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What's Going On? : Letting the users know

As many UX (user experience) people will point out, the good ol' WAIT WINDOW command, while useful for showing progress, isn't very visually pleasing.



Many developers skip the WAIT WINDOW and favor a progress bar but as Andy Kramek has pointed out on his blog, when you're scanning through a 20,000 record table, tracking the percentage complete can slow you down.

While it's nice to show the actual percentage, even Vista now just shows an animated therm that really doesn't show progress.

What alternatives are there?

MSGSVC has a useful therm approach - which can display an animated icon.But it uses a Timer and those can take up valuable resources.

I've recently taken to putting up a form with an animated GIF on it among other things. I used to use the animated AVI file approach that MS recommended years ago but the big problem there is that it's too hard to create a nice AVI or the tools just aren't there to do it. (My users are getting tired of seeing the flying folders when I'm working - if anyone knows of a good resource for useful AVI animations for developers, please let me know).

Doesn't the animated GIF use resources? Yes, it does. So I've built it as a COM EXE and call it as its own tool.

LOCAL loForm
loForm = CREATEOBJECT("_akdisp.showani")
loForm.DisplayForm("Updating files...")

The showAni method simply displays a form in the center of the screen with an animated GIF on it.

Then when I'm done,

loForm.HideForm()

Are there problems with this approach? Oh yeah, it's set to always appear on top so the user could, in theory, flip back into the main application and not see anything. In addition, I have to register the EXE which could be a problem with certain user permissions but I haven't seen any.

The reason I ask is that I'm thinking of various projects that might prove useful on VFPX. A revised set of UI classes might be useful or maybe I can coerce Emerson into putting something into this themed controls library.

What tools do *you* use to give users feedback?

Comments

Kevin Ragsdale said…
Andrew,

Glyfx has three nice sets of animations available at http://www.glyfx.com/shop/listing/animation/

And, they're on sale this week -- 50% off -- you can get all 3 sets for $28...
I use the _thermometer class (in _therm.vcx, distributed with the FoxPro Foundation Classes), because I like having the percentage completed displayed along with the moving bar.

For looping through large tables, I don't update the _thermometer every time. For instance:

SCAN
* Update every 100 records:
lnCounter = lnCounter + 1
IF MOD(lnCounter, 100) = 0
loTherm.Update(lnCounter)
ENDIF

* Do stuff...
ENDSCAN

The MOD() is called every time, but I figure it's less resource intensive than updating the _therm every time...

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