This article will deal with usability issues with FastForms. I know I’ve highlighted a couple of critical bugs in recent articles, but this is my list of annoyances I have compiled while working with the tool.
In all fairness, I have expressed all of these to M2M Support and many, if not most, have change requests assigned. I offer this list to assist Made2Manage in improving one of their flagship products. Here is my list, in no particular order.
- The tool, by its very nature should be WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get.) After all, it is a tool used to modify and design M2M screens. However, I have run into several cases where things appear to line up in the editor and then don’t in M2M. You must always check the left and top properties to be sure.
- FastForms does not play well with option boxes or date fields. However, if you choose to use date fields anyway, you should know that they will always show the time as well. The only way to hide it is to limit the size of the control so the date is hidden to the right. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a calendar control option.
- Most controls default to Arial font, while “regular” M2M controls are Courier New. This looks unprofessional, so you’re forced to change the font for each control, which leads into the next problem.
- You can’t select more than 1 control at a time. You cannot size, move, or change common properties for multiple controls at once. This is very inefficient.
- FastForms lacks an alignment feature so you must do so manually by left and top properties of each control individually. If you try to line them up by mouse, it’s time consuming to get it right.
- There are blank places on M2M forms you cannot place controls, and there is no indication why. Frustrating.
- Their drawing tools are lacking. You can draw a line, but it has to be diagonal. Who came up with that idea?
- Tab indexes do not work properly. Therefore, if you place a control between two other M2M controls, the users will have to click it with the mouse to enter it. This wastes time.
- Why must everything be edited in the box at the top of the FastForms Tool Box rather than next to the property name? This is tedious. For that matter, why isn’t there sample information in the control while in the editor? Why can’t the name of the form show up there like it does in the Visual Studio?
- FastForms controls must be followed by “ctlTarget” in order to change their properties. For example: ThisForm.m2mpageframe1.page5.txtExample.ctltarget.Value = “Annoying”. However, this isn’t consistent either, because to deal with an event on a FastForms object, ctlTarget is not needed. This code will work fine:
Public Function M2mpageframe1_Page5_txtExample_CLICK() As Boolean M2mpageframe1_Page5_txtExample_CLICK = True End Function
However, even this is inconsistent, because you cannot call a Double Click event this way. I think I have found a way to make the Double Click work, and I’ll expound upon that in a later article.
- FastForms and VBA do not always play nice with each other. VBA inconsistencies between M2M screens exacerbate the already inconsistent nature of FastForms. You can’t count on anything working unless it is fully tested. Be prepared to change your plan several times during your project.
- If you have multiple companies on one server, and you perform FastForms customizations on one of them, all of your databases are customized the same way.
- FastForms allows you to export and import your customizations. For example, you can and should do your development on your test server and then export your customizations for import to your live company. However, if you customize the same screen on different occasions, then export/import may be impossible. “Layering” your customizations is a problem.
- Last, and perhaps most important, FastForms has stability issues. For some reason, M2M decided to save the information regarding the controls in VFP tables, and the instability of VFP with Made2Manage is legendary. After several bad experiences, I refuse to make any FastForms changes while users are in the system. I’ve experienced critical failures in several areas of the product and fixing them requires exclusive access to M2M. Also, you may be forced to revert and restart your project, sometimes after considerable work, simply because there are VFP integrity problems that can’t be fixed.
The interface is counter intuitive. Why can’t I edit the name here?
Anyway, as I said, this list is offered to be helpful and not overly critical. Made2Manage people are reading this blog as evidenced by Frank O’Nell’s comment about the 6.0 release. What would you like to see them improve in FastForms?