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To Stan Mathews re A5 V5 Manuals

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    To Stan Mathews re A5 V5 Manuals

    I am amazed at the time you take in responding to so many calls for
    help on this board. I am sure that users are thankful for the
    insights you provide.
    This message is about manuals for A5 V5. I noted your response to Ken
    Subject: How do I in a Report??
    Author: Ken Nordin
    Half of what I say is in jest. I was making fun of the Alpha manuals,
    if not the content, at least the organization. You referred to your
    helpers as walking manuals, and you meant it earnestly I know, in terms
    of getting answers to problems. Do you see the irony?
    If the manuals
    were more up to date,
    better organized,
    better indexed,
    more searchable,
    offered more examples......
    we might not need as much help. Not that I haven't enjoyed and learned
    from every minute I've spent on the board.
    A while back, I posted a message addressed to Selwyn and Users - Re
    A5 V5 manuals and have not gotten much of a response. Selwyn did not
    respond - he is probably heavily involved in getting V5 ready.

    However, I feel, as you do, that a major overhaul of the manuals is
    necessary particularly the Xbasic manual. When I tried to use Xbasic,
    the current manual floored me, despite some experience with Fortran,
    some Cobol, some Pascal and som C, until I studied Dr, Wayne's book

    Perhaps your thoughts on this in my thread or perhaps a new thread
    might focus Selwyn's attention on this issue which would make a great
    product better. He should be made aware of what is needed before the
    manuals are set in concrete.

    BTW, I am a realist and realize that many people don't read manuals
    or, if they do, are not persistant enough to locate answers. Your points
    about better inexes and better searchabilty are well taken, Of course
    we know that part of the problem is not really knowing what to look
    for in the first place. Without any project in mind, I like to
    browse indexes to spot things that might be interesting

    I don't know what many users would do without this board.

    Again, thanks for your many contributions here.

    RE: To Stan Mathews re A5 V5 Manuals



    I'm turning over a new leaf this year. I'm going to "ponder" important questions before I fire off an answer. Be assured that I have read your kind post and will reply at more length shortly.

    There can be only one.


      RE: To Stan Mathews re A5 V5 Manuals

      I don�t feel the need for printed manuals as acutely as some others have indicated. Considering that we�re talking about a completely new version, with many added features, documented and otherwise-(read bugs) , any printed copy of the manuals will probably be out of date in three to six months. I would much prefer that the effort be put into the PDF documentation, and that those files be available for download, completely up to date, at any time. Completely up to date would mean incorporation information from the �patch� readme files, corrections, etc. This may be due to having access to a �workgroup� capacity laser printer to which I can print any of the PDF files. Other users would have other expectations.

      In the area of �improving� the manuals, I note the following:

      Better examples needed.

      Let�s take the example for the DBSUM() function from page 388 of the .pdf file.

      The following expression returns the sum of the values in the AMOUNT field
      for all the records in the ORDER table with a customer Id number of �C102�:

      Well gee, yes it does, and so what? What are the chances anyone would ever write a piece of code to do that. The explanation might have included another example showing that if you substitute the field name for customer id in the third parameter (without the ��), then dbsum() as shown evaluates to the sum of �amount� for the customer id of the current record as determined by the table pointer. Does that seem more useful to know? I see the point of a very �basic� example for illustrative purposes, but feel the need for more practical examples.

      Additionally I�m not sure that, as stated in the function documentation, �CUST_ID.MDX� is an �IndexTagName�. I was under the impression that an �.mdx� was a non-production index created for a special task. Surely it would have been clearer if the explanation stated that the production index (�order.cdx�) needs to have a tagname (�cust_id�) built on the cust_id field.

      Improved searchability:

      Try to find the xbasic Previous() function. If you search for previous(), you will find the �Action Script Action� .fetch_previous(). If you search for �previous�, your first stop is the �Previous� table of contents entry, but it is not apparent that this is the xbasic function unless you scroll up or down to see that you are in the functions section. If you continue your search from this point, you will find many instances of �previous� in explanations of various passages. You will never find �Previous()� under the xbasic function explanation because the examples there all include the parameters inside the parentheses.

      Additionally the �See Also��s should be hot linked to their respective explanations.

      Improved �up to date�edness:

      I noted the �improper� behavior of the "tbl>.fetch_loc_prev recently in terms of returning a zero or one instead of the true or false value as stated in the manuals. This is not a crippling problem but with continuously updated manuals it would have been much easier to find the true problem and design the work around. I spent better than an hour diagnosing �my error� when I was testing for the wrong returned value. Silly me. I assumed that manual was correct and I was doing something wrong.

      Improved indexing:

      Not to beat a dead horse, �searchability�, but as indicated earlier, the index entry would be clear and searchable if the listing was something like �Previous Function � previous()�. Previous function is the way it is listed in the back-of-the-manual index.

      Improved organization:

      I feel that the �Functions� section should be organized by where we may expect to use the functions. Unless I misunderstand, certain functions, example

      Running Total = RUN_TOTAL( Expression, [GRP-> Group [, GRP->Subgroup]])

      are best suited to reports while

      Sum Of Values = DBSUM( TableName, IndexTagName, KeyValue,�

      would be more suitable to forms and field rules. Nothing in the manuals makes this clear to me.

      Well Selig, you did ask me to provide you some feedback. Hope this helps.

      There can be only one.


        RE: To Stan Mathews re A5 V5 Manuals

        Great comments.
        But we need Selwyn to read this and my original post.

        Do we have to hit with a board to get his attention.
        I assumre you know the reference.