December 30, 2015
Scripts (Database Design)
In review, recall that a database Table is a place where we store one type of data, Relationships provide links between records, and Layouts are the stepping stones along process paths. Next we will look at Scripts, little invisible programs that automate our navigation, actions, and reports. Every button, in software, is really just a trigger for an underlying script In the big picture, these are the objects that save you time and make you money. Lets try to gain some insight into the world of Scripts so as to better grasp this important component of any quality software solution.
This is one article, in a series (of four), about how databases function behind the scenes. The goal of this series is to give you a brief knowledge of databases and their design. With this new understanding you will be better able to recognize quality software and even become a more efficient user. That is a big step toward building profits in your business! Each post in this occasional series will have “(Database Design)” in the title. Database software, behind the scenes, is really made of four key components: Tables, Relationships, Layouts, and Scripts. This blogpost looks at Scripts.
Most full-function software in the pest control industry will have hundreds or even several thousand scripts. PestaRoo has over 2,000. A script can be as short as one step of code, or complex construction of a dozen coordinated functions with hundreds of steps. Whether small or large, they each perform one act of automation. Most scripts fall into three major types. Navigation, Action, and Reporting. We’ll look at each of these in turn.
Navigation scripts take you to places in the software. Every time you click on a button and your layout changes, you are using a navigation script. They are used in hundreds of places in any powerful database solution. Navigation buttons often have an arrow or a triangular icon that point to their target destination. For example, on a Work Order (WO) a triangle pointing to the customers name would take you to that customer’s record. A triangle next to a staff name would take you to that staff. So these buttons, also called “jump-to triangles” are located abundantly through quality software. Larger variations of these same navigation buttons can be found on ‘Choose’ layouts, where we go for rapid searching. The buttons here offer a larger visual target, quickly taking you into your selection.
Another type of navigation button is the graphic icon for related records. So, instead of a triangle or arrow these will have use-specific icons. Think about Work Orders, Payments, PreScheds, and Agreements for a customer. Each of these could have their own unique icon. A dozen unique but consistent icons, can provide ‘entry doors’ into the related records of a illustrated type. A number on or below that icon could indicate how many related records are waiting for you. A ‘5’ below a PreSched button might indicate the current customer has 5 PreScheds that are instantly accessible by one-click on the icon. Most software has quite a few of these icon navigation buttons for related records. When reviewing software, you should look closely at their navigation icons. Do they make visual and intuitive sense?
Next, Action scripts can also be found on many layouts. They may be for record creation, linking, editing, or auditing. A simple example is a script that creates a location record that matches a given customer address. But some action scripts are associated with large complex operations, such as Invoice posting, building Installments, triggering Renewals, and triggering PreScheds. Actions scripts are usually under buttons of consistent general appearance. In PestaRoo, they are simply rectangular and gold-colored. Contrast these with the icon-specific navigation buttons.
Lastly, Reporting scripts find groups of records, summarize them, and print (or display them) on special layouts. Most database software will have hundreds of reports driven by pre-made buttons. Better software will allow you to print nearly anything anywhere that you can see, and with options including preview and often email. So rather than only providing pre-made reports, this ability lets you build reports from anything you find.
All three major types of scripts, provide automation tools for the user. They take a beginning user quickly up the ranks, to that of a power user. Sometimes a script is not designed for power, but just for ease of use. Take the ‘contextual awareness’ of the scripts behind the buttons in a button bar, for example. These scripts ‘know’ where they are and perform steps only appropriate for that context. To state that differently, one button consistently placed in the button bar, always ‘just works’. This is actually a very big deal. Knowing that, anywhere you are at in the software, you’ll be able to find the creation “+” button in exactly the same spot, and that it will always work, leads to a dramatic ease of training. Whether you are in staff, customers, invoices, pest types, products, or anywhere else, the ‘+” button will always work, setting your cursor and layout to the right place. Contextual awareness, in scripts, is one of the big reason great software is so much easier to use.
Perhaps the button bar is the best place to showcase the scripts that will help you boost your profits. Those buttons will call navigation, action, and reporting scripts. Always being available IS the reason they can boost your profits. They help you complete a given task quickly, saving time and improving the efficiency of the office staff. Building a button bar may take months of developer time, because of the complexity of the underlying scripts, but its value for the user toward enhancing productivity and ease of use is very great. The inclusion of a universal button bar, with its underlying scripts is, perhaps, the quickest visual key that you are looking at superior database software. And Scripts, associated with buttons are key for your profit building.
“Scripts” completes the four articles of ‘Database Design’, which were designed to help you understand the major components of database pest control software. Tables allow us to store one type of data. Relationships provide links between records. Layouts are stepping stones along process paths. And Scripts, automate our navigation, actions, and reporting. By being cognizant of these, you will be better able to choose quality software, and better able to use it effectively. That leads to improvements in your service and the growth of your profits.