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Engine Works Blog

Under the hood of Alteryx: tips, tricks and how-to's.
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Larger workflows sometimes require a little extra effort to navigate around. We are exploring some enhancements to make it easier to move across a large canvas and we would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns.

 

Current Functionality

Several navigation controls are fairly obvious, such as dragging the scroll bars and clicking the Zoom In and Zoom Out buttons on the Toolbar.

 

There are also some additional Navigation controls listed on the Alteryx Help Hot Keys page:

 

Scroll Up/Down

Mouse Wheel

Scroll Left/Right

Shift + Mouse Wheel

Zoom In/ Out

Control + Mouse Wheel (Zooming centers on the mouse arrow position)

Pan

Hold Mouse Wheel

Alt+ Left Mouse Button

 

Your Feedback Needed

There are a few obvious opportunities for improvement: Several of those controls require a mouse wheel, which isn’t available with all hardware configurations; and the controls aren’t as easily discoverable as we would like.

 

What are some of the other ways we could improve canvas navigation? We’d like to know:

    • What are your biggest challenges in navigating around a large workflow?
    • What key commands would you like to see for canvas navigation?
    • What new functionality could we add to make canvas navigation easier?
    • How would you prefer to learn about navigation controls? What types of interface prompts work best for you?

Please use the comments to share your answers, and don’t forget to click the star if you see an idea that you like.

Comments

1)My biggest challenge on a big canvas is connecting tools that aren't close in proximity. I either resort to zooming way out or just moving my mouse in the direction i need and slowing moving towards my destination.  Neither of these maneuvers is ideal.

2)I am used Page up/down and the arrow keys on other programs. 

3)Not Sure.

4)Not Sure.

 

Alteryx Certified Partner
Alteryx Certified Partner

Geoff,

 

When you have horizontal or vertical tab groups, how about synchronized scrolling?

 

If I have SELECTED a tool on the canvas, I know that I can right-click and then find the tool that I want to insert after it.  How about a "Right or CNTRL or other" click on the tool tab that will automatically insert the selected tool after the highlighted tool on the canvas?

 

I like the bookmark idea (starred it).

 

How about CTRL-Right Arrow to get to the MAX Right (etcetera).

How about CTRL-? to get to the last tool configured/changed.

 

If I think of any others, I'll be back.

I've only been using Alteryx for two weeks, so these are only first impressions, but regarding navigation on a large canvas: I'm a fan of right-click-drag to pan and mousewheel to scroll. I've used that in several flowchart/process design applications, and it feels natural to me. Alternately, you could try the Photoshop technique of space bar+left click drag to pan.

 

One other thing that might help managing large and complicated: an align/distribute menu. Call me finicky, but it sometimes helps my thinking through a complicated process if I can drag around and reorganize big chunks, while still keeping things neat and even.

This is less about navigating the canvas than organizing it, but it might be interesting to be able to change the vertical/horizontal orientation not just of the whole canvas, but of groups within it. Perhaps a paramter of the Tool Container.

 

I know I tend to associate horizontal flows with time and vertical with descent, and there are plenty of times when I might have a set of tasks modifying a source that will then be used in a horizontal flow, and it might be nice to visalize that difference.

Meteor

Where to start - been using alteryx for the better part of 10 months now. Have a lot of things on my wishlist.

 

Not sure if this relates to navigation of workspace but it is a bugbear of mine for not being able to do this in the workspace. Seems silly that we can't double click a comment to edit it within the workflow and see the text change in real time as opposed to after hitting apply. I use comments to set up my layout for my workflows instead of containers as I find them clunky and bad from a design perspective unless if I want to disable something. On an aside comment tools should allow multiple formatting of text within the tool ala a word document.

 

Some keyboard shortcuts that let us switch between adjacent tools on the workspace would speed up development. E.g. Ctrl + Right Arrow takes you to the tool nearest to the right of the current one. Maybe using the Tab key would make more sense. Using a mouse can be tiring.

 

Love Ctrl + Shift + B to add browse tools - would be great to get other similar shortcuts for other tools. For example, ctrl + shift + F to add a filter tools coming off selected tool. Ctrl + Shift + J for a join. You get the gist.

 

Find functionality within the workspace may make it easier to manage larger workflows. Basically my idea is this hit ctrl + F enter your search criteria you then get to toggle through all matching results. No different to the way any other product would Bit work.

 

A bit off topic autocomplete in formula or form entry fields would be awesome.

These are all great suggestions that would jump to the top of my wishlist, as well.

 

For me, choosing what flowchart/mind mapping application to use is based largely on keyboard-based navigation. Especially if speed is one of the differentiating features of Alteryx, anything that makes it faster and easier to get workflows built would be great. I've also been using 'Actions' on my iPad to run sets of key commands and macros in other applications, and I'd love to have more ways to use it inside Designer.

 

Meteor

- Sometimes connections in distant tools are tricky for me. Here are a couple thoughts:

-multi join tools could be "sticky", once selected they show up in another tools connection option. 

