Dashboard Dials – In Style

Traditional KPIs in a Dashboard

Cradle has supported KPIs being shown in the sidebar of WorkBench or Web Access for a number of years. This gives a quick overview of the health of the project. It’s giving a rating for each of the measurements and coloured highlighting to draw attention to those areas that need further input.

Showing the KPIs in a traditional dashboard table in sidebar
Traditional Dashboard

Due to its compactness, this table style allows many KPIs to be shown in a small space. However, one of the limitations with this approach is that the scale of the measurement and the relative position of the current value are not immediately obvious.

Bring on the Dials

A dial on the other-hand can display the full range, and the relative position. This allows a much faster assimilation of the data being shown to the user.

showing different sizes for dashboard dials
Dashboard Dial Sizes

New Cradle 7.2 Dashboard Dials Feature

Cradle’s dashboard dials are available in a number of sizes, thus allowing more important dials to be clearly seen. The size is set per dial as:

  • Large
  • Medium
  • Small
  • Minimal

There are also a number of styles available for the dashboard as a whole:

  • Round 270°
  • Round 180°
  • Round 140°
  • Text

These can be displayed with the following pointer types:

  • None
  • Triangle
  • Stick
  • Needle
  • Coloured
showing the different dial and pointer styles
Dashboard Styles

It’s also possible to print these dials to the standard Cradle outputs:

  • SVG (for display in a browser),
  • RTF (for display in Microsoft® Word and similar),
  • PostScript®
  • PowerPoint®
  • EPS
  • FrameMaker®
  • HPGL
Showing an rtf version of the dashboard dials
Dashboard RTF Output

Import Overwrite Options When Loading from CSV, TSV or Excel

Cradle can import data from external files in different formats. One of the most common formats is CSV / TSV (comma separated value and tab separated value). When data is imported from CSV / TSV files, you can choose different import overwrite options. The option that you choose will control whether your data is imported and, if it is imported, which existing data in your database will be kept, or replaced by data from the import file.

Items and Attributes

To explain these options, let’s use a simple picture to represent an item and the attributes inside it:

Cradle item and attributes
An Item With Some Attributes


Lets say in your Cradle database you have an item with the following attributes:

item in Cradle database
A Cradle Database Item with Some Attributes Set

meaning that the item in the database has values set in the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th attributes.

In a spreadsheet you have a row with data in columns corresponding to the 1st, 2nd and 5th attributes of the item in the database:

item in import file
An Item in an Import File with Some Attributes Set

Import Overwrite Options

Option A – Overwrite On

If Overwrite is On then, for each row in the spreadsheet or each record in the CSV / TSV file, Cradle will find the work-in-progress item (if any) and delete everything inside it, and completely replace the contents of the work-in progress item with the data from that record or spreadsheet row.

You would get the following result:

import overwrite options set on in Cradle requirement management software
Import Overwrite Options – On

As you can see, only the data from the file or spreadsheet (the yellow cells) are now in the item, all previous attributes (the blue cells) are now gone.

Option B – Overwrite Off

If Overwrite is Off then if there is an item in the database for the record in the CSV / TSV file, or row in the spreadsheet, no import will occur. If there is no item in the database for the record or row, then the result is the same as Overwrite set to On.

Option C – Overwrite Merge

This is the more interesting case!

If Overwrite is Merge then, for each row in the spreadsheet or record in the CSV / TSV file, Cradle will find the work-in-progress item (if any) and replace the attributes of that item with the columns from that row in the spreadsheet (or field i the CSV / TSV file) so any attributes in the item that have not been mapped to a column in the spreadsheet row (or field in the CSV / TSV file) will be left alone.

So the attributes that already exist in the item in the database and the attributes in the spreadsheet row or file record are merged:

import overwrite options set on in Cradle system engineering software
Import Overwrite Options – Merge

You would get the following result:

import overwrite options set on in Cradle system engineering software
Import Overwrite Options – Merge

Attributes in the spreadsheet row or file record have been loaded into the item. All other attributes in the item have not been changed.


Setting Overwrite to Merge is useful to add data to database items from an external CSV / TSV file or Excel spreadsheet. Any attributes not in the external file are not affected by the import.

To get more help importing information into Cradle, explore the Cradle help here.

Find and Replace

Database Level Searching

Most people are familiar with a ‘find and replace’ function in a word processor document. However, when you have thousands of items in a database, it’s not very easy to open each one and search through for the replacement term. You could run a query, but then you’d still need to know which attribute of the item the query should match.

Allowing the search to take place at the database level ensures that the items are found that contain the term. Rather than just ‘finding’ in the visible text on the screen.

Shows dialog for find and replace within selected items
Find and Replace in Selected Items

New Cradle-7.2 Find & Replace Feature

If items are visible as the result of running a query, for example, it is possible to select all those items and perform the find and replace within the attributes of those items.

