In a previous posting I talked about some improvements to the look of the Sage 300 ERP Desktop, in this article I’ll be looking at a number of improvements we’ve made in our document entry screens. The last major screen refresh was when we re-wrote our screens from CA-Realizer to VB6 for version 5.0A. This was a major technology upgrade that enabled much of the new technologies in our screens. This allowed them to be customizable and enabled things like screen resizing. Back then we designed the screens for a maximum display resolution of 800×600 and designed the screens accordingly. Since then over several versions we’ve added many new features and this has tended to clutter up the screens.
With this version, we aren’t performing a major technology refresh but we are revisiting many of the screen design decisions made back in the 5.0A days and making small but significant changes to make the screens look more modern. We don’t want to disrupt current customers with this release, we want the screens to still be familiar and we want people to work the way they have always worked. As a result we haven’t rearranged fields or moved fields around. Everything should be where you remember it, just laid out a bit better using some extra space.
First we’ll look at the new O/E Order Entry Screen so we can refer to it as we go through the various changes.
New Minimum Resolution
When we released 5.0A 800×600 was a pretty good super-VGA resolution that could be handled by most good laptop and desktop computers. Now it’s pretty easy to get multiple banks of 27 inch monitors with terrific resolution. If you want to spend a lot of money you can even get 4K resolution. However we now live in a world with quite small ultra-notebooks as well as a plethora of tablet computers. So we can’t greatly change our minimum resolution, but we can at least increase it to 1024×768.
This then gives us a bit of room to unpack fields, to get better column alignment and to add a bit of white space back to the forms. Some fields where quite squished in, and now we can get back to everything having a bit of room to breathe. This is then much easier on the eyes and makes using the screen a bit easier on the concentration.
If you look at the form, you might notice that we’ve updated most of the little bitmaps, for instance, to create a new record or to drill down to further information. Some of the graphics are a little larger than they used to be, taking advantage of the extra screen real estate. They are also a little more modern looking with the current prevailing styles. Notice that everything is a bit flatter looking as this is the trend.
We’ve added an asterisk to all the required fields. You can see this on the Order Entry screen next to the Customer Number along with a little legend over on the right. This has been a long time requested feature for the product. Order Entry doesn’t have many required fields, but some other functions have quite a few. These just give you a visual cue of which fields to enter, so you can avoid annoying error messages when you save or post a document.
Notes for Developers
All of these features are “opt-in”. If you don’t do anything to your screens, they will look and behave exactly as before. We don’t want to effect screens generically, since if we just put in the new graphics, they could cause fields on screens to overlap and such. Besides remaining compatible with third parties, we also need to remain compatible with older versions of our applications for before they are activated to the new version. Some of the old graphics are quite small and didn’t want to limit ourselves to those sizes since it restricted the graphics designers too much.
Of course resizing the form is up to you and just done in VB. I suspect many ISVs have already adopted larger screen sizes, so this may not be such a big deal.
For the other items they are all options in the field edit control that must be turned on. Below is the new FEC configuration dialog for the customer number field in Order Entry:
Note the checkboxes for “Load Modernized Icon” and “Required Fields” that have been added to allow you to enable these features.
With each release of Sage 300 ERP we are striving to take steps to improve the look and usability of the product. Since the 2014 version isn’t a major technology release we want make sure the changes aren’t disruptive. As a result we’ve analyzed a number of improvements that are useful, but won’t cause any retraining burden on our customers. Combined with the changes to the Desktop, these changes give the product a fresher look. Then we’ll keep on adding a few improvements of this nature in each product update and release.