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The power of Flex in dashboarding (Xcelsius 2008)-Part 1

Most of us will be aware of creating very amazing dashboards using Xcelsius 2008. The majority of dashboards could be from the components or the controls that are built-in to Xcelsius 2008. Imagine, you need custom data flow and appearance for a control that is not built-in to Xcelsius 2008. Also, such a complex control could be a combination of different other components like check box, vertical boxes, and so on. Here we could use Flex to fulfill our requirements. With the help of Flex, you can create custom navigational elements, menu systems, charts,maps, custom data connections and new Excel functions. One should be familiar with the fundamental software component development principles and Flex 2.0.1 SDK, to fully leverage the power of Xcelsius 2008 SDK. With the infinite skinning and coloring capabilities available in the Flex SDK, it is certainly a better option to include new styling and theme skinning to suit your dashboard requirements.

How Flex 2.0.1 SDK interacts with Xcelsius 2008?

Xcelcius 2008 SDK allows Flash to make runtime bindings with Excel sheet cells. Xcelsius SDK is an optional installation. Once installed, an extra ‘{Installation Directory}\Business Objects\Xcelsius\SDK’ folder will be created in the installation directory. You need to copy the SWC file (xcelsiusframework) file present in the ‘{Installation Directory}\Business Objects\Xcelsius\SDK\bin’ folder to ‘{Base path}\Adobe\Flex Builder 3\sdks\2.0.1\lib’ folder (Flex installation path). The compiler version used for add-on development should be ‘Flex 2.0.1 Hotfix 3’ (Flex 2.0.1 SDK). This is mandatory for Xcelsius 2008 version. Currently, the Xcelsius 2008 SDK doesn’t allow developers to extend, customize or enhance the existing Xcelsius 2008 components.

Below is the diagram for showing the process flow in creating add-on packages for Xcelsius 2008.

Process flow


Component creation

Below are the steps, which should be used for the component creation (e.g.:check box).

1) Create an Action Script file. The Action Script file will have the component properties (e.g.: ’Selected’ option for check box) and style settings (e.g.:’color’ for check box). There should be separate getter and setter functions associated with each component property.

2) Use ‘[Bindable]’ tag to bound the properties to property sheet data.

3) Define listeners or events for the component to spreadsheet bindings.

4) Use ‘[CxInspectableList]‘ tag for hiding the unsupported properties of Adobe Flex in Xcelsius.

5) Create an MXML file, which will refer to the class defined in the Action Script file using namespace attribute.

6) Compile the MXML and Action Script files to get the component in SWF format.

Property sheet creation

    For each component in the Xcelsius, the property sheet will be appearing on the right side of the Xcelsius designer. Instead of creating a custom property sheet, you can use the default property sheet provided with Xcelsius SDK. The default property sheet is residing in the ‘{Installation directory}\Business Objects\Xcelsius\SDK\bin’ folder. Always, you will end up in creating custom property sheet because the default property sheet has no significance from your project perspective. Below are the steps, which should be considered for creating a property sheet.

1) Create an MXML file. The look and feel of the property sheet can be built using Flex Builder design view.

2) Use the class ‘PropertySheetExternalProxy’ to associate the property created in the property sheet with the component property.

3) Use the helper function ‘initiateBind’ to bind a property to the spreadsheet.

4) Use the helper function ‘continueBind’ to handle the user cell selection.

5) Add a helper function called ‘getPropertyBindDisplayName’ to get the display text in the cell range selected.

6) Mention the binding directions using ‘BindingDirection’ class.

7) Compile the MXML file to get the property sweet in SWF format.

Xcelsius Add-On Packager

  Use Add-On Packager tool to create a XLX file from SWF files. Once your custom control has been installed in the Xcelsius, you are free to use it, just as you would do for any other Xcelsius component. Also, try to save the configuration used for creating an XLX file as an Xcelsius Add-On Packager file or XLP. Add-On Packager file stamps XLX’s with unique ID’s. These are used by the Xcelsius Add-On Manager, to determine, whether the component is already present in the Xcelsius environment. Below is the sample snapshot for creating an XLX file using Xcelsius Add-On Manager.

Add-On Manager


     Now, I guess you have acquired fair knowledge about Flex SDK and its use in dashboarding. In my next blog, I will provide you with examples (including code snippet) of creating custom components and Excel formulas using Xcelsius SDK.

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