MLS Graphing Program

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
R-Enemy-p40
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MLS Graphing Program

Postby R-Enemy-p40 » Sun Feb 17, 2008 5:52 pm

I've just finished building a graphing utility for MLS. I know graphing is something that has been wanted for quite a while, but we can only use Excel for so long, right? You can get the program here: http://www.whitelawdesigns.com/software/wardgraphs.aspx.

The .NET Framework 3.5 is required to run this (there's a link to that on my page).

Test it out and let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Randy

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opee
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Postby opee » Sun Feb 17, 2008 6:25 pm

Great tool! Thanks for sharing. We will put it to the test and see how it works for our Stake.

jander04
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Postby jander04 » Sun Feb 17, 2008 7:43 pm

What printer driver do you use to print to a text file? MLS used to print everything as a graphic and many printers were very slow. I haven't noticed that they have fixed that now.

Jerry Anderson
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R-Enemy-p40
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Postby R-Enemy-p40 » Sun Feb 17, 2008 10:17 pm

I actually haven't looked at MLS for over a year. As I recall, you just navigate to the quarterly reports, select the year and quarter, then when you have the report just go to file, then print. Then you can have the choice to print to file instead. I will try to get in this week sometime and get some screen captures of the process. If anyone else can shed some light on this, please do so.

If I can get some screen shots, I'll create a help screen in my application.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:26 am

Sure, you can print to file, using the CutePDF driver that's part of the standard install - but most of the reports have been graphics, not text. Maybe the quarterly report is an exception.

If someone doesn't answer sooner, I'll see if I can get it to work tomorrow night after FHE.

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hpaulsen
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Postby hpaulsen » Mon Feb 18, 2008 8:15 am

I've been meaning to do this myself for quite some time, and am excited to look at it. One problem, though - it wouldn't run. It says "The 'Microsoft.ACE.OLEDB.12.0' provider is not registered on the local machine." After a brief net search, it looks like this program also requires the "2007 Office System Driver: Data Connectivity Components".

Ok, downloaded and installed the above, then got an unhandled exception upon startup: "The Microsoft Office Access database engine cannot find the input table or query 'data'. Make sure it exists and that its name is spelled correctly." It allows one to continue, which I did.

Now to importing data. Since you haven't looked at MLS for a while, you missed the change from .txt to .svg files. (Note: when in MLS, you can export data to a file by clicking "Edit" then "Copy to FIle".)

After renaming the file to yyyy_q.txt and importing it, I got another unhandled exception: "The connection was not closed. The connection's current state is open."

After that, nothing happens.

I hope this is sufficient to help you isolate these issues. If you need more info that I can provide, let me know.

Now a question - did you include (optional) moving averages? I find that doing a four-quarter moving average on the data is essential (at least in our area) for smoothing out seasonal irregularities and viewing long-term trends. I was hoping to find out directly, but will have to wait....

To the church programmers: it would be very nice to be able to export more than one quarter at a time. I realize this creates difficulty at the stake level since it requires a three-dimensional grid (line x date x unit), but if this could be solved it would be very nice. A possibility could be to export each unit's complete data individually. This should be faster, since there are fewer wards than quarters (unless the stake has more than 20 units).

-Hyrum

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Postby R-Enemy-p40 » Mon Feb 18, 2008 2:07 pm

HPaulsen - Thanks for testing this. I didn't even think about needing the newer driver. I'm going to try a different data connection so users don't have to rely on the OLEDB.12 driver. That's a pain. Your second error is most likely caused by not having the driver on the first run. The database has been created, but most likely corrupted. Now that you have the driver, you should be able to delete the "data.mdb" file and re-run the application. If data.mdb isn't there, the program creates it for you.

I had no idea about the update of MLS to do .svg files. Someone at my stake just gives me the text file every quarter so I didn't realize there had been a change. In any event, even if you dump it to .csv or .svg it should work after renaming the file. I'm just doing a stream reader that parses a tab-delimited file. I do however force it to be named a .txt file.

I agree with having a moving average graph. After I get the data connection thing taken care of, I'll look into adding that. We use rolling year values all the time for other accounting situations, this shouldn't be anything different. Good suggestion.

-Randy

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Postby R-Enemy-p40 » Mon Feb 18, 2008 3:14 pm

New version (already). Version 1.02, get it here.

If anyone had problems because of the OLEDB.12 driver, this will fix that. Please delete your data.mdb file to ensure it isn't corrupted. The installer will never over right this file so you need to manually delete it. The link above lists the changes.

-Randy

Just noticed that corrupted sounds like such a bad word. This simply means it wasn't created correctly.

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hpaulsen
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Postby hpaulsen » Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:30 pm

Downloaded new version, deleted data.mdb. No errors, but still wouldn't load a file. Tried an old stake file (don't have a new one on me) and it worked fine.

I'm guessing by your use of line descriptions rather than line numbers that you're aware of the changes that were made to the quarterly report between 2005q3 and 2005q4. It would be nice to have line numbers and order preserved since they often reference each other. I'm not sure the best way to handle this when changes occur....

Other things that would be nice, in approximate order of how I would use them:
  • Some way to change y-axis scale (I like zero-referenced graphs to help put large variances in context)
  • Some way to make all y-axes the same across the different wards (provides more realistic comparisons between units)
  • Graphs of stake totals, perhaps with optional "stacked graph" showing how the ward values add up to these values (only possible with one line of data at a time)
  • Copy as svg option
  • Data point options
  • Line weight/color/style options
  • Make a version for wards as well
Already I can see this saving me a lot of time, though. Great start!

-Hyrum

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Postby R-Enemy-p40 » Mon Feb 18, 2008 6:09 pm

HPaulsen wrote:I'm guessing by your use of line descriptions rather than line numbers that you're aware of the changes that were made to the quarterly report between 2005q3 and 2005q4. It would be nice to have line numbers and order preserved since they often reference each other. I'm not sure the best way to handle this when changes occur....


I wasn't sure if the name change was just my stake or across the board. This is good to know. I'll incorporate line numbers in the future.

HPaulsen wrote:Other things that would be nice, in approximate order of how I would use them:
  • Some way to change y-axis scale (I like zero-referenced graphs to help put large variances in context)
  • Some way to make all y-axes the same across the different wards (provides more realistic comparisons between units)
  • Graphs of stake totals, perhaps with optional "stacked graph" showing how the ward values add up to these values (only possible with one line of data at a time)
  • Copy as svg option
  • Data point options
  • Line weight/color/style options
  • Make a version for wards as well


Item 1: I'll add it to the Graph options.
Item 2: I'll add it to the Graph options.
Item 3: I'll add this to the list, but it might take a little while.
Item 4: I'll get down to the stake computer this week and see how an svg is formatted.
Item 5: What do you mean here? Different points like triangles, squares, etc., or show point values when graphed? Right now they show up if you mouse-over, but that's it.
Item 6: Color is there, just right click any of the check boxes. I'll add the other things to this as well.
Item 7: This should work fine for wards because the export would only contain one ward's data, right? I've never used MLS on the ward level so I'll have to look into the differences.

Thanks for the feed back. I'd really like to get this polished and have it used all over. I think it could be a good benefit.

-Randy


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