Tips For Using RDP’s DDS Designer
March 20, 2013 Susan Gantner
In my Guru tip on the DDS Designer in Rational Developer for Power Systems, I showed you the basics of using the DDS Designer to create or maintain screens. A few changes have been made to the DDS Design tool in recent releases of RDP, and I’ve also had a bit more experience with it. So I decided it was time for an update on the topic.
The most obvious change that has happened in recent releases is that the DDS Design perspective can now automatically be opened on a double-click of a DSPF or PRTF source member. You may recall that I wondered aloud in my first tip as to why that didn’t happen before. So you’d think I would be happy about this change.
Turns out, I have been reminded to “be careful what you wish for” because I’ve found that having this perspective opened automatically is really not such a great idea–at least not for me. Fortunately, the perspective switch is a preference that I can turn off, as I will show you later.
So why have I since rejected the very feature that I had originally thought I wanted? Because the DDS Designer perspective looks too much like the Remote Systems Explorer perspective. And while the tool automatically switches to the DDS Design perspective, it never automatically switches you back to the RSE perspective. That’s not a request for yet another new feature, because I don’t think the tool could ever effectively figure out when to do that.
Consequently, I’ve found many of my students in the on-site RDP classes I teach forget to go back to RSE after designing screens and spend inordinate amounts of time being confused about where things are because they haven’t noticed they aren’t in the perspective they thought they were. I wish I could say it’s a phenomenon only experienced by my students new to RDP. But if I’m honest, I have to confess to at least briefly confusing myself that way more than a few times.
Fortunately, I’ve found an easy solution. With a few simple modifications to my own personal version of the RSE perspective, it works equally well for designing screens and editing other kinds of source code. The DDS Design perspective does two primary things for us: it provides a much bigger space for the Properties view; and it moves the Outline View where the Properties used to be to make room for the Palette, which is critical to the use of the Designer. It turns out I do both of those things with a few simple customizations to the default RSE perspective as it comes from IBM. The result is a single perspective that serves both purposes. Here’s how:
Step 1: In my RSE perspective, I move my Properties view from its original position underneath Remote Systems to the area on the right–the home of many other views such as the Error List. In other words, the same location as it is in the DDS Design perspective. It is critical to have this extra real estate for Properties when working with the Designer.
If you use the Remote Scratchpad view (which was under Properties), then you should move it to the same place. If, like me, you don’t use Remote Scratchpad, simply close it using the X in the tab. As a nice side effect of these changes, you now have space for more items in your Remote Systems list.
Step 2: This is not so much a step as a lesson. You may now be wondering where your Designer Palette is, since you’ll have a hard time adding things to your screen without it. It’s there, attached to your Design window. You probably can’t see it because it is collapsed. Using the small arrow icon in the upper right edge of the Design screen, you can open it. See the effect of the Palette closed and opened in the images below.
Designer Palette closed. (Click graphic to enlarge.)
Designer Palette open. (Click graphic to enlarge.)
The best part of the fact that the Palette is now attached to your Designer window instead of being in a separate view is that when you go into full screen mode (i.e., double-click at the top of the Designer window), the Palette stays there. You won’t need to keep using a Palette Fast View to put new items on the screen.
Step 3: Change the Designer preference so it won’t keep asking you if you want to switch to the DDS Designer perspective. Go to Window→Preferences. Then key in the word “Design” in the search box on the top left. Click on DDS Design under Remote Systems→IBM i and select “Never” for “Open the associated perspective when editor opens.”
Step 4: Save your newly re-defined RSE perspective with a new name, such as “My RSE”. While the perspective will stay the way you have set it up here (unless you’ve change a default preference) even after you shut down RDP and bring it back up, I always recommend saving your own perspective after making changes to it. Then you can always use the “Reset perspective” option if you find yourself making a mess of your workbench someday in an attempt to make things even “better.” This is the voice of experience speaking!
I’ve found this set up to work well for me when designing screens and since I can now use the same perspective for most of my other coding work, there’s no need to remember to switch back and forth based on whether I’m working with RPG or DDS source. I hope this idea may work for you as well.
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.