Goldenseal currently uses pull-down menus to navigate through its data entry screens, reports and commands. With more than 300 menu choices, it’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed. Our accounting software risks being the virtual equivalent of a desk piled high with papers and whatevers.
Both Microsoft and Apple have improved their developer libraries enormously, in the past 15 years. They now include much better interface tools. We are using them to improve navigation for users, so it’s easier to prepare estimates and run the business.
One big improvement is the outline view, which organizes stuff into folders and subfolders. It’s how you navigate through files in both Mac and Windows. Goldenseal Pro uses an outline view to replace about half the former pull-down menus. It allows everything to happen in a single window, with folders and tabs to navigate. The outline is particularly handy when using the full accounting/job costing/payroll software, since that is more complex.
Sometimes it’s nice to put two windows side-by-side, so Goldenseal Pro also allows individual windows. As a bonus, they are simpler to program. We usually get them working first, then move code into the main window.
Another big improvement is the Windows ribbon bar, which organizes buttons and controls. It replaces the other half of Goldenseal’s pull-down commands. There’s no need for a menu bar at all, in the Windows version of our accounting and estimating software.
The Cocoa library for Macintosh doesn’t have a ribbon bar. However, we just finishing building a top bar that works the same way. It’s actually tidier than the Windows version, and equally functional. Goldenseal Pro for Mac will still have a menu bar, but it will be brief and optional. If Apple ever decides to remove the menu bar and make the Mac more iPhone-like, we’ll be ready.
The new interface in Goldenseal Pro ought to make life easier, especially for beginners. For example, consider a user who’s working on an estimate, and wants to change the layout of a printed form. In old Goldenseal, they need to choose Custom Layouts from the Options menu, then choose Printed Forms, then choose Estimates from a popup menu. Then choose a form from another popup. In new Goldenseal, they click the Layout button, then choose a form. Two steps instead of four, and much more obvious.
Setting up the new ribbon bars made it apparent that there are six different ‘modes’ in Goldenseal software. You can do data entry, find records, customize layouts, view reports, print forms, and use one of the action commands like Reconcile or Pay Bills. All but a few of the pull-down commands map to one of those. Goldenseal currently uses different types of windows for each mode, with different tools and controls. Goldenseal Pro is similar, but they all can fit into the same window.
As we start to program the modes, it’s also apparent that they are very similar. They all read a layout resource, and use it to position fields and tables on the screen. Programming-wise, that means we are entering a project phase that finishes almost everything. We already have code that loads data entry fields, and it won’t be too hard to adapt it to the other functions.