Design Elements Of Our Applications

The key elements of the software we provide our customers are included in a library of routines around which we have developed all our software, both general-application and custom. We have spent decades evolving a balance between simple routine operations and the flexibility to still do those arcane once-in-a-blue-moon tasks. And, since all this already exists, we can very efficiently (and cost effectively) integrate them into custom applications.

Here are brief summaries of just some of these:

Standard Microsoft® Windows®... plus

We start with the standard Microsoft Windows "look and feel" which which we're all familiar. This means your first guess on how to do something is probably correct. Since virtually all of our applications manage data, most initial windows include a spreadsheet-like grid of information from the database, with buttons below accessing the functions you perform more often on the data.

Here's the main window from our Payroll application

Note the familiar Windows menu bar at the top with File>Open and all the usual options.

The grid below that lists all the hours and earnings for this batch. You can just scroll through them.

At the center bottom of the window is a summary of the batch. The column to the right of the box, headed by "Hourly", "Salary", and so on, is a checklist. As you perform each step in the batch, Payroll checks off that item.

Surrounding that are buttons so you can do most of the batch work without ever leaving that window. You can drag it larger if you like.

Many of the menu options and buttons have "hot keys" so you can select them without leaving the keyboard. (For example, pressing F9 from the window above opens an Employee window for you to review all that information.)


Open dialogs for retrieving records

Almost all the applications we provide store, retrieve, and process data. To facilitate the first two, we've invented open dialogs -- portals -- through which you can view and select records, such as customers, employees, ledger accounts, and so on.

Here's the Open Ledger Account dialog from any of our applications referencing ledger accounts:

Note that the highlight is on account number "100", the last record you worked with.

Pressing a key (such as 2) moves the highlight to the first record starting with that character (such as "2" and account number "200"). Pressing a second key (such as 1) will move to the record matching the pair (such as account number "210").

Pressing Up or Down, PgUp or PgDn scrolls through the records. Click on a column head of the grid to sort or sequence the records in that order.

Press Enter with the highlight on the record (or double-click it or click Open with your mouse) to select it. So, in this case, when the window opens, you key 2, and 1, and the highlight moves to account number "210", and you press Enter to select it. Three key strokes to call up a record! And you're viewing sections of the database as you make your selection (to be sure you have the correct record). You can enlarge the window to the size of your monitor to see more.

In some instances, such as printing reports, there will be a column at the far left so you can select, say, a group of just three or four customers or employees or vendors. (This is similar to what you can do in Windows Explorer or "My Computer".)


Finding records

Most of our applications, both general and custom, include a "Find" option that let's you perform string searches of your database.

Select Tools>Find (or press Ctrl+F from an open dialog, and a window like this will open:

This is the Find window from our Accounts Payable application. Here, you can "find" any payable invoice with, say, the word "Test" in its description.

When you click Find Now or press Enter, the application will search the database and expand the window like this:

If there were more than one match, you could scroll through them. Pressing Enter or clicking Open will select it. Or you can change the entry in the box next to "Containing:", and find other records.

This is another portal through which you can easily review database records and select for editing.


Our own report generator

One of the huge challenges for any software design is how to create reports in as many variations as possible and still keep the selection process and the routine procedures simple. Our present design represents the evolution of ideas over more than 20 years.

When you select a report, you will see a window much like this one from the Stock Status Report option of our Inventory application.

Notice how there are five sections to this window. Each one describes a different criterion related to what information will be included and how it will be printed.


Usually this is a drop-down list of report types, such as "Details with subtotals" or "Subtotals only". In this example, there is only one option.


Usually this is a drop-down list describing groups of data, types of records you may want to include in the report. In this example, there are several checkboxes with "Full Description" and "Bin/Location" chosen.


This is the order in which the application will sort records before printing.


You can use this to select specific records -- or groups of records -- to print, such as range of sale dates or customers or warehouse locations.


Use this section to choose a printer, local or networked, at which the report will print.

There are virtually an infinite number of possibilities from just these simple options. In the most common instances (such as an Edit List of data you just entered), you just click Print, because the settings will already be what you want. In other cases, you may select a range of dates. Or, you may want something very specific, such as sales history for a single inventory item at a certain customer. All these are possible.


Special data-entry controls

Whenever possible, we have tried to use special Microsoft Windows controls (or propietary third-party ones) to make data entry as easy and foolproof as possible. Here are just a few examples:

Often, you can select items from the database by choosing a range of criteria, and the application will display a treed list of records, with checkboxes, that meet the criteria, and you just select or deselect the ones you want or don't.

For example, enter a range of shipped dates and the application will show you available orders from within that range, grouped by shipped date.

