Friday, 11 November 2011

Seeing XBRL for free

Continuation of previous post - Where do I want to see XBRL?

So what can the free viewers do for us? Starting with the SEC viewer, this fires up as soon as you choose the interactive data option from a list of Edgar filings. You can choose to view any of the financial statements or notes from a side menu or more significantly you can click on a link to dump all the data into Excel, except for the fact that it doesn't, as the data is already there! - more on this later as this creates an interesting possibility. You can only view one company at a time but of course you can always Edgar search for another company in a new tab in your browser. Clicking on the name of a data item brings up a pop up box from which you can expand an option to view a definition or important details such as the name of the tag.

Rivet CrossView Preview as a viewer has a number of advantages over the SEC one. You don’t have to wade through a large list of filings to find the one you want as the index only deals in XBRL. Each filing you choose comes up as a separate tab so it's easy to view more than one company at a time. The last option on the tool bar will mark which data items are from the filer's extended taxonomy i.e. not a standard item and hence which are not very useful when comparing one company with another. This option will even be greyed out if none of the data items have been extended - always a very good sign!

The catchily titled RR Donnelly XBRL Interactive Viewer does all the things the CrossView viewer does but has a worse look and feel. Also rather annoyingly, when you select a company, it shows the bottom of the list of filings so you invariably have to page up to get to the latest ones.

Most significantly, all three viewers let you download the entire document into Excel (minus the really rather useful tags) in an identical format with each section in a separate sheet in the workbook. These spreadsheets are pre-canned so in the case of the SEC viewer this brings us back to the interesting possibility that you can circumnavigate the software and go directly to the spreadsheet! e.g. this link will take you to a spreadsheet of Apple's 2011 10-K. More on this in a following post.

You can also link directly to a specific section in a report using both the SEC viewer or CrossView Preview. Charles Hoffman has more on this.

It is also worth mentioning the Firefox XBRL Add-on which, although apparently not supported, has a couple of tricks up it's sleeve which I will come to in my next post.

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