Learn how to filter

The ability to filter data is one of the things that makes portalBase really powerful. Searching and filtering is quite easy but many users tend to stick with basic filters. This release of version 2.2 adds some more options so now’s a good time to write a quick tutorial by example. For those who want to learn, it couldn’t be simpler, read on!

Basic filtering

To find text starting with a word or letters, just type. e.g. is searching an address book:

Type john to find John Smith, John Jones and John Barleycorn

Note filtering is case insensitive

To find text anywhere in a field, use the star character as a ‘wildcard’:

Type *smith to find John Smith, Jane Smith and Tobermory Smith

Some more options

help1If you forget these options, don’t worry they’re in the help built into portalBase. Move your mouse over the question mark at the left of the filter boxes to get a quick reminder.

All of the syntax below works any type of data, be it text, numeric or date. Some examples for numbers:

>400 returns all those greater than or equal to 400

< 600 returns all those less than 600

New:
>400 and <600 returns all those in the range

In a text field, e.g. a list of company names,

*Ltd or *Limited will return all limited companies

!google will return all companies that are NOT Google, or at least don’t start with the word Google

New:
!google and !yahoo will return everything except those two companies

? will return all blank entries, i.e. where the company name isn’t filled in at all

Conversly, !? (‘not blank’) will return all those that are

New: dates and times

Date filtering is a new addition that deserves a special mention because you can filter in lots of ways. Here are just a few examples:

today will find any times that are sometime today

next week any date falling in the next week

two months ago

2009

Jan 5th 2010

<ten years ago anything more than ten years old

>today anything in the future

>01 Jan 2009 and <31 March 2009 dates in the first quarter

*Jan dates in January from any year – useful for comparing year on year

etc.

Try your own! If you find any that don’t give the results you expect, please contact oliver@gtportalbase.com

Credits: this work is partly based on the Ruby Chronic library and the Java port by  mDimension Technology

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Tag clouds from content in portalBase 2.1

Recently some work with a UK Sector Skills Council has involved investigating tag clouds for visualising database content.

We thought what better way to test out some ideas than to rapidly prototype the database structure with portalBase and plug in a facility for visualising a cloud of words from data in it? We quickly did this and found some useful results, but it also turns out that tag clouds are a great way of summarising lots of different types of data, so the facility is now generally available, tweaked and honed in GTpB version 2.1!

To see a tag cloud of your own data, simply go to the summary tab of any report. The cloud automatically appears as part of the summary and will change as you filter data. It’s really useful for bringing new people up to speed with systems as it gives a quick overview of what the data’s all about.

Here are some examples –

A cloud from our own projects database:

projects-tag-cloud

Words from the issue log for a web application software development:

issue-log-tag-cloud

One of the reports from a food sales invoicing system:

food-tag-cloud

Multi-browser compatible!

GT portalBase is now compatible with Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer with the release of version 2.0!

browsers

In other news, field names and descriptions can be edited by clicking on them in the ‘fields’ tab of a table. Along with the  drag and drop field re-ordering from the previous release, this makes schema editing truly agile.

Version 1.9.9 deals with large data sets

This release addresses a number of items to improve input and output of large amounts of data, both from the schema design and end user points of view

Image:Import.png Importing 

  • Metadata: fields such as creator and creation date are set for every imported record
  • Bugfixes to the import routine – portalBase should deal with Excel-generated CSV files better, with errors less common
Image:Fields.png Fields 

  • Fields can be re-ordered very quickly now, just by by dragging them, in the ‘fields’ tab of pane 3. This vastly speeds up modifications to large tables
  • Separators can be added between fields to section off different parts of an input form, e.g. to clarify stages in a process
Image:Print.png  Document generation 

  • The print facility now has the ability to include full detail for every record printed in the currently selected report, one record per page. This allows easy generation of e.g. detailed specification documents from data in portalBase

Other improvements

In this and recent minor releases, a number of other improvements and bugfixes have been included

  • Field sorting is improved with visual feedback
  • Usage statistics: administrators can easily see on a per-report or per-table basis who’s using each module. De-cluttering obsolete reports is easier
  • Report generation is a lot quicker – fields and joins are automatically added to a report on creation
  • Addresses: geographical location is displayed next to phone numbers. Addresses are auto-recognised and labelled with map icons
  • The ‘link’ button now works more simply, launching an email with a link to the current portalBase record
   

The client side – version 1.9 released

Over the past few months, many minor changes have been released to address particular requirements, but this major release draws together a number of features. With the database and server components solid and high performance, this release focusses on the user interface. We’ve had UI specialists working on specific areas and the results are described below.

