Blog: Posts from January, 2015

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Posts from January, 2015
Saturday, January 24, 2015PrintSubscribe
Charts Everywhere

Every IT project involves collection of data. Development teams put a lot of thought into database design, middleware programming, business rules. Analysis of data is always somewhere a few milestones away on the project timeline. Sure the charts can make your app look good, but one needs data to feed the charts. Therefore the data analysis and charts will only become a feature of a project if it survives the initial developments stages.

Users Love Charts

Why do users love charts? The charts can tell the story that the raw data cannot.

For example, a typical list of orders hides a treasure trove of information that can be unlocked if data is pivoted, sorted, counted, and summed.  Consider the collection of charts in the screenshot below.

Charts view style in a Touch UI app created with Code On Time app generator.

These charts are derived from the orders stored in the Northwind database. The master-detail form with order data is shown next.

Master-detail form view in a Touch UI app created with Code On Time app generator.

Data fields Order Date, Employee Last Name, Ship Via Company Name, and Ship Country can truly illuminate the business processes within the Northwind mail order company.

For example, we can answer the following questions:

  • Which countries are the main contributors to the sales?
  • Which employee is the most productive?
  • How much are shippers utilized to fulfill orders?
  • Are sales getting better over time?
  • Which employee is contributing the most to the expense of fulfilling orders?
  • How do sales compare year over year?
  • Which month can be expected to be the busiest?

The charts in the screenshot answer the questions.

Charts in the app with Touch UI created with Code On Time.

Charts Are Created Automatically

Application framework has a built-in ability to recognize what data can be analyzed. “Lookup” and “date” fields are tagged to produce various charts without any need for programming.

If the compatible fields are detected than the “Charts” view style becomes available to end users. Charts are literally everywhere!

Sample chart displayed in the user interface of an app with Touch UI.

Developers can tag the fields for charting by default.  A typical “chart” tag in a data controller XML file will cause the chart above to become available when “Charts” view style is activated.

<dataField fieldName="ShipVia" aliasFieldName="ShipViaCompanyName" 
tag="pivot1-row-pie3d"/>

The server-side code of application will pivot the data and package it in the fashion suitable for chart presentation. Application produces multiple pivots while reading the same set of records from the database.  A single request to the server will retrieve all pivots for the charts displayed when “Charts” view style is activated.

The built-in ability to pivot data can be utilized to create custom charts and data presenters.

Responsive Presentation of Charts

Charts are responsive. Users will be able to interact with charts on any device. The small form factor will cause a simple list of charts to be displayed. The height of the charts is computed based on the available width and the height of the display.

Responsive charts are displayed in a window with small form factor in a Touch UI app.

Application will try to fit as many charts as possible on screen without requiring user to scroll horizontally to see the entire set of charts.

Wide displays will allow Touch UI to render multiple charts without the need for scrolling.

Activating “Charts” View Style

The option to activate “Charts” view style is visible on the sidebar as shown in the illustration above. The sidebar may not be visible on all screen sizes.

Context menu provides “Charts” option in the list of data presentation styles. A single touch or click will show the available charts.

Context menu includes an option to activate Charts view style in an app with Touch UI.   Charts view style in an app with Touch UI created with Code On Time app generator.

Shaping The data In The Charts

Users shape the data set rendered in the “Charts” style with the help of Quick Find, Adaptive Filters, and Advanced Search.

For example, a user can specify a criteria for “deep search” that requires data to match the ship country to France and Italy and have associated line items with products in categories that include “Confections” and “Seafood”.

Advanced Search screen in an app with Touch UI.

Here is the result set rendered in the “List” style. User can access “Charts” view style by touching or clicking the context menu button on the right side of the toolbar.

Activating context menu in a Touch UI application.

Here is the set of charts reflecting the “deep search” criteria that required searching in orders and related order details.

Charts view style shows data produced by deep search of orders and linked order details in Touch UI application.

This screenshot shows charts for orders shipped to Canada, USA, and UK and placed by employees Buchanan and Fuller.

Compact set of charts rendered in Charts view style in an app with Touch UI.

User may activate responsive grid view style to see the data behind the charts.

Responsive grid view style in a Touch UI app created with Code On Time.

Wider window will show charts distributed in three columns.

Responsive Charts view style displayed three charts side-by-side in an app with Touch UI.

Friday, January 23, 2015PrintSubscribe
Creating Project for Touch UI

What is Touch UI?

Touch UI is the new user interface of single page apps (SPA) created with Code On Time database application generator. This responsive user interface is based on jQuery Mobile and adapted to work on both mobile and desktop devices with any screen size. It also integrates popular Bootstrap framework to simplify content creation and content oriented SPAs.

Choose Project Type

Touch UI is available in applications created as Azure Factory, Mobile Factory, Web App Factory, or Web Site Factory project.

