Here’s a summary of some of the new things in the latest version of Xcelsius 2008. I’ve borrowed liberally from the official documentation that you can download, along with the program, here.
Sparkline chart components. The new Sparkline chart is based on the Sparkline chart created by Edward Tufte and provides a method for displaying a one-dimensional range of numeric data in a way that is dense, takes up a small space, and can be quickly interpreted. It is useful for creating small, data-intense graphs to show trends and variations associated with a specific measurement, such as stock market activity.
Designers can set key data points (start value, end value, low value, and high value) that will be displayed as markers on the Sparkline chart. They can also define a normal range that will be displayed as a colored background behind the chart.
Bullet chart components. Two new charts Horizontal Bullet Chart and Vertical Bullet Chart components are available, similar to those designed by Stephen Few.
The Bullet Chart components have a single primary measure (for example, current year-to-date revenue) that is displayed as a vertical or horizontal bar.A marker indicates a target or performance goal and changing color hues behind the bar indicate qualitative ranges of performance (for example: poor, satisfactory, and good).
Designers can configure the Bullet Chart to display multiple series and can configure the scale, axis, and ticks separately for each series. For example, the chart can be configured to show revenue in thousands of dollars, profit in dollars, and order size as a count.
Scorecard Selector component. A new selector component is available that allows you to display visual alerts in a grid. At runtime, users can click column headings to sort the grid on the column’s data.
The new Scorecard selector component is similar to the List View selector component, but includes options to enable and configure alerts in columns and to add headers that allow users to sort the columns at runtime. Alert levels can be displayed with cell background colors, font colors, or alert icons with or without values.
Canvas container component. A new container component is available for creating an invisible container. The new Canvas container component is similar to the Panel container component, but it does not have any art (for example, background, borders, heading bar, and so on.)
In design mode, the container is visible to allow the designer to work with the component, but when the model runs, the container is invisible so components in the container appear to be free floating. If the components in the Canvas container extend beyond the container borders, scrollbars are added.
Push Button component. A new selector component allows users to restore Single Value components to their default values without resetting the values for the entire model.
The new Push Button component can be configured to set the values of one or multiple cells to specific values when the button is pushed. The values change only when the user pushes the button, so users have more control over when the data is copied to the destination cells.
SWF Loader component. A new web connectivity component is available for loading SWF files at run-time. The SWF Loader component is similar to the Slide Show component, but it is simpler and has better memory management. The new SWF Loader enables you to load both Xcelsius and non-Xcelsius SWF files at run-time. Unlike the Slide Show component, it does not provide transition effects when moving from one file to another and it does not allow you to block user interaction.
It does have some advanced options that I believe offer the opportunity to load more sophisticated SWF files and have them interact with the model.
Chart data labels. A new option is available to overlay data labels on or around chart markers. The Properties panel for chart components now includes a Data Labels option on the Appearance > Text tab. When selected, data labels are visible for the chart markers. If designers don’t want labels to display for some series, they can expand the Data Labels list and deselect the series.
Designers can specify the values used for the labels, the label position, and, if applicable, add leader lines. The options available for configuring the labels depends on the type of chart.
Chart range slider. For many chart components, you can now add a range slider to allow users to focus on a particular data set rather than viewing the entire chart at once. When the Enable Range Slider option is selected on the chart properties panel, on the Behavior > Common tab, designers can specify the beginning and end range for the slider and set the range labels.
At runtime, the range slider appears below or to the left (for bar charts) of the chart and allows users to select the data range that is shown in the chart. Users can change the size of the range by adjusting control handles on either side of the range slider.
The Enable Range Slider option is available for the following charts:
- Stacked bar
- Stacked column
- Stacked Area
Chart sorting. A new Enable Sorting option on the chart properties panels (Behavior > Common) allows designers to sort the chart data by data values or category labels and for a single series or multiple series. (see graphic in previous section)
When designers select the Enable Sorting option on the chart “Properties” panel, they can choose to sort the chart by data or by category labels. If the chart contains multiple series of data and sort by data is selected, the designer can also specify which series the data will sort on.
The Enable Sorting option is available for the following charts:
- Stacked column
- Stacked bar
- Stacked area
- Filled radar
Show/hide series at runtime. A new chart property, Enable Hide/Show Chart Series at Run-Time, is available when legends are enabled. When the property is selected, users can select which series are shown in the chart.
On the Appearance > Layout tab, when Enable Legend is selected, designers can select the Enable Hide/Show Chart Series at Run-Time option. If selected, at run-time, users can deselect checkboxes or click the series name in the legend to remove the series from the chart display.
The Enable Hide/Show Chart Series at Run-Time option is available for the following charts:
- Stacked column
- Stacked bar
- Stacked area
- Filled radar
- Tree Map
Dynamically set color. You can now bind color values to cells in the spreadsheet to dynamically control colors of component elements. For all component elements, the “Color” selector dialog box includes a new Bind to a Color option. This option allows you to select a cell in the spreadsheet as the color value. The color for that element will reflect the value in the selected cell. The cell could then be linked to another component or external data source to dynamically set the color value at run-time. When a color is bound to the spreadsheet, the Color Selector icon on the Color tab is replaced by a new Bind icon.
The following color formats are supported:
- Hexadecimal (For example, FFFFFF, #FFFFFF, 0xFFFFFF (not case sensitive))
- RGB (For example, (255,255,255))
- VGA color names (For example, aqua, blue, black, fuchsia, and so on (not case sensitive))
- Decimal color equivalent (For example, FF00FF becomes 16711935)
If the specified cell is blank or contains an invalid value, the element color is set to black.
Load default scenario. The Local Scenario button component now allows users to create and load a default scenario. The new default scenario option allows users to set the model to a specific state when the SWF loads. When designers include the Local Scenario button component in models, at runtime, users can click the button to define and save a scenario. They can then click the Set Default option to load that scenario by default. The next time the model is opened, it automatically loads the specified scenario.
Note: Default scenarios are valid only for the local scenarios on the computer where they are defined (that is, the local computer).
Gauges support multiple indicators. Designers can now configure gauges to display multiple indicators, as well as set the indicator type to be a needle, outside marker, or inside marker.
When designers bind a gauge to multiple spreadsheet cells, the gauge displays an indicator for each cell. The designer can then configure the indicator type, label, and label position for each indicator. Note: When a gauge has multiple indicators, it is an output component only. The Enable Interaction option is not available on Behavior > Common tab, and users cannot manipulate the gauge values at runtime.
Forecasting. The Trend Analyzer component can now be configured to forecast data for a specific time period based on the trend found in existing data. Designers can bind the Trend Analyser component to a range that includes the historical data plus empty cells for the forecast data. At runtime, the Trend Analyzer inserts the trend data and forecast data into the specified cells.
Designers can also specify the number of forecast periods the Trend Analyzer will forecast. To set the number of forecast periods dynamically, designers can bind the Number of Forecast Periods box to a spreadsheet cell and, then bind a dial to the same cell. At runtime, users can manipulate the dial to set the number of forecast periods.
Selectors allow multiple insertions. Many selectors can now be configured to insert multiple chunks of data from different sources into multiple destinations at once.
On the selector “Properties” panel, in the General view, a new Data Insertion list box is available. By default, the list box contains one insertion behavior. Designers can click the Plus icon to add more insertion behaviors. The designer then selects each insertion behavior and specifies its Name, Insertion Type, Source Data, and Destination. At runtime, when users use the selector, the source data values for all the defined insertion behaviors are written to their specified destinations.,
The following selectors do not support multiple insertions: Play Selector, Toggle Button, Push Button, Icon, or Accordion Menu components.