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Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

Copper Contributor
Posts: 13
Country: United States

Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

I'm using Act 10 for the first time, and have plenty of experience with Act 6. I find the layout designer for Act 10 is nowhere near as versatile or easy to use as that in Act 10. Much functionality has been lost.


We are an aquarium company and our ACT 6 database has about 800 fields, contained in 13 tabs in the layout. In an Act 6 layout, you have a parent container panel which holds the top contact information, and a lower tab container panel where you can create tabs. In Act 6, the tabs are at the bottom of the lower container.


The layout I've been using for years I imported into Act 10. It has a small (height) basic contact information container at the top, and then a much taller tab container at the bottom which, depending on which tab is selected, may contain anywhere from 20 to 120 fields. However, my imported layout does not behave the same way in Act 10. Half the fields in it are hidden and I can't exand the tab container to show them all in the layout designer.


 In Act 6, you can change the height of the tab container in the design layout simply by selecting the tab panel. Handles appear at the bottom and you can make it taller. In Act 10, it appears there is a parent container, with a contact container at the top and a tab container at the bottom. You can change the height of the contact container, but NOT the tab container. Hence, when I need to place 100 fields in a tab screen, I CAN'T.


Then there's this wacky dock and undock function (which is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation). With the upper contact container, undocking THAT allows you to expand the contact container and make it taller or wider. HOWEVER, the tab container, which apparantly is undocked by default, cannot be made taller or wider. Clicking on it will not produce resizing handles. If you dock it, it floats to the top and you can't move it again even if you undock it.


I do note that if you modify an existing layout simply adding fields expands the tab container.


Please explain: the containers (which is the parent and how many are there?), docking and undocking from the parent container and what function that serves if you can't resize, and please explain how to move the tab container after you dock it.


Most importantly, how do I make the tab container taller in my existing imported layout so I can see all my fields?


Do I have to recreate a new layout and start from scratch? It would be far easier if you could simply select the tab container so handles showed, then drag the lower handle to expand it!


NOTE: Not one of those functions is in the documentation either online or in the help documents, not even in the PDF file. I realize my application may be unusual, but I've been using ACT for 14 years and never had this much trouble with layouts. I understand layers and how they work, but this is so unlike ACT 6, it isn't easy at all.

Copper Contributor
Posts: 13
Country: United States

Re: Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

Please note I am experimenting with a copy of the Act 6 database before making the switch permanent.


I've figured out how to expand the tab layout. Problem is, the only way to do that is to dock it in the container, which moves the tab container to the top of the parent and then you can't move it back below the contact information container.


I did note the little cross arrow which looks like if you click on it would move the tab container back down below the contact information. It doesn't seem to function at all. Clciking on it produces a circle with a slash through it. Why show the universal symbol for moving an object if it doesn't move the object?

Platinum Elite Contributor
Posts: 6,741
Country: USA

Re: Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

With all due respect, I have to take exception with several things in your posting.


First, I personally find the layout designer in ACT! 7 and later much more versatile. From your posting, I suspect you that have not had occasion to open the properties panel yet. Pressing F4 or going to View | Properties Panel. I will acknowledge that the ACT! 7 and later layout designer does have a learning curve but being able to specifically specify the size and location of fields rather then eyeballing or moving fields with the arrow keys and counting pixels more than make up for the additional learning requirements.


Second, I had to read your posting several times to fully understand it, mainly because you used several unconventional terms in your posting. Of itself, that wasn't a problem but if you tried to do specific searched in the help or the knowledge base using those terms, you would not find anything. I would suggest that you  try doing your searches with more generic terms.


Third, without actually examining your database I don't know if this applies or not. However, anytime someone is using a large number of fields in the database, in your case 800, I suspect there is a database design problem most likely caused by the limitations of the ACT! 6 database structure. What I find in most cases is that multiple fields are being used to substitute for an additional one-to-many table. Starting with version 10.0.2, the ACT! database will allow you to add custom one-to-many tables to the database. At present the best way to do that is using one of the addons that make use of the capability.


