Table report features being retired: iCal and vCard fields, Summary Tables, New and Updated Flags, and the Report Format setting

By Brian Cafferelli posted 12-21-2020 17:30

  

Table report features being retired: iCal and vCard fields, Summary Tables, New and Updated Flags, and the Report Format setting

 

Our team has been hard at work building a new table report experience from the ground up, to give you a more modern and speedy way to get insights from your data. To streamline your report experience, we will retire the following features: iCal fields, vCard fields, summary tables, new and updated flags, and the report format setting.

 

Background

Over the next few years, we will be refreshing the entire user interface of the Quick Base platform. This will provide a more modern and consistent product experience, prepare us for future support of international characters and accessibility, and speed up our delivery of new features. In early 2021, the first step on this journey will be launching a brand-new table report experience.

Because of the large scale of this UI refresh project, it will be more important than ever for us to keep consistent focus on delivering the highest-impact functionality that serves the most pressing needs we see in the market. Over the 20 years of Quick Base history, we’ve regularly enhanced the platform by adding new features. Providing new features is necessary to ensure Quick Base continues to be a leading platform for operational agility years and decades into the future. However, adding new features alone is not sufficient to reach that long-term goal. Some features are either no longer used in large numbers, have been superseded by newer features, or no longer fit our product vision. Each feature which isn’t often needed is a drag on the productivity of app builders and requires designer and developer time for us to re-build in the new UI. This is why we recently decided to begin streamlining, by retiring Quick Base features on a regular basis.

As we designed the new table report experience, we identified five features which we will begin retiring soon. Read on for details on each feature being retired and what to do if you’re using one of those features.

 

iCal fields

iCal fields are designed to make it easier to push meeting info from Quick Base to a calendar system such as Microsoft Outlook. An iCal field provides an icon which a user can click to download an ics file, which can then be imported into a calendar system.

Rationale for retiring: Pipelines enables meeting info to be integrated across systems, making iCal fields redundant. Pipelines also supports improved workflow over iCal because a) you can build bi-directional integrations with pipelines, and b) pipelines eliminates the manual steps of iCal fields where a user needs to click to download a file, then import it into their calendar system.

Alternatives to iCal fields: Pipelines, specifically the Outlook channel. We are also working on a Google Calendar channel. Finally, you can use the Webhooks channel to integrate with other calendar systems. (Learn how to use pipelines to automatically book Outlook meetings from Quick Base)

How we will retire iCal fields: We will reach for iCal fields in the spring of 2021, when the new table reports become generally available. This is when the New Style toggle will default to ON for all users. At that time, we’ll begin recommending customers stop using the feature, and we will end any product training or orientation on iCal fields.

We will reach End of Support for iCal fields later in 2021, when the New Style toggle for table reports is removed. At this time, technical support for iCal fields will end and it will no longer be possible to create new iCal fields.

After iCal fields are no longer available on table reports, they will continue to be available on dashboards and forms. So we do not expect to reach End of Life for iCal fields in 2021. When we have more information about End of Life for iCal fields, we’ll let you know so you have plenty of time to prepare.

 

vCard fields

vCard fields are designed to make it easier to push contact info from Quick Base to a third-party system. A vCard field provides an icon which a user can click to download a vcard file, which can then be imported into another system.

Rationale for retiring: As is the case with iCal fields, pipelines enables contact info to be integrated across systems, making vCard fields redundant. Pipelines also supports improved workflow over vCard because a) you can build bi-directional integrations with pipelines, and b) pipelines eliminates the manual steps of vCard fields where a user needs to click to download a file, then import it into another system. Finally, vCard is a very outdated piece of technology. It was originally created to make it easy for someone to save a contact on their cell phone.

Alternatives to vCard fields: Pipelines. Many of our integration channels may be helpful here, such as Salesforce, Servicenow, Mailchimp, and Marketo. If you’ve built basic pipelines to integrate data across systems, you likely already have the knowledge you need to replace your vCard fields. If you’ve not worked much with pipelines, check out our Getting Started with Pipelines course on Quick Base University.

