Dashboards and Data Viz | iDashboards Products

Sean Warren here, blogging live from the #iDashboards16 Conference in Las Vegas.  Our engineers are dropping some knowledge and sharing iDashboards Tips, Tricks & Cheats You Need to Know!

This is always one of our most-attended sessions and our presenters, all product experts, didn’t disappoint.

  • Lincoln Brill – President at Growth4Ever builds dashboards for clients to prove profitability of project management activities.
  • Ben Clark is a Pre-Sales Engineer at iDashboards and helps new users develop workarounds for their everyday challenges.
  • Ken Rose is a Product Marketing Leader and a product expert, developing much of our training content and documentation.


Lincoln started us out going through many of the available Macros in iDashboards.


Instead of manually typing in the year into a filter or title, use a ${curryear} macro, so the dashboards are always up to date without manual changes once the year changes. This also works with Month or Dates using those built-in macros. You can also use macros in initial values for input parameters – to default a dashboard or chart to a specific date range, allowing the user to expand the date range if desired. You can play with macros by adding /macrotest.jsp to the end of your normal iDashboards URL – for example www.mycompany.idashboards.com/idashboards/macrotest.jsp

“If people like coming to the dashboard, they’re more likely to use it.  Keep it fun and interactive.” Ben said to start off his quick barrage of tips.

Read next: Get Engaged – Practical Tips for Increasing Dashboard User Adoption

If people like coming to the dashboard, they’re more likely to use it. Keep it fun and interactive. Click To Tweet


If you have a lot of images you need to use, you can reference images available online, without uploading to the content folder but using a full URL anywhere images are available. ViFrame charts allow us to tell a story with the data as well, by mixing static text with dynamic data. He ended the segment by showing how to use Treemap Charts to create navigation buttons to open (drilldown to) charts and dashboards. This gives the feel of traditional website navigation.

Lincoln regained the reigns of the presentation to show some simple and more advanced uses for Expressions with the chart Axis List.


He uses expressions quite often to provide analytics to his clients. A common issue and where many users don’t understand they may be reporting incorrect information is when aggregating percentages. If your data has percentages, you cannot simply average those – the number is not accurate. You can use Expressions to calculate the percentage within the chart after all aggregation is completed using the standard Functions (Sum, Avg, etc.). Lincoln then showed some more advanced expressions to calculate the month number using the month string values, for sorting purposes. Expressions in iDashboards are written in javascript and a great resource to learn from is www.w3schools.com/js. Lincoln ended this segment by showing how you can use the standard filtering within the Chart Designer to combine AND and OR conditions into the WHERE clause.  A great tip here is to use the Chart Data Diagnostics as you’re creating this filtering.

Ben continued the tag team of tips and tricks by showing how he’s used browser plugins like ColorZilla to brand dashboards or use color palettes others have created to give the dashboard a consistent look and feel. There are a few different license types, and many users think the only way to embed a dashboard somewhere is while using the Public Access License. While that is the most common use-case (giving dashboards to the masses), you can still embed dashboard into websites, portals, and even PowerPoint presentations – you just may be met with the login screen. In addition to embedding dashboard into websites, Ben shared the ability to embed websites into iDashboards. This is more of a cheat by using the HTML5 viewing mode and an iframe within the HTML panel. There are a few great use cases for this cheat, including having a front end web form that allows for data entry, then updating the dashboard in real time!  

You can use Dynamic Picklists to avoid manually updating static lists as data is updated Click To Tweet

Finally, Lincoln ended the discussion with tips on using the ViFrame chart type or HTML Panels to provide dashboard instructions to end users. This is extremely helpful when users are just starting out with the dashboards or may be transitioning from a traditional reporting model. He also pointed out that since people read left to right, top to bottom, you want to match the flow of the dashboard and navigation showing the most important information in the top left. You can use Dynamic Picklists to avoid manually updating static lists as data is updated, similar to the tip earlier in filtering. He also provided an awesome bonus cheat for getting more than 1,000 rows to display on a single chart by using a Pivot, which allows up to 3,000 rows.

Stay tuned for even more live blogs with great tips and tricks by following #iDashboards16.

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Sean Warren Program Manager for Implementation and Solutions Consulting @iDashboards

Sean has helped hundreds of clients transform their rows and columns into beautiful dashboards and is currently focused on client on-boarding, consulting, and retention. He has a passion for non-profit success with experience in QuickBooks, Microsoft SQL Server, and various data-prep tools. When he's not building dashboards, you'll find him on a mountain bike with his son (Arthur) or vacuuming fur from 2 Siberian Huskies (Nymeria and Sven).


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