May
12

What Is Possible With The Xcelsius 2008 SDK?

I often receive the question “I want to do xyz with a Flex custom component integration in Xcelsius 2008, is that possible?”. Nearly every time, my answer is yes – as long as you’re developing using the proper version of Flex, you can pretty much do anything you want with the following general guidelines in mind.

General component plausibility checklist:

  • You’re using the proper version of the Flex SDK, which currently happens to be 2.0.1 for Xcelsius 2008
  • You’re not trying to reference, modify, or inherit from Xcelsius objects in any way
  • You’re not trying to reference, modify or inherit any Xcelsius styling or themes
  • You’re familiar with Flex and Flash security and your component doesn’t violate security measures (must follow standard security considerations) that are in place in either one of those layers.
  • Always check with known issues and the latest SDK documentation

checklist2

If you follow the general rules above and the guidelines that the Xcelsius SDK has set forth, you should be clear for takeoff and can start exploring options, like the following examples.

Example custom component development cases

If you’re in a bit of a rut, or are having some trouble imagining what you can do with the SDK, here are some concrete examples of components that could be developed to function in your Xcelsius 2008 dashboard. These are simple suggestions, but real-world scenarios that convey the tip-of-the-iceberg possibilities:

  • Heatmaps
    • Geographical heatmaps to show performance by region
    • Heatmap tile implementation to display color-coded alerts, custom data tips, nested bullet charts and drill-down functionality
    • Custom shaped heatmaps that represent real world objects such as a baseball stadium or event arena to show seating distribution for various events

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  • Custom Charts
    • Variable column chart column widths driven by underlying data values to better illustrate measure or data point weight in a series.
    • Dotted, dashed, or annotated line chart series i.e. Google Analytics
    • Custom line, column, bar or other visualization series mouse-over tooltips that provide detailed information about the specific data point you’re analyzing. Check out this link (http://news.yahoo.com/elections/dashboard) for a great example of custom data-tip information as you mouse over a given state – this is possible in the SDK.
    • Custom fills, series types, rounded columns and bars, and gradient multi-stage alerts that exceed the capabilities available in Xcelsius.

customchart2

  • Custom chart types
    • Bar + Line
    • Column + Line + Area + HLOC, etc (multiple series types in one chart or any variation/combination thereof)
  • Custom Gauges and Dials
  • Custom application integrations
    • Salesforce
    • Google Analytics
    • Home-grown data warehouses or CRM’s

    integration

  • Custom interactivity
    • Sliders for chart time series
    • Tree view navigation with alerting capabilities
    • Custom navigation, such as drop-down checkbox lists or hierarchical datagrids
  • Custom skinning and themes
    • Skin components to match up with your brand
  • What-if scenario and data management tools

Fundamental SDK Value

The SDK exposes an integration point that in short provides extreme flexibility and value by enabling you to develop custom Flex components (data connections, custom charts, custom maps, custom navigators, custom application integrations, etc) that can read and write to individual cells or to a range of cells in your Xcelsius 2008 Excel model and behave like native Xcelsius components (can be dragged onto the canvas and controlled via property sheets, etc). So anything that you can dream of to help take your dashboard to the next level can be developed to consume and produce data for the Xcelsius Excel model as desired. Or, your component doesn’t even need to communicate with the model – it can simply add design value like the Centigon Solutions Background Builder component (although it does interact with the Excel model in a very limited capacity, the primary deliverable is design enhancement).

With this fundamental and powerful functionality, you can really get creative and extend your Xcelsius 2008 dashboard to meet virtually any requirements that come along. Gone are the days of wishing for everything but the kitchen sink and in are the days of making it happen with the power of the Xcelsius 2008 SDK. And with the more “open source” community feeling with Flex, examples abound to help you get started.

Evan DeLodder is a Senior Software Engineer at Centigon Solutions focused on the development and application of cutting edge Rich Internet Application technologies in the Business Intelligence space. To learn more about him, please visit our new FleXcelsius page.

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6 Responses to “What Is Possible With The Xcelsius 2008 SDK?”

  1. Kalyan Verma says:

    Evan,
    Great Post!

    Action Script or MXML?
    What is the best practice, in terms of performance and ease of development?

    Regards

  2. Thanks, Kalyan – Much appreciated.

    Whenever creating base component classes in Flex, I’ve always preferred the ActionScript approach. However, if your ultimate Xcelsius component (the actual component that you specify in the packager) has a UI with multiple controls and/or a need for multiple container layouts, styling and positioning, MXML is the route to go for readability, productivity and ease of use. It’s far easier to digest and maintain a layout in MXML/Designer, which keeps you from having to mentally reconcile how the layout happens in pure AS.

    As for performance, either way should provide similar results and most differences would likely be negligible. Either way, and in MXML especially (since it’s so easy to drag, drop and nest in the designer), Flex container/layout best practices (avoid unnecessary nesting of containers, etc) should be followed in order to optimize your component’s performance.

    Regards,
    Evan

  3. Tim says:

    Nice article. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the web regarding XCelcius/Flex integration. You do a nice job of outlining the possibilities.

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