 

  Image:Pane_1.png  

Sections

Pane 1 can now be arranged into sections. For example, you may like to arrange modules into Marketing/Sales/R&D/Accounts, Plan/Do/Check/Act or whatever suits your organisation. 

Speed

We’ve targeted slower internet connections in this release. In particular, pane 3 requires much less bandwidth to download, as only the current tab is loaded when selecting a new record. Large reports now see a 4x speed improvement when loading into pane 2 due to the use of data compression during data transfer from the server to the browser. 

Foundations for the Future

Behind the scenes, the whole of the portalBase interface has also been rewritten to be more browser compatible. This work isn’t fully complete but it does mean that our next release will be compatible with, amongst other browsers, Internet Explorer as well as Firefox.

 

version 1.8.5 brings iPhone platform and intelligent report creation

New features

  • Simple joins – life is now simpler for report creators: the system guides you when collating data from multiple sources into one report. Simple, context sensitive options are given e.g. when editing a contacts report, ‘join contacts to addresses’ may be offered. A knowledge of SQL principles is no longer necessary to create most joins, however it’s still possible to create complex joins, e.g. joining on calculations, by people who do have the necessary technical skills
  • Improved logging: audit trails now include details such as filters applied to a report and the actual data entered while editing a record

Bugfixes

  • Minor bugfixes, including fixing one case in which importing data from a spreadsheet would fail
Image:PortalBase-on-iPod.png One more thing 

We’re working on a mobile of version of portalBase, specifically tailored for devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch or newer Symbian based mobile phones. It’s currently early in the development process and has facilities such as

 

  • module viewing
  • report viewing and filtering as-you-type
  • summary report viewing
  • data editing

Data security and auditing focus for version 1.8.4

Summary

Over the past year, customers have been using portalBase on an increasing scale in their businesses creating functionality which cuts across multiple departments. New uses have been found ranging from stock/sales analysis and accounting to document management and the creation of knowledge bases.

As the scale of applications is increasing, we’ve been doing work to ensure that users can cope with the information they’re presented with.

Our most recent releases have therefore focussed on improving the user interface to ensure things stay user friendly – each app such as CRM or billing is now a module with all its reports and functionality enclosed.

Now we’re focussing on complimentary features that are equally as important when more core company data is stored and manipulated, for example to let admins see who uses each application/report the most and additional features to avoid accidental (or intentional) overwriting of critical data.

The theme of this release is data security and auditability. Software as a Service (SaaS) can often be more reliable than internal IT and our service in particular has had 100% uptime. This release addresses some of the other internal sources of risk inherent in any data system, to provide maximum assurance of data integrity.

Details

Hourly backups

In addition to the off-site daily and monthly backups, the database is now backed up every hour on site, with data kept to cover the past 24 hours

Record locking

Particularly useful when storing financial data, records can now be locked to stop further edits or deletion. For example, all records used to generate an accounting report can be locked when it’s printed. Admins can unlock temporarily.

image:Locked_record.png

Usage logs

The usage logs that portalBase keeps are now available for administrators to download in spreadsheet format. Admins can now see all logged information in real time, including the audit trails of logins, data edits / deletions and schema changes. Logged information is kept for at least one month (older logs are available in backups).

In addition, statistics are summarised in graph format on screen.

Other changes

Other significant changes in this release are

  • Mitigate the effects of a browser bug causing the cursor to vanish in text input fields
  • Monthly hosting & licensing costs (based on the number of tables used) are calculated on screen for decision makers to see giving greater transparency