How we will retire vCard fields: We will reach End of Sale for vCard fields in the spring of 2021, when the new table reports become generally available. This is when the New Style toggle will default to ON for all users. At that time, we’ll begin recommending customers stop using the feature, and we will end any product training or orientation on vCard fields.

We will reach End of Support for vCard fields later in 2021, when the New Style toggle for table reports is removed. At this time, technical support for vCard fields will end and it will no longer be possible to create new vCard fields.

After vCard fields are no longer available on table reports, they will continue to be available on dashboards and forms. So we do not expect to reach End of Life for vCard fields in 2021. When we have more information about End of Life for vCard fields, we’ll let you know so you have plenty of time to prepare.

 

Summary tables

Summary tables are designed to display summary data alongside record data. When building a table report and selecting records to group on, you can choose to display a summary table at the bottom of the report. Summary tables count how many records in the report match each value in the grouped field.

Rationale for retiring: Any insights that can be gained from summary tables can also be gained by building a summary report. This makes summary tables redundant. We also see users getting confused when the main table is hidden, since that causes a table report to behave like a summary report. Finally, in the future we aim to give you more options for customizing the layout of pages in general.

Alternatives to summary tables: Rather than include a summary table at the bottom of a table report, you can build a summary report instead. To see the summary and record views side-by-side, you can add both a table report and a summary report to a dashboard. (Learn about creating summary reports and creating dashboards)

We are also exploring improvements to the collapsible groups in the new table reports, so you can collapse all grounds while still seeing the subtotals. That is a change we’re considering making as a fast-follow to GA in Spring 2021.

How we will retire summary tables: We will reach both the End of Sale and End of Support for summary tables in the spring of 2021, when the new table reports become generally available. This is when the New Style toggle will default to ON for all users. At that time, we’ll begin recommending customers stop using the feature, we will end any product training or orientation on summary tables, and technical support will no longer be available for the feature.

We will reach End of Life for summary tables later in 2021, when the New Style toggle for table reports is removed. At this time, the summary table feature will no longer be available.

 

New and Updated Flags

New and updated flags are designed to focus users’ attention on the most important and timely information. They flag records which have either been added or updated since a given user last visited the table. They are hidden by default, and enabled by each individual user.

Rationale for retiring: Since it clarifies what a user should pay attention to, we see new and updated flags as a workflow feature. However, the feature is controlled by end users rather than app builders. This severely reduces its usefulness. App builders also have several alternatives available to focus their users’ attention on the most important info.

Alternatives to new and updated flags: Use report filters and formulas to dynamically filter and flag records you want your users to act on (learn more about report filters | learn more about formulas). Unlike new and updated flags, as an app builder you can rely on your reports and formulas to behave consistently for all your users.

Here’s how to use report filters to replace new and updated flags:

 

And here’s a text formula you can use to replace new and updated flags. You can then include this field on a table report to show which of the records was recently created or modified:

These alternatives do not dynamically highlight records based on the individual user. However, they do provide a unified view of which records were created or modified recently. This is a pattern we will be leveraging as we refresh and rebuild each part of the Quick Base UI. While our goal is for the new UI to enable you to solve roughly the same business problems you solve using the current UI today, we will not necessarily solve those problems the exact same way we did before. In other words, through out UI refresh we will keep consistent what business problems you can solve with Quick Base, rather than the specifics of how those problems will be solved. This is crucial for us to cultivate innovation and keep our focus on the most important issues, rather than ironing out every minor detail.

Using report filters and formulas to highlight recently created/modified records has the added benefit of allowing you to apply your own custom business logic to determine which records to highlight or include. For example, for your company "new" might mean anything that has been added in the past 72hrs, rather than 24hrs. Or, for a more complex scenario, you might want to flag tasks where either a) the priority is marked “High”, b) the task is overdue by at least 7 days, or c) it’s a compliance task that’s overdue by any length of time. Here’s a formula you could use to match that process by displaying an Attention tag for high-risk tasks:

How we will retire new and updated flags: We will reach End of Sale and End of Support for new and updated flags in the spring of 2021, when the new table reports become generally available. This is when the New Style toggle will default to ON for all users. At that time, we’ll begin recommending customers stop using new and updated flags, we will end any product training or orientation on it, and technical support will no longer be available for the feature.

