DDS Design: The RD Power Way
Published: October 27, 2010
by Susan Gantner
As you may know already from reading some of my earlier tips, I'm a fan of RSE--the Remote System Explorer. I was a user and fan of RSE back in its earliest incarnation in WDSC, then I followed it into RDi (Rational Developer for IBM i), and I'm now using its latest incarnation as part of RD Power, a.k.a. RDP or RDPi (Rational Developer for Power Systems).
One of the benefits of this latest upgrade to RD Power is the new DDS Designer. There was a "Technology Preview" version of the DDS screen designer in earlier RSE versions, but the new designer is "real" and fully supported for the first time in RD Power. Even better, this new version of the designer has a few nice usability enhancements, and a DDS report designer. For those of you who haven't had a chance to see it, here's a peek at the new DDS screen designer.
If you are an RSE user, you'll get into the designer as you would expect--by right clicking on a DSPF or PRTF source member in the RSE View and selecting "Open with Screen Designer" (or Report Designer). This action opens up the graphical designer in the editor view, showing a picture of your screen (or report), or at least part of it. Depending on the size and/or resolution of your monitor, you may not be able to see the entire image. Of course, as with all other views in Eclipse, double clicking at the top of the view maximizes it to the full workbench space.
One thing that may not be obvious about the DDS Designer is that it has its own perspective, but for some reason that perspective isn't started automatically when you open a source member with the designer. Opening the DDS Design perspective will make it easier to interact with the design screen. Figure 1 shows an example of a DSPF screen opened in the DDS Design perspective. Many of the same views that are in this perspective are also in the RSE perspective. However, several things have moved to allow for easier interaction.
For example, notice that the Properties view, which is a small box in the bottom left of the default RSE perspective, becomes a larger view under the design screen. This is because the Properties view, which I rarely use in RSE, is an important tool for examining and modifying properties (attributes) of my DDS fields and records. Select a field in the design screen and you'll see its basic properties (e.g., name, type, length, usage, position). Those properties can be changed in the Properties view and those changes are immediately reflected on the design screen. Other properties, such as keywords, indicator conditioning, and display attributes appear under other tabs in the Properties view. All these properties would be much too hard to interact with if the Properties view were still crowded down the left-hand corner of the screen.
That bottom left space where Properties view was is now occupied by the Outline view. Outline view is every bit as indispensable with the Designer as it is when you're editing your RPGLE source. It not only provides a summary view of the records, fields, keywords, and their attributes, but it can be used for navigation as well. Clicking on a field selects that field on the Design view, which in turn causes its attributes to show in the Properties view.
What about those occasions where you feel you could just do some functions faster or easier by coding the DDS directly? No problem. If you look closely at Figure 1, underneath the Design screen, you'll see three tabs: Design, Source, and Preview. Clicking on the Source tab shows the DDS source, which can be edited to your heart's content. Then click back on the Design tab to see the visible results of your edits.
You may be wondering what the dialog above the Design screen is all about; the one that is labeled "Design Page Screen Controls." That's used to allow you to create what the Designer refers to as "screens." A screen can be made up of one or more record formats that will be viewed by the end user of the application as a single screen. For example, a subfile screen may have the subfile record, the subfile control record, and perhaps one or more other records that overlay the subfile for putting messages or function key text at the bottom of the screen. You can use that dialog box to design a screen made up of all those records. Then you can interact with the Designer while seeing all the record formats at once. You interact with one record format at a time, but the content of other screens is grayed out. Selecting a record format via the Outline view is an easy way to switch between the record formats.
Since there is no need to see this Design Page Screen Control dialog box most of the time, you will probably want to click on the down arrow in the top left corner of the dialog to hide those controls. You can click there again to bring the dialog back when you want to create new "screens," or switch to/from simply working with individual record formats vs. working with screens in the Design view.
The Palette view appears to the right of the Design screen and is used to add new items to the Design view, as well as to switch between the standard one-click-at-a-time selection mode (Select), and the ability to lasso several items to select them (Marquee). Personally, I find the need to use the Palette to switch back and forth between these selection modes is an irritant in an otherwise good user interface design.
I hope this quick introduction has whetted your appetite for looking at the new DDS Screen Designer in RD Power. In a follow-on tip, I'll cover some additional aspects of this new DDS Designer, including some tips on finding a few of my favorite features that may not be obvious at first glance.
Susan Gantner is half of Partner400, a consulting company focused on education on modern programming and database techniques and tools on the IBM i platform. She is also a founding partner in System i Developer, a consortium of System i educators and hosts of the RPG & DB2 Summit conferences. Susan was a programmer for corporations in Atlanta, Georgia, before joining IBM. During her IBM career, she worked in both the Rochester and Toronto labs, providing technical support and education for application developers. Susan left IBM in 1999 to devote more time to teaching and consulting. Together with Jon Paris, she now runs Partner400, and appears regularly at many technical conferences, including System i Developer's RPG & DB2 Summit. Send your questions or comments for Susan to Ted Holt via the IT Jungle Contact page.
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