Qlik released Qlik Sense to the public this week. Just a desktop edition to start with, but there is plenty there to get you started. Sense is aimed well and truly at the end user self-service audience. So once you have your data loaded you should be able to dive straight in to building you application and ferreting through your data in no time.
First off you will need the new software. So head straight for the Qlik website HERE and download the new software. Don’t worry if you already have a previous version of QlikView installed as it is quite happy co-habiting. The install is quick and easy. Under the covers the software is actually a small web server and web application which gives you a few hints about what the full blown Qlik Sense Server is going to be like.
When you open Qlik Sense you are greeted by the ‘HUB’.
This is the equivalent of AccessPoint which is normally only part of the Server experience. Now the Hub is core to the desktop as well. From the hub you can see all you apps. NOTE: All your apps are held in a single folder on your desktop. You cannot configure this to point at a different folder. From the hub you can also start new apps, search for apps and go to the QlikCloud (coming soon). By now you should already be getting the impression that QlikSense is a very VERY different experience to QlikView. The user interface is clean and is designed to be ubiquitous across all platforms, so expect a tablet client soon. If you are used to the down-and-dirty of QlikView desktop, you might find this interface a little awkward to begin with, but stick with it.
I recommend you have a browse through of the demo apps. You can either dive straight in, or go to the ‘getting started’ help pages on Qlik’s website that include helpful webinars on the new navigation and filtering techniques. I just wanted to show you the Application Summary screen.
The summary screen is still a bit bare bones in this release, but it gives you all the elements.
The header bar includes:
- Navigation – This menu allows you to view the summary, the script editior and the data model, or go back to the hub.
- Menu – Quick Loader wizard and the about & help options.
The first panel shows the title and file details of the application
The second panel has three views controlled by the icons on the left hand side.
- Sheets – This lists the sheets in the application. The sheets are shown as their structure (similar to QlikView’s small device view). Click on a sheet to open that sheet
- Bookmarks – This lists all of the available bookmarks.
- Stories – This shows all the recorded stories (more on these later)
That’s enough show-and-tell on that. Have a play with the demo apps.
Building Your First App:
Being a developer, the first thing I wanted to do was dive in and build an app. Unsurprisingly clicking on ‘Create new app’ gets you started. You will be prompted for a name and then the app opens.
You can either use the wizard to grab data from a file (Excel, CSV, even QVD) or open the script view and script a load statement from scratch. The wizard is basically the same as the table-file wizard from QlikView. Anyone who is comfortable with tables in files should be right at home here. The script window is a reskinned vertion of QlikView’s scripting. The syntax is unchanged it is just the presentation that has be changed.
Once you have some data you will be presented with a default first sheet. Everything is now drag-and-drop tablet friendly goodness. The desktop works on a web 2.0 style intelligent grid. Anyone who builds Sharepoint pages will be right at home. Do be careful when you drop objects about the highlighting hint that Sense shows you. If you are over, or near, the edge of an existing object then Sense will split the frame in two and put the new object alongside the old object. This has caught me out a few times when dragging a field onto an object to be the dimension/measure. If you miss the middle of the object you end up with a shiny new list box. I have always like using the grid in QlikView to speed up sheet layout, Sense just takes this concept and runs with it. Layouts are now purely objects alongside one another on a grid. NOTE: This means that there is no layering in QlikSense and no fluffy things like optional visibility. QlikSense is about the data analysis plain and simple.
Qlik have built up a starting set of dashboard objects to use. For those used to QlikView as a designer, there are a few gaps, but the core objects are there and Sense is designed for end-users so the more convoluted objects (e.g. pivot tables) are not included. Again, Qlik are keeping it pllain and simple.
Have a play around with adding objects, adding fields to those objects and work through the object properties on the right hand side. You will see that a lot of the options you are used to in QlikView are cleverly streamlined in Sense.
One of the most interesting parts on Sense are the master objects. These objects act as a toolbox of pre-configured bits and pieces for end-users to add to their sheets. You can add customised dimensions, measures and complete objects. Those of you used to creating linked objects should get used to creating a master object and then dragging it onto the sheets where it is needed. The expression master objects are going to be very important when the expression syntax goes beyond the abilities of end-users. So Expressions containing things like Set Analysis are going to be best developed as master objects that can then be dragged into the objects by end users.
Sense allows end users to take snapshots of objects in mid-analysis and then collect a set of snapshots together into a story. The user can then add comments to there stories to explain their thinking and the purpose of the story. I have not had much excuse to play with this area much yet. I will write another post when I have.
Next one the list of tasks is to do a video review of Sense and a short demo of how to build a simple app. I will post a link once it is ready.
So that’s it! Sense has arrived. Enjoy it, explore it, dont dismiss it. I really like Sense. I think it has a lot going for it. The back-end is the same as QlikView meaning it is a solid enterprise-grade trusted platform that people know can handle their data. The front-end is very new and is very end-user focused. If you can embrace that, then you can deliver great looking, highly effective dashboards quickly and simply. Oh and, watch those master objects I get the feeling that this is the area where most developers are going to live in the future building the components user then take on to build their own dashboards.