End users of your application will not be able to tell its project type. 

Developers will notice that Mobile Factory and Web Site Factory project files are grouped in folders, which allows Microsoft ASP.NET to compile the code dynamically. Web App Factory project has a more complex folder structure and uses a solution file to keep track of the project components. It must be compiled in Visual Studio explicitly. These three project types can be deployed to any physical or hosted Windows Sever.

Azure Factory project type is similar to Web App Factory. It is designed specifically for deployment and hosting in Microsoft Azure as a cloud service.

The most versatile and simplest to maintain project type is Web Site Factory.

Choosing a project type for an application with Touch UI.

Start the app generator and create a new application by choosing the desired project type.

Framework and User Interface

Make sure that application framework is set to .NET Framework 4.5 or higher. Also select Touch UI as the user interface default option.

If you are creating your project with Unlimited edition of the app generator, then your application will support both Touch UI and Desktop UI. The secondary user interface will work with browsers that are not compatible with HTML5. Your app will automatically downgrade to desktop user interface as needed. If you choose Desktop UI as a default user interface option then Touch UI will only be activated on mobile devices.

Note that dual user interface is not supported in other product editions.

Specifying Framework and User Interface for an app with Touch UI.

Click Next until your reach a page that allows configuring a database connection for your project.

Configuring Data Provider

 Code On Time allows creating apps straight from your database or from external data sources such as web services or file system.

The default data provider for the app is Microsoft SQL Server. A variety of other database engines is also supported.

If you are not planning to use a database engine as a source of data then choose Custom Data Provider option in the drop down.

Specifying a data provider for an app with Touch UI.

Click on the button with three dots next to Connection String input to configure the connection string for the selected provider.

Setting Up a Sample Data Set

If you are creating a project for Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft SQL Server Express then you can configure a sample database that is used in the tutorials.

First make sure to specify your server address. If you have Microsoft SQL Express installed on your computer then make sure to enter “.\sqlexpress” without double quotes in the Server input field.

Enter Northwind in the Database input and click Create button. A confirmation will be displayed when an empty database has been created.

Creating an empty sample database for a project with Touch UI.

Select Northwind  in the drop down under Sample Tables. Click Install to create a sample data set. Wait for the confirmation to be displayed.

Populating empty sample database with data for a project with Touch UI.

Add a security system to your project by clicking Add button under Membership section.

Adding a security system to a project with Touch UI.

The new database with sample data is configured and you can click OK to save settings and see the application connection string parameters.

Controllers, Pages, or Empty Project

Now it is time to decide if you want the app generator to create sample data controllers and pages (single page apps) from the contents of your database.

If you are planning to build a collection of single page apps using jQuery Mobile or Bootstrap then choose only Data Controllers to generate. Consider taking advantage of the automatically created SPAs and choose Data Controllers and Pages. If the pages are not matching your needs then you can always delete them later in Project Designer.

If your plan to define data controllers later then choose Empty Project instead.

Choosing data controller and page creation mode for the app with Touch UI.

Choosing Database Tables

The app generator can created data controllers and SPAs for every table and view found in the database. This will be the case if you proceed to the Next step.

For the purpose of the tutorials click Change  next to “All database tables and views are included in this project” and choose tables listed at the bottom of the next screenshot.

Choosing specific tables to be used for generation of data controllers and SPAs in a Touch UI app.

New database tables and views can be added to a project later. 

Press Next until your arrive to Reporting configuration section of your project.

Reporting

Application framework  creates dynamical reports in PDF, Word, Excel, and TIFF format. Complex master-detail custom reports can also be created.

We recommend enabling reports even if you are creating SPAs with jQuery Mobile or Bootstrap without relying on data presentation capabilities of Touch UI. Reports can be defined on the server and invoked with minimal  JavaScript code via custom user interface.

Enabling reports for an app with Touch UI.

Generating Application

Continue pressing Next and you will reach a page with a summary of data controllers that will be created in your project. The summary will be blank if you are creating a project with a custom data provider.

Summary of data controllers that will be created in Touch UI app by Code On Time application generator.

Click Generate button and wait for the  web browser window to open.

Starting project code generation in Code On Time.

Application generator will create the source code of your project, compile it, launch IIS Express, and start the web browser with the home page address of your app loaded.

Exploring App with Touch UI

Touch UI application is a collection of pages (single page apps) that provide access to content or data. A unified navigation system allows switching between single page apps. The default application will have a single SPA called home with several virtual pages.

The default home page of a single page app created with Code On Time.

Click on Site Map or Instructions to transition to the corresponding virtual page of the SPA. The default transition on Android devices is “fade”. Other mobile devices and desktop computers will use “slide” transition animation.

Proceed to Instructions and click or touch Login button. Enter admin/admin123% as user identity and hit Enter key.

Logging into a Touch UI app created with Code On Time.

