Thursday, October 23, 2008

SnTT: Quick Follow-up To "Universal Toolbar"

It seems some folks liked my idea from last week, especially the example screenshot showing a drop down menu in this "universal toolbar" area.


I received a comment and a few e-mails asking how this was done. Well...I actually wrote this up (along with a sample database) a couple of years ago, so today's show and tell will be a cheat, as I am just going to link you over to that entry. With that, here you go. Enjoy.

SnTT: Cascading Navigation In Notes

Editor's Note: The sample database that is available for download also includes all my experiments using layers to create cascading menus. Remember...Lotus Notes is like an onion...it's got layers! :-)

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

SnTT: Add A "Universal Toolbar" To Your Lotus Notes Applications

Hey, look at that: A Show-n-Tell Thursday post. Woohoo! OK...I've got to think up a better/more descriptive name than "universal toolbar", but I'm creatively challenged today. At least I got a post out...geez. :-)

If you think about most of your applications, there are probably certain functions that are executed more than anything else. Perhaps it is a particular search mechanism, running a certain agent or navigating to a given document. Whatever the most common action is, do you make it easy for your users to get to? By easy, I mean is it always available or at least one step away? If not, you might want to consider using the universal toolbar technique. It's a simple and elegant solution for many UIs.

Here is one example. In this application, the most frequent activity is to open a particular document. There are several different parts and areas to this application, but often the user needs to quickly get to one of the core documents by the key value (in this case a part number). In a typical Notes application UI, a user would have to navigate to the view that contained the document in question, then use the "Starts with..." quick find function to jump to the document and then double-click on the document to open it. This is at least 3 steps and for a very frequently used activity, I think this is too much. Instead, my universal toolbar includes the ability for the user to enter the Part Number and open the document directly, no matter where in the application they are.




As you can see from the screenshots, it doesn't matter where the user is in the application, they always have the ability to enter the Part Number and the application will open the document. This saves the users tons of time and they love it!

To do this, I add a small frame into the application frameset. This can be positioned anywhere really, but I find it works well near the top or under the header. This frame becomes the container for your universal toolbar, which is usually a form containing the functionality you want to make available.


If you look carefully, you'll also notice I use a border caption on the universal toolbar frame so that it can be hidden if desired, freeing up that screen real estate.

Here's another example of using the universal toolbar concept in an application. In this case, I gave the users drop-down navigation. Space was at a premium in this application, so we wanted to remove any links to the left or right side of the screen.


One other way I've used this is to allow the user to quickly add new documents without opening a form.


So that's it...pretty simple but very effective. Everytime I've added this functionality to an existing application, I've received rave reviews from users and thanks for saving them time. Give it a try in your apps and let me know how it works.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Lotusphere 2009 - Free Stuff! 10 Web 2.0 User Interface Patterns for Notes And Xpages

Hi again...as we gear up for Lotusphere 2009 and abstracts are being reviewed, you still have the chance to vote on the sessions that you want to see in the Best Practices track. I'm very pleased that besides getting to submit an abstract with Mr. Duff, I also had the opportunity to submit another with my partner-in-crime from the last two Lotuspheres! Nathan Freeman and I really enjoyed presenting our user interface sessions to many of you and now we want to take it to a new level. Actually, our justification for submitting this session says it nicely:

"For the last two years, we have presented on the theory and practice of UI design in the Notes client, focused primarily on compatibility with previous Notes releases. This year, we want to take a more concrete approach. Instead of theory and demos, we want to take a deep dive on specific UI patterns, primarily from recent Web 2.0 designs. We want to show specific reusable patterns such a rating systems, live filtering and inline field validation feedback -- with both rich client and Xpages implementations."

As far as what we want to do, please check out the abstract on IdeaJam. If you like this idea, please vote to let the content guys know you'd enjoy having this session on the agenda. We hope to get to see you there!




and my session with Tom:


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