Some weeks ago I wrote about how to deploy a custom style in OBIEE 12c by using an EAR file. At that time, I said the EAR file was, for me, a better solution compared to the old classic analyticsRes shared folder as during a quick test I saw lot of 404 Not found errors when using a shared folder.

I now spent some time testing this second approach using a shared folder more in detail and comparing the current available versions of OBIEE 12c: , and . And I changed my mind …

My custom style “live” on my OBIEE server, custom logo, different colors

Don’t want to read through the full post and just want my conclusion on the best way to deploy a custom style in OBIEE 12c?
Or you already read the post about deploying a custom folder in OBIEE 12c and the one about the custom style with the EAR file?

Jump directly to the end of the page where I resume the general topic of style customization and provide my point of view on both approaches with some arguments on how to choose one over the other.
This post will repeat parts already covered in other posts earlier.

The official Oracle documentation

First, it’s always good to reference the official documentation as it generally gives most of the answers. The documents about custom style using a shared folder are the following:

First step: define a location and prepare the custom style

First thing first: choose where to store your shared folder containing the custom style. There isn’t really a location better than another. I would just say where it’s better to not place it: inside the ORACLE_HOME.
You are free to store the shared folder anywhere on the server, so don’t put it inside of the OBIEE install as you can’t be sure the folder will not disappear when doing updates/upgrades, and would make more sense to keep it outside as you can use the same on various versions of OBIEE. So put it somewhere else, even just next to the ORACLE_HOME.

The recommended directory structure for a FMW12c install is to split the product and config in 2 different folders: the Oracle Home (for the product) and the Domain Home (for the config).
You can see an illustration of the recommended structure in the documentation. This structure being generic for any FMW12c setup OBIEE can benefit by adopting it as it will make upgrades (for example from to and simpler as the Domain Home doesn’t move, it is the same.

The folder can be named as you want, nothing is mandatory, so you can call it “analyticsRes” as it’s the historical name (and most of people call it like that) or just “custom” or even “ad88s21asd0rwe9d” (in the examples I used for this blog I named it “analyticsRes” and it’s located in /opt/oracle/analyticsRes while the ORACLE_HOME is /opt/oracle/biee).

The custom style template

To start developing a custom style for your OBIEE the simplest way is to start by using the template Oracle provides in your setup: the bicustom-template.ear file, you can find it in ORACLE_HOME/bi/bifoundation/jee/.

If you already read the post about custom style with EAR file you already know this part…

Extract the EAR file inside the folder you created to store your customization to get the WAR file, everything else is not needed and you can delete it. Now extract the WAR file in the same location and the required folders are named WEB-INF and res. You can delete the META-INF folder, not needed (I like to keep things clean).

Edit filemap.xml

The filemap.xml file is the place where you must define the inheritance of your style: which one of the existing styles are you going to customize? This part is important as OBIEE will go back to that one in case something is missing inside yours. The file is located inside the res folder.

In this case I’m going to create a custom style named DATAlysis and using the DATAlysis branding (logo and colors) and I’m going to base the customization on Alta, the new OBIEE 12c “white” style.

The file is nicely documented, the syntax is as simple as “Parent style” / “Child style”. Beware of uppercase / lowercase, it’s case sensitive, so “s_DATAlysis” is different than “s_Datalysis” which is different than “s_datalysis” etc.
You must also provide the inheritance for the skin (the sk_ names) even if you aren’t going to create it at all.

Now that filemap.xml defines “s_DATAlysis” as my custom style I have to rename the folder with the style itself, the template has a s_Custom folder inside the res folder, just rename it to the exact name defined in filemap.xml (remember, case sensitive !).

At this point my folder where I’m preparing the style looks like this:

The structure of my shared folder at this point.

A custom style based on Alta?

Oracle published a “bicustom-altatemplate.ear” file which contains directly a template of custom style based on Alta, making the following steps unnecessary. Thanks to Chet Justice for sending me the link.

As I said I want to base my customization on Alta, this is also what I defined in filemap.xml, so as a first step I must find Alta! The template OBIEE provides is based on Skyros, they maybe didn’t update the template since previous version as Alta is the default style in 12c.

To get the Alta style and use it as base it’s quite simple:

  1. Get a copy of ORACLE_HOME/bi/bifoundation/jee/analytics.ear : this is the EAR file containing all the default styles and a lot more (do not mess with this one, do not customize this one as you are going to lose everything at the first update, even if some suggested to do it this way in the past).
  2. Extract this file (unzip) in a temporary folder and extract again analytics.war in a temporary folder.
  3. Go to res/s_Alta/master and copy all its content to your own custom style (delete old content first and then copy the one from s_Alta, only the master folder is needed).

In my case I delete /res/s_DATAlysis/master and copy inside /res/s_DATAlysis the master folder I got from Alta.

Customize the style

Everything is now ready to apply the real customization: the custom one is based on a clean Alta style and it’s ready for the changes.

You can customize everything you want. The first thing is probably to replace the oracle_logo.png and add new content inside custom.css. I’m not going into details as it really depends on what you try to do (colors, fonts etc.).

Just a note: I would advise to start by trying keeping your custom CSS in custom.css if possible (even if it will require some “!important” syntax) instead of editing directly master.css, why? In this way you can easily rebase your style on a new one (different / updated version of Alta for example during an update/upgrade) instead of trying to remember what you changed in the master.css file etc.

Deploy the shared folder in Weblogic

The deploy process requires you to set some options.

