Building the structure of a switchboard

Adding new switchboards

[The Switchboard Manager with new entries.] Every step in the Switchboard Manager asks you to select from a series of options. This makes getting started a little difficult because you can't add anything to the main switchboard until that item exists in the switchboard system. The first thing to do then is to add all the subsidiary switchboards that you are going to need.

Click the New button and enter the name of a new switchboard when the Create New dialog appears. Keep doing this until you have all the second-level switchboards that you are going to need. In our system we added switchboards named Client, Enquiry, People and Reports to lead the user to the four most important areas of the database.

Once these lower level switchboards exist you can go back to your main switchboard and start adding entries to it. Click the Edit button then make changes to the Edit Switchboard Item form that appears:

[Adding new switchboards to the Switchboard Manager.]

The Text entry will appear saying "New Switchboard Command". Change this to the wording you want the user to see. Leave the Command as "Go to Switchboard" and pick the switchboard that you want from the dropdown list.

This dropdown list is the reason why you have to define the lower-level switchboards before you can finish the design of the main one. It's annoying but it does force you to spend a little time thinking about the structure of the application before you start working on it.

Adding forms

As with the lower-level switchboards, the forms have to exist before you can add them to the switchboard structure. If the form exists then the Switchboard Manager gives you two options in the dropdown list of commands: Open Form in Add Mode and Open Form in Edit Mode. Separating the Add and Edit functions like this gives a consistent appearance to the whole system. Users will always see similar pages in front of them. In our example the Clients option leads them to a switchboard offering "Add Client" and "Edit Client" and a couple of more complex options. The "Enquiry" page looks much the same.

If you have a simple database application then a single switchboard might give you enough options. The form has eight buttons so if you only have four or five forms there is no need to add any subsidiary switchboards. Every form can have its own a button on the main switchboard.

Navigation

The structure created by the Switchboard Manager does not automatically give you a way of going back up the tree. Remember to add a "Return to main switchboard" entry after you've added the entries for forms and reports on each switchboard.

The main switchboard needs a different approach to let the user leave the application and close the database.

Select the main switchboard on the Switchboard Manager dialog. Click New as usual to add a new entry but select Exit Application from the dropdown list of commands.

[Adding a close button to the Switchboard Manager.]

Other pages in this series

Part 1 Getting started
Part 2 Building the structure
Part 3 Improving the appearance
Part 4 Behind the scenes

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