Posts categorized “Feature Explanations”.

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.
Read more… »

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… »

Autoscaling Behaviors of the FileMaker Pro Chart Object

Ever have a FileMaker Pro chart “mysteriously” change its scale setting on you? Ever wonder how the FileMaker Pro chart object decides to set the y-axis scale? The FileMaker Pro documentation doesn’t provide that level of detail, so following are the behavior “rules” I’ve deduced through experimentation:

Scaling Behavior “Rules”…
(The following assume the y-scale min-max has not been set to static values.)

  • If the spread of values is less than 20%, the y-axis min-max will automatically adjust to show just the top portion of the plot.
  • If the high value is more than 90% of the y-axis max, the chart draws to the next larger grid line (which has its own set of display logic, by the way).
  • If the low value is less than ~14% of the visible scale, the chart draws to the next smaller grid line.

To experiment with settings on variously-sized charts download the demo file.

Happy exploring, and stay savvy!

-Lee

Fun with FileMaker Pro 11 Charts, v1.5

Knowing how to represent data visually often draws upon quite varied skills. A data visualist ideally possesses some of the traits of information architect, graphic designer, mathematician, statistician, web designer, teacher, user interface designer, cognitive psychologist, and storyteller. One could argue that these skills are essential to thriving in our future information-rich society. Until the future arrives, however, we must manage with whatever we have. And one thing we now have is FileMaker Pro 11 Charts! Charting is the feature that will drive a new stage of success.

The demo file explores using the chart object in new ways… Read more… »

FileMaker Go (Charting?!) on the iPad

Charting with FileMaker Go on the iPad[ Update Note: As of Oct 7, 2010 the demo file links return an updated v2 file that was released at DevCon in August. This was discussed in a subsequent blog post, Charting in FileMaker Go for iPad — what’s new in v2 (ChartingWithWebTech.fp7). ]

Web 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. Sure, you can load static images from the Google charts API into a web viewer — but what is really needed is an interactive and self-sufficient (as in no internet connection required) charting solution.

Luckily, the potential of Read more… »

QuickPost: TechNet charting webinar files

Hi all, here are links to the demo files I’ll be using in today’s webinar. I’ll write these up more properly later.

Fun with FileMaker Charts – SavvyData_ChartFun.fp7
Chart Scaling Behavior – SavvyData_Chart_AutoScale.fp7

Enjoy!

-Lee

Sparklines with FMP11 Charts – Updated

Reposted with updated file — Sparklines demo is more interactive, with informative dynamic tooltips.

Download link for the demo file: SavvyData_ChartFun.fp7.zip

Sparklines are “data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics,” as their inventor Edward Tufte describes them in his book Beautiful Evidence. Due to their form and format, sparklines are most appropriate on lists and subsummary reports, and are well suited to 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… »

Chart Palettes Cheatsheet for FMP11

Last week FileMaker Inc. announced FileMaker Pro 11 — and most early reviewers agree the most exciting new capability is charting. In the weeks to come I’ll be digging in and providing demo files for some cool uses of this important new tool.

If you already chart in FusionCharts or xmChart or 360Works Charts or AnyChart or xmChart or Maani or Google API or SimpleChart or [your unnamed favorite here], you will still find the built-in chart tool easier to use than any of those. It is amazingly convenient. And did I mention easy? If you’re not a charting fan yet, then I’m sure you soon will be.

That said, this IS the first version with charting built-in, so it would be good to keep expectations modest.

For example, FileMaker Pro 11 Chart automatically assign colors to the Y-axis data series/elements from a choice of 20 palettes. Unlike the advanced third-party charting options, you cannot assign a specific color to a particular data point.

However there are ways to get around the default color choices Read more… »