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Attention Desktop Developers

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  • Attention Desktop Developers

    Further to Marcel's very sensible posting (V12 release notes) which got hijacked by semantics and went rambling off in a number of none productive directions why don't we (Desktop Fans) start a thread of the things we would like to see.

    I know there is a wishlist on Idea-scale but despite several requests we get little or no feedback in that arena.

    My own "wishes" would be :-

    A good desktop calendar component is VITAL and if it had drag and drop capability it would be a winner - there can't be many business applications that aren't in some way date driven.

    And when I really go off into fantasy land the ability to move desktop applications to Ipads with local storage - sadly I live in a "Third World" country called Great Britain where mobile internet coverage is at very best patchy and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future so I simply don't buy into this headlong rush for mobile applications that rely on a 3g /4g connection.

    So lets hear some more.........

    Bob
    Bob Whitaker


  • #2
    Re: Attention Desktop Developers

    Fantastic Bob, this could be a very productive thread.

    One area I would like to see better use made of, is the Desktop control panel. eg Notes and Modification columns for everything, not just the tables and sets
    Regards
    Keith Hubert
    Alpha Guild Member
    London.
    KHDB Management Systems
    Skype = keith.hubert


    For your day-to-day Needs, you Need an Alpha Database!

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Attention Desktop Developers

      Here are the responses from my survey of IADN developers (all mixed together, slightly edited for clarity):

      (0) Browse, Browse, Browse

      (1) Better support for new versions of Windows.
      - Including rigorous testing of compatibility.
      - Do not need "touch" screen support, but must be able to configure Alpha Five to run successfully on Windows 8 machines.
      - Help configuring older versions of Alpha Five to the same environment.
      - Guidance from Alpha in this area is critical, and missing.

      (2) The "built-in" installmaker routines need to be fixed, or abandoned altogether.
      - Almost no one is able to use them to create installation packages for our customers per the current documentation.

      (3) Need better support (pre-configured and built-in) for e-mail support.
      - Need to be able to easily display previous emails, print email logs, etc.
      - The built in email client contains the low level tools, but the high level support that we love (and depend on) is missing.
      - Better control of batch emails, would be a big help, too.

      (4) Ability to auto-add time fields to a dbf using the add-fields function

      Alternate view:
      (5) Desktop is pretty good in terms of its capabilities, no need to develop it much more.
      Steve Wood
      Join the ALPHA DEVELOPERS NETWORK
      There is no Cloud. It's just someone else's computer.
      Web - Mobile - Hosting - Products - Frameworks - Developer Resources
      AlphaToGo | IADN (100% Alpha Anywhere Websites)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Attention Desktop Developers

        Steve, I would argue with the "Touch Screen" support issue. Touch screen would be very helpful in a lot of instances.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Attention Desktop Developers

          -I would second improvement for the installer.
          - 64 bit support
          - A simple clean way to create updates for distribution to remote customers without overwriting existing data. That is separate the front end from back end.
          - Create styles/skins for apps using CSS. Apply a style once for an entire app. Perhaps implementing some level of WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation )
          - Some system dialogs look old and dated
          - Allow desktop Web components be created in Desktop control panel so you don't have application objects scattered in different places.

          These are just a few things from my perspective others may not see an issue.
          Regards,

          John W.
          www.CustomReportWriters.net

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Attention Desktop Developers

            - I would add that its time for the long talked about compiler, with the compiled executable containing everything to run the app without the need for a runtime
            Regards,

            John W.
            www.CustomReportWriters.net

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Attention Desktop Developers

              Thank you Bob, for your kind compliment and for starting up this thread.

              After careful consideration and giving this some thought, my list would be:

              1) Go from the idea to completely abandon "forms" and its specific tooling, and replace this completely with components as used on the web side.
              2) Enhance and improve the "working preview" capability as much as possible so hat it becomes possible to construct complete working desktop applications OR web applications with just ONE technology following the idea/concept of "develop once, deploy everywhere".
              3) Finding ways to make it possible to use specific web components that won't run on the desktop in wp-mode NOW, like the Calendar Component.
              4) Documentation urgently needs attention NO MATTER WHAT the platform is. Alphapedia is a complete and utter disaster to find something you need. Personally I think the old system was way more informative. But that's only me. Searching in Alphapedia on a subject delivers a shipsload of returns with high irrelevancy to what you are looking for. Much time gets lost by the lack of an efficient documentation system. Too many separate tools that each for itself don't do the job and don't work together.
              5) A well tailored system to deliver updates and upgrades to your customer.

