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kmaiden

Top 10 things to do before delivering a multi-user FM solution?

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I'm about to complete my first project in FMP5.5 for a client. I'm converting a system from Access to FileMaker. Since it will be a multi-user system (1 NT server w/ 7 Win98 workstations; I currently have FMP 5.5 installed on a development laptop; and purchased but not installed FMP Dev 5.5). I think I will need to purchase FMP Server and a VLA 10-pack, and install that software on-site. There should be a way to install the clients such that they cannot create new FMP files, they may only use the server solution.

I want to know how to make the interface layouts look as professional as possible. Any tips, suggestions, and hints would be greatly appreciated.

Should the FM menus and toolbars be disabled/locked-out?

How to protect users from closing files with the 'x' on the screen window?

Should all searches and finds be scripted (do not allow user find mode)?

Should there be a main-menu file with buttons to open data files?

Anything would help. Thanks in advance.

[ January 07, 2002: Message edited by: kmaiden ]

[ January 07, 2002: Message edited by: kmaiden ]

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quote:

Originally posted by kmaiden:

I want to know how to make the interface layouts look as professional as possible. Any tips, suggestions, and hints would be greatly appreciated.

Consistency is important. Users should know where they are and what they're doing at all times. Stick with one font throughout unless it's absolutely necessary to use another. I wouldn't use more than two different typefaces.

Sit down with the end-users and see how they work now. Ask them what they like about the current system, and what they don't like.

quote:

Should the FM menus and toolbars be disabled/locked-out?

This depends on the end-user's familiarity with FileMaker. My answer leans toward yes, lock out any function/feature that can inadvertently mess up your hard work. I personally script every function I think (or the user thinks) is needed, including creating/editing/deleting records, changing views, printing, importing, exporting... you get the idea.

quote:

How to protect users from closing files with the 'x' on the screen window?

I believe this can be done with a looping script. The user will not even be able to switch to another FileMaker window. Be careful though -- when developing looping scripts be sure to give yourself a way out.

quote:

I'm about to complete my first project in FMP5.5 for a client.

It sounds like you're still in the early stages of the project. wink.gif" border="0 I don't mean to discourage you; I've been in the same boat, i.e. I'd created what was actually a skeleton of a database that contained all of the necessary data manipulation functionality, but none of the human interface. This is just as important.

The best piece of advice I could give you as an intermediate/advanced developer is to buy Rich Coloumbre's book, Special Edition Using FileMaker Pro 5, ISBN 0-7897-2201-1. It is a must-have for every FileMaker developer, and will answer all of the questions you have posed here.

WalkThrough_Work_Flow.zip

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I agree with The Bridge and would also recommend that you take a look at the "Scriptology" products - a book called "FileMaker Pro DeMystified" and a 4-CD-ROM development kit called "Scriptology - Developer's Toolkit". You can order these (and read about them) on www.scriptology.com.

I have been developing FMP relational databases for some years now, and in my opinion, the Scriptology products, together with Rich Coloumbre's book are the best products available for purchase if you want to create great looking/functioning FMP databases. It will take a long time to study them, but I assure you it is worth the time if you plan on doing more professional work in FMP! Apart from these, forums such as this, is a great help. Another FMP interface resource you can look at is www.layoutmode.com.

THE classic work in User Interface Design, regardless of what development environment you use, is Ben Shneidermans "Designing the User Interface" (you can find it at http://www.aw.com/cseng/titles/0-201-69497-2/website/introduction.html), and especially his eight "Golden Rules". Here is a short listing of them:

1. Strive for Consistency. It is very important to make sure that the interface is consistent. Examples of this are making sure all fonts are match, terminology is similar throughout, and layout is consisten. This rule is often ignored or violated, so be extra careful

2. Enable Frequent Users to Use Shortcuts. When users begin to use the software more, they want to be able to reduce the amount of time it takes to interact with the program. Use shortcuts that will help cut time from the frequent user's day.

3. Offer Informative Feedback. It is important that feedback (ie. errors, input requests) be informative. Since every interaction the user has with the computer should have a response, make them informative but not distractive.

4. Design Dialogs to Yield Closure. During sequences of actions, it is important to allow the user to yield. This allows the user more control of what the program is doing.

5. Offer Error Prevention and Simple Error Handling. As often as possible when designing the project, avoid opportunities for the user to cause a critical error. For example, when a user inputs a number when a letter is needed, do not allow the number to be entered. This will avoid a error.

6. Permit Easy Reversal of Actions. All actions that can be reversible, should be. This allows the user to undo something that might have been a mistake or was not appealing to them.

7. Support Internal Locus of Control. Users want to feel in control of the software. If the user does not feel in control, they will feel anxiety and dissatisfaction

8. Reduce Short-Term Memory Load. It should be realized that human short-term memory is not perfect. This limitation should be recognized when designing. Too much information is bad information.

Good luck!

/Daniel

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First, with the VLA install system you can disable the ability for users to create new databases. Follow the instructions in the package definition format document instructions.

The special on the VLA runs for several more weeks.

Be sure that the server is on the Miscrosoft Hardware Compatibility list. The OS needed is either Windows NT Server 4, SP5 or 6A or Windows 2000 Server.

HTH

Old Advance Man

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