More developer improvements

As with our release of the tagging feature a few days ago, we’re continuing the rapid pace of work on our innovative new ‘build’ interface for agileBase developers.

This week we add many of the improvements that have been requested by developers recently – thanks must go to all the early adopters who’ve helped us along our path.

Calculation syntax highlighting

(for both beginners and experienced developers)

This is a popular request which lots of people have wanted to see. When an SQL calculation is created or edited, syntax highlighting is now enabled, which has a couple of major benefits:

  1. Complex calculations are easier to work with – for example the corresponding closing bracket for each opening bracket is shown with lines and colour highlighting
  2. For beginners, colouring SQL keywords helps give confidence that the calculation has been written correctly

Thanks go to The Safeguarding Company for the initial request.

Contextualising views and tables

(for experienced developers)

This feature was requested by one of our partners pushing agileBase projects to new levels of complexity, Little House Consultancy. It’s really useful when working with long chains of views, joining to each other; for example where each view adds a step in a particular calculation.

In those cases, it’s useful to see the entire chain of relationships in order to fully understand and easily work on the application being created.

Here’s an example from an invoicing system, showing all the views which feed data into the initial step in the invoicing process, ‘orgs to invoice’.

This feature can also be very useful when someone new joins a team – it can help them understand the system more easily. The same goes for someone with a range of agileBase projects on the go – it can help reorient you as you return to a particular one.

Within 10 minutes of release, another customer had also used this to investigate a real world problem – we’re sure it’ll get plenty more use as time goes on.

Finding views and tables by internal ID

(useful for experienced developers)

Each view or table in agileBase has an internal ID, that remains constant if you rename the object. If you are connecting with third party software via the API you need to know this ID.

Whilst these IDs can easily be found when editing a view or table, but not the other way round – it was hard to find a view or table by searching for its internal ID? Now, with the addition of those IDs to the list view of objects on the developer homepage this is far easier.

This can be particularly useful when working with external developers who are integrating with agileBase – they may not use agileBase, so only know the internal IDs themselves. Now you can easily find the corresponding object which they’re referencing.

Another improvement to this screen is that the first column with the name of the object is now frozen, so stays on screen when scrolling to see other information, as does the heading row always remain visible. This is similar to freezing columns or rows in a spreadsheet, which you may be familiar with.

Resizing the developer panel

(useful for any developer)

We have released a simple update to improve the usability of the system. The panel for editing objects (tables, views, fields etc.) can now be resized as well as moved on screen.

This is particularly useful when e.g. editing a large calculation – you can make the panel wider to see all parts of it as a whole.

Thanks to TasteConnection for requesting this.

Refreshing data in Power BI or other external reporting tools

(for experienced developers)

The new reporting facility allows data to be shared with external tools such as Power BI or Apache Superset (built in and provided by us). The data updates automatically once a day, however in some cases, more timely updates are necessary, particularly when integrating with an operational tool rather than a reporting tool, for example a label printer on a factory floor.

This update allows a workflow to refresh the data on request i.e. to take a snapshot of the live data.

Thanks to Lewis Pies for this request. Reporting is a relatively new feature initially taken up keenly by a few early adopters. If anyone else would like to try it out, please let us know and we can give you a run-through.

Speeding up disassembly

(for experienced developers)

As anyone  who’s worked on a project for an extended period knows, at some point you are likely to want to take the learning from users and other people over time and use it to improve the system. This frequently requires disassembling some parts of the system and building them up again in a different way.

Previously, if you wanted to remove an object such as a field or view, you had to manually find all the things that depend on it, break the links or remove them too, before removing the object itself.

Where possible, these actions are now taken automatically (after prompting). So for example, when removing a view, all charts are automatically removed. If the view is used in a referenced data field, that field is removed etc.

Automatic removal is confined to actions for which there is no major knock-on effect. For example, if a view is used in a join or filter in another view, then it can’t be automatically removed, as the behaviour of the dependent objects would change significantly.

In those cases, other tools like the contextualisation above, or view pinning, can help.

We’re really pleased with the progress of agileBase’s developer features, thanks to the suggestions of customers, along with our overarching vision, it’s becoming more powerful than we ever expected as a platform for developing back office applications. And not only for seasoned developers, our ‘learner progression’ plan ensures that anyone with a will to improve can become an agileBase developer.

In fact, our customers are finding that many of their staff from varied and in particular non-IT backgrounds, have found new roles as important members of the organisation’s improvement teams. That’s particularly important when recruiting coders is becoming more expensive and difficult.

Many thanks for your continued support and we look forward to progressing more, alongside our customers.

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