Clicking each item in the left hand column of the dialog will show the attribute in the right hand part of the dialog that matches.

The user can optionally double click the ‘Yes’ in the ‘Replace’ column to prevent this substitution occurring.

Alternatively users can select a query to run to source the items in which replace will occur.  In both cases a report to detail which items were changed can be printed by checking the box at the bottom of the dialog.

Find and replace result report
Find and Replace Results

Digital Certificates in Cradle System Engineering Tool

Cradle system engineering tool digital certificate

Starting with the Cradle-7.2 release, we have included digital certificates in the executables in the Cradle system engineering tool distribution for Windows, including the Cradle installer itself.

Digital Certificates

Like a passport or a driver’s licence, digital certificates are issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) to provide proof of identity, in this case for verifying the identity of online entities. However, instead of containing a photograph and the signature of the certificate’s owner, a digital certificate binds the owner’s public key to the owner’s private key.

3SL (our full company name is Structured Software Systems Limited) has obtained a digital certificate from the CA Symantec that we can use to identify any file as being something that we have produced.

Cradle Systems Engineering Tool

3SL’s system engineering tool Cradle contains many executables and other files. These files are supplied as a single distribution file, such as:


It is helpful to us, and to anyone who receives the Cradle software distribution or who looks at any executable that is claimed to be part of the Cradle system engineering tool, to know that:

  • The distribution
  • The files inside the distribution

have come from 3SL and have not been changed in any way after they were created by 3SL.

So, starting with Cradle-7.2, 3SL has digitally signed:

  • The Cradle software distribution
  • The executables inside the distribution

with our digital certificate.


Using a digital signature brings several benefits to anyone who installs or uses Cradle.

Anti-Virus Products

Occasionally, some AV products have incorrectly claimed that a file in Cradle contains a virus. These incorrect reports are called false positives.

Now that Cradle executables are digitally signed, we expect that your AV product will report fewer false positives.


Since the Cradle installer is digitally signed, Windows will display the friendly blue User Account Control (UAC) dialog at the start of the Cradle installation:

cradle system engineering tool digital signatures
Windows Detects 3SL in Cradle System Engineering Tool Installer

instead of the warning yellow UAC dialog.

Executable File Properties

You can verify the digital signature in the Cradle installation files:

Cradle system engineering tool digital certificates
View Digital Certificates in Cradle Executables

If the file does not contain a digital certificate, then you know that the file has been tampered with since 3SL created it, or it was not created by 3SL at all.

Information Assurance

The use of digital certificates is part of 3SL’s commitment to ensuring that Cradle contributes to the information assurance practices in your organisation. You can find more details about other information assurance aspects of Cradle in our white paper here.


We hope that 3SL’s use of digital certificates in the distribution of, and executable files within, the Cradle system engineering tool will be helpful when you next install Cradle and when your AV products next scan a Cradle installation!


World Water Day 2017

3SL Staff Support World Water Day

World Water Day (22 March 2017). We should celebrate that we are part of the 90% of people that have access to clean safe drinking water.

clean water
Water for All

We would like to encourage our readers to help the 10% of the world’s population that face dirty or diseased water by supporting charities like WaterAid by having a collection and possibly turning #Blue4Water!

Photo of staff with corporate blue faces
Corporate Blue

Skills Based Access of Items

When not everything can be shared

Imagine you have a project and teams of people working on it. You can control who sees what by placing staff in different teams (for information watch this video about collaborative teams). You can provide skills based access to individual frames within the item. However, there maybe one type of item which only certain team members can see, maybe a Finance item. The solution is to set a skill for the item type. Ensure those who are allowed to view the item type have the skill.  For those assigned the required skill, all the other access controls still get applied, (CM status, security clearance and ownership).  For those without the skill, the item type disappears from existence, it is as if the project schema had not defined the item.

Project setup setting skills based item access
Skills Based Item Access

New Cradle-7.2 RO Skill Based Access Feature

Now imagine the scenario that you want team members to see an item type but you don’t want them to be able to change any aspect of it. The latest version of Cradle allows you to set Read-only access for these item types.

Skill based access levels for items
Skill Based Access Levels for Items

Multiple Value Categories


In the database each item can have a number of categories assigned to it. These are indexes by which you want to sort and retrieve your items. Some values are plainly single, an item’s Customer Approval can’t be Approved and Rejected at the same time. However, Colours could be Red and Blue on the same item. These are multiple value categories. They are used to classify an item when the attribute itself can have multiple non mutually exclusive values.

The values that can be held by the category are defined in the Project Schema. Each value is allocated to a ‘slot’ each item holds a set of flags indicating which slots (values) are ‘selected’ for that item.

When shown in a View or Form, the values for the slots are shown to the user.

