I wanted to take a moment to help answer the question, "Dashboards or Visualize and what's the difference?" After this post I'll put together two video walk-throughs for the forum, one for Visualize and Dashboards.
Let's take a stroll through memory lane to help the community understand how we ended up with two distinct data visualization and dashboard controls. First it's important to understand that our reporting platform's development direction is 100% community driven. To date we've added over 2,000 enhancements and features in the last 10 years and all came from the community. One of the requests, about 8 years ago, was the ability to graphically display data in some sort of "chart" form.
Enter "Standard Charting". It was very easy to use, quick to setup and took about 5 minutes of training. Here's a snippet of what charting looked like in version 2.6 (as of the writing of this post, we're on v8.1)
About 3 minutes after we released charting we received another comment, 'how cool would it be to combine charts from different views into a dashboard?' Our immediate response was, 'very cool'. So we got to work building Dashboards. While the setup was very simple, it was also limited. Here's the dashboard setup screen in v2.6. You could choose from 4 layouts and had a maximum of 6 charts per dashboard.
Here's a completed Standard Dashboard:
While limited in its configuration and layout it was effective for our community. As time marched on and we continued to grow our user base the need and requests for more complex charting and graphing rolled in.
Enter "Advanced Charting". We needed to make some big leaps in design and capability in charting. We jumped in with both feet and went to work, and in v5 we released Advanced Charting. Much more powerful and configurable. We could pretty much do anything, anyone had ever wanted and asked us to do with a chart.
With Advanced Charting came more advanced Dashboards. No more rigid design restrictions and limitations, the user was free to create amazing and complex dashboards using as many charts as they wanted.
Feeling pretty proud of ourselves we felt as if we'd solved all the worlds charting challenges. We soon starting hearing from our community that we may have gone too far. Yes, we could create amazing and detailed charts and dashboards, but as with anything in life, there was a trade off. Standard Charting was simple, quick and effective, but limited in its design capabilities. Advanced Charting was no longer limited in its design capabilities, but was not simple or quick. Our users wanted to go from a Schwinn Bicycle to a Ford Pinto and we gave them that with Standard Charting. From Standard Charting they really wanted to go from a Ford Pinto to a Cadillac. We gave them a SpaceX Falcon 9 that could not only launch man and machine into space, it could land on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean. Too far too fast. Today's "Charting" control is Advanced Charting and is generally only used by more technically savvy folks that want extreme granular detail in their charts, and have the technical know how and patience to build them.
Here's an image of the Chart Designer for creating a Bar Chart. As you can see there are loads of properties and options that a user can configure. For a less experienced user this is daunting.
Enter Visualize. A data visualization tool that would combine grids, pivots, charts, gauges, maps, images and more in a user friendly interactive, drag and drop interface. We give up some of the most advanced features of charting in exchange for quick setup and ease of use. We also made Visualize a web-enabled feature that could be access in a client-less environment using WebReports. Below is a single Visualize that has three pages of widgets. Creating this example using Advanced Charting would probably take a day or two to complete and would require 11 views. Using Visualize we created this Visualization in about 1 hour using 1 view.
Here's the design interface for Visualize. It's a drag and drop user interface that doesn't leverage property grids for its configuration. Based on the community feedback Visualize has an intuitive design interface and is easier to use, while still preserving the original goal of displaying data graphically.
In summary Visualize is our third generation charting, graphing and dashboard feature that combines feature rich, interactive output while maintaining ease of use and efficient setup. While Advanced Charts and Dashboards will continue to remain a feature in our platform, we'd like to invite you to take a look at our newest feature Visualize.
As always we appreciate the community's feedback and look forward to hearing from you.