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Author Topic: General use issues.  (Read 12754 times)

kimajac

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General use issues.
« on: July 21, 2007, 06:52:38 PM »
I have been using the formlettermachine intensively for the last 10 days.  The environment is very productivity oriented.  The issues I am listing prevent me from recommending it the 200 members of our team.  That being said, it is a great program for power users.  I do not contribute to programs almost ever.  Yours has huge potential value.  Hence the contribution.

I use the program as a checklist when talking to clients.  I am required by state regulation to cover a series of subjects and record the generic response to the questions.  So I set up either radio buttons or check boxes to select the appropriate response. I have found the following issues as major inhibitors to the program being a potential major contributor to the efficiency of our team.

When the program retreats to the system tray, the active variable list is changed.  If the variable list was not saved, it is lost.  This is a major fault in the program that defeats its value.

When saving a tree or variable list, it should default to the correct folder. Having to remember to change directories is another huge loss in productivity.

Manipulating the tree is not intuitive.  For some reason moving buttons, check boxes and folders requires mulitple attempts to get the hierarchy right.

I am generating 5-8 variable files a day.  The list is becoming too long to manage efficiently.  There should be a method of changing the variable directory so old files can be moved to a inactive location that can be accessed by simply changing the variable directory.  When the program restarts, it should go back to the default variable directory.

I know that there other uses for the your fantastic program.  I think that the issues I have raised are generic and will span almost all other potential uses.  I am willing to recommend the program to my company if the efficiency and loss of data issues can be resolved.  I believe it will provide us the ability to produce a better quality product.

My 3.5 cents for what it is worth.   Thanks for a great program

mouser

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2007, 07:35:11 PM »
Hi Kim,

welcome to the site!  I've been building up a small list of features to add to the program for a while and once i get my latest big program released at the end of this month (FARR 2), i will delve into new updates of my other programs including The Form Letter Machine.

Let's take a look at your requests:

Quote
1. When the program retreats to the system tray, the active variable list is changed.  If the variable list was not saved, it is lost.  This is a major fault in the program that defeats its value.
Sounds like a bug that would be easy to fix.

Quote
2. When saving a tree or variable list, it should default to the correct folder. Having to remember to change directories is another huge loss in productivity.
Agreed -- i've experienced this once too and consider it a bug to be fixed.

Quote
3. Manipulating the tree is not intuitive.  For some reason moving buttons, check boxes and folders requires mulitple attempts to get the hierarchy right.
I have to figure out if i should redo this code or just tweak existing code -- i know it's not perfect but i'm not sure i want to tackle it yet -- if we can identify specific reproduceable oddities i may be able to fix them.

Quote
I am generating 5-8 variable files a day.  The list is becoming too long to manage efficiently.  There should be a method of changing the variable directory so old files can be moved to a inactive location that can be accessed by simply changing the variable directory.  When the program restarts, it should go back to the default variable directory.

This sounds intriguing but i'd love to hear some more elaboration on what the best way to do this might be and how the interface might be set up for maximum productivity.  If you could give some thought about the best way to present the interface i'd be interested in hearing it.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2007, 08:50:27 PM »
The program has the interface already built to store dat files anywhere.  The problem is that the window window on the right that lists the variable files is hard coded to one folder.  The list window is very efficient.  Provide a button that allows the user to change the variable folder.  I am pretty sure the interface for maneuvering through the hard drive directories is already written.  Once the folder is selected, the variable files in that folder would be displayed in the list box.  Taking the concept one step farther, doing the same thing with the tree files allows the user to separate trees by application.  In my case, each state has different requirements.  Having a tree folder for each state would insure I am not using the wrong format....which can get the company in trouble.  If this explanation is not sufficiently clear, let me know.

I will try and accurately describe the issues with the tree manipulation in a subsequent posting.  I am on a deadline tonight.  Thanks for the quick response.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2007, 06:22:45 PM »
Just came across another fatal error.  If you updated a variable file and do not save it before moving to another, the update is lost.  I status check for changes to the variables is critical. 

System tray revisit:  The program is brain dead when it comes to the system tray.  That is, there is no way of knowing if it is going there.  Once there , you cannot double click or single click to get it back.  A double click causes it to be minimized in the bottom left corner of the screen.  Double click again and you get what should have happened originally.

The ability to change the order of the variables would be fantastic.  As trees change, related variables are spread throughout the list.  Having related variable grouped together would greatly enhance efficiency.

The - button should cause the window to minimize in the task bar.  Sometimes it does sometimes it goes to the system tray.  I think it is related to the whole system tray program module.
I am trying to keep notes about issues, but it is hard to drive and write.