Showing selecting a multiple value category
Multiple Category Value Selection

New Cradle-7.2 Project Setup Feature

It’s now even easier to set up multiple value categories in Project Setup.

Project setup of multiple value category
Multiple Value Category Setup

The new options are:

  • Clear – Clears the value from the list but leaves the slot blank
  • Copy – Copies the selected value
  • Paste – Pastes the copied value into the selected slot
  • Delete – Deletes the value and all values below this value are moved up
  • Insert – Inserts a slot so you can add a value, all values below this slot are moved down
  • Up – Exchanges the currently selected slot with the one above it
  • Down – Exchanges the currently selected slot with the one below it
Warning: There is consequence on existing items in the database for all of the operations above so a warning message will be shown when attempting one of these operations.
If slots 1, 2, 3 are Red, Blue and Green and item AA1 has flags set for 1, 2 it will be seen as Red and Blue. If a subsequent change is made to the schema (after items exist as drafts or baseline items), making slot 1, 2, 3 Red, Orange, Blue and Green, will result in item AA1 being defines as Red and Orange. This is because the flags tally with the slot. Users should query on existing data to see which items will be affected and subsequently update those they wish to change individually, or using “Item Properties”

Summer is on the Way (Spring 2017)

Vernal (Spring) Equinox 2017-03-20

Summer’s on the way for those in the Northern Hemisphere.  The Vernal (Spring) Equinox is marking the first day astronomical spring. Explained further on TimeandDate.com

Why not consider a spring clean, remove all those dusty files full of project requirements version 1 to version 9. Why? Will you really be able to find what you are looking for without a way of searching? Consider whether you can sensibly access the details of those designs sitting rolled up in mailing tubes. Do you have the means to edit them electronically any more. Does anyone know where the file is kept?

NOTE: If you live in the Southern Hemisphere you don’t have to wait until spring you could have an Autumn clean !

sunrise picture

Cradle can help save your day!

With all the data for your project in one convenient tool, everything from the requirements through the project plan, the design and the test results conveniently linked together. Isn’t that much nicer than a set of files on shelves?

From under £250 (Current Requirements Management Desktop price March 2017) you could bring order where there was chaos. See the comparison chart for details of which tool suits best and the shop for current price details.

Item Integrity – “Fix” Option

Schema Changed?

In an ideal world we would design the project schema first and then run our project from that point on. However, that’s not always how real life pans out, changes post ‘work starting’ can create questionable item integrity.

Cradle’s WorkBench Item Integrity checker allows an authorised user to check the status of items in the database. The thorough check ensures each item’s attributes are consistent with the schema and valid. It highlights areas that need the database administrator’s attention.

These issues may have been created in a number of normal operational ways.

  • Altering the schema after these items have been created and saved.
  • Importing items whilst overriding data validation. (In order to get items in to the database, so that they can be edited it is quite logical to want the old value to remain. The user then has a chance to view and edit and save with the new parameters).
  • Creating, say, a hierarchy of items and subsequently not editing them to fill in all required category fields or filling mandatory frames with content. (It would be most laborious to be forced to fill each one at the time of creation. It is better allowing a hierarchy to be created and then subsequently edited)

Item Integrity Checker dialog

Item Integrity Checker

New Cradle-7.2 Item Integrity Fix Feature

A Fix button has been added to the Item Checks section of the Item Integrity Checker. This button only apply to certain checks. These checks are shown below with details of what happens when the Fix button is pressed:

Check Fix Operation
Category values are defined in project schema Clear the category values.
Category values match data type in project schema If it has a default value, set it to this value, otherwise don’t do anything, i.e. this cannot be fixed using the Fix button.
Categories are not empty when predefined values exist If it has a default value, set it to this value, otherwise don’t do anything, i.e. this cannot be fixed using the Fix button.
All mandatory categories have values If it has a default value, set it to this value, otherwise don’t do anything, i.e. this cannot be fixed using the Fix button.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day 2017

Wishing all our customers, suppliers and followers a Happy St. Patrick’s day 2017 from 3SL.

State Chart Diagrams (SCD)

Whatever process you are modelling, if there are stages or states that form the process you can represent these in a SCD.

Classes, in this case “a day” that have a distinct lifecycle. They exhibit a different external behaviour in different circumstances “Special day for celebration”  may be augmented by a Statechart Diagram (SCD).
An SCD is a finite-state-machine that describes how the class responds to external stimuli (the triggers here are the end of work on the 17th). The stimuli are the receipt of messages by instances of the class, in the form of calls of the class’s operations. Internally dynamic behaviour is described in terms of a set of states, (The status of the glass) the transitions between these states (Time for Another?)

State Chart Diagram showing Irish stout refill
St. Patrick State Chart Diagram (SCD)