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Posts: 247
Reply with quote  #16 
From what I've seen, a lot of the people developing graphics & dashboards with Flash seem to use a lot of useless animations ... making bar charts and gauges 'grow' from zero-value up to their full value (and sometimes 'oscillating' around).  Although fun to watch, this is superfluous (at best), and can hinder the data perception (at worst).

And even when Flash's interactive capabilities are used to let end-users modify/subset/rescale/etc the graphs ... this could be a dangerous road to go down for a dashboard (imho).  Imho, a dashboard's graphics should stand on their own, and if you allow users to muck-with those graphics, then how do you guarantee that all the interactive things they might do, will still produce valid/meaningful graphics?  I'm all for allowing the user to "drilldown" to more detail ... but I don't think I want to give them the capability to alter my graphics willy-nilly (ie, I don't like to cross the boundary between a well thought-out dashboard, and interactive/paneled data exploration.)

That's just my personal opinion, of course! :)


Posts: 60
Reply with quote  #17 
Hi Everybody,

It's been almost 3 years since I asked the question, "What is the best dashboarding tool out there?" By "best" I mean easiest to implement combined with high quality graphics capabilities. And by "Dashboard" let's use Stephen's definition:

"A dashboard is a visual display of the most important information needed to achieve one or more objectives; consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance. "

Is the answer still Excel?

I have a sneaking suspicion that the latest version of Tableau will be mentioned here by more than a few people. I may be going against the grain a bit when I say this, but I think Tableau has a way to go as a dashboarding tool. Sure, it's great for interactive exploration of data and it's pretty darn easy to set up. It has an extensive library of great charts to choose from and now it even has Bullet Charts. But Tableau's shortcoming to me is how much space its graphs take up and how poor the axis control is when compared to Excel. When you look at densely packing relevant data on a page, which I think is key to monitoring the most important information, Tableau comes up short compared with the high-res tiny charts that Excel and Microcharts can generate. Here's an example of what I mean. Compare this (high-res Excel 2007) to this (one of the more data dense images on Tableau's site).

One other note on Tableau. Maybe it's a pet peeve of mine, but I just can't get over how they've labeled the X axis on the workout details with way too many points and they've also oriented the axis label vertically which makes it difficult to read. The Y axis on that same chart should have its labels should oriented horizontally, not vertically.

Full disclosure, after playing with Tableau's workout statistics example a bit, I do find it pretty awesome. I also noticed that the software seems to decide how to fit the data on the axis based on the data itself. Lots of data points and it'll squeeze the labels in vertically, sparse data and it'll put them horizontal. Is there a way to override this setting?

Please share your thoughts.

John C. Munoz


Posts: 247
Reply with quote  #18 
jmunoz - nice post! (and nice dashboard you've created there!)

To me, the most important thing in creating dashboards is having flexible software. 

As you mentioned, being able to control the "density" (or white space) is very important - I like being able to eliminate (or sometimes add) white space.  This allows me to group certain charts, or make certain charts be visually separate from others ... without drawing lines or visual boxes around them.

Another important thing is being able to create custom charts, or customize the charts that are provided (it's unlikely that any software could provide all the exact charts I want ... therefore making it customizable is the next best thing!)

And also, having complete control over the layout.  I don't want to be confined to simply "tiling" a bunch of graphs on a page -- I want complete control over where I put each chart on the page, and sometimes that involves overlapping/overlaying a chart (or piece of a chart) with another.

And deciding whether to rotate or un-rotate the y-axis label is also a "pet peeve" of mine! :)  I strongly prefer it in the horizontal/normal orientation, unless it is way too long to fit (in which case I'd probably shorten, or split, the text to make it fit horizontally).  Some software has the y-axis label rotated by defalt, and makes it difficult (or impossible) to un-rotate the y-axis label :\


Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #19 
Hi All,

Does anybody know about Bonavista System status? There is a message on the home page saying "Dear Customers, We regret to inform you that BonaVista Systems products are not available anymore and that further support will not be provided. We apologize for any inconvenience caused. Sincerely, BonaVista Systems GmbH Management"

I was wondering is somebody have more details about this (it is a bit unexpected and abrupt, including for customer who need support on the different Bonavista  tools they bought recently...) and if we know what will happen with the excellent Chart tamer add in.
All my best,



Posts: 853
Reply with quote  #20 
Hello Patrice,

I know the reason for BonaVista Systems abrupt departure. The founder and primary contributor, Andreas Lipphardt, who was also my friend, died on January 27th. I've known this for a few weeks now, but have been waiting for the issues facing the company to sort themselves out before announcing his death. Andreas was the heart and soul of BonaVista Systems. Apparently no one is in a position to take the reins of the company and German law makes it difficult for another company to acquire BonaVista Systems under the circumstances.

What Andreas and his colleagues managed to do at BonaVista Systems was incredible, especially considering the fact that it was never more than a team of three or four people at most. The products that they created, especially Microcharts, have been incredibly useful to organizations throughout the world. It is sad and frustrating that these products cannot be maintained, but I'm not aware of any way to make this happen.

Andreas put his brilliant mind and industrious spirit to work in ways that made the world a better place. I mourn the loss and plan to write a fitting tribute to him soon in my blog.

Stephen Few

Posts: 60
Reply with quote  #21 
What a shame. I had the pleasure of speaking with Andreas a few times over the last couple of years and was so impressed with his passion, knowledge, ingenuity, and incredible work ethic. To see what he accomplished with such a small and focused team was inspiring.

While I'm sure his ideas will live on, I sure hope his products find a way to survive too.

Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #22 
Hi Stephen,

I truly don't  know what to say except that it is a very sad news. I have been several time in touch with Andreas and appreciated his patience and dedication to his work. As you said, Microchart and Chart Tamer are two must-have tools for excel user's, i will now use them each time with a thought toward Andreas.

I m looking forward to read your blog and your "hommage" to his work. No doubt you will find better word than mine to highlight his contribution to efficient data visualization. For me he is the person who reconciliating me with graphs in excel. Hope his legacy will not be lost.


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