Qlik Sense extensions – are they still necessary?

Szymon Serwin | Business Intelligence | 13 October 2021 1 |

In today’s article, I’d like to take a closer look at the completeness of Qlik Sense’s native capabilities. Are they already so developed that there is no need for additional visualization extensions?

A brief history of Qlik visualization extensions

Qlik Sense extensions began to gain popularity shortly after the release of Qlik Sense in 2014. The reason behind this is that the first versions of Qlik Sense offered up a very simple tool, especially compared to its ‘older brother’ QlikView, which was developed simultaneously. Over the years, however, the tool has evolved a great deal, and in 2021 it is practically as functional as QlikView, nowadays with many interesting options that are not even available in QlikView. It is enough to note that a new version of Qlik Sense is released roughly once every 3 months. Can we therefore assume that we no longer need external extensions to create a functional and visually attractive environment? Let’s see!

Vizlib – the most popular visualization extension library for Qlik Sense

Vizlib is the biggest and most popular external extension library for Qlik Sense. The provider is an external company, but they also offer a fully functional free version of the library. The only limitation here is the size of the environment, meaning access for 5 users in terms of the free plan.

Vizlib pricing plan (source – vizlib.com)

What Qlik Sense extensions does Vizlib offer?

The Vizlib library offers basic objects (also available in Qlik Sense), albeit allowing for more customization, as well as more unique ones.

An example of a basic object would be the Line Chart visible in the following image. It allows you to mark specific points on the chart and add comments – it looks impressive, doesn’t it?

Line Chart (source: vizlib.com)

 

Yet another example of a basic object is KPI, which has many more capabilities compared to the one implemented by default in Qlik Sense. All of the visualizations shown below are available in Qlik Sense, but in separate objects. Theoretically, they could be replicated by combining KPI, Line Chart, Bar Chart, Slider and measure type chart objects. But firstly, this is not clear from the point of view of a non-advanced user. Secondly, scaling all these objects in such a way as to make them clearly visible could also be a problem.

KPI (source: vizlib.com)

An example of an object that is quite unique is the Story Timeline. This is a visualization that is not available by default in Qlik Sense, and you can use it to present embedded data over time in an interesting way.

Story Timeline (source: vizlib.com)

Apart from typical data visualization objects, Vizlib also offers UX objects for better report organization. They are often available by default in Qlik Sense, but here they allow for more customization – examples include a Slider object, a Filter object, or a Switch object.

Filter Pane (source: vizlib.com)

Apart from a “general” library, Vizlib offers solutions for specific data analysis – e.g. financial (Vizlib Finance) and Vizlib Gantt. These are mainly objects for the analysis of specific data in predefined objects and several color schemes that allow even less advanced users to quickly create custom visualizations.

Vizlib Finance (source: vizlib.com) 

Vizlib Finance (source: vizlib.com)

Vizlib Finance (source: vizlib.com)

Vizlib Gantt (source: vizlib.com)

Vizlib Gantt (source: vizlib.com)

To sum up, Vizlib is mostly about impressive visuals. Some of this can be replicated in Qlik Sense, but it is often not so straightforward or obvious. Its undoubted advantages are the much more visually appealing design and the option to use predefined views, e.g. for finance.

DIY BI – custom visualization extensions

If native solutions and external libraries are insufficient or cannot be used for some reason (e.g. due to an organization’s security policy), you can have custom extensions developed.Qlik Sense extensions can be created using JavaScript – there are even dedicated frameworks. The basic tool for the development of the first Qlik Sense extension can be the DEV Hub (available by default in Qlik Sense). Commercially, however, in such cases, a Front-End developer is delegated to a given project to support the team maintaining the Qlik Sense environment.

Qlik Sense – default objects

The basic Qlik Sense objects are being continuously upgraded and improved. Only in the last few versions has the Combo Chart object been expanded (e.g. the option to use an auxiliary axis, or the option to color measures), as have the Maps object (using a dark theme) and Tables (embedding images, adding mini charts).

