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Prompt Help

Developers familiar with other application generators for the PC may like the way in which some of these packages display a single line of help for each prompt where the cursor is currently positioned. This can tell the user briefly what is being asked for and point to other keys which may be of use. This feature is often preferable as frequently all the user needs is a memory jogger, not a full screen of help.

With a view to implementing a similar feature under AREV I considered the best way to do it. To put the help in a separate file would slow down access on a network, but to put it into labelled common would use up valuable labelled common areas. I decided to use the Prompt Registers mentioned in the UTILITY.DOC file. Thus, when the template was loaded, the help would be loaded and access would be instantaneous. The only remaining problem was how and where to display the help. Having considered all kinds of complicated ploys, pre and post prompt options to display and remove the message, I finally arrived at a much simpler solution. The user has by now been trained to look at the status line for help, so all information should be posted there. To get it there obviously requires a call to STATUP, so the solution was simply to put a call to STATUP on the preprompt of every prompt. This removes the need to look after the debris left behind by the previous prompt - each successive STATUP call overwrites the previous.

Thus (assuming the help was in Prompt Register 1, and that STATUS.CONSTANTS had been $INSERTed from the appropriate location), the code on the Pre Prompt hook would be

0003      PRE:
0004         PROMPT.REGISTER1 = SI<47>
0006      RETURN

The only remaining problem was how to get the help into the Prompt Registers. To ease this task I developed the following utility. It simply takes a nominated template, and for each prompt asks for a single line of help (showing the previous help, if any, for amendment). This help it then inserts into the appropriate prompt on the template in the position for Prompt Register 1. Calling syntax (from TCL) is PROMPT.HELP {@template.file@} .

The only problem of which I am currently aware with this routine, occurs when a new record is added. In this case the record id and the "New Record" message appear briefly on the status line before being replaced by our single line help. This is however hardly noticeable and so I am leaving this for now! (On a related topic, Al Blake of the Nature Conservancy Council points out that if your user help level is set to 2 in the GAS.BAR program of issue 2, the screen corrupts when GAS.BAR is used. The solution is to include a dummy variable name in which to push the old status line image).

0001  !    Program PROMPT.HELP designed for use at TCL
0002  *    Author         AMcA
0003  *    Purpose        To add/amend single lines of help for each
0004  *                   prompt on a template. Copyright Sprezzatura
0005  *                   Ltd 1989  Permission is granted for REVMEDIA
0006  *                   subscribers to use this program for any
0007  *                   purpose. No liability accepted for use
0008       GOSUB SET.UP
0010       IF OK THEN
0011            GOSUB PROCESS
0012            WRITE WINDOW ON TF, SCREEN
0013       END
0014  STOP
0016  SET.UP:
0019       EQU TRUE$     TO 1
0020       EQU FALSE$    TO 0
0021       EQU TEXT$     TO "Please enter single line help for %1%"
0022       OK = FALSE$ ; TEMPLATE.FILE = ""
0023  RETURN
0027       IF T.FILE = "" THEN T.FILE = "TEMPLATES"
0028       IF SCREEN = "" THEN
0029            CALL MSG("Please enter window name","RC",SCREEN,"")
0030       END
0033                 OK =TRUE$
0034            END ELSE
0035                 MSG("Window is not on file","","","")
0036            END
0037       END ELSE
0038            MSG("Template file is not attached","","","")
0039       END
0040  RETURN
0042  PROCESS:
0043       CTR = WINDOW<1> + 1 ; * Offset to skip prompt count
0044       FOR X.CTR = 2 TO CTR
0045            * Only add help for F field.
0046            IF WINDOW<X.CTR,3> = "F" THEN
0047               ANS = WINDOW<x.CTR,47>;  *Prompt Register 1
0048               MSG(TEXT$,"R",ANS,WINDOW<X.CTR,2>)
0049               WINDOW <X.CTR,47> = ANS
0050            END
0051       NEXT
0052  RETURN
0055       SENT = TRIM(@SENTENCE)
0056       IF SENT [1,3] = "RUN" THEN SENT = FIELD(SENT," ",3,99)
0057       SCREEN = FIELD(SENT," ",2) ;SENT = FIELD(SENT," ",3,99)
0058       IF SCREEN [1,1] = "@" THEN
0059            * Must be identifying template file to use
0060            T.FILE = SCREEN[2,"@"] ; SCREEN =FIELD(SENT,"",1)
0061       END
0062  RETURN

(Volume 1, Issue 5, Pages 10,11)
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