Using Charts to Effectively Communicate Data

Altova first added support for charts and reporting the Altova MissionKit with the launch of Version 2011 last September. The v2011 reporting functionality includes options for line charts, 2D and 3D bar charts, 2D and 3D pie charts, round gauge and bar gauge charts. Here are a few examples: Charts created with the Altova MissionKit v2011

Advanced chart features in v2011r2

Version 2011 Release 2 of the Altova MissionKit, introduced on February 16, adds an exciting group of enhancements to the chart and reporting features in XMLSpy, StyleVision, and DatabaseSpy. The chart design options and user interface work the same way in all three applications, so MissionKit users can work intuitively and productively as they move from processing XML data in XMLSpy, to preparing charts for a business intelligence report with StyleVision, and even when they create graphical displays directly from SQL query results in DatabaseSpy. The wide range of new customizable charting features introduced in version 2011 release 2 includes:

  • Stacked Bar charts
  • Area charts
  • Stacked Area charts
  • Candlestick charts
  • Chart overlays
  • Background images and color gradients
  • Ability to change position of axis labels
  • And more!

Now you can create attractive and informative charts to represent a wide variety of data sets without exporting data to a dedicated charting application. Charts created using the Altova MissionKit are not limited to any specific presentation technology – for instance you can use StyleVision to include charts in HTML, Microsoft Word, RTF, or PDF documents, or you can save charts created in DatabaseSpy in a variety of image formats at the custom resolution you specify. In this post we will show some examples of the new charts and features available in all three MissionKit reporting and charting applications – XMLSpy, StyleVision, and DatabaseSpy.

Stacked bar charts

Stacked bar charts are a variation on bar chart presentation and are especially useful when multiple ranges of data need to be illustrated. Stacked bar charts are also useful to more clearly illustrate data in a smaller area. The image below shows a stacked bar chart to illustrate the performance of a sales team by region over two years Stacked bar chart Note that the combined height of each stack in the Stacked Bar Chart represents the total sales over the two-year period for each Territory, since the sales for Last Year are added above the Year To Date numbers. Stacked bar charts complement regular bar charts and 3-D bar charts to offer users the greatest flexibility in illustrating SQL query results. If the user prefers horizontal bars, a checkbox labeled Draw X and Y exchanged in the Change Appearance tab selects that orientation. Chart orientation option Horiztonal stacked bar chart This orientation option is also available for other 2-D bar charts, line charts, area charts, and candlestick charts.

Area charts

Area charts are similar to line charts, with shading applied to make a more graphically appealing display. The area chart below shows a record of temperature and humidity changes by hour over the course of one day. Creative application of color can emphasize the point! Area chart To successfully build an area chart, the analyst must consider the values in each data category. As the area chart is constructed, each category forms an opaque layer on top of the layers for data retrieved previously. In the case illustrated above, Temperature was always a larger number than Humidity, so a SQL query was constructed in DatabaseSpy to retrieve the Temperature value before Humidity to prevent Temperature from acting like a curtain to hide the Humidity data. However, if the data columns appear in a sequence with values in increasing order, the last layer would overlap and hide all the preceding layers. In that case, the chart tab heading titled Select Data lets the user add and delete columns from the results to re-sequence the data correctly. The Select Data column also lets the user edit the names assigned to each column on the X-axis label. Select Data dialog As alternative solution, the Transparency option in the Change Appearance tab lets the user adjust color levels to allow hidden layers to show through.

Transparency dialog

Stacked area charts

As implied by their name, Stacked Area charts layer the columns of a data set to illustrate the overall sum of a data series. Stacked Area charts also eliminate the potential overlapping data problem that can occur with regular area charts. The chart below shows a table of air passenger revenue miles traveled by month, with individual regions for domestic and international travel. Stacked area chart The Stacked Area chart creates a graphical representation of the total of Domestic and International miles, even though the total miles value was not part of the provided data. This is apparent at the top of the January entry, where the International region intersects the Y axis just below 600 (the original data showed 392 million Domestic miles and 181 million International miles, for a total of 573). A strategic data analyst will always consider the nature of the data to be reported when choosing any particular chart type. For instance in the weather example we used above, adding temperature and humidity values in a stacked bar chart would not be logical!

Candlestick charts

Candlestick charts were originally developed by a wealthy Japanese businessman who began trading at the local rice exchange around the year 1750. He kept records of the local market psychology, learning to boost his profits by carefully monitoring prices and not rushing into trades. Today, charts are used to represent financial data such as stock prices over a period of time. Every day the market is open, each stock has four relevant data points that can be rendered in a candlestick chart: the price at market opening, the price when the market closed, the high price during the day, and the low price during the day. Investors and financial analysts like to view these indicators to gauge the stock’s performance over a period of time. In the candlestick chart below, each solid bar represents the range between the opening and closing price and the thin vertical line through each bar shows the extent of the high and low prices for the day. Candlestick chart In this version of the chart, following common convention, the color of each bar signals whether the stock was up or down for the day. If the bar is green, the stock was up for the day– it opened at the price indicated by the bottom of the bar and closed at the price indicated by the top. If the stock was down for the day, the bar is red and the symbolism is reversed – the stock opened at the price indicated at the top of the bar and closed at the price shown by the bottom. Numerous options are available to set line and fill colors, the Y-axis range and values, and more. Because they were intended to be printed in black and white, the original candlestick charts used empty bars to indicate the price increased and solid bars to indicate price decreases. The Altova MissionKit offers this option: Candlestick chart in black and white Another candlestick chart variation omits the opening price and simply illustrates the range by a vertical line and the closing price by a horizontal line. This option is automatically supported when a data set only includes the high, low, and closing prices. Candlestick chart without opening price