Combo Chart 

The table was initially conceived as one of the sections of Vizlib, but Qlik has developed it a great deal and it’s no longer inferior to a solution from an external library. Below is an example of what mini charts look like in the Table object.

Table with mini chart (source: qlik.com)

Table with mini chart (source: qlik.com)

Qlik not only improves Qlik Sense objects but also adds new ones on an ongoing basis. An example is the Animator object, which allows you to automatically iterate over a selected field and create an animation effect on charts.

Animator

Another object formerly unavailable in Qlik Sense (which has been available for quite some time in Vizlib) is the Date Picker, an advanced date range selector.

Date Picker

One of the new objects in Qlik Sense is Variable Input. It allows you to manipulate variable values with the capability to visualize as a selectable list, buttons, a slider or a classic input object. In one of the latest versions an interesting object is also featured, allowing you to embed video (e.g. from YouTube) in Qlik Sense reports.

Other interesting objects, typically related to visualization, are objects such as Multi KPI, which allows you to display a measure automatically divided into a selected dimension. A grid with graphs is also automatically created.

Multi KPI

Another outstanding object is the Word cloud chart. Below you can see a screenshot of the use of such a visualization to quantify individual costs by category in a household budget.

Word cloud chart

It is also worth mentioning a feature added in one of the 2021 versions – the grid graph, which plays an important role in the process of analyzing significant deviations of the value of a measure in relation to a given dimension.

Grid diagram (source: qlik.com)

Object names in no way limit our creativity in using them in non-standard ways. An example is the use of the Organization Chart below to present product structure.

Organization Chart (source: qlik.com)

An even more intriguing example would be the custom use of a map object with self-created layers. For example, if you are wondering whether a particular place in the office has an impact on employee effectiveness, you can take advantage of one of the use scenarios – a “room map” – and create a visualization of worker effectiveness by… their workplaces in the office space (as shown in the chart below).

non-standard use of Map object (source: qlik.com)

Yet another interesting example would be using a map object to show the balance of forces in parliament – below is an example based on the Brazilian parliament.

non-standard use of Map object (source: qlik.com)

Another visually interesting example is the use of a Plot Chart presented below. It shows the sum of sales per customer in given product categories.

Plot Chart (source: qlik.com)

How to start using the entire potential of default objects?

As you can see in the examples above, Qlik Sense also allows you to create interesting and unique visualizations with its default objects. This often requires a little more eccentricity from the developer, but the end result will not differ from those offered by external solutions.

So does Qlik Sense still need extensions?

In my view: no. The environment is already well-developed and does not resemble its first, limited versions. Additionally, the frequency of release of new Qlik Sense versions (approximately 4 times a year) – with significant changes each time – grants the user independence from external solutions. It’s also important to note that in this article I focus only on changes in the field of visualization. However, new versions also include changes to improve the engine or features that help developers in their daily work.

So who are visualization extensions for?

In my opinion, these solutions are for people expecting exceptionally impressive visualizations (because the efficiency is already provided by the default ones in Qlik Sense). Of course, you can’t deny Vizlib’s extensive customization capabilities, but let’s keep in mind that Qlik itself is well on the way to catching up. Also, we need to bear in mind that there are organizations requiring industry and data-specific visualizations, and it is for these cases that frameworks and capabilities have emerged to create visualizations according to specific needs.

When is using Qlik Sense enough?

Qlik Sense will be enough in 90% of cases. Given the rate of change and development of the tool, we can believe that it will only improve and the difference between Qlik Sense and external libraries will become even less noticeable.

 

 

 

Autorem wpisu jest:

Specjalista Business IntelligenceBusiness Intelligence Specialist

An enthusiast of QlikView and Qlik Sense solutions and a Business Intelligence consultant at JCommerce. A graduate of the Jagiellonian University and the University of Economics in Krakow. A fan of music in every form.

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