How do I create custom forms?
The Custom Forms add-on component lets you build your own forms to track any type of specialized assistance your program provides to its clients. Form design is very flexible to account for the myriad of specialized assistance that outreach programs provide. For example, you can design an activity form to track counseling as it relates to environmental grants, or local tourism, or homeland security, or SBIR awards. It is important to note that all custom forms must be associated with a client record. In other words, any activity record type that you create, has to tie back to a client record.
Note: The custom forms module does not come standard with Neoserra. It is an add-on module available for purchase.
Your custom activity form can consist of as many fields as you desire. You decide the data format of these fields, their names, and their order. The only requirements are that the forms must represent client activity (i.e. they must be able to be associated with client records) and must carry a couple of basic data fields necessary for database integrity.
The following sections describe the process of creating and editing custom forms in detail:
- Establishing basic properties for a new custom form
- Adding fields to your new custom form
- Customizing the form's record summary listing
- Editing the fields on an existing custom form
- Inactivating a custom form
Establishing Basic Properties for a New Custom Form
New forms are created under the Configuration menu of Neoserra and only administrators will have access to this functionality. Click "Custom Forms" from the Configuration menu. Then, with the Custom Forms interface open, click the "New" hyperlink, which is located in the upper right corner, as highlighted in the next graphic.
From the Forms Properties screen, you are asked to provide singular and plural versions of your form name. For example:
- Plural: SBIR Awards
- Singular: SBIR Award
Additionally, you will need to set the status of the form. You can choose from:
- Inactive (read-only)
- Inactive (invisible)
Initially, you'll likely want to start out with the "Inactive (read-only)" status. This status displays the custom form in the general Neoserra interface so that you can access it as you're creating it to see how it's coming along, but users cannot create any records while you're still working out the details. Then, once you've completed the form, you'll want to switch it to "Active" so that users can begin entering records for the form.
Once you have established and saved your basic form properties, click the name of your new form to open its field layout properties. You will notice that the following eight fields are automatically included as mandatory fields on the new form:
- Funding Source
- Sub-Funding Source*
- Is Reportable?
These are special fields with hard-coded names and behavior that you are not allowed to alter if the fields are used. However, you don't have to use all of them. While the first three fields, Client, Date and Center, must remain mandatory on the form, the other five fields can be made optional or even inactivated completely.
*Note: The Sub-Funding Source field starts out as inactive on the form because it is unlikely that you will need it. But you can always make it active by clicking the "Activate" hyperlink located in the corresponding far right column of the form layout view.
Next, you will want to add your own fields to your custom form. To add a new field:
- Click the "New" link in the upper right corner of the screen to create your first field, as shown in the next graphic.
- In the Name field, enter a descriptive name for your new field. This name is what will display on the form.
- In the Abbreviated field, enter an abbreviation for the new field. The abbreviation will display in columnar reports when there is not enough room for the full description.
- Select the Mandatory check box if you would like the field to be a mandatory field for the record type.
- Select the Confidential check box if you would like the field to be hidden from users with view-only permissions for the record type. In other words, a user must have a minimum of edit permissions for the client activity database area in order to edit or view the field.
- From the Type field's drop-down menu, designate the type of data value that best suits the field:
- Single-line Text. This field type allows up to 250 free-form text characters.
- Multi-line Text. This field type allows up to 8000 free-form text characters.
- Number. This field type only accepts numerals.
- Currency. This field type only accepts a currency value (i.e. numerals).
- Date. This field type requires a date value.
- Yes/No. This field type presents three radio buttons to choose from: "Yes," "No," and "(Undefined)." If you make a yes/no field type mandatory, then the value of "(Undefined)" is not allowed to remain—either "Yes" or "No" must be chosen when creating or editing a record.
- Picklist. This field type requires you to define a list of values to choose from. The list of values you create then become available from a picklist; when completing the field, only one value can be chosen.
- Multi-select. This field type also requires you to define a list of values to choose from. However, unlike the picklist field types, when completing a multi-select field, as many values as are applicable can be chosen.
- Label. This is not a field at all. Rather, it allows you to add text to organize or clarify other fields. You can also leave the label completely blank for the purpose of adding extra space between fields.
Note: Consider adding "Other," "Undefined," or something similar to your list of values so that users don't feel the need to select a value that doesn't apply. This is especially relevant if you're making this field mandatory.
Note: Default values are only auto-filled when creating new records, not when editing existing records.
Note: Don't forget to go back into the new form's properties and set its status to "Active" when the form is ready for prime time!
Your users can now start to create new records using your custom form. Since custom forms are categorized as client activity forms, a user's permissions in the "Client Activity (Sessions, Awards, etc.)" database area directly determines their level of access to custom forms.
Once you've added all fields into your form and saved it, you can go back into the form's properties to choose which of your newly created fields will appear as additional columns and filter criteria on the summary listing page in Neoserra. To open these properties, find the form in the table and click the corresponding "Properties" hyperlink located in the right column.
By default, Neoserra will always display three columns showing the date of the session, the client's ID, and the client's name. Additionally, you can include up to five of your user-defined fields as columns. Of the five additional fields you include, those that are not designated as text or multi-select field types will also automatically be included as filter criteria.
Note: To report on the data in your custom forms, you can create custom reports.
You can edit or inactivate the individual fields found on a custom form from the same interface in which they were created. To edit/inactivate a field found on a custom form, follow the next set of steps:
- In Neoserra, select Administration|Configuration to open the global configurations interface (only Neoserra database administrators have the necessary permissions to access the Configuration menu).
- From the Configuration menu, click "Custom Forms."
- In the "Name" column, click the name of the custom form that uses the field you would like to edit.
- From the list of fields, find the field that you want to edit and click the corresponding "Edit" or "Inactivate" hyperlink that displays to the right.
Important: Be very careful about editing fields in such a way that you change their intentions. For example, if you edit the name of a yes/no field from "Out of State?" to "In State?", then all values entered before the edit will read the exact opposite of what was intended when the field was originally completed. If you think your edit could cause a disconnect with values previously entered into this field, then, as a general rule, we recommend inactivating the field and creating a new one (rather than editing it) to preserve historical data.
Important: OutreachSystems recommends that you never edit or delete a previously-created picklist or multi-select choice. If you feel that you must, please contact us first so we can explain the ramifications of doing this.
Note: If attempting to edit one of the default fields that are automatically included with each custom form, you have very limited options. All you can do is toggle their mandatory or visible status. If you are attempting to edit a field that doesn't even display an "Edit" hyperlink, then you are looking at one of the three fields that must be included (and mandatory) on every single custom form and there is no way for you to edit it.
If, down the road, you ever decide that the form is no longer useful or relevant for your program, you have the option to inactivate it. There are two inactive statuses available:
- Inactive (read only). If you inactivate it using the "Inactive (read only)" status, users are still able to easily view and access previously-created records, but cannot create any new records.
- Inactive (invisible). If you inactivate the form using the "Inactive (invisible)" status, then the form title disappears from Neoserra' left-hand menu altogether and you are no longer able to access any summary views of the records created for this form. The records are not permanently gone; they can still be subsetted on and even viewed from a client's History of Activity tab. Also, if you ever wanted to report on the records in the future, you could temporarily change the form to read-only inactive status to bring back the summary view.
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