Again, a great program.

mouser

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2007, 06:38:48 PM »
if you are willing to document them and keep track so we remember to test them to make sure they are fixed, im committed to fixing them.. just on a huge push in July to get my other program released that's the only reason i can't start working on this stuff right away.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2007, 08:23:30 PM »
Not a problem, I will use this thread to keep track of the things I come across.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2007, 07:59:43 AM »
When a tree is temporarily modified, and it is selected again to refresh back to the original tree, the center window where the modification was done does not clear.  It makes the user think that the tree has been permanently changed.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2007, 10:08:04 AM »
This may be an out-of-scope extension, but providing a button next to "copy to clipboard" to save the current text window to a text file provides a permanent record of the communication.  This will be invaluable for record keeping.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2007, 10:14:41 AM »
Update on the retreat to the system tray.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  There is still no way of knowing which variable file that it will retreive when it becomes the main screen.  But I have found that sometimes when I double click on the icon, it drops to the left bottom corner minimized.  Other times it comes up as expected.  Loss of data occurs in both the tree and the variables without warning.  In the case of the tree, if another tree is selected, the program does not check for the saved status of the current tree.  All changes lost!!  Same for variables.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2007, 10:27:41 AM »
Update on variable manipulation and addition. -- We copy data from a legacy system to a clipboard enhancer.  The enhancer can paste the copied data in sequence using only the ctrl v key.  Since we are pasting into 2 different programs, changing the variable order in TFM to match the other program would improve data transfer by 50%. 

Variables-  You should be able to add them independ of the tree.  Case in point.  I have one tree that has a unique variable.  It is not used often.  However, when pasting values to variables, the unique one is not displayed so that it can be populated.  I have to change to the corresponding tree ( while remembering to save the existing changes) to bring up the variable and then paste to it.  Being independent of the tree allows for capture of data that can be of future use in developing additional trees or adding the data to existing trees.  It would eliminate the requirement to back to the legacy system to collect a single piece of data for each variable file.  As always, great program.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2007, 06:45:52 AM »
The variable list does not update correctly.  If you are in a tree and adding a variable, in some cases I will get a new variable for every additional letter added.  So I will have a dozen new variables in the list.  If I close the program and reopen, things are fine.  If I want to save the variable list, I cannot remove the errant entries before saving.
A means of updating the list would help

One of the previous posts recommended a global variable list versus a list specific to the current tree.  I would agree that a method of changing the scope of the variable list would be very helpful.
Others have asked for some means of manipulating order of variables.  Again a very helpful feature.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2007, 09:52:16 PM »
My current method of using TFM:
I get the TFM text close to what I need.  I then paste the text to Msword.  In Word,
I tweak the text and then paste to the final destination. Since I am in a very
fast paced environment, this methodology insures I am pasting the best quality text.
In the past, I would paste to the final destination and tweak things in a non-editor
window.  I would invariably leave words/sentences that did not apply to the current
file.  Plus it is more efficient to edit the full doc than trying to find the source
text to edit in TFM.

If the center window could be edited, I think it would greatly improve the functionality
of TFM.  It is almost impossible to add a radio button or check box for every situation.
While the text can be edited by finding the appropriate place in the tree, my trees
are very extensive and the search can be time consuming.  It is more efficient to
edit the final output as a whole than it is to search for the text in the tree.  The quality
of my documentation has improved dramatically.

The changes you made to the latest version are awesome.  Greatly reduces the chance
of storing things in the wrong locations.  Have not had much chance to put the new
version to serious testing yet.

The ability to manipulate the order of the variables would really help.  They could then be grouped by relationship or ordered so that pasting to them would not require jumping around the list.

mouser

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2007, 07:38:45 AM »
Hi Kim,

I'm very glad to hear that the last version was an improvement.

Making the main editable directly.. it's not impossible but it is quite tricky because whenever you check a box it recreates the message and so all changes you make would have to be remembered and associated with a particular node in the tree.

Right now you probably know that you can edit the currently viewed contents on-the-fly so to speak by selecting a node and changing the text in the upper window.  this actually changes the tree *temporarily* which is how its able to remember your changes even if you check and uncheck other items.

What i could do i think is making it so that when you click anywhere in the main text, it JUMPS to that node in the tree on the left and the upper window -- at least then you could find what node was generating any text instantly.

As for the variables --
i think one of the problems is that i really don't use them much at all myself, so naturally they got relegated to second-class status.  i can think of some improvements like HIGHLIGHTING them in the main text window and letting you click on them there to fill in the values.