SPA Home will reload and three  options will be displayed in the sitemap.

Home SPA of a user with a known identity in a Touch UI app.

Option Membership allows administrators to access user and role manager built into the app.

Buil-in user and role manager in app with Touch UI.

If you have an app created with Data Controller and Pages then the navigation menu will have numerous SPA options.

A navigation system with single page apps automatically created by Code On Time applicaiton generator.

Application SPAs will provide access to data stored in database tables and views. This particular single page app allows managing employees stored in the sample database in Employees table.

A single page app allows managing employees in the application with Touch UI created with Code On Time.

Changing App Settings

Click or touch Menu button on the left side of the application toolbar. Select Settings option in the menu and change the application theme to Dark.

Changing settings of application with Touch UI.

This is how the Membership Manager will look in Dark theme. There are 37 themes to choose from.

An alternative Dark theme activated in an app with Touch UI.

Touch or click Menu button again and select Logout in the slide-out drawer panel. The current SPA will reload.

Logging out of the app with Touch UI.

The original application theme will be displayed. You are now an anonymous user and the default theme will be activated.

If the last SPA has required authorization than that application page will not be loaded. Instead user will be transitioned to the home SPA accessible to anonymous users and asked to log in.

Home SPA will request identification if the user just has logged out of the SPA that required authorizaton in an application with Touch UI.

Many application settings and features are user-configurable and stored in the local database of your browser.

Configuring Default Settings of Touch UI

You can specify default settings of Touch UI for your project such as global display density or label alignments in data-enabled SPAs.

For example, if you notice that transition animations between virtual pages are not smooth enough on the hardware of your end users than consider changing default settings for transitions. Select your project on the start page of the app generator and choose Features in the project settings.

Change features of the app with Touch UI in Code On Time.

Select Touch UI section and set Transitions to None. This will disable transitions between virtual pages of SPAs by default.

Specifying default configuration settings for the Touch UI application.

Application end users can still choose their preference for transitions on their own.

Developers can remove various settings from the user interface with a few lines of JavaScript.

Friday, January 23, 2015PrintSubscribe
Responsive Grids, Lists, and Cards

A challenge of figuring the best presentation style for your data on a variety of devices is non-existent in apps created with Code On Time.  Data views always provide at least three responsive view styles to end users. Application automatically elects the best presentation style if developers do not provide a default option. Mobile devices will present data as responsive lists while desktop devices will switch to responsive grids.  If “image” or multi-line text fields are detected, then desktop presentation will be switched to “responsive list” instead.

Responsive List

The screen shot demonstrates a responsive list in action. Every data field is visible. The data fields and their content overflow to the next line as needed. Multi-line text fields start a new paragraph in the list item.

Responsive list in a Touch UI application created with Code On Time.

This presentation style is perfect when large amounts of information needs to be displayed.

A wider screen will fit more items, since data fields are redistributed along the entire available width.

Responsive list with a sidebar in a Touch UI application created with Code On Time.

Responsive Cards

An alternative responsive compact presentation of list items is called “Cards”. Only a subset of data fields is included in a card by default. Fields that do not fit will become invisible. The content of a field does not overflow to the next line.

Responsive Cards view in a Touch UI application created with Code On Time. 

List items are “cards” of the same height. Wider screen will break the flow of cards into two or three columns if possible.

This presentation style maximizes the amount of information available to the user without scrolling.

Multi-column cards in  a Touch UI applicaiton created with Code On Time.

Responsive Grid

The spreadsheet style presentation of data is convenient when field values require comparison. Responsive grid displays field values aligned horizontally in each row. Better yet, the grid will dynamically measure the available width, relative width of individual fields, and their importance. Then it will hide the “less important” fields to provide the best presentation possible given the width of the device.

Responsive grid view in a Touch UI application created with Code On Time.

Wider screen will reveal more data columns.

Responsive grid view with a sidebar in a Touch UI application created with Code On Time.

Developers can control how individuals data fields are displayed in each view style through tags using Project Designer.

Changing tags of data fields in Project Explorer of Code On Time app generator.

Application users switch between view styles either by choosing the desired option on the sidebar or through the context menu options. Sidebar may not be available for some screen orientations and sizes.

Context menu is available on all devices. User activates context menu by touching or clicking on the context menu button. Next user selects the very first option in panel that shows the name of the current view.

Activating context menu in Touch UI app created with Code On Time.   Activating view options in Touch UI app created with Code On Time.

Available presentation styles will be displayed. User touches or clicks on the options and the view style will change after the panel has closed.

Choosing desired view style in Touch UI app created with Code On Time.   Responsive list view style in a Touch UI app created with Code On Time.

Developers can tag the data view on a page to display a specific view style by default using Project Designer.

Changing tags of data view on a page in Project Explorer of Code On Time app generator.