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Dabble Clip #2: Column Menus

Robert Scoble linked recently to a post by the Excel 12 team on context menus in pivot tables. Seeing sorting, grouping and filtering options all lined up in a menu like that reminded me that it was time to post some more shots of the Dabble UI. I’ll explain what’s going on below.

It’s a long standing convention that you can sort a table of data by clicking on the column header. We wanted to preserve that convention, but extend it to support some of the more interesting things that Dabble can do with your data. So when you click on a column header in a Dabble view, you get a whole menu of things to do.

In the clip, I go through a series of manipulations of a view of data using the column menus (in this case, the data is a list of hours of work done on a set of projects). Right at the top of the menu are the sort options, and that’s the first thing you see me use, changing the date field to sort the most recent items to the top. We hate having to think about whether something’s “ascending” or “descending”, so we try to show choices relevant to the type of the field: “2000-1900″ for dates, for example.

The next thing I want to do is to group by employee. Dabble’s grouping options also vary by the type of field. In this case, you can either have a separate group for each employee, or group employees with the same first initial together. For numeric data, you can choose to group by 10s, 100s, 1000s, and so on. You can also nest as many groups as you want - for this view, we could have it grouped by project and then by employee, or by employee and then by month, for example.

Having grouped the data, I want to total up the hours for each employee. Because hours is a numeric field, that’s an additional item on its column menu - so far we support sum, average, and count as aggregation functions, and produce subtotals for each group as well as the grand total at the bottom. Dabble’s rich set of types comes into play here: for example, if you total up a duration column, you’ll get an answer in days and hours, and if you total up amounts of money it will keep a separate tally for each currency.

Finally, I’d like to filter this view to only see the totals for one project. Dabble has lots of ways of adding filters, but the Add Filter item on the column menu is a convenient one to use here. Type in the name of the project I want (or pick it from a popup), and we’re done.

Well, almost done. You might notice a couple of other items on those menus that I didn’t explore in this clip. They’re very interesting, and a little more unique to Dabble than the others - but that’s for another post.

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