And as you say maybe they could be shown in a better way in the list with user ordering.. but i guess my problem there is just that i don't have a good feel for how more people want to use these variables and i don't have an understanding of the philosophy of their use so it's hard for me to get a grip around what the ideal user interface would be.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2007, 09:26:49 AM »
Text Edit
Since there is a button that pastes the current text to the clipboard, it would be functionally similar to add a button that would paste the current text to an edit window.  This would be a one-way transaction.  Edit the text and then press a button to paste to the clipboard.  Once the window is closed all changes are lost.  This might be easier than trying to change code within the program.

Variables
I really like the ability to fill in a variable on the fly.  It would be a nice prompt for temporary data that is not efficiently saved in each variable file.  Take it one step farther and allow entry of variables directly into the variable file.  Most  of the time I know what data I need, just not where in the tree.   The ultimate would be allow dragging of a variable from the variable window into the tree edit program.

Here is an explanation of how I use the variable file.  I create a blank file with 25 variables.  The way I do this is to first create a dummy tree that is nothing but a list of variables in the correct order.  That gives me a base "blank" variable file. 

Since I am dealing with 50-100 data files per deployment, I bring up the blank variable file, rename it to the reference file number and save it blank.  I then paste data into each field from the legacy program.  (BTW pasting is a pain since the highlighted field name is not replaced with the pasted data, the data is inserted into the field name.  I have to first delete the name and then paste.)  Since I am cutting and pasting in the order dictated by the legacy program field location, if the fields in the variable file are in the wrong order, I am jumping up and down the list to paste.  Once all data is pasted, I save the file again.

Some would ask why do I do all the cutting and pasting.  I am in a car all day.  The aircard has limited bandwidth.  I am taking calls from customers and about customers all day.  TFLM is up all the time with the "general info" tree showing.  When a customer calls, I can bring up their variable file and have all their information available.  That allows me to complete the call without relying on a network connection.  At the same time I change the tree and document the conversation and save to a remote file. 

The variable file supports the following trees.  "First contact", "inspection", "prior loss email ordering", "no contact".  If, during development of the tree I have to add a variable, it automatically goes to the bottom of the list.  That is usually not the best position for cutting and pasting for new files. 
 In each case the log entry includes customized data taken from the variable file.  Nobody else on the team can place the custom data in the log as quickly.  They are not using TFLM!!
Some of the trees have 50 plus radio buttons and check boxes and 3-4 levels of dependency.  Example.  If there is a prior loss, does it relate to the current loss.  If so, is the data available or does it have to be ordered.  If ordered, record when ordered because that sets the start time for the max waiting period.  Other trees use 2-3 variables in a single sentence.  You can see that when deployed I put TFLM through a full test.

Hope this helps explain why manipulating the variable file is really critical to the efficiency of creating log entries.

mouser

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2007, 09:36:13 AM »
you are really using tflm for some interesting stuff.. the more i read though the more i think that what you need is another program, similar to TFLM but more designed for your use.. like using nice plaintext files for variables so you can easily create and edit them using a standard text editor, etc..

mouser

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #15 on: November 30, 2007, 09:37:48 AM »
If you just want a one-way edit of the text that's actually pretty easy, i can easily make and option so you can edit stuff in that memo view or another, as long as you dont mind that if you change a checkbox afterwards, etc, then it will revert.

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #16 on: November 30, 2007, 10:04:44 AM »
The current variable fields work just fine(except as noted previously) for either data or short text entries.  They are very efficient and can be formated in the tree to produce a nice plain text output. 

Some of the variables are combinations of several fields in the legacy program that are copied in a logical order and pasted into tflm variable in a way that presents data efficiently.

The true benefit of tflm is the fact is does everything I need on one screen with one set of variables per customer.  I can get to other customer's data through a pull down very quickly.  It makes the customer feel like I am already in their file.

tflm operates quickly and has not conflicted with other programs on the computer.
Memo Creation
100% of the time, once I check the boxes and buttons in the tree, I am done until I can tweak the text to paste to the log entry.  I never go back.  If I had to, I would close the edit/memo window, check the correct box/button and then open the memo window again.

While I am using the program beyond your original scope, the fact that it is doing the job...very well ...says that there are more potential uses than originally conceived due to the way you have created the tree/variable relationship.

The reason I am sold on tflm is that it allows me take a file that can have 20-30 potentially different outcomes and efficiently document the exact situation by checking boxes and buttons.   The data looks specific to the customer and all I did was copy a few data fields and click a few buttons.  Nothing out there comes close.  I am constantly looking. 

kimajac

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Re: General use issues.
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2007, 09:45:10 AM »
I have not tested the latest release on my company computer, but an install/update program that does not require admin rights would greatly ease the process for moving all of the files from a personal to corporate computer.  Thanks again