After new and updated flags are no longer available on table reports, they will continue to be available on dashboards and forms. So we do not expect to reach End of Life for new and updated flags in 2021. When we have more information about End of Life for new and updated flags, we’ll let you know so you have plenty of time to prepare.

So if you are an app builder, If you have already designed your apps to clearly focus your users’ attention on the data that matters most, using targeted filters and formulas similar to the above, you may not need to take action.

If you are not an app builder but you use New and Updated Flags, we just want you to be aware that these flags are being retired.

 

Report format setting

The report format setting allows the user to control the visual appearance of a table report. The setting can be found by clicking Customize this Report, scrolling down near the bottom of the page, and clicking the Format dropdown. There are three categories of options you can select: a) Plain Text, b) Comma-separated or Tab-separated values, and c) XML (flat) or XML (structured).

  1. The Plain Text option displays the report without any color, column headings, links to view individual records, etc. It displays just the raw data for each record.


  2. The Comma-separated and Tab-separated options prevent the report from being displayed in the app altogether. Instead, when a user clicks to view a report with either of these formats selected, they will be prompted to open or save a CSV or TSV file. The file contains the record data, just as you would see if you saved the report as a spreadsheet.


  3. The XML options allow a pro developer to insert a link to an XML stylesheet. This allows full control over the appearance of the report. A developer could use this to make simple changes like customizing the fonts and colors on the report, or to build more creative visuals such as the word cloud above.

Rationale for retiring plain text, comma-separated, and tab-separated formats: These formats are redundant since raw record data can be downloaded using the Download report as CSV function (this is called Save as a Spreadsheet in the current table report style). With the new table reports, we are also making it easier to save as a spreadsheet since we pulled that link out of the more menu.

Alternatives to the plain text, comma-separated, and tab-separated options: Simply save the report as a spreadsheet instead.

Rationale for retiring XML formats: Quick Base is designed so pro developers can extend and customize their apps using custom code, including XML code. We see this is an important capability and we will be improving on it in the future. However, it is not a design best practice to have users link such custom code inline, as you do with the report format setting. There are multiple other ways to fully design the visuals of a table report, making these XML options redundant. Finally, using XML for stylesheets is a very outdated technique, further minimizing the value of these XML options.

Alternatives to the XML options: You can create a web page to display your report instead, using our APIs to populate the record data, and including the stylesheet of your choice. While most developers use CSS for this, you absolutely can use other languages such as XML if you prefer. You can host this web page on your own server if you have one, or you can host it within your Quick Base app as a code page. Developers will feel more at home doing so now that we offer a modern, JSON-based, RESTful API for Quick Base. Click here to review our guidelines for extending Quick Base using custom code.

How we will retire the report format setting: We will reach both the End of Sale and End of Support for the report format setting in the spring of 2021, when the new table reports become generally available. This is when the New Style toggle will default to ON for all users. At that time, we’ll begin recommending customers stop using the feature, we will end any product training or orientation on the report format setting, and technical support will no longer be available for the feature.

We will reach End of Life for the report format setting later in 2021, when the New Style toggle for table reports is removed. At this time, the feature will no longer be available.

 

Questions and feedback

If you have any questions or concerns about the above feature retirements, please open a support case and we’ll be happy to assist you. You can open a case from Quick Base by clicking ? (Help) at the top of the page, then clicking Manage Support Cases.

If you’d like to share ideas or feedback on this topic, please let us know on our Uservoice customer feedback forum.

 

Learn More

  1. Quick Base’s approach to retiring features
  2. Open beta has begun for new table reports
  3. Getting Started with Pipelines and Build Powerful Pipelines using Included Features – QB University courses
  4. Learn how to use pipelines to automatically book Outlook meetings from Quick Base
  5. Creating summary reports
  6. Create an app home page
  7. Report Filters
  8. Gaining Efficiency through Formulas – QB University course
  9. Creating code pages
  10. Extending Quick Base
  11. Running log of all Quick Base feature retirements

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