Double-click the group line to expand and display all the orders for that date. Click the check box to select the orders for that date; or, check off the individual orders. Or, remove the check to de-select an order. Or, orders for a date. What could be simpler?


At the right is an example of the date-entry control from our General Ledger module.

To enter the journal-entry date, you can key the month, day, or year, pressing right or left to move back and forth and press Tab when you're done.

Or, you can open a drop-down calendar and use your mouse to select the date you want.

When you're adding "master" records to the database, they often reference or are tied to several other parts of the database. To streamline this, we have incorporated Microsoft's familiar "wizard" look-and-feel. Here's an example.

These are routines with sequences of windows that guide you through assigning the necessary values, including verification that they fit normal ranges. Usually you can check off which information you want to enter when adding a record, and the application will "remember" next time, further streamlining the process without giving up any control.

Click here for more details on one of our wizards.


This is the common dialog used by virtually all Windows applications to select a path and file name.

This version is the one that appears in all our backup routines.

We build functional redundancy into virtually all of our application windows and procedures. To browse the database, you can press Alt+F and O for File>Open (without leaving the keyboard) or just click File>Open or the Open button with your mouse. To select a record, you can press Alt+O or click the Open button -- or just press Enter (because Open is almost always the default under those situations).

Mainstream database engines

We use contemporary industry-standard database engines only. For most of our customers, this means the Microsoft Jet4 or Access engine, but all our applications are scalable up to the latest server-based products.

Click here for information on the database capacities of our applications.

All our applications are fully compatible with Windows 98 Second Edition (Win98SE) through Windows XP (WinXP). (We recommend Windows XP Professional.) We have optimized our latest Version-6 applications for WinXP, though they are backwardly compatible with Win98SE. (We have generated screen shots throughout our web site with Win98SE and WinXP and various configurations of both.)


Our applications are totally compatible with Microsoft (and other) contemporary networks.

Click here for more on networking and our applications and us.

Built-in backups

Probably the most important part of your daily routine is making copies - backing up -- your database. Since you can't open up the top of the machine and read the documents and data, this is the only way to prevent "losing data" due to some malfunction. To help with this, we have built in a "quick backup" option into all of our applications. Just press Ctrl+B (or select Tools>Backup) and you will see a window like this:

Just click OK and the application will copy the entire database in a few seconds! It's so easy, you can do this just before processing or other routines that change large ranges of data. Then, if something goes wrong, you can quickly "turn back the clock" to exactly as it was before processing.

A couple of notes about backing up: Though the quick backup only takes a few seconds, no other network stations can be using the database.

This "quick" backup copies the database to either another file locally or to another hard drive, so it is not a replacement for backing up to a removable drive that you can take off-site. We have our own utility for streamlining that.

Click here for more on backing up.


Fewer windows; more integration

With our applications, there's no drilling from window to window for your daily work. "Simpler" means you do most of your work with just a few windows and they all interact with each other.

Here's an example: When you launch our Orders application, you will see two windows, one for the order-wide information (dates, addresses, and so on) and another with the lines items, quantities, and prices in a grid. Press F7 and a window opens with all the inventory information. Click Allocated in that window and another opens with other orders having the same item. Press Enter or double-click on one of them, and it becomes the current order. Press F8 from either Orders window and a customer window opens. Click Summary and you can see the customer's current balances and sales-history summary.

As you become familiar with these, virtually everything you need is just one or two mouse clicks away. (Or you can get the same results with menus and key strokes without having to leave the keyboard.)

Multiple companies

All of our applications support multiple companies. Several of our customers use this capability to maintain accounting for many other businesses. You can also use this if you have a satellite business for which you want to keep separate books. Setting up and choosing a different company is all available at File>Company from within the module.

Printing to "attachable" documents

The Adobe® Acrobat™ PDF document format has become an industry-wide standard. We have designed all reports from our applications to also use this application to create files that you can attach to emails and send throughout the world, full-color documents that your recipients can print on any printer on any computer platform. This is another of those "large-system" capabilities that we love putting into the hands of even our smallest customers.

Internet support and downloads

All of our applications include a Help>Internet Support>Updates option. When you click it (while connected to the Internet), the application will check to see if there is a newer version available and -- if so -- prompt you to download and install it.

We can also connect to your systems directly from our office! If you're having a problem, we can observe it and -- usually -- diagnose it on the spot. We can make database changes and install application updates "on the fly".

Online documentation

To support both our software and our customers' systems, we develop documents (in that PDF format) and make them available over the Internet and in person. We'll show you how to download these and install them for ready reference. Through this medium, we are constantly updating our products and services, so all our customers can take advantage of enhancements as we make them.