Lovely Charts iPad Edition now available on the App Store!



Tutorial: Import text files

25 November 2010

Currently only available in the Desktop Edition, this feature lets you auto-generate diagrams from simple text files. This is especially powerful to create org. charts and sitemaps, where Lovely Charts’ baseline “You think, we draw” definitely comes up:

First, you need to create a text file in your favourite text editor, something like Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on Macs.
In that text file, you’ll put down the diagram’s structure as simple tabbed text, like this:

Text file

This is pretty explicit, right? New items are added on a different line, and child items are added to their parent by placing them below, indented by tabs.
Give that file the name you want and save it as simple text (ie, not rich text), preferably encoded as Unicode/UTF8, especially if you have special characters and/or accents in your labels.

Once you have a text file ready, all you need to do is import it, either by drag&dropping the file onto an open instance of Lovely Charts, or via the File > Import… (Cmd+R or Ctrl+R) menu option: pick your file, and you’re done!
Imported text files

The generated diagram will be automatically laid out as a vertical tree, but you can obviously modify it as you want, or apply different layouts, as explained here.

Jérôme

Tutorial: Iconfinder integration

25 November 2010

Here’s a cool little feature that should make your life easier. You may already know Lovely Charts lets you create & import symbols libraries, from images or even vector objects created with another vector drawing app, but did you know you could search for symbols directly from within the app? Here’s how.
Again, this is unfortunately only available in the Desktop Edition for now.

Let’s say you’re creating a diagram on social networks, and thus need some good-looking icons for all those networks out there. Obviously you could start browsing the web, download each network’s logo as an individual image and subsequently import those. But there’s an easier way :
Simply hit Ctrl+F (Cmd+F on a Mac), or go to Help > Search Iconfinder.net, and instantly access one of the, if not the web’s largest icon repository, with over 186,700 royalty-free icons.
Type in what you’re looking for in the search box, say “facebook”:
Search Iconfinder

When you see an icon you like, you can just simply “add it to your basket” by drag&dropping it to the “Import the following symbols” box on the right. But that’s not all: below each symbol you’ll see a little folder icon you can click on to view the content of the iconset that symbol belongs to.
This is particularly useful in our case, where we need to find icons for multiple social networks, so I’ll just click on that folder icon below a symbol I like for its style and tada, sexy, similarly styled icons for all major social networks:
Search iconset

I’ll then drag the symbols I need to the import box, and once I’m done, define how I’d like to import those symbols, and hit Import!
Import symbols from iconfinder as new library

Once imported, my new library will then show up in your LIBRARY panel, as shown below:
Imported library

Jérôme

Tutorial: Automatic layouts

25 November 2010

This is definitely one of the coolest new features of Lovely Charts V2. Currently only available in the Desktop Edition, it allows you, as its name indicates, to automatically arrange your diagram’s objects in predefined, customizable layouts, such as a Tree or a Hierarchy.

Applying a single layout

This is the simplest way to use automatic layouts. Say you have created the following sitemap, and want to arrange it all nicely and properly:

Original structure

All you need to do is pick the layout you’d like to apply in the LAYOUT panel that’s at the top right of the user interface…

Layout panel

… and tada! Here’s what I get with an horizontal tree layout applied with a 50px horizontal gap and 15px vertical gap:Horizontal Tree layout

Cool, right? Note that, if you make changes to your diagram, adding or removing items, you can always re-apply the same layout by hitting the little checkmark button next to the layout settings.

Creating composite layouts

Now, applying a unique layout to an entire diagram is quite cool and simple, but sometimes you’ll want to mix up layouts and create more elaborate compositions, applying one particular layout to some items, and another layout to the rest.
Lovely Charts lets you do that very simply, by applying layouts to selected items only.

Looking at our previous example, applying a classical vertical tree layout to our sitemap would result in something pretty difficult to use, with a small height but very wide:
Tree Layout very wide

A typical way of arranging such a sitemap would be to apply a tree layout to the home page and first-level sections and then a hierarchical layout to all child items beyond the first level (sections):
Composite layout
In order to do this, all you need to is select a section and its child, and apply a Hierarchical layout to it:
Apply hierarchical layout

Note that if you haven’t selected anything when selecting a layout, Lovely Charts will just apply the layout to everything as we’ve seen in the first place.
Automatic layouts can be applied to pretty much any kind of diagrams, but it will fail if you have any kind of “circular references”, ie connections linking back a child to one of its ascendants, like in the following example:
Circular references
In such cases, you’ll need to first delete the connection linking the bottom right child to the top item before you can apply an automatic layout. Once the connection removed, you’ll be able to apply any kind of layout, after what you can always re-create all necessary connections.

