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(This posting is also being submitted to MacTech magazine "letters to the
editor" and in the Mac Developers CompuServe forum, if you're looking for
As part of the GUI interface kit for our OOFILE database product, I am
developing a simple records-management system. The full source will be
included as a major example for our clients, and the completed application
will ultimately be sold as a cross-platform product (possibly shareware).
The following shows some different views on human interfaces in databases
and the question of where to put the New Record and related commands. It
is partly based on several years 4D and FoxBase experience.
Apple Interface Column (THE.DOKTOR):
In one column ('Apple Directions' November 93) Peter Bickford discussed
the needs of databases where you have a File menu for opening database
documents, and then have the separate commands for New Record etc.
1) use buttons on the browser window for commands such as New, Delete etc.
2) have a specific menu for each database type of record (eg: Customers,
has a New Customer command)
This immensely popuplar flat-file database adds to the Edit menu. The New,
Duplicate and Delete commands on there change with the context. Their
Select menu lets you choose Browse mode (New Record), Layout mode (New
Layout) and Find mode (New Request - a page OR'd with others, with ANDing
between fields on a single Request).
This is partly drawn from 'Tog on Interface', p249, where Tognazzini talks
about SuperPaint and it's alternating between Draw and Paint menus
depending on context.
File Edit Lists Entry ...
File - concerned with document handling
Edit - traditional clipboard commands etc. (include Publishing on Mac)
Lists - select available browser windows, effectively a "Context" menu but
phrased in a more friendly term (choose it and you *do* see a list)
Entry - initially disabled, contains New Record, Delete Record etc.
when you enter a context (via Lists) changes its name to the context
(eg: Articles) and items change accordingly (New Article, etc.)
Experience leading to this suggestion:
I've been using a Lists menu for several custom databases - users love it
as a very simple way to flip between contexts. In some environments, they
can have a window open per context.
In these cases, the database has been fixed, thus there is no need for
document selection commands on the File menu. Accordingly, I used those
items and renamed them (New Article etc.) To date, I've never seen anyone
use them - they all use the buttons on the browser windows! I suspect
strongly that one reason is they don't expect to see these items under
File. A menu that changes title (but not behaviour) per environment is a
Andy Dent, Product Architect, A.D. Software, Western Australia
OOFILE - "the cross-platform OODBMS that speaks c++"
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