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Advanced Timesheet Reporting Filters

Posted by Pacific Timesheet Support on Jun 12, 2014 5:06:00 PM

searchable_list_box

Many of you, under payroll and other reporting deadlines, need to get at your data fast. And when troubleshooting data, it's a matter of quickly narrowing or filtering down data to what you need to see.

For any report, whether for employee timesheet report, equipment or materials entries, Pacific Timesheet allows you to dynamically filter reporting data by major objects in the system: e.g. employee, group, project, task, etc. A strength of our custom reports is that our filters were always easy to use for short lists. To do this you just click on a filter list item while holding down the control key.

Filtering Big Lists Cumbersome using Control Click

However, selecting list items for really large lists can be more challenging. While many of you have become quite adept at this, to select multiple items from a filter list requires scrolling through the list and select each item by clicking on it while holding down the control key. 

A dynamic filter list has advantages:

1) It shows users a "preview" of the list items they will be able to report on, including items that are "pre-filtered" in by our security permissions, or those pre-filtered into the report when setup administratively.

2) Once you learn the control click method, there's nothing else to know about selecting items. It's simple. 

While all this sounds great, there are very specific deficiencies:

1) Control clicking non-contiguous ranges of pick list items over many hundreds of items is harder than any video game.

2) Marking a bunch of contiguous and non-contiguous list items, and then unmarking a few of them is very difficult. 

3) If you only need to select a couple of items from a large list, scrolling, finding the items, and control clicking takes too much time.

While many of you have learned do this, we considered this way of doing things "painful" at best.They are not in keeping with our motto: 

"Smart. Flexible. Fast."

Not smart, because simple mistakes using the control click selection method could easily make you feel dumb (when you're not).

Not flexible, because modifying or unselecting already selected list items, without inadvertently un-selecting all the items can be very difficult (making you have to perform death-defying feats just to run or re-run a report with different filtering).

Not fast, because doing it this way, and maybe having to redo or re-select items, can be rather slow.

So, here is a better way.

Scrollable Searchable Include/Exclude Filters

Getting Your Head Around The New Filter

Technically, the UI of a reporting filter should only show the items you have selected to include in a filter. A filter "filters." As in coffee, cars or audio EQ, filters restrict or limit what goes through a filter and what ultimately comes out of the other side. In reporting, a reporting filter restricts what you will be able to see after you run a report. In our product, when no filters are applied, visually, the filter list box should be empty. This tells users that no filters have been added to the report and that they will get back all results they are allowed to see. When you add items to your reporting filter, you will see those filter items in the list box.

Exclude Filter

But about the opposite case? When you have a big list and want to exclude a few items?

Walking through the New Filters

Using the Plus Button

  • To select list items just enable the filter check box, say for employees.  
  • The list box on the left will be empty.  This means that when you run the report all results with be returned.  In other words, you have not selected any items to filter, so all data a user has permission to see will be returned in the report.
  • When you want to start filtering a report, click on the Plus (+) button to the right of the filter to start selecting items to include in your filter. For employees, this would mean selecting the employees you want to show up in the report.

Scroll, Select, Add

  • Use the scroll bar in the select dialog and scroll through the list, selecting each item's checkbox along the way.
  • When you are done selecting items just click the Add button and the items will be added to the filter on the right. Then run the report. Simple and easy.

Include/Exclude
After selecting your list you can pick from one of two operators (include or exclude) when running the report filter.

  • Include will run the report by including items you have in the list. We call this an "include list."
  • Exclude will run the report by returning data on all list items except those on the list you exclude.  We call this an "exclude list."

Searching Very Big Pick Lists

If you have projects and/or employees numbering in the thousands, and you are selecting only a few items to include in the report, use our new search feature! This new feature allows you to search for a pick list item by just starting to type in a search box (as you would in a Google search).

