Sometimes hard to find
There are more than 120 features and functions in even our simplest program. Here are some suggestions on how to approach one that isn’t working
The Check Form Tool
When there’s a problem we always, always use the Check Form tool first. After that, a few minutes spent with the User Manual or in the Knowledge Base will pay instant dividends in terms of time saved and errors prevented.
As the simplest of the creativity tools, Fields experience only a few issues.
The most frequent error is using a Field to attempt to access data in a List. While a Field can generate information ABOUT a List, it cannot provide a list from the List. The command windows are different.
Here is a graphic that shows how a Field will treat a Series Answer compared to how a Field treats a singular Answer.
There are two ways to format Fields, by selecting formats from the Field window or by using Word’s formatting commands on the Field code in the body of the Form.
Lists can be used for any number of items, whether 1 or a thousand or more. Lists can be stacked nine deep and can contain words, paragraphs, pages, or sections; specific items, selected items, or everything. Lists are heavily documented in the Manuals and KB articles, but the most important aspect to prevent problems is to know that every List a) requires a Series Answer or a GRID and b) is composed of three clauses
If Fields and Lists are the programs’ workhorses, Conditions are the magic.
They can be as simple as replacing a single preposition, or as complex as a multivariate decision tree.
An often overlooked feature is the ability to add conditional complexity in the form of the operators OR, AND, XOR while stacking Conditions. The effect can simulate an analog result, with a spread of conclusions that match the spread of the variable answers.
Again, the User Manual and a large number of articles and videos in the KB can be your best friend.
TheFormTool programs are amazingly robust and difficult to damage. Forms are designed to protect the all-important Questionnaire at the end of the form because the entire program and all the data copied or manipulated during the Fill process resides in the quarter-inch black band at the top of the Questionnaire. If that band is penetrated, overwritten, tabbed thru, modified in any way the program will be compromised and unreliable.
The programs’ internal files (Master Lists, Answers, Tables, Holidays, Folios, the composition of Sets [but not the forms themselves] and other proprietary files) are stored in a folder named TheFormTool which by default is stored in the computer’s hidden location C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming. This folder is for a program’s use only; using it for storing forms or manually modifying any of its contents will almost invariably break something.
Issues with Sets are relatively easy to fix, with the first suggestion responsible for clearing a majority of reported issues.
- Confirm that the folder(s) where you store your Forms contain only Forms and no other documents, PDFs, graphics, or other items.
- Use the Check Form tool on the folder that contains the Forms used in the Set that is at issue.
- Test small Sets by starting with the first form, testing each one individually. For large sets build a Set that contains half the Forms in the Set at issue. If it doesn’t work, divide it in half and test the halves. Repeat until you find the form at issue. If the first test does work, test the other half of the original Set and repeat as needed.
External data sources such as Excel, Access, or SQL databases, compound the number of issues that can pop up as the complexity grows exponentially, but the issues they present still break down into just three categories: the form’s use of the data, the connection itself, and the anatomy of the source.
The first possibility is the most straightforward and easiest to address. It’s when you are able to connect to and see your data, and the form is able to grab and use some of the data. If the form is not using a particular data point in the way that you expect, then treat the problem as a Form issue as discussed above. It can be particularly helpful to build the item in a completely new little form, a single-purpose test, then insert the data directly into the Questionnaire for the Field, Condition, or List to draw from.
Connections to external data sources are similar to an internal Path in that they are not so much complex as needing to be precisely correct. The big question is whether or not you have access to the database. Several third-party hosts prevent their customers from accessing their own data; you’ll want to discuss that with your supplier. If that is the case, the only real solution is to “dump” the data into a format and location where you can get to it, then connect your program to that intermediary.
Finally, if you are able to connect but unable to see the data or make any sense of it, it may be time to call on your IT team or one of our more sophisticated Affiliates to determine whether or not the data is readable.