Jérôme

Dear Apple: I WILL use CS5 to build an iPad app

11 April 2010

Why?

Because I think the iPad is a pretty cool device.
Because I can definitely picture myself (and others) sketching out processes, workflows, structures… in my couch on an iPad.
Because I think it would benefit Lovely Charts’ users.

When Adobe announced Flash CS5 would feature an iPhone/iPad packager, capable of taking existing code and transforming it into a native iApp, I was happy. To be fair, I was also a bit sceptical, but hell, why not afterall?
When I saw the first CS5 exported apps running, I was definitely very happy: performance was fine, user experience was great, that’s all I was asking for.
So I decided I’d use it to make an iPad app…

See, as an independent developer, there’s only so many things I can do with the time I have.
See, I don’t know C++ nor Objective C.
See, I’m not against learning those languages per se, but to be honest, I’d rather spend my time on answering support emails, improving the app’s performances, adding and tweaking functionality…
See, I’d much rather work on all those things that ultimately result in better user experiences.

I already have a pretty robust code base to work from.
I don’t know Objective-C, but I know ActionScript and rich front-end development challenges and optimization techniques like the back of my hand.
I’d like to think that as aTHE User-centered company, Apple would recognize that users don’t care about programming languages, cross compilers or translation layers, as long as the resulting UX is good.

Your recent SDK terms change concerns me, because it implies my app, no matter how good it could be, might never be approved just because of what, “byte code issues”?
Ouch.
That would definitely hurt.
Not Adobe, not Google, but me, and users of my app.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about to best react to his… Anger, disgust, resignation… OR, rather, just stand up for my beliefs in a constructive, peaceful attitude: taking my chances, and use CS5 to build the best possible Lovely Charts companion app for the iPad.
I’ll design it according to your guidelines, and will do my best to make it run in the best possible way on the iPad.
If I fail to produce a high quality result, I’ll just stop and move on with the other platforms, the world is big enough.
If I manage to produce something nice, running smoothly and offering a good user experience, I’ll submit it to the App Store.

If you then decide not to accept it just because of the programing language it’s been originally written with, fair enough, it’s your platform, your rules.
Just know I will be VERY disappointed, and I’ll be vocal about it.

Jérôme

V2 Preview

19 October 2009

I finally found/took the time for creating a little video preview of the upcoming version 2.0 of Lovely Charts!
Check out the video, and please let me know how you feel about it, either by commenting below, or via email at jerome at lovelycharts dot com
As you will see in the video below, Lovely Charts will become available as an AIR application, capable of running locally on your desktop, save and open local files, but an online edition will remain and will be updated as well.
I expect the beta testing period to begin around november, or more likely december this year, with a public release around march next year I hope.

Just so you know, there’s actually a couple more features coming up that are not unveiled in this video, but I want to hold some surprises for future announcements :)
Now, back to work!


Jérôme

Dear Adobe, thank you :)

14 October 2009

To be fair, I knew my last post was going to do some waves, but I honestly didn’t expect the prompt and efficient response it received. To make a long story short this time, a proper CS4 retail box is on its way to my office, so I’m happy again :)

I know some people might argue that I only received the treatment I got because of the noise I made, and there’s probably some truth there, but thinking about it, what’s wrong with that?
Even big corporations like Adobe, with all their complex CRM systems & procedures, have humans driving these systems, and these humans need to hear when their customers feel bad, in order to react and adapt.

And I have to say, the reaction has been excellent. So thank you all who reached out, and special kudos to Tracy for stepping up publicly and following up.

Finally, Adobe, I’m not sure how authorized I am for that, so I wouldn’t dare to call the following advices, but rather lessons learned I’ll also be taking for myself:

  • Do something about that Tier-1 support. These people (and the systems that support them) are your front men, they need to be SUPER GOOD.
    I have quite a story with Adobe, I know how much people there love the products they make, and how much most of them feel very strongly about customer service, please don’t let all that being ruined at the front line.
  • Fix that licensing system and make it simpler and more flexible. I know piracy is a real issue, and I know it’s easier said than done but as a matter of fact, the only people it affects are your paying customers, that just sucks.

