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Helix RADE 6.2 Preview Release 3: Of Views and Users

RADE10 August 2011 —The good progress continues with the third Preliminary Release of RADE available today.

For those of you who climbed aboard the Europa Pioneer plan in the opening round, your cards will be charged another $20* today. For those out there among “the rest of you,” remember that if you’re thinking of joining the Pioneer program now, the initial payment is now $60, but all subsequent payments will be $20.

This month's release continues to enhance RADE’s AppleScript capabilities, adding two more key pieces of the puzzle.

As we noted last month, we’ve made the process of updating easier. To get the latest version of RADE, open the About Helix RADE window — it’s in the Helix RADE menu in the RADE you already have — and click on the download link. The new version will be downloaded to your computer. Quit the old RADE and drag the new Helix RADE into your Applications folder, replacing the old one. It’s that easy.

The fix is in

One of the things we accomplished in this month’s update is bug fixes. Thanks to user reports, we were able to squash a handful of bugs from the first two Preliminary Releases. You can read the full list on the Preliminary Release #3 Release Notes page. We’ve also set up a dedicated list in techdb for tracking Europa progress. After logging in, look in the Bug Reports menu for the new Europa Reports list.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the new Feature Requests list. Last month we mentioned that we were starting to slip a few new features into Helix, and the Feature Requests list is where we look for ideas. The list has a ‘votes’ column: double click on a record, and use the ‘Importance Votes’ — found in the lower left section of the window — to tell us which new features you want to see. Items getting the most high priority votes will be considered first.

The View is now completely* scriptable

Of course, we didn’t just fix bugs this month; we also pressed forward with some major pieces of the scripting puzzle. With this Preliminary Release of RADE, those who have been working with AppleScript will now find they have the ability to take a template they have created or modified, attach it to a view icon and select and apply the appropriate query, index and subform links as necessary to make the view usable.

Even better, you now have access to all of the Import/Export (abbreviated: I/O) parameters for a view. Of course, you could always set most of these through the I/O Options dialog, but that has limitations. Anybody who tried to set up a sequence to automatically import or export data can attest to how ‘fragile’ a setup could be. You always had to walk through the process once in order to manually supply the file names and paths that the sequence would use. Those names and paths were then stored inside the view, so the sequence could replay them. Once it was set up, it worked perfectly, as long as you didn’t move or rename anything! And if you tried to run it on a different computer, well, as they say in New York: fuggedaboudit.

No more! AppleScript lets you ‘get’ and ‘set’ the path and name of the import and export files. When you move to a new computer, or install your collection at your customer’s site, a quick script can reconfigure the paths to work in the new environment. The need to ‘prime the pump’ with new path information is history.

*There is one piece of the view setup still missing: at this point you can’t manipulate the posting setup. That will come along when posts become scriptable.

What's a View without a User?

Now that you can use AppleScript to create views, specifying the template, query and indicies, the next logical step is to be able to put them into a User Menu.

With this release, that next step is here. You can now create and edit Helix User menus with AppleScript. Add and remove commands, views, users and sequences. Assign command keys. Set permissions. It’s all there, and more: through AppleScript you can also specify precise window locations, even change the size and position of a window for each user. The days of making a change in Design Mode then fighting with Helix to get that change to show up in User Mode are gone.

But wait, there’s more! One of the age-old problems in Helix comes to the fore when you have to manage a collection with many users. For example, if you decide that you need to remove ‘delete’ permission from every user, the Classic interface makes this a chore. With AppleScript, you can change permissions — or size or position or any other setting — for every user in a snap.

Remember that this means you can modify existing menus as well as creating new ones. Like the rest of the AppleScript approach to Design Mode, using these new features will take a bit of learning, but they will also bring you that much closer to not having to go into Classic to accomplish important Helix tasks.

What comes next?

Last month we introduced a new Delete Data command that instantly deletes all data from a specific field. At that time we indicated that we were going to do the same for deleting data from a relation. That project has been got shuffled down the priority list while we focused on fixing the crop of early bugs that users were reporting. We hope to be able to finish that project off in time for the September release, but…

Now that macOS Lion (v10.7) is loose, one of the things we need to do soon is to update Helix Utility — make it an Intel-native application, so it can run in Lion. (By the way, if you haven’t seen it, here is our Lion compatibility page.) It’s a project we left on a back burner, because the current PowerPC version continues to work well, even running in Rosetta. But Rosetta is no more, and if you are going to run a collection under Lion, you should be able to check it under Lion too. So we’re going to take a week or so and see how much progress we can make on that. If we’re lucky, you’ll have a Universal Helix Utility this time next month. If not, at least we’ll know how much work it’s going to take. Either way, we’ll report the results here in September.

* All prices are stated in US Dollars.

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