Goldenseal Pro Popups -> Smart Fields (Oct 6)

Goldenseal currently uses a few popup buttons on the data entry screens. Human interface guidelines for both Mac and Windows consider them as the official way to present a short list of choices. You click on the button, see a list of items, and choose one.

For serious data entry, popup buttons are a pain. Problem is, popups require a mouse click. You can’t access them from the keyboard. It’s not a huge problem for one-handed typists, but it definitely breaks data entry flow for touch typists who use all fingers. Half the time, when you move one hand back to the keyboard you get leubpard or jetbiard instead of keyboard.

Goldenseal uses clairvoyant fields for longer lists. For those, you can tab in from the keyboard, and type the first few letters to choose an item. You can also click the mouse on a popup button. It’s the best of both worlds. Clairvoyant fields are similar to combo boxes, but they don’t let you type in things that are not already on the list. We plan to call them smart fields in Goldenseal Pro.

Replacing popup buttons with smart/clairvoyant fields has been on our to-do list since 2001. This week we finished the transition. The new versions look great and work well. We will still use pure popup buttons in a few places, but not on screens that involve serious data entry.

There was some adventure along the way. First of all, smart fields had somehow lost their popup buttons. We ran some older versions, and the buttons disappeared back in May.  Since then we have been working on other things, and didn’t notice it until now.

Our programming staff saves changes into source control at least once a day. Often, several times per day. That helps in a case like this, since it’s easy to go back and run versions from different dates. Even with a binary search, it meant building and testing nine or ten times. Eventually we hit the last version that worked, and the first one that didn’t. Checking the list of changes between them made it easy to spot the error.

With that out of the way, we started to type into smart fields, and discovered that the pop-down list of items was also missing. So, another binary search in source control. That eventually narrowed down to a small, unrelated change made last February. It had the side effect of zapping the smart field display. An easy fix once we found it.

Finally, we soon discovered that the smart field code was pretty bad. Our staff wrote it back in Fall 2016, and we’ve learned a lot about Cocoa since then.  There are better ways to handle tables than our first efforts.

So, we tossed it completely and rewrote it to current standards. Doing that probably saved time, and it definitely saved mental anguish. In fact, almost everything else written in the first six months has been replaced since then.  It’s an expected part of the learning curve.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director

Author: Dennis Kolva

Programming Director for Turtle Creek Software. Design & planning of accounting and estimating software.