File Manager 22.2 Getting Started Manual

Contents > Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Field Types

When programmers set up a field in Fileman, they designate it as one of nine field types. These types are:

Free Text
Pointer to a File
Set of Codes
Variable Pointer to Files

Of these types, there are two where end users generally do not enter or edit information. Computed fields, as the name suggests, are derived from the values of other fields; they are almost always locked to prevent changes. MUMPS fields are where programmers can enter commands in the MUMPS programming language—something you will not be called on to do.

Date fields are designed to hold calendar dates. You can enter dates in several formats; in fact, Fileman 22.2 has added even more formats that will be accepted. Type a question mark at the prompt to see all the formats available.

Some date fields will accept a partial date: the month and year only, or just the year. Again, typing one question mark at the prompt will show you your options.

Fileman is pretty smart. If you use a two-digit number for the year, Fileman interprets it to mean this century if the date would be within twenty years from now. For example, if you typed “24” for the year, Fileman would interpret that as 2024. If it would be more than 20 years, Fileman assumes the date is from the previous century. For example, if you typed “54,” Fileman would interpret that as 1954.

In addition, Fileman provides some handy tricks and shortcuts for entering dates. You can enter the word TODAY, or just the letter T, and Fileman will automatically put in today’s date. You can add or subtract days, weeks, or months to TODAY, and Fileman will do those calculations as well. Examples:

T+3D Three days from today
T+3 Three days from today (Day is the default)
T+3W Three weeks from today
T-1M One month ago
T-2D The day before yesterday

Some date fields are really date/time fields; they will accept a time as well as a date. As with date-only fields, typing a question mark at the prompt will give you an idea of what formats you can use at a date/time prompt.

Fileman is pretty clever about times, too. If you enter a time without specifying AM or PM, Fileman interprets it to be during the day shift. For example, 10:15 would be interpreted as 10:15 AM, but 3:30 would be interpreted as 3:30 PM.

As with dates, Fileman has some tricks and shortcuts for entering times. You can use MID for midnight and NOON for noon. You can enter the word NOW, or just the letter N, and Fileman will enter the current time. You can add or subtract hours or minutes to NOW, as in these examples:

N+1H One hour from now
N-30’ Thirty minutes ago
N+4H Four hours from now

Free text fields, as the name implies, will accept just about any input. They may have minimum or maximum lengths, which you can determine by typing a question mark at the prompt.

There are a few characters that free text fields will not accept. Fileman usually won’t accept the up-arrow or caret (^), because it is often used as part of VISTA commands. And although Fileman will accept an @ as part of an answer (in an email address, for example), it will usually not accept an @ by itself. It’s also a bit of a challenge to enter a question mark by itself. Fileman will think you’re asking for help!

Numeric fields accept only numbers. If you try to type in a word, your answer will be rejected. Numeric fields are often set up to accept only numbers within a certain range. You can type a single question mark at the prompt to find out what kind of number Fileman is expecting.

Pointer fields “point” to data that resides in another file. For example, when you are asked to enter an address, the field for “state” is probably a pointer to the STATE file. Information about states lives in the STATE file, but you can use it for the address you’re entering. Responding to a pointer prompt is a lot like responding to a select prompt, except you won’t see the word “select.” Remember to enter a question mark if you are unsure how to respond.

Some fields are expecting an entry from a specific set of codes. Examples include M or F for gender, or Y or N for yes or no. In this kind of field, Fileman will accept only one of the codes specified; no other entry will be accepted. Typing a single question mark at a set-of-codes prompt will give you information about how to answer.

Variable pointers work exactly like pointer fields, except they can point to several different files to access their information. As with pointer fields, answering these fields is a lot like answering select prompts. Remember to enter a question mark if you are unsure how to respond.

Word-processing fields are similar to free-text fields in that they will accept just about any combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. However, word-processing fields typically allow longer responses. More importantly, when you reach a word-processing field, Fileman launches one of VISTA’s native word-processing tools so that you can compose your answer. You can learn more about the word-processing tools in the next section.

Using VISTAʼs Word-Processing Tools

VISTA has two native tools for answering a word-processing field: the screen editor and the line editor. For users accustomed to commercial word-processing software such as Microsoft Word, these editors may come as something of a surprise. There is no point-and-click, no handy formatting buttons, no pull-down menus. However, both tools do a lot of the same things the commercial packages do; it’s simply a matter of learning how to make them do it.

Of the two tools, the screen editor is probably the best option for users accustomed to modern word processors. We recommend setting the screen editor as your preferred word-processing tool. To do this, enter User’s Toolbox at any menu prompt. This should take you into the User’s Toolbox menu. From there, select Edit User Characteristics, then go to the Preferred Editor field and make sure it is set to screen editor.

Using the Screen Editor

The screen editor, as the name implies, provides you with a whole screen on which you can edit your text. The figure below illustrates a blank wordprocessing screen. If you immediately begin typing, your response will appear in the large area in the center of the screen.

screen editor

All commands in the screen editor begin by pressing the <F1> key. Pressing this key tells the screen editor that what comes next is a command, and not a letter to be typed into the response. If you press <F1> and then H (for Help), you will see a list of the most commonly-used commands in the screen editor.

The main thing to remember in the screen editor is that it isn’t a windows-type application. You will not be able to use your mouse. You can navigate using your arrow keys, your tab key, and special commands such as <F1>T for top, and <F1>B for bottom.

Notes on the Line Editor

The line editor is older than the screen editor, and more challenging for modern users. We recommend using the screen editor instead, and if you have set your User Characteristics to use the screen editor, you should never encounter the line editor.

If you do encounter the line editor, you will see the name of the field you are working in, followed by a numbered line, like this:


If you’re feeling brave, or if your reply is short, you can just start typing. However, we recommend switching to the screen editor. To do this, press the Return key without entering any text. That should give you a prompt that looks like this:

EDIT Option:

At this prompt, type a U to reach the Utility submenu. The first option on this submenu allows you to exit the line editor and continue the task in the screen editor.

After completing your task, we recommend returning to your User’s Toolbox and the Edit User Characteristics option, and making sure your preference is set to use the screen editor. The line editor is interesting, and you are welcome to learn to use it if you want to, but you should be able to complete all your word-processing tasks with the screen editor.

Your Alternate Editor

As we mentioned earlier, the screen editor and the line editor are the wordprocessing tools native to VISTA. However, your IT department may have provided you with an alternate editor for word processing. How can you tell if you have an alternate editor? If you type TBOX at any prompt, then select Edit User Characteristics, and look at the Preferred Editor field, you should see your alternate editor, if you have one. Everyone should have the line editor and the screen editor; if you have a third one listed, that is your alternate editor.

If you do have an alternate editor, we can’t tell you what it’s called or what it does, because alternate editors vary from site to site. Contact your supervisor or IT department for information about your alternate editor. If you like your alternate editor, you can choose it for your preferred editor and use it all the time!