              I guess the by far largest gap in the desktop functionality in terms of features (there are other points of view of course, like stability and such) has been the lack of a well thought out calendar/event tool. What the desktop now has is sub-par at best and not by a long shot able to satisfy today's customers needs and expectations.

              I think colleagues that we can't press on to keep improving the current desktop. It is ancient technology and further investing in it would (in my humble opinion) not be a sound thing for Alpha Software ROI-wise.
              Instead, when you could make it so that the current pallet of components gets improved and enhanced further so that anyone (no matter desktop, web or mobile) could use it to make "his thing" with it, we are all served. This is simply a threshold we urgently need to pass. No more differences in interests, features and capabilities between "desktoppers", "webbers" or "mobilers".

              Looking at what is available NOW in v11, not even having seen what is available in v12Beta, my best guess is that we are more close to realizing this then we think.

              Also I support the wish of Keith above, this is a long time wish of mine, many times expressed on this forum: options to categorize, make remarks and so on. Besides that, the web projects control panel has many features that the desktop control panel has not, like filtering. Maybe, in line with my point of view as expressed in points 1-3, dispose of all those different control panels and create just one.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                For developers, here are some of the things I would like to see in the desktop:

                (1) A true replacement for the current form/browse construct
                (2) A way to address the "always-open" nature of apps/forms built on dbf structures, sort of like it is in a client-server app
                (3) A way to build applications based on the client-server construct without having to learn (apart from the obvious requirement to learn SQL) several new programming languages like you do for the web.
                (5) An easy way to extend your application with connections to external objects like ActiveX, COM etc
                (4) An easy way to tap into the new power offered by dot Net (Even if dot Net is an overblown, overweight behemoth.)
                (5) Continue to be able to grow/expand the programming skills we've developed using Xbasic.

                I suppose you can see where I'm going with this, since we already have all of these things, full-blown and reliable, in the Xdialog extension of Xbasic. Here are some of the reasons why every Alpha developer should be working with Xdialog.
                (1) stability
                (2) speed
                (3) reliability
                (4) doesn't require learning new programming languages (but will force you to learn more about the language (xbasic) you already know.)
                (5) allows direct connection to SQL back-ends without using Active-link tables
                (6) the ability to use extensions like the Codejock Calendar with which it is possible to build, cool-looking and feature-laden, drag and drop objects.

                Is it more work? Absolutely. My guess is that it can take three or four times as long to build the xdialog equivalent of a data entry form than in traditional Alpha. The difference, though, is that the end result is, as much as such a thing is possible to be, impervious to the problems with traditional forms that we see described here daily. Is the interface as "pretty" as the traditional Alpha can be made to look? No, though for those who are concerned more about looks than content and speed, it's easier now that you can build html forms.

                A wider adoption of xdialog by developers would, I believe, give Alpha the nudge to work on attainable, realistic improvements, for example to make xdialog easier to use. I think this could produce better results than beating up on the Alpha team with cries for stuff that, given the nature of the software business today and the resources at Alpha's disposal, have a snowball's chance in hell of coming to fruition.

                I have heard all the arguments offered up in opposition to xdialog. However, I have to say that I simply don't understand these attitudes. I can't understand how developers, knowing there is a tool available that will address many, if not all, of their concerns will turn away from that tool for want of effort.
                Finian

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                  Originally posted by Finian Lennon View Post
                  I can't understand how developers, knowing there is a tool available that will address many, if not all, of their concerns will turn away from that tool for want of effort.
                  Hi Finian. Wouldn't the quote below be the answer to the quote above?

                  Originally posted by Finian Lennon View Post
                  My guess is that it can take three or four times as long to build the xdialog equivalent of a data entry form than in traditional Alpha.
                  I guess most developers would think that in these times of crisis their customers are not very willing to pay three or four times the fees they do today?

