By Tim Dexter on Aug 22, 2008
More on using shapes in your RTF templates and outputs. I think I have mentioned before that the shape support is very cool but finding real world applications for them is a little tougher. Im pleased to see a few more folks using them in their outputs. they are extremely flexible and if your users can imagine a visualization they want then shapes can go so much further than any charting package.
If you want to check out the shape support and dont want to pore through the doc, check out Jen's latest flash demo on the demo catalog - second from the right.
Just recently this has gotten a little out of hand, in a nice way of course. I have been exchanging emails with Amit from Persistent Systems in India. I provided some initial help with some shape visualizations and Amit implemented a very nice interface for a competency report.
Very cool cylinders, if you want to see the shape set up in the template, get the zip here. There was also another visualization I had not seen.
Im not entirely sure how it ought to be read but I guess Amit's users know. Those were achieved using some funky single celled table manipulations.
I think once Amit's users got to see the current outputs their brains started whirring as users brains do. They then came up with the following for Amit to have a go at implementing.
Wow! those combs, triangles and slugs look very cool, check out the rounded rectangles - no way any generic charting package can do those. Can shapes step is? Of course it can - you can get the RTF here.
For the comb, its a case of building it using line shapes and then grouping it. Its not going to be manipulated but the triangles and slugs are - its just a case of adding them into the template and then data enabling them.
The rounded rectangles were a little easier - Im assuming that you only need a single black rectangle per grid. I just created the 9 based white rectangles in the template, added the black one and then added the x,y movement manipulation to move it over the appropriate white rectangle. I have to admit shapes can get fiddly. If you start grouping them and want to add/edit the code to move them either individually or as a group it can get frustrating but your users are going to love you for it. Whats going to look better and be easier to read - the samples above or a flat table full of numbers? We're humans, we like pretty pictures and they can speak a thousand words of course.