  • Click on the reporting filter Plus (+) button.
  • As you start typing characters, the system automatically start to return search results, and shortens the list with each character you type, until you have the pick list item you are looking for.
  • Then just click the checkbox next to the item and click Add to add it to the list.
  • Repeat this for each search.  
This is a great option if you are selecting 5 to 10 items from a large list of items. After you are done, if you change your mind on items you've selected, it's very easy to remove an one or two items from the list. Just mark the item or items you want to remove on the right, and then click the Minus (-) button to remove them. Then re-run the report.   

Filtering Reports With Short and Large Lists

Our report filters will handle long and shorter filter pick lists as follows:

  1. 100 items or less. The filter pick lists can be used for lists of 100 items or less, what we consider short lists. This will be helpful for filtering short lists of pay codes or if you do not have a large number of groups or projects. This will work using the control click method that you are used to. This default short list defaults to the include filter setting, meaning the report will include data from items showing in the list.
  2. More Than 100 Items. When filtering items of more than 100 you will now use the Plus (+) button to open the pick list dialog for easy scrolling, and select check boxes and list item searching. You can keep the include filter setting, or you might change to the exclude filter setting.

A Quick Review of How To Use New Reporting Filters    

Welcome to Searchable Dynamic Picklists for Reports!

bau_picklist

The screen above should look familiar, but now when you click a checkbox of a filter with more than 100 items, the list box begins empty, ready for you to fill. In other words, if you are not filtering to certain items (projects, employees, etc.) the reporting engine assumes you want to see every item. Once you check a filter check box you are engaging the report's filter and need to choose the items you want in the report. 

new_picklist_empty

Click on the Plus (+) button to open the filter dialog and you will now see this:

check_plus_button_shows_searchable_list_box

You will see a Searchable Dynamic List Box with checkboxes next to each item.

User Scenarios

#1 Simplest Scenario: Running Report Without Using A Filter

If you a user checks a report filter on the left, and the list if larger than 100 items, the left list box will be empty. For larger lists, running this report with the filter checked or unchecked will show all items in the report. If the list has 100 or less items, it will be filled with all list items. For smaller lists, as before, running this report with the filter check or unchecked will show all items in the report.

#2 Finding/Adding a Few Items From Large List

If the list is very long, and you need to find and add only a few items to the reporting filter, you can start typing in the Search box, and the list will dynamically narrow down as you type like below. For example, when typing “al,” the first two letters of Robert Alton’s name the list narrows down to Robert Alton automatically. After you find the item you need, check it and click Add.

typing_filters_down_list 

#3 Less Than 100 Items In Filter

When you click an employee or project filter, if the list of items is 100 or less, all items will appear in the filter list (as before).  If you click the Plus(+) button, note that it will be empty.  If you mark an item on the left and click the Minus(-) button, it will be removed from the right and appear in filter dialog on the right, in case you want to add it back to the filter. You can easily remove all but one or two items by marking all items on the left, and unmarking a few items while holding down the control button while you click on them. Then you click on the Minus(-) button to remove all but the few unselected items.

employee_details_status_filter#3 Active/Inactive Filtering

In the old reporting filter, there was active/inactive filter which sometimes created confusion. Our reports always return all data in the system, whether it's for active or inactive employees, projects, etc. Therefore to see both active and inactive data there is nothing to set. The "show inactive" filter now appears on the new filter dialog so you can see inactive list items and then add them to your report filter. For the "Employee Details" report, this filter is on the first filter you see upper left side of the page.

 

For timesheet hours reports, the show inactive filter will now appear in the dialog box on the right that appears when you click the Plus(+) button.

show_inactive_filter_hours_reports

 

One final note, here are some questions that we have for you:

Are there any use cases not handled well by the updated reporting filters?

Do you ever a need to filter to a large list of items and remove just a few items?

We look forward to your feedback.

If you have any questions about the new reporting filters, you can leave comments below, email support@pacifictimesheet.com, or you can log a case/question through the customer portal.  We look forward to your feedback and ideas.

Topics: Reporting