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User Interface Overview - MySQL

PHP allows for the simple creation of many useful tools, such as creating a contact form. However, creating a data management system in PHP is not so simple. Since many end users are familiar with the Internet, Web developers often find themselves needing to create a Web-based interface to allow for meaningful interaction with data.  Nennius is a data management tool that can make this task easier. This article, the first of three parts, provides an overview of this tool.

  1. Data Management Made Easy Using Nennius: Introducing Nennius
  2. About Nennius
  3. User Interface Overview
  4. Deleting Records
By: Brian Vaughn
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July 20, 2005

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Below is a screenshot of a simple Nennius application. For the purposes of this article, all screenshots presented will be of the sample application we will develop in parts two and three. Let’s take a look at the basic layout of Nennius.

Figure 1: Sample Nennius screenshot

There are several main areas to a typical Nennius application. Beginning in the top left hand corner of the screen [1], you will see the branding logo area. This area may be easily filled with a branding logo of your choice. If none is provided, the default Nennius logo will be used instead.

Figure 2: Branding logo area

Below that you have a basic menu [2], with the options “Manage Releases,” “Corporate Website,” and “Logout.” Except for “Logout,” these options are completely arbitrary and will vary from application to application.

Figure 3: Sample application menu

Next is the “Action Status” panel [3]. Unlike a branding logo or a menu, this component may be unfamiliar to some developers. In Nennius, there are four basic status states (shown below): ready, info, warning, and error.



Figure 4: Action status panel states

As you can see, each of these icons deals with a different type of event –- but together, they provide users with a quick and easy way to determine what’s going on. The action status panel is generally set prior to loading a page, but may also be updated via Javascript on a rollover event.

Another user-friendly feature of Nennius is the Help & Support panel [4], shown below. This panel acts as a mechanism for developers to plug in helpful tips or hints for the user through the use of small HTML files. If no help content is provided, a default Nennius welcome message is displayed, as shown below.

Figure 5: Help & Support panel

The Help & Support panel also provides a link to the online Nennius user’s guide, which may be opened at any time in a small pop-up window. We will take a closer look at customizing this panel in part three of this article.

Next we will move to the upper right-hand area of the screen, to the filter tool [5]. The filter is only presented in the main view mode, but is one of the more powerful tools available to the user in a Nennius application. As you may be able to see by the example shown below, the filter allows users to restrict the records they are viewing by entering search criteria. The criteria itself will vary depending on the type of data being managed, but the filter’s basic interface will stay the same.

Figure 6: Nennius filter menu

The rest of the application’s screen real estate belongs to the main content area [6]. Now that we’ve discussed the basic elements of a Nennius application, let’s move on to discuss how Nennius automates data management tasks.

{mospagebreak title=User Authentication)

Most Nennius applications will require users to authenticate themselves prior to accessing any data. This authentication is managed through an internal login API by default, but may be customized (or disabled) on a per-application basis. The standard API allows for authentication to be based on a single sign-on environment, LDAP server, or an internal Nennius user database. An example login form is shown below.

Figure 7: Basic application login form

In addition to managing a basic authentication state, Nennius also allows developers to set a threshold level for each user. This threshold level is then used to decide which areas of the data management system and which records within those areas a user may access. (We will take a closer look at this later.)

Creating and Editing Records

Nennius will automatically generate forms for creating and editing records, based on the attributes provided in the configuration file. The figure below shows a simple form:

Figure 8: Sample component update form

This form contains a date picker field, a text input field, and a textarea input box. Other available input types include select menus (often used for foreign key components), email and number fields (validated by Javascript), and file upload boxes (used for attachments). Also present are buttons for submitting the record, and returning to the main view without creating a record. As with each step in a Nennius application, instructions are provided to the user in either the Action Status panel or, in this case, directly above the update form.

>>> More MySQL Articles          >>> More By Brian Vaughn

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