Finally, you did not indicate if you hade tried converting your ACT! 6 layout, if not, you might try that and then you would only need to do some cleanup work on the layout rather than recreating it  from scratch. You also said this was a test conversion of the database. Be aware that with the number fields in your database, when you actually convert the database, many of the fields in the final conversion will not match the layout from the test conversion. The layout can be used but will required additional work to get the layout fields to link with the database fields.

Roy Laudenslager
ACT! Certified Consultant
ACT! Report Expert
Durkin Impact Report Designer
Copper Contributor
Posts: 13
Country: United States

Re: Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

Thank you for responding. However, I did ask specific questions and you've answered none of them. No need to be defensive with a good customer; if I get this to work, we'll upgrade annually.


I stated I was new to the program and its interface so naturally, I may not describe things the right way. If you don't understand a question, I'll be happy to clarify, but please try to at least answer them.


Sorry about any confusion with terminology, but I am using terminology which the layout design itself uses, such as "dock," "panel," parent panel," etc. For example, the phrase "dock to the parent panel" is a direct quote from the layout designer. "Dock" is mentioned only once in the help file and the word "panel" or "parent panel" are not mentioned at all. I didn't make those words up; I used them from the design layout.


I'm our company network administrator, know how to set up Win Servers, domain/client networks, etc. I was even a Beta tester for Act 4.0 when it was owned by Symantec and used a FoxPro backbone. I use Excel, Oracle, Photoshop and AutoCAD, so I am more than familiar with computer software. My motto when it comes to software is K.I.S.S., and the Act 6 layout designer did just that. After all, this is first and foremost a database, so complicating the method to customize appearance should be relatively easy.


In Act 6, such was the case. In my humble opinion (no offense meant), the Act 10 properties panel for each page element (like Photoshop) becomes more complicated than it needs to be when all that is needed are simple object layout tools, a grid to snap them to and some alignment/make-same-size functionality.


Most importantly, you need to ensure that ALL objects, including BACKGROUND panels (or rectangles) upon which you position your fields can be selected, resized and moved. That is my problem - in the .cly file I converted to work with Act 10, THOSE cannot be moved and in the case of the tab panel (the layout designer calls it a "panel"), you can't expand or move it, not even by changing the size and position in the properties GUI.


To answer your questions (and I will try to be more concise):


My problems are two-fold. Some functions simply are not working as described in the documentation. Other functions do not seem to be available.


Yes, I converted the Act 6 database. I used a copy of the Act 6 database so I would not make permanent changes to a database we use every day in order to learn the new GUI and features of Act 10 before switching to using it daily.


You said Act 10 might have problems with that many fields? Actually, not the case. I was VERY impressed that it not only copied over every single field without requiring mapping to an existing field, but also perfectly copied every dropdown list (and we have many) and all of the history without a SINGLE hitch! No addon was needed. THAT part was awesome.


 My .cly file also was converted with no problem with all tabs right where they should be and lo and behold, when I used the contact layout from Act 6.0, all of my fields were where they belonged with one problem. The fields were misaligned  which should be no problem to fix at all. However, when I opened the layout in designer mode, the lower "panel" which has the tabs at the top was too short so some of the fields were hidden.


So I selected that "panel" the way you would in Act 6.0 but no resizing handles appeared. There was no way to simply pull that "panel" down and enlarge it.


And YES sir, I opened the properties box for that element and there were the dimensions. I changed those dimensions, but they didn't change. They kept going back to what they were. So I thought perhaps the element was locked as is described in the help file. But under "format" there was no lock/unlock to be found.


So again, my questions remain.


How do you enlarge the lower "panel" or the tab "panels" in a converted .cly so that all the fields are visible so I can realign the fields?


What does that dock/undock function do and why is it that when you dock the lower "panel" to the "parent panel" (all words from design layout), the lower panel containing the tabs shifts to the top of the screen and not even changing the position coordinates in the property box will get it to move?