                  I know, I simplify things with this answer, and it is most certainly not my intent to be condescending or such. But isn't it true Finian that quality has always been something that is actually quite scarce and more often then seldom becomes the victim of speed and cost?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                    I'm a beginner but I do have some experience writing layout-editing applications, and I have a few simple improvements I'd like to see. Apologies if any of these are already there and I'm just ignorant about them...

                    1) Improve the functioning of scroll bars. Back in the early days of Windows every scroll bar worked differently and few worked well. Nowadays people expect them to work well. Alpha is like a trip back to 1995 hell.

                    2) Add a mouse-controlled alternative to the shift-arrow "nudge" function. It's very easy to implement and works very well: make it so if you press and hold the right mouse button while moving something, it moves a small fraction of the distance the mouse cursor moves.

                    3) In the place where you specify initial window position (for forms, etc.) add the option "Centered".

                    -jimc

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                      <But isn't it true Finian that quality has always been something that is actually quite scarce and more often then seldom becomes the victim of speed and cost?>

                      I would say that the additional time more than pays for itself with a result that is reliable, fast, robust and ideal for a multi-user environment. The compromise is generally the need to enter detail data in a form-like rather than a browse-like structure.
                      Finian

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                        Originally posted by Finian Lennon View Post
                        ....I have heard all the arguments offered up in opposition to xdialog. However, I have to say that I simply don't understand these attitudes. .....
                        Finian,

                        I use forms, browses and Xdialog, though probably not as much Xdialog as I could. When I use a browse I try to never make it a place for data entry (an exception is sometimes logical fields set as checkmarks). And I try to stay away from memo fields if at all possible. As for stability, speed and reliability, if I stick to these rules, I have never had a serious problem of any kind with applications on small (20 user) networks.

                        The big problem I have with Xdialog the time it takes to build them AND as near as I can determine their serious formatting limitations when compared to standard forms. A good example would be project I am working on now using a form on which numerous complex calculations need to be made (calc fields on the form) and displayed in boxes of different colors using fonts of different colors and where the colors can change with each record fetch and they are all displayed in non-simple table format (rows and columns of different sizes). This is all fairly easy and fast to build on a standard form. I can't even imagine how to accomplish anything remotely close to it in a Xdialog. If it is possible at all (which I doubt) it would take a lot more time, something my client would never pay for (I am paid by the hour).

                        I would love it if Xdialog could be made as easy to use and have the same formatting flexibility as a form. I might even be able to wildly imagine how that might be done but then wouldn't it just be a new kind of form not tied to a table? formatting flexibility in Xdialog is miles away from that now. But even if it gets there, Alpha's big thing has always been a way to build complex things quickly. With Xdialog, therein lies the rub even if formatting power increases.

                        On the other hand, I agree with your points (5) and (6).

                        Raymond Lyons

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                          Would someone volunteer to take all of the lists of Desktop bugs, enhancements, etc from this thread and consolidate into one list for a new post? The list should weed out duplicates, separate bugs from enhancement requests and also summarize the "reasons" provided for why Desktop is important. Leave out additional commentary (because it can be referenced in the individual posts.) Then folks can comment on that new consolidated list, start to prioritize, clarify, etc.
                          Steve Wood
                          Join the ALPHA DEVELOPERS NETWORK
                          There is no Cloud. It's just someone else's computer.
                          Web - Mobile - Hosting - Products - Frameworks - Developer Resources
                          AlphaToGo | IADN (100% Alpha Anywhere Websites)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                            Again a new post Steve, how much of those should we get. This is already the second one. I would like to suggest that we keep right here on Bob's thread, but that Bob integrates whatever is added to the list in later posts to his first post so that the actual list as suggested by all is visible right there, in the first post.
                            I know it is a bit of work for Bob, but let's hope he wants to do us honor by doing it.

                            Bob?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Attention Desktop Developers

                              Again a new post Steve, how much of those should we get.
                              Pardon me, is there something wrong with me making this suggestion? I am trying to nudge it from the forum to the front door where it might do some good!
                              Steve Wood
                              Join the ALPHA DEVELOPERS NETWORK
                              There is no Cloud. It's just someone else's computer.
                              Web - Mobile - Hosting - Products - Frameworks - Developer Resources
                              AlphaToGo | IADN (100% Alpha Anywhere Websites)

                              Comment

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