 

-use the keypad to be modal,  one mode divides the workspace into 9 quadrants and just bounces to it.  Other mode just scrolls to 75% of the screen up/down/left/right or something similar. And maybe last used tool, and another zooms out and sets the workspace selectable to zoom back into the previous setting centered at mouse click. 

 

-when selecting two tools (maybe a few more) make a menu option to connect them. 

 

-someone mentioned above shortcut keys,  make it so there are open shortcuts and a simple left click could assign the tool that way.  Similar to version 9.5 had the tool bar shortcuts. So if I assign union to ctrl,  shift u,  any tool I select on the canvas and hitting that key combo would auto connect to union.

 

-ankther thought,  would be an ability to assign a spot on the canvas as a "return to".  Once set,  a hot key could return there, making it easier to "jump" back to a spot if you have an area that frequently gets tweaked in design mode. 

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Thank you to everyone who has weighed in on this. We have some exciting enhancements coming for our next release, and we've also collected lots of good feedback for future initiatives. 

 

Look for more details soon!

 

Geoff

Meteor

@GeoffJ Any chance you can give us a hint as to what some of these enhancements will be? Really looking forward to it.

 

Also when are these due to be released? In the next maintennance release? When is that?

Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Very soon! We are working on a minor update for the middle of Q4, which will feature new controls for Canvas navigation, including some of the items mentioned in the comments here.

 

We've added commands to jump to the top, bottom, left, or right of a workflow, zoom to see the full workflow or your current selection, and even move around the workflow while it's running.

 

Stay tuned for more info about these controls, additional enhancements, and a final date.

Meteor
Hi Geoff,

Can't believe I forgot to mention moving the canvas around when the workflow is running. Good to know this is coming. Been a major bugbear of ours.

I've been getting away with using the overview tool to navigate when I'm running a workflow.

Thanks for the update.

Regards,
Aamir
Atom

Geoff,

One suggestion I have would be for the Alteryx staff to download Sketchup ( http://www.sketchup.com/ ) and play with how the orbit and pan tools work. More importantly when using the mouse wheel to zoom in and zoom out the zoom is based around the location of the mouse arrow. So for instance if I used their terms I could zoom extents or so you can see the entire module on the canvas. I could then place the cursor on an area of the module that I wanted to then wheel up (zoom in) and go directly to that quadrant in the module.

 

The very future state might also consider a 3D canvas similar to sketchup where you could expand or collapse different phases of a module in the 3rd dimension to hide clutter and allow users to continue to focus on the bigger picture of what they are trying to accomplish with the module opposed to always being in the details of tool setup and statements.

 

Cheers,

Geoff

Meteor
Disregard - my comment regarding ctrl + F - this already exists. Didn't realise it. Potentially this should be integrated into the search toolbox top left and should work as one find for all types whether it be new tools or existing one in the workspace. The find tool however is very basic. It would be great if there were some custom features to fine tune the searches. For example, selecting certain tool types to find within - we may want to search within all formula tools for certain variable that was created. Another purpose may be to exclude comments from the search and so on.

Agree with Geoff around implementing some sort of 3D aspect to the workspace. Whether this is actual full blown 3D (which could get quite overwhelming) or a layer based implementation ala Photoshop & Flash. The ability to lock down certain planes/layers would be pretty darn awesome. For example, this could be a game changer for having a background formatting layer that's locked down. I like to use comment tool as a background to my workflows - this prevents me using the click drag box method to select multiple tools as the background layer gets selected too. I've seen others like Chris Love doing this too. Would also do away with the clunky Microsoft Word & Powerpoint method of sending things backward and bringing them to the fore. The current method has the problem of things getting lost behind other things. Also I've realised that if a container gets too big and breaks past the top of the workflow - you cannot select the top bar to pull it down as it is past the top edge of the workspace which you can't scroll too.

Aamir
Alteryx Alumni (Retired)

Alteryx 10.1 is now avaialable and includes some great new functionality for navigating around the canvas. You can even move around while a workflow is running.

 

To help you learn the new controls, the Creative Services team put together a handy one-page reference sheet. Print one out and keep it nearby!

 

Canvas Navigation.png

 

 

Thanks for all of the feedback on this thread. Suggestions that didn't make this release will be considered for future enhancements.

Great! Thank you.

 

Love the 'Jump to Selection' and the 'Zoom to Area' additions. Very cool.

Asteroid

I like to suggest the default zoom level be configurable as part of User Settings.

Atom

I would love it if there was a way group a set of tools - not by a tool container but more similar to naming a range of cells in excel - and then being able to jump from group to group using some shortcut - maybe like control + tab to flip through the groups. 

 

The grouping would be particularly helpful when checking the logs if you can see "Group: Tool Name" unless manually overriden - I name tools that way already - but if Alteryx did it for me I could afford to be less organized haha

 

If anyone knows of a feature that kinda already does that I would love to know

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