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CTools: The right choice for professional data visualisations

CTools (Community Tools) is a collection of open-source programs for data visualisations that was developed for the Pentaho suite. With CTools, you can produce professional data visualisations and dashboards that deliver all the pertinent information your management team needs. And by working with it-novum, you benefit from the experience of a long-standing Pentaho (A Hitachi Vantara Company) partner and leading CTools service provider.

Main features of CTools

  • The CTools suite is open source and free to use
  • All CTools plugins are compatible with both the Pentaho Enterprise and Pentaho Community editions
  • Dashboards automatically adapt to fit the different display sizes of desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones
  • Continuous development: An update is provided every six weeks

    CTools can be divided into four categories:

    CDE (Community Dashboard Editor)CDA (Community Data Access)CBF (Community Build Framework)CST (Community Startup Tabs)
    CDF (Community Dashboard Framework)CDG (Community Data Generator)CDV (Community Data Validation)
    CCC (Community Chart Components)CDB (Community Data Browser)CDC (Community Distributed Cache) 
    CGG (Community Graphics Generator)

    CTools Community Dashboard Editor (CDE)

    The Community Dashboard Editor (CDE) is the central CTools component for creating dashboards. It greatly facilitates the editing of dashboards, because it doesn't require users to have extensive knowledge of web technologies. The CDE provides a powerful framework that assumes a large part of the developmental work, so that the user can focus on dashboard design.

    Dashboards are created as an HTML page that is displayed in the Pentaho user console. To do this, the CDE uses the Tools Community Dashboard Framework, Community Chart Component and Community Data Access, which are explained below. It is important to bear in mind here that the CDE is just the interface that accesses the other community tools.

    Because the actual functioning of the CDE is somewhat complex, you can find a detailed description of the CDE components here.

    CTools Community Data Access (CDA)

    In the CTools Community Dashboard Editor (CDE), the data source view is used to manage and maintain data sources. In this view, the data is compiled in the same way that it will ultimately be used in the dashboard. The Community Data Access, or CDA for short, was developed as the interface between the CDF and the underlying database. The advantage of the CDA data sources is their ability to combine different queries (e.g. MDX with SQL) and their very high degree of associated performance.

    To view the CDA files (tables), a CDA viewer is automatically installed in the Pentaho user console as part of the CTools installation. You can customise your CDA by changing the column names and/or by manually adding columns that perform calculations to the tables you create. The CDA file stores the details of the target database, additional parameters and the DataAccess (query) in an XML file. This file is automatically created by entering this data in the CDE Data Source view.

    CTools Community Chart Components (CCC)

    In addition to CDE and CDA, CTools also contains the Community Chart Components or CCC. The CCC contains a library of diagrams that speed up the dashboard implementation process. Instead of drawing on jFreeChart or jFlashChart, the CCC draws on the open-source Protovis library, which contains an extensive range of visualisations. This makes it very easy to use standard charts and diagrams as well as to expand on existing ones.

    Access to the CCC diagrams is realised through the component view of the CDE. This also contains a component that can be used to directly access other Protovis diagrams using JavaScript. Some functions are manually programmed within the CDE Components View using JavaScript. These include, among others, click actions, formatting of diagram values / legends / axes as well as pre and post executions and interactions with other diagrams. The CCC supports the following diagram types: pie charts, bar charts, line charts, dot charts, heat grids, bullet graphs, waterfalls, box plots and treemaps.

    CTools Community Graphics Generator (CGG)

    Using the Community Graphics Generator, dashboard diagrams can be exported for further use (e.g. inclusion in reports). The diagrams are even exported in exactly the same format and appearance as the user sees them in his browser.

    CTools Community Data Generator (CDG)

    The Community Data Generator is a data warehouse generator and the latest addition to the CTools suite. When supplied with the desired dimensions, the CDD can generate random data and create the following components:

    • Database and table for the fact table
    • File (with values) for the fact table
    • Mondrian diagrams that can be used with Pentaho

    CTools Community Data Browser (CDB)

    The Community Data Browser is a central repository for all data sources that are based on the Community Data Access (CDA) component. The CDB enables users to browse, organise and save data. Using the Explorer, queries can be created via drag and drop. The organiser can then save queries and organise these into groups.

    CTools Community Build Framework (CBF)

    The Community Build Framework supports users in processing multiple projects, by allowing them to switch between several environments (development, production environment, etc.).

    Pentaho from Hitachi Vantara is the leading software for data integration and big data analytics. Hitachi Vantara offers a comprehensive solution portfolio for Big Data, Internet of Things and Cloud. it-novum is Hitachi Vantara's Big Data Insights and IoT partner and the largest Pentaho implementation and training partner in EMEA.