Control Screen Design
Computers were designed for serious business purposes, when they were costing a fortune, not for entertainment. But, this has changed in the 80s when Personal Computers were introduced and easily available programs were computer games.
Owning a personal computer was a dream of everyone at that time (even now) and I bought mine too (brand name Spectra Video, Taiwan). Its processor speed was 1.xx something with 84K Memory, (you can call it a Keyboard rather than a computer) with connections to TV for Screen and to a Cassette Recorder for recording Programs(BASIC) or Data. Even now you can see these types of machines in Supermarkets in Toys section. IBM PCs with 4.77 Mhz. processor speed and 640K Main Memory, with cassette recorder and priced sky high were unreachable for many. 5.25" Floppies & 10MB Hard Disks came with later Versions of XT(Extended Technology), AT (Advanced Technology) Models.
What I am trying to say here is, the plaything concept has not changed ever since and it comes as a side dish to the serious business needs and it is essential too.
MS-Access is designed for serious data processing needs, but you can make it attractive and amusing to use by incorporating animations, slide shows and the like with useful information from within your application itself (without overdoing it) so that the user doesn’t get bored using your Application. It should be user friendly and attractive too, like the reception area of Five Star Hotels with all the decorations around and ready to serve staff on duty, advertising what kind of service you can expect.
Here, our emphasis is on looking into a sample Control Screen designed with all the important elements of an Application, like Data Entry Screens, Reports, Data Processing etc. and organized all of them in a central point within easy reach.
We are not going through the entire design task of this screen, but for now we will look into only a simple aspect of this screen design and others we will look into later. The sample Control Screen is given below:
The Screen Header Section is decorated with Company Logo and the Title of the Application in 3D Text and the Version Number below it. Below that, the control area is organized into mainly three categories: Data Files, Reports & Data Upload control. The purpose of this application is to monitor the service expenses of the vehicles, which are in Service Contracts with the company, and used for audit checks. The ‘Data Upload’ Command Button is used for running procedures for uploading vehicle service data from IBM AS400 Main Frame machines into the System every month.
You can see the Data Files command button is active and its Menu is displayed at the center and a row of buttons at the right side for different category of Vehicles. When any of this button at the right side is clicked its corresponding menu options will appear at the center window overlaying the earlier one.
Why different Vehicle Type have different data files and menus, why can’t all of them go into one Table is a question naturally comes into ones mind. The Main Data Table is one only, but the data grouped into different categories to give access to different user-groups and keep away from others. The right-side command buttons are enabled or disabled based on which member of the user-groups login into the System. The current user-name is appearing in a small text control below the ‘Quit’ command button at the left side. As per his access-rights some of the command buttons at the right side are enabled and others are disabled.
When the ‘Reports’ command button at the left side is clicked a similar set of menus and command buttons will appear at the same place with user level security features. A total of 15 different menus including the upload command button’s menu will be displayed at the same place. We will learn how to organize menus this way under the Control Screen Menu Design topic.
At the bottom of the screen, a white strip can be seen with blue colored text. This is a News Ticker like control, scrolling continuously as a reminder to the user showing details of the vehicles, as an indication that their Service Contract is going to expire this month. The total number of such vehicle is showing underneath it, prompting immediate action for renewals etc.
As you have already noticed this Screen doesn’t have any default control buttons on the top (Min, Max, Close) or the title bar.
The System opens with a Startup Screen (learn Startup screen design here) followed by the Control Screen. The Control Screen stays as if it is pasted into the Application background till it is closed from the Menu, File – – > Close or by clicking the Quit command button on the Screen. It doesn’t have any Border style or re-sizing facility and it has a flat paper like look. This is achieved with the following Form Property settings:
- Default View = Single Form
- Allow Datasheet View = No
- Allow Edits = Yes
- Allow Deletions = No
- Allow Additions = No
- Data Entry = No
- Scroll Bars = Neither
- Record Selectors = No
- Navigation Buttons = No
- Dividing Lines = No
- Auto Resize = Yes
- Auto Center = Yes
- Pop Up = No
- Modal = No
- Border Style = None
- Control Box = No
- Min Max Buttons = None
- Close Button = No
- Whats This Button = No
Write an Event Procedure on the On Load event:
Private Sub Form_Load() DoCmd.Restore End Sub
When you open your control screen with the above property settings and with the On Load Event Procedure it will look like as if the screen is painted to the Application Background.