Now, time to move on, I have a screencast to record :)

Jérôme

Dear Adobe…

13 October 2009

So, I was initially going to write a blog post to tell you about how great Adobe MAX was and reveal a small video preview of the upcoming V2 of Lovely Charts, but since I’ve just wasted another afternoon talking with Adobe’s customer service, I thought I’d do a little post about my experience with those guys instead.
This may not sound so relevant for this blog, but on the other end it’s also such a perfect example of how I DON’T WANT my own customers (you know, the ones that pay money for your products) to be treated that I guess there’s some relevance to be found anyway….

So, here’s my (long, sorry) story :

Read more »

Jérôme

Lovely Charts at Adobe MAX 2009

14 August 2009

And here comes “yet another über exciting milestone” in this whole adventure :)…
I’m pretty happy and proud to announce Lovely Charts will be present at Adobe MAX this year, as an “Emerging” sponsor/exhibitor! This will be my first time as an exhibitor, and the least I can say is that it is as scary as it is exciting!

So, what has decided me to jump in and why am doing this?

  • It puts a milestone/deadline on my calendar. As I’ve already hinted at on this blog, Lovely Charts’ 2.0 is under heavy development, and I’m expecting it to be ready for early testing somewhere around the end of this quarter. So this was just perfect timing and a great opportunity to A. put a bit of healthy pressure on the development timeline in order to B. introduce the app’s preview to an audience of qualified professionals, and collect highly valuable early, live feedback on the upcoming version.
  • It will be a great opportunity to meet users and customers in person, learn more about who they are, what they like and dislike, apologize for the bugs, thank existing customers for their support etc etc.
  • At 4,500$ for the smallest sponsorship package + travel & accomodation, it’s definitely not cheap. However, I’m lucky enough to live in a place where a company like mine can benefit from substantial government help. Basically, the Walloon Export and Foreign Investment Agency (AWEX) should cover approximately half of the entire participation budget, making this a LOT more affordable. In fact, this shouldn’t really cost me any much more than if I had participated as a regular attendee.
  • It’s another learning opportunity. As I’ve already said a couple of times, this whole Lovely Charts adventure is a fantastic big learning experience with tons of “first time moments” where I learn new things first hand. I’ve never been an exhibitor at any show (except one dog show with my great dane but that doesn’t count, does it?), so this will be a great opportunity to learn from the inside about how to run a booth, what to do, what to think about, what not to do, and more generally discover the impact of such a presence.
  • It will be great fun :)… This kind of event is about networking above all, and MAX really brings together a fantastic crowd.
  • A little extra visibility can’t hurt the business, can it? :)… I don’t know how many of the 5,000+ MAX attendees will have heard of Lovely Charts before, but this is definitely a chance to introduce my little product to a greatly qualified audience in person, and that’s great!

Voilà, in short, a summary of the reasons that motivate me. I’m very excited by this, and can’t wait to be there, looking forward to meet many of you in person !

Jérôme

1.2: BPMN & Image Import for all

7 July 2009

Now, this is a decent update! I’ve just deployed what I consider a pretty cool 1.2 release, bringing you the following improvements:

  • BPMN Libraries
    That’s something like 40 new symbols + 5 new connector types. I’m definitely not a BPMN expert, so please let me know if you see anything missing or unappropriate for real-world BPMN practice, there’s nothing like real users feedback! For the record, I’ve used the BPMN 1.2 standard as my reference, and organized symbols in 2 libraries: BPMN Events for all, well, events :), and BPMN General for the rest (Tasks, Artefacts, Gateways etc). If you feel this is not the right way to organize it, again, please let me know: jerome AT lovelycharts DOT com. Thanks!

    BPMN Libraries

  • Image Import is now available to all! Everyone can now upload and use its own images/artwork within Lovely Charts! Check this post out to find out what this is about, or try it by yourself right away!
  • Unlimited Imports: If you have a free account, you’ll be limited to a storage limit of 2Mb, but if you have a Premium account, you will be happy to hear I’ve lifted the storage cap on your Imports library… It’s now… Unlimited! :)

Kind of cool, no? :)

Jérôme

Lovely Charts is nominated for TechCrunch Europas!

30 June 2009

Title says it all :). So many good news this week make me think I really need to buy a lottery ticket.

Lovely Charts is nominated in the category “Best Bootstrapped Startup (less than 3 years old, EMEA)”, there’s only 2 days left to vote, don’t forget to vote! http://uk.techcrunch.com/2009/06/24/the-europas-best-bootstrapped-startup-less-than-3-years-old/

Jérôme