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Deep Data: Locations, Maps, and Charts

I’ve always found it strange that databases are so unimaginative when it comes to data types: text, numbers, dates, times, and not much more — basically the same low-level options that have been around for decades. At the same time, people working with data think in much richer terms: an event happens from 2 to 4 next thursday, a company is based in Vancouver, BC, and so on.

Since the beginning, we’ve wanted Dabble users to be able to work with data at the same level they think about it, for the data to be deep data. We’ve already started down this path with our approach to date/time intervals and our basic support for URLs and email addresses.

Our latest step in this direction is the addition of first-class Location types.

Keeping with Dabble’s generally forgiving nature when it comes to data and formatting, all this ends up meaning is that you can enter address/location information as a blob of text, and if you’ve told Dabble that the field is of type Location, it will attempt to interpret the text as a location. Here Dabble lets you know it understands the address by adding a little UK flag:

Location flag

Of course, the whole point of deep data is that it allows you to get more out of the raw data you’ve already been managing. The first new feature we’re supporting for our Location data types is the ability to browse your data in our new Map views. Whenever you have a Location column in a table view, you will have the option to see the same data in a heatmap. For example, total customers in a given continent:

Location map

While we’ve had support for numeric, money and date/time types in Dabble for a long time, we haven’t really fulfilled our deep data potential when it comes to presenting the data in useful ways. In fact, the other new feature announcement today is long overdue (and some people haven’t waited around for us). Yep, you got it, charts!

Those of you who’ve followed Dabble closely enough can probably guess at our general approach to charts: simple, very little configuration UI, and intelligent guesses at possible charts for a given table view. For example, if you have sales grouped by date in a table, Dabble offers you a line chart with the same information:

Line chart with dates

If you have a doubly-grouped table, Dabble suggests a grouped bar chart:

Grouped bar chart

As always with Dabble, it’s best to see it in action: Avi has created a new screencast to highlight these new features. Check it out!

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