Continuous Forms

Jim Dill, 8 Dec 00

Cfw.exe version 7.0154


Continuous Forms is a new way of viewing data in ChemFinder 7.  In previous versions you had two choices:  you could view data a record at a time in a custom-designed form, or you could view multiple records in a rigidly-defined grid.  With Continuous Forms, you get the best of both:  you can now view multiple records at a time, each in its own custom form.

The Continuous Forms (CF) View shows a scrollable stack of forms, each displaying a different record:

As in the familiar Table View (from which CF View is derived), you can scroll through the list with mouse or cursor keys, and you can resize all rows at once by dragging any row divider.  It is useful to think of this view as a table with one column, where each row (i.e., each cell) contains a form.  The same form is used for all cells; we call it the miniform.

If you click inside a cell, you activate the miniform.  You can then operate almost completely as if you were working in a regular ChemFinder form --- in particular, you can draw, move, and edit form boxes to tailor the layout for continuous display.  In the miniform you can do advanced operations too:  import an sdfile, generate a form automatically, select a different data source, create a subform, but we don't guarantee the results to be glitch-free.  Currently there is only one  operation prohibited in a miniform:  you cannot change to table or CF view within the miniform (in fact you can, but we think the result is too confusing to be useful).  We may disable other commands if they prove problematic from a miniform.


Three Alternating Views in One Window

With the addition of CF View, ChemFinder 7 has three views.  The Switch Views command is now a three-way toggle:

You begin in Form View with a form containing some boxes and attached to a data source; this is the "main form" which drives the other two views.  Choose Switch Views (View menu), and the window changes to Table View.  The first time you do this, a table is automatically built from the boxes on the main form, using default row and column sizes.  You can then edit the table --- adjust row heights and column widths, "squeeze out" columns you don't want to see --- and the table format will be retained in subsequent view switches (and also when the form is saved).

Switch Views again, and the window changes to Continuous Forms View.  The first time, you'll get a default miniform which is an identical copy of the main form.  You can then edit the miniform as desired, and edits will be retained without affecting the main form.

All views are synchronized:  as you browse through records in one view, the other views scroll accordingly.  Depending on which view is active, some menu commands may not be available.  In general, commands for editing --- form, data, or query --- are enabled only in Form View.


Two Alternate Views In Separate Windows

In previous versions of ChemFinder, it was possible to see both Form View and Table View at the same time, in separate windows.  In ChemFinder 7, this is also possible with Continuous Forms View.  You may view two windows at once: the main Form View, plus one alternative view, either Table or Continuous Forms.  You select these choices from the newly-reorganized View menu:

Revised view commands are:

When you have one of the alternative (Table or CF) views open in its own separate window:


Views on Tabbed Forms and Subforms

Any of the three views may be used on any tab of a ChemFinder 7 tabbed form.  You may have as many tabs as you want, with different views on each.  Each tab has its own miniform, so the layout on each tab may be different, and all are saved with the formfile.

Note:  at the moment, only one Table View layout is saved, no matter how many tabs have table views.  You may adjust all of them independently during a ChemFinder session, but only one is retained in the formfile.

In a subform, you may select Form View or Table View as always, but we have temporarily prevented Continuous Forms within subforms.  In principle this works, but in practice does not work well and is confusing.  Subforms may, however, have tabs.

Altogether, these features lead to quite a bit of flexibility in designing and building forms.  We give details for a few basic procedures, and leave the rest to imaginative form designers.


Procedures

To view data in Continuous Forms View:

  1. Create or open a form.  There are at least five ways to do this: (a) draw boxes and create a form by hand; (b) open an existing form file; (c) import an SD- or RDFile; (d) use the new automatic form generator to create a form; or (e) use the Database Wizard.

    Note: to use the form generator, right-click a blank space in the form and check Generate New Form.  Choose Style... to choose style parameters, then click OK to generate the form.  If the form (or tab) you started with was blank, the new form will be generated in place; otherwise it will be created in a new window.  [We have in mind an option to allow overwriting the existing form instead of creating a new window; for now, you can delete all boxes, then generate the new form.  We also have in mind allowing selection of fields when generating a form.]

    If the form generation checkbox is dimmed, it means there is no data source connected to the form.  Go to the Database tab, open a database, choose a table, then try the checkbox again.

  2. From the View menu, choose either:  Continuous Forms In Current Window; or Switch Views twice (first time brings up Table View).  You will see the default Continuous Forms view, showing a copy of the original form displayed repeatedly in rows about an inch high.  You will probably be able to see only the tops of boxes in each row.

  3. Increase the row height.  In the left-hand grey margin area, press any row divider and drag it downwards until the row has enough space for editing.

  4. Click a blank space in any row to activate the miniform.  You may have to click twice, once to activate the main view, once to activate the miniform.  If you have trouble, it's not you; we have more work to do on miniform activation issues.

  5. Edit the miniform.  You may (a) move, delete, or modify the existing boxes; (b) delete all the existing boxes (press Ctrl-A to select all, then Del) and draw new boxes for the miniform; (c) delete the existing boxes and use the automatic form generator to create a new miniform.  Naturally, the best arrangement for multi-record viewing is a short, wide form displaying only a limited set of data. 

    Note:  as you edit the miniform in one row of the view, other rows should be kept in synch.  At present they are not.  To update all rows after editing, resize the overall window slightly.

  6. Once the boxes are arranged as desired, reduce the row height until it just encloses each row.

  7. Save the form.  Changes you make in the miniform are not saved until you save the overall form file. 

Note:  in ChemFinder 7, you may save the form while in any of the three views.  When you reopen the form, it automatically switches to the saved view.

To view Continuous Forms in a separate window (quickest way):

  1. Create or open a form, as described in Step 1 above.

  2. From the View menu, choose Continuous Forms In Separate Window.  A new window opens showing the default Continuous Forms view.

  3. You may edit the miniform in this separate window, and changes will be retained for the remainder of the session.  However, changes made in this window are currently not saved to the formfile.  We recommend instead the following procedure.

To view Continuous Forms in a separate window (better way):

  1. Create the miniform in the same window as the main form, using the above procedure "To view data in Continuous Forms View."

  2. Now choose Continuous Forms In Separate Window.  The miniform displayed in the separate window is now a copy of the miniform just created, not of the original main form.  The rule is: when you create a separate CF View window, if a CF View is already available, copy it into the new window; otherwise, make it a copy of the main form.

The advantage to this approach is that the next time you open the formfile, the separate Continuous Forms window will have the proper custom layout.

To view Continuous Forms in a tabbed form:

  1. Create or open a form, as described previously.

  2. Right-click on the form and choose Add Tab.  Two tabs are created:  the current form is on Tab 1, a blank form on Tab 2.

  3. Click Tab 2 to activate the blank tab.

  4. Create a form on the tab to be used as the miniform.  You may draw boxes, use the automatic form generator, copy and paste boxes from Tab 1, or use other methods.

  5. Choose Continuous Forms In Current Window.  The current tab changes to CF View.

  6. Adjust the row height as desired.

  7. Rename the tabs as desired.

  8. Save the form.  All tabs and their contents are saved.