What does it mean when you change the size in the properties box and nothing happens?


Why do I not see a lock/unlock for layout elements in the format dropdown?


Should I simply create a new layout or am I missing something? Could my converted layout file be the problem?


I spent two weeks studying before I even launched Act 10. I watched all the FLASH demos. I read the help file from beginning to end. I even read the manual that comes in the box. I see little or no detailed reference to these functions and there is no tutorial on the properties box, nor little mention of it in the help file other than a few basic functions such as resizing and positioning both of which aren't working for me.


The help file and online tutorials do a great job of showing you how to define fields, position them and create dropdown lists. However, neither resource truly covers anything other than a cursory explanation of the properties box or advanced layout functions.

Copper Contributor
Posts: 13
Country: United States

Re: Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

I'm figuring a few things out. What would have helped would be an explanation of the different panels such as the PanelTabs (Panel), etc. Not all of those are resizable nor can they be moved.


My problem is that the Layout (Form) has a maximum height of 1036 pixels and my old layout was 1200 pixels high. That is the master "panel" that everything else is layered on. In Act 6.0, there was no height limit. You could make the Tabs Panel six pages high if you wanted to do so.


I'll do my best I guess. Looks like I first need to do some layout designer work in ACT 6.0 before converting the database such as adding more tabs and making the tab areas shorter in height by spreading out all the fields.


Kudos to Sage for the conversion process which considering our database is almost 150Mb, handled the conversion flawlessly.


I still think the layout designer is far too complex for laying out a database, but now I know the limitations.

Copper Contributor
Posts: 13
Country: United States

Re: Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

I figured out my problem. For posterity, should anyone else have the need for many fields within a given tab and you're converting a 6.0 database, first rearrange the fields in your 6.0 layout so the tab area doesn't exceed the height of your current screen settings before converting your current layout (.cly file).


My screen setting was 1280x1024 and that was the limiting factor.


In Act 10.0, the entire layout height and width is controlled by the element called Layout (Form), selectable in the properties window. You cannot make that much higher or wider than your current screen resolution.


As soon as I raised the screen resolution, I was able to first make the Layout (Form taller), then make the TabPanel as high as I needed it to be able to see and reposition the fields located at the bottom of the tab area.


Another tip is to activate scroll bars for tabs which conmtain many fields. They are "off" (false) by default. Changing that to "true" allows you to scroll down further to see fields near the bottom of the tab area.


Again, this problem would only affect those users who need to manage a lot of data. Aquariums require all the water data, types, sizes of fish, customer preferences, etc. This problem is not one which most users would have.


Apologies to support for getting testy. By simply describing the basic layout form container elements, their function and how to modify them in the help section or showing that detail in the FLASH tutorial on customization, you would avoid a little confusion for your customers who have a need for large complex layouts with many fields.


Thank you.

Copper Contributor
Posts: 5
Country: USA

Re: Layout Designer - No Documentation on Containers

I recently installed ACT2011 Pro and I am experiencing similar problems although my files are smaller. I agree entirely with you Acquariumpro and disagree with Roy.  He obviously didn't read your posts carefully, or just didn't know the answers. You very clearly explained the problems and used the correct terminology. What I am experiencing is my main contact window is half off the screen in the layout designer and I can't move it into place. Worse, my tabs also cannot be moved or resized and they are overlapping the top main contact window. The only thing I found I could do was move one or the other forward or back.  I agree there is completely inadequate documentation and the controls are not working properly.


Don't get me wrong. I love ACT. I have used ACT6 for many years. However, I am very frustrated by the poor warranty, and lack of free tech support for this product, and the fact that it is so buggy. I had many problem converting my databases because I had added fields and there was no provision for converting the databases with these added fields. I was relegated to converting to excel files and then importing them which caused me to lose all my notes and histories. I also found the layouts did not convert over properly and had to be completely redone. Oh well.