Thinkmap reveals the big data picture

By Chad Hammond, InfoWorld |  Software

Once created, a Thinkmap application can be compiled and stored on a Web server. Any end-user with a Java-compatible browser may then access the Thinkmap application, which requires little or no training to begin working with it.

As a user clicks on data objects within an application, the application interacts with the Thinkmap Application Server (TAS) via HTTP or HTTPS (secure HTTP). The TAS, which deploys a Thinkmap to end-users, sends queries to any Java Database Connectivity (JDBC)-compliant database. The Thinkmap application is then returned for display to the end-user.

Companies working in non-Windows environments will have to wait to use Thinkmap Studio, because Version 1.5 works with only Windows 9x/2000/Me and Windows NT 4. Despite the OS limitations, applications created with Thinkmap Studio can be rolled out to any Java 1.1-compatible browser, and the TAS works with Netscape/iPlanet, Microsoft IIS, and Apache Web servers.

Following the well-structured tutorial, we started creating our first Thinkmap application by connecting to and defining our data source: a relational database containing information on movies, directors, actors, and genres. With a few mouse clicks, we used the visual Relationship Builder to define primary data tables, or nodes, and relation tables, or edges, for our application.

Next, we started assigning display properties to the data objects, controlling how they would appear and how they would interact with other objects. We accessed these properties via the intuitive Thinkmap Studio Property Manager, a grid displaying data entities and application objects along the top edge and properties available for these entities and objects along the left edge.

For example, we set the Label property to display the Title field of the movie entities from our movie database. As a result, a movie entity retrieved from the database was represented in our Thinkmap application by the movie's title. Had we set the Label property to display the Release Date field, the movie The Birds would be displayed in our application as 1963.

Thinkmap Studio allows a developper to tie a database field to a display object property, such as the movie title property. This feature also could be used to link the size of a circle representing a sales region to the total sales for that region. The circle could be set to appear larger or smaller, depending on the region's sales figures. Moreover, the sales region's circle could be displayed in red if sales for the region fell below a certain number.

As we worked through the tutorial, we viewed the results of changes to our Thinkmap application in real time using Thinkmap Studio's preview window. This feature saves developers the time and hassle of redeploying an application every time they make a change.

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