim has no effect no matter where I insert it in the formula. I would greatly appreciate any ideas! Thanks, Colin.

  42. Comment by Lavanya

    Hi Dave,

    In one of my reports there is prompt to select the Fiscal Year and the user can select multiple LOVs. Prompt Name is “Year”. Say for example the user enters 2011,2012 and 2013. On using the function userresponse the report will show 2011;2012;2013

    My requirement is to identify minimum value from the LOVs that the user has entered. In this case the report should show the mininum value as 2011. Can you please guide me on how to achieve this? Thanks in advance.

  43. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Hi, this is an interesting twist on this question. If you can be assured that the minimum value is also first on the list, then you can use a variety of string functions to pull that entry out. However, if the items are not currently sorted then it becomes more of a challenge. In that case, if you know exactly how many items can be selected you could still write a rather messy nested “If” statement to determine the minimum value. Unfortunately, unlike Crystal, our formula language in Web Intelligence does not include any sort of procedural structures like loops.

    So here’s what I might try. I would create a new data provider that returns the same results as the LOV. By having a new data provider I am able to transpose the single row of LOV selections into rows, and from there I can apply the Min() function. I may write this up as a new blog post shortly as it probably deserves it’s own post. But the brief description could be enough for you to figure out the solution I’m thinking of. :)

  44. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    If there is a space before the next name, I would first look at the data being input into the formula. I suspect you have A; B; C instead of A;B;C. If that’s the case, the original object would have to be trimmed before processing. Alternatively, if you do have spaces, you could do all of the replace operations on the two-character string ; instead of just the ; alone.

    If you don’t have spaces in your data, then I am at a loss, as CR/LF should not by itself generate any extra spaces.

  45. Comment by Mick Arundell

    Hi Dave
    I find all of your articles useful and interesting. I have a problem inserting form feeds into my reports. I have a duplex printer and generate performance analyses for surgeons using a section for each surgeon. Most need only a single page and I want to force an additional bank page so they always start on a new sheet of paper, others are multipage and if I force a blank page at the end I can be sure that the next surgeon will start on a new page though I might need to turn the page over.
    Do you know how I can add a blank page at the end of each section?

    Thanks in advance

  46. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Mick, you can already set a section to “start on a new page” but I’m guessing you want two new pages in order to ensure that each item starts on a new piece of paper, is that correct? I would try putting a variable with character twelve in the section footer and see if that works… and also set up “start on a new page” at the same time.

  47. Comment by Varsha

    Dear Sir,
    It is a very useful and interesting post,
    Now if we have to do vice versa like i have values in columns and i want it in a row as abc,bsc,rmg For ex:
    id name
    1 vk
    1 dv
    1 rs
    2 rm
    2 sk
    3 mn

    output should be in:

    id name
    1 vk,dv,rs
    2 rm,sk
    3 mn

    is this possible if yes then how

  48. Comment by Avanthi

    Hello Dave,

    Just wondering how would we avoid this text box values from being cut out at the end of the page(when the text box hits the footer) if the values spread out for 2 or more pages?

  49. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    The issue here is that you are combining multiple values (different rows) into a single value (delimited field). That’s not something that is done “naturally” by any of the tools. A long time ago a competitor (Brio) had an option to do this.

    What I have resorted to doing is creating a custom function for the database that processes multiple rows of input and generates a single output field, and then calling the function in an object definition in my universe.

  50. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    If you have that many user response possibilities, I would probably set up a cut-off at a specific string length and replace all of the missing values with “Other” or “…” or some other indication that there are hidden values. I would not try to display them all.

  51. Comment by Lane

    Hi all.

    I am interested in the reverse of this, though not from a user’s response. I have some text areas in my database where users input data and separate each line with a hard return. So using your example, this is what they enter:
    Aston Martin

    This is all in one field, and I’d like to remove the carriage return and list all of the data on a single line with a comma between. For example: Porsche, Lotus, Ferrari, Aston Martin. I can handle the concatenation, but what I can’t seem to do is remove the carriage return.

    WEBI doesn’t see a carriage return, and there’s no trailing space after each line. The entire field is seen as one long line. Counting characters doesn’t seem to work because the length of each line varies.

    Any ideas?


  52. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    Hi, Lane, there is perhaps a newline (character 10) rather than a carriage return (character 13) in your data? What I would try to do to research this is find out if your database offers any sort of “raw” or “dump” function that will let you see the hexadecimal equivalent of your data string. That should show you what unprintable characters are present in the data that are causing it to appear on a new line. For example, in Oracle the RAWTOHEX() function will take raw data and output in hexadecimal format. You would then be able to see if there are 10 (0×0A) or 13 (0×0D) values mixed in your text.

  53. Comment by Prashant

    Hi Dave,

    I have a requirement something similar to the one above. I have Universe object like “Notes” that has few new line characters in its data. Reason due to the data is taken from a user entered tool text box. While extracting the report in CSV format, due to that field each record is coming in different lines. Can you suggest probable solution through webi for getting data as one line per each record?


  54. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    You could replace the newline characters with a variable, or do it in a universe object if that works better. It would basically be the opposite of what is done here where I am adding newline characters into the string.

  55. Comment by Srinivas


    I’ve a requirement to pass the user reponse values as filter to the other dimensions.
    User response (”Account Group”) will result A;B;C

    Now I want to filter the Dim1 values by the Userresponse result values.

    Could you please provide assistance on this.


  56. Comment by Dave Rathbun

    I have certainly done this in the past. You need to use a combination of string functions. First, note that the prompt responses are A;B;C where the final response “C” does not have a ; after it, and the initial response “A” does not have a ; in front of it. That means the first step is to concatenate a ; in front of and behind the string so you end up with ;A;B;C;. Why is this important?

    Because the next step is to check to see if your dimension value with a ; in front of and behind it will match the prompt string.

    Basically you take your dimension [Dim] and concatenate a ; on both ends so you end up with “;” + [Dim] + “;” and then you see if the resulting string is contained in the prompt string, and if so you return a 1 else you return a 0. Finally you can filter on the rows that are 1.

    I did this a long time ago in one of my “Variables” presentations, and I never have managed to get around to posting all of them here. While I have not provided the exact syntax of the answer, hopefully you can work with what I have provided. 8-)

  57. Comment by Umar ijaz

    Hello sir i am new to webi and i am having a problem in a webi report. The sample report layout is something like that

    Customer: Island Trading Total:
    City: Contact:

    OrderID Salespersion Order Date Req Date Ship Date Ship Via

    ProductID Product Name Quantity Unit Price Discount Price

    order and product informmation is in seperate lines , I acheived that design but i cant manage to avoid duplicate customer name for multiple order block. So i created a seperate table and put it over the order block bbut multi value is showing instead of the value. I know it is happening because other table means other block . Iam using section. Please tell me how do i avoid multiple customer block woth out applying other table.

    the thing is we have multiple orders under single customer name . thts why i put another table to avoid duplicate customer name but when i am printing the sum in that table it is giving me error of multi value . I know it is happening because other table means other block but thaat was the only thing i knew to avoid multiple custmer name in multiple orders block . I used section and break both to get my required solution.

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