Posts categorized “Cool Ideas”.

The Evolution of (FileMaker) Charting, Part 1b

Haven’t seen Part 1a yet? Read it here.

Our Charting Legacy
To help us plot our trendline trajectory into the future, please accompany me on a short stroll down memory lane. Reaching back almost twenty years, I’ve been able to collect a few stories about those early days. The first makers of charts in FileMaker Pro truly were pioneers. In the early- and mid-1990s Reinhold Stadelmann and Brian Dunning were wrestling with Cartesian coordinate systems in an heroic fashion. Their successes became the foundation on which FileMaker charting rested for nearly a decade.

timeline of FileMaker charting

timeline of FileMaker charting

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

~Lee Lukehart

ChartMaker Pro, by Brian Dunning
It seems that Brian has always been keenly aware of market needs, and in the mid-1990s he applied his considerable technical talents towards addressing the unmet need for a charting solution that did not require a plug-in to function. There is nothing inherently wrong with plug-ins, of course — they simply provide a different set of advantages and drawbacks. As is often the case, Read more… »

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

Charting in FileMaker Go for iPad — what’s new in v2

Charting with FileMaker Go on the iPadWeb technologies have added functionality to FileMaker solutions since the Web Viewer layout object was introduced in version 8.5. The web viewer has proven especially useful for displaying Flash-generated charts from FusionCharts, Maani, AnyChart, and others.

FileMaker Pro v11 introduced a built-in chart layout object with 5 basic chart types. Charts suddenly became much easier to implement in FileMaker Pro!

However, with FileMaker Go for iPad and Phone (separate apps) built-in charting is not supported and Apple’s iOS doesn’t run Adobe Flash. The Google Charts API is popular, but for that you must be online.

Luckily, the potential of HTML5 for charting is huge, and the spec that affects charting functions (via the canvas tag) is fairly stable. Read more… »

Bar Charts on Steroids

The bullet graph is a horizontal bar chart on steroids. This device was invented in 2005 by Stephen Few of Perceptual Edge, as a response to dashboard widgets that take lots of screen space to provide one piece of information.

By contrast, the bullet graph can efficiently convey quantitative data such as goal & percent attainment, as well as qualitative measures such as how good or bad a score of “85” really is. The unusual aspect to this is Read more… »

Create Context-Aware Help Systems

Built-in or Bolt-on? Ideally, only the developer knows for sure. Bring your powered up laptop to this hands-on workshop and leave with a context-aware Help system integrated with one of your own FileMaker Pro solutions. The techniques presented are plug-in free and platform independent. Step-by-step you’ll develop a functioning Help system. As a bonus, you’ll also receive generic Help content for common user actions, such as finds and navigation.