Chart overlays

The Overlays feature lets you combine multiple charts in a single image. Each overlay chart has unique settings and can even be generated from a separate data file. The image below shows a candlestick chart of a stock’s daily prices with the daily sales volume in a bar chart overlay. Candlestick chart with bar chart overlay

Support for background images & color gradients

The ability to specify background color gradients and background images gives you even more flexibility for creating customized, eye-catching charts. Overlaying one chart on another lets you visualize multiple data sets with different Y-axes and types. Area chart with a background image The Change Appearance dialog lets users select a background image, as in the Winter Games chart above, or apply a background color gradient, as in the Summer 2010 chart below. Change Appearance dialog Bar chart with a line chart overlay and background color gradient If you’d like to see for yourself how easy it is to use Altova tools to create attractive charts from XML and database data, download a free trial of the Altova MissionKit.

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Release 2 of Altova Software Version 2011

clip_image001We’re pleased to announce the availability of Release 2 of Altova’s 2011 product line, which adds numerous new features to our entire MissionKit tool suite, as well as all standalone products. Even though it’s been just five short months since Version 2011 was announced, Release 2 packs a formidable punch, delivering innovative new features to meet customer requests and provide the unique, advanced functionality you’ve come to expect in the award winning MissionKit. Below are a few details on Release 2 of the Altova MissionKit 2011. For complete information and screenshots, click over to the Altova What’s New page. Subsequent posts over the next few weeks will cover each product and each feature in more detail. Advanced Chart and Report Creation The new functionality added in the MissionKit 2011 for creating charts and reports to analyze database, XML, XBRL, and other types of data received some important updates in Release 2, including new chart types, new formatting options, and more. New chart types add to the long list already available and include area charts, stacked area charts, candlestick charts, and more. You can add even more advanced formatting options to your charts now, using background images, color gradients, and variable axis label positions, as shown in the stacked area chart below. Area chart with background image R2 also adds support for chart overlays, which combine two disparate sets of data in one chart, as shown below. This example combines a candlestick chart of a stock’s daily prices with the daily sales volume indicted using a bar chart. XML candlestick chart with bar chart overlay These new charting and reporting tools add to those already available in XMLSpy, StyleVision, and DatabaseSpy, providing multiple opportunities to visualize, analyze, and report business data in innovative ways. Other v2011r2 Highlights R2 includes a lot more than just new chart and report creation features. We’ve got some great new tools for XML Schema editing in XMLSpy, as well as fully customizable documentation generation for XML Schema, WSDL, and XBRL via StyleVision integration. MapForce provides several enhancements for data mapping, such as enhanced ETL performance through data streaming, support for the IATA PADIS EDI format, and more. StyleVision now supports barcodes and other new tools for advanced report creation and publishing. BPMN support in UModel has been updated to the latest version, 2.0, and you can also now generate code from State Machine UML diagrams. And finally, just when you thought the DiffDog diff/merge tool couldn’t be any cooler, we’ve added full support for comparing and merging Microsoft® Word docs (yes, it’s actually easy to use). Diff/merge for Word documents   All these new features are expanded on here and will also be covered at length in upcoming blog posts. Make sure you are subscribed to the blog or our Facebook page, and do check back often for updates!

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Organizing BPMN Diagrams with Layers

Altova UModel® 2011 allows users to organize diagrams into subgroups and place each group in an individual layer. Layers can be selectively hidden or exposed, providing a convenient way to decompose a BPMN diagram that describes a complex business process involving multiple departments or enterprises. This layers feature can be used with all diagram types supported by UModel and can clarify any complicated diagram, such as a use case with multiple actors or sequence diagram. You could even add a comments layer to collect feedback on a model from other project stakeholders. Here is a view of the UModel Layers helper window with a Default layer and Comments layer. When you circulate the model for review, the Design layer could be locked to allow changes only to the Comments layer. Altova UModel Layer helper window It’s easy to assign elements to a layer by using the right-click context menu. Layer option in the UModel context menu Later on we could choose to hide the Comments layer from view, while retaining the layer contents in the diagram to preserve a historical record of the reviewer comments. Comments layer hidden from view in the UModel Layer helper window When diagramming a complex business process, we can create individual layers for each participant so each layer then provides a simplified view into a portion of the overall process. In this application, we would name layers by department or enterprise. Here is the UModel Layers helper window for an order processing diagram indicating the Sales Fulfillment layer is visible and the Finance layer is hidden: Layers for participants in a business process Here is the order processing diagram showing only the Sales Fulfillment layer: UModel BPMN diagram showing only Sales and Sales Fulfillment participants To depict the entire process, we can simply make all layers visible. Showing all participants in the UModel BPMN diagram Here is the same diagram with both layers visible: BPMN diagram in Altova UModel with all layers visible Find out for yourself how the UModel 2011 layers feature can enhance your BPMN diagrams – download a free trial today!

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