Posts from July 2011.

The Evolution of (FileMaker) Charting, Part 1a

For this article I have taken a different approach, and offer up my current perspective on events in the history of data visualization and the FileMaker platform. Naturally, our viewpoints are formed by our direct experiences, but the passage of time also affects our interpretation. The other things that happen leading up to and following a point in time can alter the context — and meaning — of that moment.

Steve Jobs shared an example of this in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech. He told the story of how his taking a calligraphy class as a college “drop-in” created his bias towards the first Mac having rich typography. He pointed out how everything is connected — but that we really never know how, until later.

So in this spirit and from the perspective of mid-2011 (text edited), please enjoy my retrospective wanderings.

~ Lee Lukehart

IN THE BEGINNING, there was data.

The first area chart, by William Playfair

The first area chart, by William Playfair

Of course I’m referring to data in the times B.C. (Before Computing) — circa 1800 and earlier, before Charles Babbage invented the mechanical difference engine. This event begat teletype tape, punchcards, dot matrix line printers, and monstrously laborious plotters such as the CalComp pen plotter I commanded in college with Fortran IV. Its output looked like string art — colored thread strung between nails (often on black velvet) — a fad that was still popular at the time. Coincidence?

Contrast that image with the very first published line and area graphs, in 1786. Their creator, Scottish engineer William Playfair, also invented and published the first bar graph and pie chart within five years of one other. Those were heady times for paper and pen, printing press and engraver. One year after Playfair’s graphs debuted, a Dr. E.A.W. Zimmerman introduced the word “statistik” to the civilized world. And the first true topographical map was drawn by Marcellin du Carla-Boniface in that same 10-year period. Heady times indeed.

So why the fuss over events that happened more than 200 years ago? Read more… »

PivotBrowser UI demo from DevCon

One of our demo files was featured at the 2012 FileMaker Developer Conference (DevCon), at Bob Shockey’s session “The Design Universe.” During the session folks requested a copy of that file, happily provided here. (Thank you Bruce R. & Kevin F. for the nudge to get this out!)

button_parade_anim To recap, this file shows a UI proof-of-concept using the new button states in FMP12. The general idea was to explore how to streamline complex Finds (that usually are multi-step processes) in a way that was iOS-friendly. I also wanted to see if it made sense to use the same UI on the desktop, to provide a more seamless cross-device experience. To demonstrate one such solution we used a single global field, OnObjectEnter script triggers, and a couple short scripts. [9/13/2012: added a straight button-driven method. ~Lee]

exploring a movie database

exploring a movie database (click image to enlarge)

The use scenario is a casual user browsing a movie database. They don’t quite know what they want to see (no specific find criteria) so they will be using the “browsing” links provided to get ideas. True to mobile’s minimalist style, users interact by clicking (or tapping) directly on the content; the data fields ARE the “buttons” that initiate action. Users click/tap on “action” to see the list of movies with that genre, the director’s name to see a list of his films, etc.

The “pivot” descriptor comes from how a user in discovery mode interacts with a database. After each “find” the user sees different information that may take them in a completely new direction (hence, pivot). The user is rewarded with immediate results, with no extraneous criterion entry or navigation. The inherent difficulty with this more natural approach, however, is in how to construct the UI/UX for multi-criteria and complex (AND/OR/NOT) finds.

PivotBrowser demo from DevCon (teaser)

data exploration buttons

data exploration buttons

This morning, one of our demo files was featured in Bob Shockey’s DevCon session “The Design Universe.” During the session folks requested a copy of that file, which I will happily provide… after I return from the conference. 😉 Stay tuned, ~ Lee

Advisory about upgrading to Mac OS X Lion

The next Mac operating system, OS X 10.7 “Lion”, is scheduled to be released this month. “When should I upgrade?” is the hot question for users of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server.

The short answer: We strongly recommend waiting to upgrade to Lion. There are known issues and potential problem points, regardless of your current version of FileMaker. For our clients whose solutions we host, we will conduct solution-specific tests before giving the green light on upgrading. Please delay upgrading until we have completed our internal testing.

One major change with Lion is that the compatibility software “Rosetta” will no longer be part of the Mac operating system. This means Read more… »