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Best Practice Makes Perfect

A collaboration with Domino developers about how to do it and how to get it right in Domino

Update on 3/3/08: attached sample database containing the "generic default form" instead of the DXL of the form; this should be easier to use.
In best practices lists for Domino development, I've often seen the recommendation that you should designate a default form. I've been thinking about that, and it doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

If you set a default form to one of your regular forms used for editing documents, and try to open a document that contains an unrecognized Form value, you first get an error message ("Cannot locate form: formname"), then the document opens using your default form. Since the chances of a random document matching the fieldnames on the default form is fairly small, probably all or most of the fields are blank.

If there's no Form field, the default form opens with no error message, so the user has no hint that there's a problem except for the odd blank fields. There's no message to look up to see what it means.

I think this sequence of events will not suggest the real problem to a typical end-user; viz, that someone pasted in this document from another database and we don't know what to do with it. Furthermore, the user could do some harm by going ahead and editing the document, producing a document that looks OK but has many fields not visible in the UI -- wasted space.

What happens if you don't have a default form is not terribly user-friendly either, but at least they aren't allowed to edit the document to produce a Frankendoc. If there's a form field, you get the same "Cannot locate form" message, then another message, "Cannot locate Default Form", then nothing -- it doesn't open. Still a bit cryptic for the end user, but at least they are unable to bull ahead and make things worse.

If you want to provide a friendlier UI, I think you need to define a special default form designed for the purpose. A sample database containing such a form is attached. This displays a user-friendly explanatory message, and a table showing all the items in the document, to give the user a clue where it might have come from.

Attachments: defaultformScreenshot.gif
Generic Default Form.zip
genericDefaultForm.dxl

Andre Guirard | 7 December 2007 01:00:00 PM ET | Plymouth, MN, USA | Comments (8)

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