Ben Langhinrichs

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Creating an effective sample, Part 2 (updated)

Thu 12 Feb 2004, 02:44 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Follow up to Creating an effective sample post for those interested in what happened next...

This was originally started the next morning, but then the developer said we had a bit of a reprieve, so I didn't finish it right away.  When I did finish the demo, I didn't have time to document everything, but I do think the solution is pretty slick.

08:10am - The other shoe drops
Of course, one should never forget that no matter how carefully one thinks through these things, the developer will always have another surprise or two to spring on you.  This is not bad, it is the essence of how an effective demo develops.  You have to take each element and incorporate them together into a more fully conceived sample.  One of the differences between a consultant and a product developer is how you must approach such events.  As a consultant, you either have a fixed quote, in which case you curse the developer and argue against the changes, or you are paid by the hour, in which case you welcome the additions as additions to the kids college fund.  As a product developer, you should see these are key clues into how any new eyes will see the problem.  New people looking at the sample may start the same way, and evolve to the point where they ask the additional questions, so you want to make sure that the demo shows the evolution.

08:31am - Stop procrastinating and face the changes
My youngest, who managed to wake up and keep me up for another hour and a half after going to bed last night, is now safely fed and ready for school.  It is time for me to "finish" the sample.  Here is the additional information the developer sent:

<<For your blog here is a link to the comment in Notes.Net
I have a couple of quick questions:
1. Can this be extended to highlight words in any field on the document. I can see how it could be extended to other rich text fields, but all of the fields I have are text fields and the phrases could occur in a number of fields.
2. This only works if the document is being read. Is this just so that the changes do not get saved? If I had the doc in edit mode could I still highlight terms providing I write something that stops the highlight from being saved?

So, there are two new requirements, both of which Midas can handle, albeit with some tricky thinking.  The first requires some form of rendering of the document, which could work by creating a new, never-saved document and showing that (using the View events probably), or possibly by rendering the whole document back into the original rich text field.  The second is easy, but actually contradicts the first, in that if the document is in edit mode, you can't highlight anything but rich text.  Even if it is not what this developer needs, I'll treat these separately, then perhaps handle both at the end.

08:35am - Start with the easy problem
In life, I tend to tackle the difficult problems first, and save the easy ones for later.  In creating a sample, this is a mistake.  The supposedly easy problem may turn up issues with the supposedly difficult part, which you want to catch early.  Also, if your developer calls suddenly and lets you know he needs whatever you have ready, right away, it is better to have actually completed something.

So, I'll handle the editing issue for the first rendition of the problem.  I'm guessing that all I have to do is go to the QuerySave event and set Continue=False.

08:50am - Minor issues
I added the Continue=False, but of course that looks stupid since it simply silently prevents saving.  I added a message box, but now it is impossible to ever make changes to the document.  I wonder if I can check which view this came from and only prevent edits in the Search Results Folder, and then only show highlights from the Search Results Folder.

09:06am - Stupid Notes client
As usual, Notes makes you jump through hoops.  It is not particularly easy to determine from what view the document was opened, although Notes obviously knows.  So, I do what all good developers do, I called a Lotus Geek who might know the answer.  In this case, I am friends with the original Lotus Geek, Rocky Oliver, who told me that the view name is available from the ParentView property of the NotesDocument.  The Help db confirms this, but it still didn't work from the Source.Document in the QueryOpen event of the form, at least not in 5.0.10 where the customer needed it.  I threw in the towel and did what all good sample developers do after calling a Lotus Geek and having that not help.  I kludged an answer, since this is a sample, after all.  Specifically, I save an environment variable with the current view (or folder actually) from the PostOpen event of the view, then clear it again at the QueryClose event of the view.  Yuck!  Still, it works.

09:27am - Reprieve
The developer calls to say we don't need a final solution, just some assurance that this will work.  I give him assurance, because a true developer is always sure of himself(/herself), even in the face of adversity.

One Week Later - Cool Solution
I don't have time to go through the steps, but I found a pretty cool solution.  In the QueryOpenDocument event of the Search Results folder, I set Continue to False, then access a profile document as a scratch document and render the rich text item to that document, and open it in Read mode with all highlights created.  The highlights all of a sudden work for any field or value on the form.

I actually created two Search Results folders, and made the first operate the way I originally wrote it, and the second operate the new way.  An effective sample should always show as many alternative ways to do something as is possible without completely confusing the reader.

I plan to release this as a regular sample as soon as I can.  It is easy to understand and effective, although I will probably spend several more hours seeing if I can make it even simpler, because that kind of time is always well spent.  At the very least, I need to document it to make sure it is crystal clear what is happending and why.

Thank you for sticking through this long ramble.  I'll re-read it when it is a bit earlier an perhaps clean it up.  Now, lets see how the developer will react this time.

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

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