4.4 Graphical User Interface
The graphical user interface has been designed to be as modern, attractive and simple as possible. It has been developed around several key principals including:
- Simultaneous display of inputs and outputs;
- Reducing modal behavior;
- Separating outputs through tabs;
- Presenting inputs in ‘tree-view’ controls (rather than dialogs) to support progressive disclosure of details; and
- Performing actions/calculations in the background (threaded) with visual indication of status.
The current version presents its graphical user interface in a vertically split two-panel layout (Figure 6): the left panel contains the user input tree-view controls; and the right (main) panel contains textural, chart and GIS based analysis outputs. A custom designed ‘forecast period setter’ control for adjusting the predictor and predictand periods is located at the bottom of the outputs panel. Calculation status and progress are displayed in a footer bar at the bottom of the program window.
Figure 6: Example user-interface layouts from FlowCast including project setup, browser analyses, and station analyses; and spatial analysis outputs.
4.4.1 Input tree-view controls
FlowCast displays all of its input data in ‘tree view’ controls (Figure 7) within the left hand panel. Multiple tree-view windows are displayed according to the current program functionality and ‘user-operational mode’. Each tree node contains a check box (or radio-box, depending on the ‘comparison mode’) for selecting/deselecting analysis elements, and an icon indicating status. Clicking on the predictor or predictand icons opens the linked time-series data files in external editors. Stratification-based predictor nodes can be expanded to show available stratification types.
Figure 7: Input tree-views for different input elements
4.4.2 Forecast period setter
The ‘forecast period setter’ is a custom designed user interactive tool that is presented when performing station and spatial analyses (Figure 8). This is a time-line like control with Gantt bars representing the predictor and predictand periods. The user can move and resize the Gantt bars to adjust individual periods, or drag the bottom axis or ‘lead-time’ indicator to adjust both periods in unison.
Figure 8 Forecast period setter tool showing user-interactive components.
4.4.3 Analyses and outputs
All program outputs are displayed from a range of analyses derived from a “custom analysis” abstract base class in the ‘Browser’ analysis toolkit. This toolkit has been co-developed along-side FlowCast and has been used in other software including SCOPIC, Browser (McClymont, 2008), CropOptimiser (McClymont, 2009), HowLeaky (McClymont et al. 2013) and FIDO (McClymont, 2007). A key feature of this platform is the speed, efficiency and flexibility that it provides the user in interacting with graphical outputs. For example, it provides a simple yet powerful way of synchronizing the zooming and panning of multiple time-series or map based outputs. Chart outputs also have many display layouts and interactive capabilities, while map outputs allow geographical overlaying of chart-based outputs, plotting bubble-series at station locations, fitting contours of results, or combinations of each. Text based outputs provide Microsoft Excel compatible spreadsheets for viewing and exporting (no editing). The abstract base class provides a consistent mechanism throughout the software to switch between chart, map, and tabular outputs, as well as providing titling, legend, and exporting capabilities. The three output modes are enabled in most analyses, although FlowCast's chart based outputs have been disabled during spatial analysis due to the potential for high chart counts.