Silverlight 4 PivotViewer…I like it…A lot…

2 07 2010

There aren’t many controls that I see that make me sit up and think “wow”, however this really is one of those. For a while now I have been coming up with new ways in which to allow users of our workFile ECM product to access massive amounts of data visually, allowing the user to search through them in a graphical way that is both intuitive, but more importantly in a fashion that is usable rather than just looks pretty. We have had quite a lot of success with this, however in certain areas our solution just isn’t perfect, and for these areas we revert to more traditional methods of understanding / navigating data. The main issue is usually the potential amount of data the user may have to look through…

Let’s have an example. A while back I was asked to consult for a company that were looking at a solution that needed to look through vast amounts of pictures and graphics. The vendor had a very visual solution; it looked great and performed ok, for small sets of data. It involved using nicely animated thumbnails of data, which the user could then navigate, very similar to the standard tree view with details pane. However, the problem arises when your node could contain hundreds of thousands of images (which the customer did have). While the demo looked great and all the representatives from the client thought it would do the job perfectly I had to speak up and ask just how it would cope with say 500,000 images in a single node….. The vendor looked a little shocked and said “you would navigate in the same way or break the node down into several other nodes”…The client looked fine, however again I had to point out that scrolling up and down searching for a single image in 500,000 or popping into every sub node to find my image would take a hell of a long time. It was at this point that the vendor and the client both realised that this solution wasn’t going to work for them….Now this may seem obvious, but the issue with cracking graphical interfaces in this fashion is that, while they work great on smallish subsets of data, they really do fall down to massive vast amounts of information (you can’t beat a good text based search can you…..or can you…)

This morning I decided to finally look at the PivotViewer with Silverlight 4, and, I was very impressed. I have to say I like it a lot…All of a sudden I have a tool that can give me just what I have been looking for (without anyone here having to spend a long time coding).

What is PivotViewer

Basically it is a Silverlight 4 based control that allows you to graphically represent collections of data. You can filter and sort this data quickly and move between different views of your collection allowing users to quickly identify just what they are looking for, or perhaps trends in data for example…

What could we use it for?

Well there are many things it could be used for. A couple quickly spring to mind. Imagine a way of quickly and accurately reviewing your quarterly sales in a graphical format. Then imagine being able to break that data down (using the same graphical format) into each month, then week, then day. Or perhaps you want to compare cars based on fuel economy, price, and number of seats. As a user, you can filter and re-filter all this information graphically so you can quickly and intuitively find what you are looking for…

There are many uses for this particular tool, and it could indeed lead to RIAs that deliver a completely new way of providing us with data and even navigation…

Interested?

Well if you are interested, have a look at http://www.silverlight.net/learn/pivotviewer/

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