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IBM Lotus Forms Viewer is a desktop application that allows you to view Lotus Forms, including forms created in XFDL and XForms. This guide will introduce you to the Viewer environment, and help you become familiar with some of the commonly used features. By the time you finish working through this guide, you will have learned:
- How to install and start the Viewer.
- How to open a form.
- How to enter the current date.
- How to recognize mandatory items.
- How to complete formatted fields.
- How to turn on tips that will help you complete the form.
You do not need any previous experience with Lotus Forms to use this guide. However, this guide assumes that you have the install package for the Viewer as well as the sample form that is provided with this article (called “travel approval final.xfdl”).
Installing the Viewer
To install the Viewer:
- Copy the installation program to the correct computer.
- Double-click the installation program to launch it.
- The installer will step you through the installation. Be sure to:
- Accept the license agreement when prompted.
- Accept the default settings for the installation.
Starting the Viewer
Once you have installed the Viewer, you can access it from the Windows Start menu at:
Start > Programs > IBM Lotus Forms Viewer 3.5 > Lotus Forms Viewer
When you first start the Viewer, it will open to an empty page, as shown below:
Opening the Sample Form
Now that the Viewer is open, let’s open a form and explore some of the features of the Viewer. A sample form called “travel approval final.xfdl” will help us get started.
Let’s open this form:
- If you have not already done so, copy the form to your computer.
If necessary, switch back to the Viewer window.
- The form should have been provided with this guide. If it was not, you may need to return to the web site from which you downloaded this guide and find the form there.
From the Viewer toolbar, select the Open File icon.
Browse to locate the form on your computer, and then click Open.
The Viewer opens the sample form.
Note: You can also double-click the form to open it.
Working with the Sample Form
The sample form has three pages: two wizard pages and one traditional page. As you complete this form, you’ll see how the Viewer takes the information you entered on the first two pages and automatically adds it to the final form page, helping you complete the form quickly and easily with fewer errors.
Exploring the sample form
Before we start working with the form, let’s take a quick look at it. You should see the first page of the form in your Viewer, as shown:
As you can see, this is a fairly simple page that collects the user’s personal information. It includes the user’s name, email address, telephone number, and so on. As we work through this guide, we’re going to complete some of the fields in this page.
This page is also what we call a wizard page. Wizard pages are small, easy to navigate pages that collect a portion of the overall information. The idea is to get information from the user in small, easy to work with chunks. As you’ll see, we combine these chunks later into a more traditional form.
- In the form, click the Next button.
You can now see the second page of the form. This is also a wizard page, and you’ll notice that it looks a lot like the first page. In this case, we’re collecting information about the trip the user wants to take. This is another chunk of information that we need before we can approve the form.
- Click the Next button.
This is the final page of the form, which gives us a more traditional looking form. You can see that this page contains all of the information from the first two pages. Also, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will also see an authorization section that a supervisor can complete. This page has more of a paper-form feel to it, which is why we call it a traditional page. While this is a fairly simple form, you can imagine how you could break up a more complex form into a series of smaller wizard pages in the same way we have here.
- Click the Back buttons to return to the first page.
Inserting the Current Date
You can quickly and easily enter the current date into any form with a date field.
To do this:
- Click the Back buttons to return to the first page of the form if you haven’t done so already.
- You’ll see a Date of Request field in the top right corner, as shown:
- Type an asterisk (*) into the field.
- Press TAB to move to the next item on the form.
- The Viewer will automatically display the correct date, as shown:
Recognizing Mandatory Items
Forms are often used to collect important information. As a result, a form may contain fields or other items that you must complete before saving or submitting a form. You can identify these items by their pale yellow background color, as shown:
The yellow background disappears as soon as you complete the item. For example, try typing your last name into the Last Name field and then pressing TAB to leave the field.
If you try to print, save, sign, or submit a form without completing a mandatory item, the Viewer will display a warning message, asking you to confirm that you want perform the action without completing the form. If you are printing or saving the form for your own use, click Yes to continue. However, if you are submitting a form to a database, or signing it to indicate your acceptance of the contents, you should make sure all mandatory items are complete before continuing.
Completing Formatted Fields
Filling out Lotus Forms is similar to filling out paper forms except that you use the mouse and the keyboard to enter your information. For example, you type text into fields and select check boxes by clicking them with the mouse. On the form, move from item to item by pressing the TAB key or use the mouse to reposition the cursor.
Some fields contain special formatting that check to make sure you are entering the correct information. For example, some fields might only accept dates or numbers. Let’s fill in a formatted field to see how the Viewer helps you to enter the correct information:
- On the first page of the form, place your cursor in the Telephone Number field.
Instead of entering numbers, try entering both letters and numbers in the field. For example:
Now try to tab out of the field.
- You can either press the TAB key to move through the form or click the field with your mouse.
Remove the letters from the Telephone Number field.
Now type in a real telephone number and press TAB to leave the field.
- As you try to tab away, the field turns red and stops you from leaving the field. Also, the Viewer displays a message that warns you that the data you entered is invalid. For example:
- The Viewer recognizes that the data you’ve entered matches the type of information that this field is formatted to collect, and allows you to leave the field.
Turning on Help Messages
Many forms contain help messages that will aid you in completing the form. They appear as little floating tips when you tab into or click an item with help. For example:
Before you can see these helpful tips, you must turn Help Mode on. You can do this by clicking the Help Mode
icon in the Viewer toolbar. If this button is greyed-out or “unavailable”, then the form does not contain any help messages.
Opening the Viewer Help Form
The Viewer Help form provides additional help information. It contains a list of keyboard commands that will help you control the Viewer and complete your forms. It also provides accessibility information for people who have difficulty viewing the form.
To open the Viewer Help form, click the Viewer Help
Congratulations, you’re done! You are now familiar with a variety of the features in the Viewer.
If you want to learn more about the Viewer, and explore the features we haven’t covered in this Getting Started guide, you should take some time to review the Lotus Forms Viewer User’s Manual. This is available thru an IBM Information Center at:
Attachment: Travel Approvel form