We have new charts – histograms, bubbles, ranges – you name it, a veritable smorgasboard of charting functionality has arrived!
This is one of the largest feature upgrades that we’ve released in the past few years. We’re not American, and not usually given to hyperbole, but this beta* release is awesome!
*Since this is such a major feature boost, we’re releasing it in beta form, that means although it’s been internally tested, there are almost certainly bugs, so please bear that in mind, try it out as much as you can and report any issues or general requests to us.
Firstly, the chart builder now gives you a lot more control, in an intuitive fashion. A three step process lets you choose data to chart, set various options if necessary and select a chart type – showing a visual representation of what your data looks like for each type.
There are more than a handful of features and categories of chart that just weren’t possible to make previously. Here’s a quick roundup, focussing purely on what’s new.
Note: a lot of these screenshots are from the www.highcharts.com demos but you can test out the features in your own systems to see similar results. Highcharts is the excellent library we use to create our charts.
For area, column and bar charts, you can now display data as stacked percentages, letting you see how values relate to each other relatively.
Breakdowns with multiple series
The ability to break a bar chart or area chart down is great, but previously worked with only one series. Now you can add multiple series, or calculations, and break each down.
Multiple series from a breakdown
As you may know, you can add multiple series (lines, sets of bars etc.) to a chart by adding different calculations, if you want to see different things on the same chart, like say total net worth and annual turnover.
However, now you can also create multiple lines from just one calculation – simply choose a breakdown field and a ‘line’ or similar chart type. Here’s a chart where the calculation is total number of employees and the breakdown is sector.
Show more information than a plain scatter graph by specifying the size of each point. To create this, add one calculation for the placement of the bubble on the y-axis, then a second to be used as the relative size of the bubble.
Many’s the time I’ve wanted to look at the distribution of data and had to export to a spreadsheet, then look up help on the web and fiddle around with data analysis options.
Now, you can simply enter a ‘histogram bin width’ under the second ‘options’ step of the chart creation wizard. For example, if you’re looking at past sales and want to see how many of each you have in value ranges of £1000 (0 – 999, 1000 – 1999 etc.), just
- set the chart grouping to ‘value’
- add a count calculation
- set the ‘histogram bin width’ to 1000
and if you like, choose a suitable-looking chart type like ‘packed columns’. Here’s a histogram with a bin width of 10:
Note: this is one area you may notice needs a little work if you try it out in agileBase – the placement of the numbers on the x-axis can be slightly confusing still, but we’re working on it.
Useful for showing max. and min. values on the same chart. Like bubble charts above, add two calculations to the chart – one for the min and a second for the max.
Adding multiple filters
Perhaps saving the best until last, this feature applies to all chart types and is probably one of the additions that will make the most difference to everyday workflows.
Previously, you could add simple date filters on charts, to limit the data shown to say the last month or year.
Now, you can add filters on any fields to a chart permanently. That makes charting much more useful in general, as you can add multiple charts to the same view with different filters. Say you were looking at a view of all customer support requests, open and closed. You could add one chart summarising the closed tickets by category and a different one showing the open ones i.e. the current workload.
You can even use all the ‘special’ filter commands as per filtering a view, i.e. a question mark means blank values, a colon means ‘starts with’ etc.
Under ‘advanced options’ (step 2), enter your filters in the format fieldname=value,fieldname2=value2,…
Well, no doubt we’ll be fixing any bugs that come up in beta testing, helpfully reported by you! Further development will also be guided by customers, so let us know what you’d like to see. Here are some initial questions open to anyone, answers on a postcard please.
- Would you use trend lines? They’d be relatively easy to add to the system but how many people have a use for them?
- One of the more advanced chart types we’d like to get working is box plots but we need some concrete examples of how they might be used, so if one of those plots would be useful to you, please do drop us a line and let us know the details.
- Would you like to be able to add different series types on the same chart (e.g. bar and line)? What for?
We hope you’ll agree this all adds up to a massive jump in capabilities. We still don’t pretend to be a full ‘Business Intelligence’ solution though, for users with particularly advanced analytics needs we recommend integrating with a third party product such as Microsoft’s Power BI, Tableau or Amazon QuickSight.