1) Open the Weblogic Server Administration Console, by default http://<your IP/domain>:9500/console in OBIEE 12c, and navigate to the “Deployments” screen using the domain structure view on the left. To install a new deployment, you first need to enable the edit mode by clicking on “Lock & Edit” and then you can start the install wizard with the “Install” button.

From the "Deployment" screen first "Lock & Edit" the Weblogic configuration and then start the install steps

From the “Deployment” screen first “Lock & Edit” the Weblogic configuration and then start the install steps

2) The first thing to do is navigate in the filesystem to point to the folder you want to deploy, mine is /opt/oracle/analyticsRes. Thanks to the WEB-INF folder Weblogic knows it can deploy that folder and make it visible on screen with a different icon in front of the folder and a radio button to select the location. Select the folder and move to the next step.

Browser the filesystem and select the folder representing the deployment

Browser the filesystem and select the folder representing the deployment

3) It’s important to set the correct type of installation, in your case “Install this deployment as an application” before to move to the next step.

Install the deployment as an application

Install the deployment as an application

4) Time to define where you want to deploy the folder. I recommend to avoid the AdminServer and to prefer the managed server running OBIEE. In your case you can simply select the “bi_cluster” and “All servers in the cluster” to keep it simple. It’s the same as explicitly select “bi_server1” in a normal setup.

Make the deployment available from the "BI cluster" and not the Admin server to have the same domain and port as OBIEE

Make the deployment available from the “BI cluster” and not the Admin server to have the same domain and port as OBIEE

5) In the option settings a very important step is to select “I will make the deployment accessible from the following location” under the Source Accessibility section of the page. In this way you can easily add new files and edit existing ones and the changes are directly valid and visible.

You must select "I will make the deployment accessible from the following location" to see live changes when you add new files or modify existing ones

You must select “I will make the deployment accessible from the following location” to see live changes when you add new files or modify existing ones

6) The deployment install steps are over, everything is set correctly and you can double check the settings in the summary. Time to move to the configuration screen for the newly installed deployment.

Once the install steps are done you can move to the configuration screen of the new deployment

Once the install steps are done you can move to the configuration screen of the new deployment

7) At this point you can check the configuration and modify attributes if you need, after you must “Activate Changes” with the button on the top-left to commit the changes in the Weblogic configuration.

Fix the context root of your deployment

Review the settings and "Activate Changes" to commit changes in Weblogic

Review the settings and “Activate Changes” to commit changes in Weblogic

8) Last step left is to start servicing queries. In the Control screen of the deployment you can select it and in the “Start” button you select “Servicing all requests”.

The deployment must be "started"

The deployment must be “started”

The Weblogic Console part is done, the shared folder is now deployed on the server and available by using the /analyticsRes url.

Configure the Presentation Service to point to your custom style and shared folder

The last step is to let the OBI Presentation Service know about the new style and its location (both on disk and browser).

The setting is done into the instanceconfig.xml file, located in the BI_DOMAIN/config/fmwconfig/biconfig/OBIPS/ folder.

Remember: doesn’t cost anything to backup the file before to start editing it. Just in case …

Set the new style as default and point OBIPS to your shared folder

The <UI> tag is already there and you just have to edit the values of DefaultSkin and DefaultStyle, keep in mind to write the exact same name (case sensitive) you used for your custom style without the “s_”.

In addition to that you must add (not there by default) the <URL> block. It must go next the <UI> block, so after the closing tag </UI> you can write your <URL> block.
You must define both nodes:

  • CustomerResourcePhysicalPath : this one is the full path to the res folder inside your shared folder (really important to add the /res too and not just point to /analyticsRes !)
  • CustomerResourceVirtualPath : this is the url to be used in a browser to point to the res folder once again, so it’s the context root of your deployment and adding /res

Pay attention to write the XML tags correctly, to close them and to use the right path and url as values. If you don’t write the XML correctly the Presentation Service will not start anymore because the configuration file isn’t valid (that’s why you took a backup). If the values aren’t correct (remember to add the /res) you will not see the expected result.

Last step: restart the Presentation Service (command line or Enterprise Manager) and done! You have your custom style deployed in a shared folder.

OBIEE with Alta first and custom style after.

To resume: shared folder or EAR file?

If you have a clustered environment the EAR file is probably the easiest option to deploy on all your nodes from a single file. This approach will also be the preferred way if you want a highly-controlled deployment with no “live” operations on PROD directly. To change something you must redeploy the EAR file and can’t just edit a file (but the deployment can be scripted).

And the winner is … shared folder !

If you have a single node system and/or like to have the option to quickly fix or change something on your custom style the shared folder is the best approach. Also good if you want to easily add custom javascript libraries and custom visualizations to your analysis, the shared folder can host these files too.

My first observations using the shared folder approach gave me many HTTP 404 Not found (pictures using a wrong url like “res/v-DBoTHFvj6ls/s_Alta/master/sortasc_ena.png” instead of the correct one being “/analytics/res/v-DBoTHFvj6ls/s_Alta/master/sortasc_ena.png”), it seems that’s a random behaviour which disappear with a refresh as I saw this errors even on the out of the box Alta style, so I can’t say it’s related to the shared folder customization, that’s why I changed my mind and suggest to use the shared folder as it has more advantages (because of the ability to deploy other things like D3js etc.). It’s quite common to find extra pieces of custom CSS you want to add when, using the system, you discover some wrong colors from the original style.

OBIEE has a bug

Final point: if you are still on OBIEE I would suggest you focus on an upgrade before to look into custom styles. That one is the very first public release of OBIEE 12c, many bugs and problems, including one affecting the custom styles. So get rid of it, move to (latest available one at the time of writing this) and then start customizing.

OBIEE has a bug using a custom style in a shared folder.

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