- Are you the Spotfire Administrator for your company?
- Do you have access to the Administration Manager?
- Would you like to learn about a few settings that you could change to make Spotfire more user friendly?
I love that part of my day to day job is diving deep into Spotfire and constantly learning new things about it. Sometime, those new things are exciting bits of code, and sometimes it’s dryer subject matter, such as the post I wrote a few weeks ago on changing the HTML Sanitation preferences in the Spotfire Administration Manager. After working on that post, I realized the Administration Manager contains many useful settings that I didn’t know much about, so I set out to learn more. In other words, I read a lot of really dry and boring documentation.
This post will cover a handful of preferences I think users will find useful. If you want to do a more thorough review, download the Administration Manager’s manual and search “Preferences”. This manual is its own documentation outside of other Spotfire documentation and can be found on TIBCO’s documentation website. Before downloading, make sure to change the drop down for your version.You may have to unblock the .chm file that downloads. It’s unfortunately not a PDF.
Lastly, before changing any preferences, make sure to click on the correct group before doing so. The changes I’ve made applied to all users, so I clicked on the Everyone group. However, individual circumstances will dictate which group should be modified. I would also recommend walking through these preferences prior to an upgrade. TIBCO adds preferences occasionally, and in past upgrades, I don’t believe all of my changes were transferred to the new version. Therefore, it’s a good idea to document your starting place before upgrading.
In case this is new subject matter, here is what the Administration Manager Preferences tab looks like. It contains a tree view of all the different preferences. As you can see, each visualization has its own set of preferences, and there are other preferences related to different parts of the application like Automation Services and the Aggregation Menu.
If you are familiar with the Tools > Options menu in the application, you will recognize that many of these settings can also be changed in Tools > Options. Thus, you may be asking, why would a change need to be made in Preferences? There are two answers to this question. First, many users aren’t familiar with Tools > Options and don’t know they can make changes there. Second, if it’s possible to save users the trouble of going to Tools > Options, why not do it?
TablePreferences > AutoAddNewColumns
AutoAddNewColumns controls whether new columns are added to a table visualization automatically. New columns are generated by insert columns, calculating columns, or thru data functions. By default, they are not added to table visualizations (AustoAddNewColumns = False). You may be familiar with one of these two menus in Properties and/or Tools > Options, which is where you can change this setting in the application.
This always confuses new users. They don’t understand why their calculated column doesn’t show up in the table, which is why I think changing the preference to True is good. When I first started using Spotfire, I didn’t understand why this was the default setting. After using the software for several years with larger and larger data sets, I understand how it can be frustrating to get your table visualizations setup as you like them and then have to go in and hide new columns anytime something new is added. However, I find myself (and other users) more frustrated by the first problem than the second.
TextAreaPreferences > PerformHTMLSantitation
PerformHTMLSanitation is covered in anther blog post. Use this link.
DataOptimizationPreferences > ReloadDataAsynchronously
This setting determines whether or not to reload data asynchronously. The default value is true, which means the data loads asynchronously. Asynchronous means “not occurring at the same time”. I ran into this preference when a user encountered an issue with the application crashing when she hit the Reload button. The DXP in question was built with tables that were added ‘From Current Analysis’. When a table is composed of multiple asynchronous parts (data sources/calculated columns, multiple interdependent data tables, etc), TIBCO recommends the setting be True, but in this case, the only way to keep the application from crashing when the Reload button was hit was to set it to false.
ApplicationPreferences > SaveCompabilityVersion
I ran into this preference while reading a TIBCO Knowledge Base article. Starting in version 7.5, DXPs became forward compatible. The forward compatible file format allows you to open analyses created in a future TIBCO Spotfire version (for example, you are able to open an analysis created in TIBCO Spotfire 7.5 in Spotfire 7.0.1). The downside is the files are much larger. Set the preference to false if you don’t want or need them to be backwards compatible. It will reduce the file size.
Persistence > CacheCalculatedColumns
I also learned about this in a TIBCO Knowledge Base article, and this one was surprising. Even though data sources are linked, the data in calculated columns is embedded by default. This is why you see ‘Loading embedded data’ when the DXP is loading, regardless of whether the data tables are linked. The end result is longer file load time. When the preference is set to false, calculated columns are not embedded, and they will still update when the file is opened.
I asked TIBCO about this because it seemed like the opposite of what the default setting should be. TIBCO said that when the option to change this behavior was introduced, they thought about changing the default behavior (because it would make sense). However, they felt it could make upgrades riskier. Thus, they kept the default behavior the same and added a preference to change the behavior if desired.
MapChartPreferences > DefaultLayerType
This is another setting users can change in Tools > Options, but I work in oil and gas, and in oil and gas, we want to put markers on the map where the wells are located, so it makes sense to set the DefaultLayerType for all users to MarkerLayer.
PivotPreferences > DefaultAggregationForStringType
This setting changes the default aggregation for string data types in Pivot transformations. The default is Concatenate, but I never want to concatenate strings. I am always bringing some string column of data along for the ride in my pivot transformation (as shown below), and I almost always want that to be UniqueConcatenate. I have updated the preference to UniqueConcatenate.
This post gave you a sneak peak into several preferences that you may want to consider changing. There are many others that might also be useful, so take a look through the Administration Manual. It’s not great reading, but it’s fairly quick.
Guest Spotfire blogger residing in Whitefish, MT. Working for SM Energy’s Advanced Analytics and Emerging Technology team!