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Dynamic UIM Menu Help

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Menu documentation doesn't have to be boring anymore.

 

If you use User Interface Manager (UIM) menus to create your System i menus, you're probably already aware of the ability to use help panels to define your menu help. What you may not be aware of is that you can actually create much more dynamic menu documentation. In this tip, we'll explore how you can display an HTML document or PDF file instead of the old "green-screen" help text when your users press the Help key.

UIM Menus

If you create your menus through the screen design aid (SDA) menu creation utility, you probably aren't aware of what UIM menus are and what they can offer to you. UIM allows you to create menus that replicate standard IBM menus. Unlike SDA menus, UIM supports multi-page menus. When creating menus using UIM, you can also create menus with user-defined command keys. This powerful feature allows us to launch custom help from a System i menu. While an SDA menu is made up of two source members—the MNUDDS, which contains the screen display information, and the MNUCMD, which contains the commands executed by each command—all of the information required to generate a UIM menu is contained in a single MENU source file. When creating a menu using UIM, the following objects are created:

  • Panel group objects
  • Menu objects
  • Search index objects

 

The panel group and menu objects contain panel definitions and online help information. A menu object (*MENU), which contains a panel group definition, is created using the TYPE(*UIM) parameter on the Create Menu (CRTMNU) command. The panel group and menu objects are created using a tag-based language that specifies definitions for UIM elements. The UIM creates search index objects that contain search terms extracted from online help information. A search index object makes it more efficient for a user to locate specific online information using the index search function.

Elements Within a Panel Group

The tag-based language used to define the panels, menus, and online help also supports definitions of symbolic elements that include the following:

  • Variable classes
  • Data elements that can be accessed through the UIM application programming interface (API), such as dialog variables and lists
  • Variable records that define buffers passed by application programs
  • Conditional expressions that must be true if certain processing is to take place
  • Key lists containing the definition of function keys
  • Menu bars containing the definition of one or more pull-down menus
  • Panel definitions containing one or more areas to present data, information, lists, and menus
  • Online help text modules

Menu Panel Source Definition

To define UIM menus, we use a nested tag system. The figure below shows the tags required to create a UIM menu and its nesting levels.

 

121411FaustUIMFig01

Figure 1: UIM menus use a nested tag system.

The KEYL Tag

The KEYL tag is used to define key lists, which identify the function keys available on the menu. The EKEYL tag identifies the end of the key list group. The KEYL tag has one required and one optional attribute.

 

Required Attribute

NAME=key-list-name. The name assigned to the key list.

 

Optional Attribute

HELP=help-module-name.  Links to the help information associated with a given menu item.  The associated help text will be defined in a panel group located elsewhere in the menu source or can be imported from another panel group.

The KEYI Tag

Individual key definitions within the key list are defined using the KEYI (key list item) tag. One or more KEYI tags may be defined within a KEYL group. The KEYI tag defines a single function key. This tag occurs between the KEYL and EKEYL tags. It defines the text to be displayed for a key and defines what to do when that key is pressed.

 

Required Attributes

KEY=key-name. The key being identified. Valid values are Attn, Enter, F1–F24, Help, Home, Print, Page Down, Page Up, and Sysreq.

 

HELP=help-module-name. Links to the help information associated with this key. The associated help text will be defined in a panel group located elsewhere in the menu source or can be imported from another panel group.

 

ACTION='action-text'. The value specified in the action text defines what happens when the key is pressed. The following are valid values for the action text on a UIM menu:

  • ACTIONS switches the cursor position between the panel and the menu bar; it also removes, if shown, a pull-down menu from the panel.
  • CALL calls an specified program.
  • CMD submits an AS/400 CL command (or System/36 environment OCL command) to the system for processing.
  • CMDLINE displays a pop-up window with a command line.
  • EXIT returns the user from a group of displays or menus.
  • HELP Displays help information for the panel, based on the position of the cursor.
  • HOME displays the initial (home) menu of the job.
  • MENU displays a subsequent menu as a result of selecting a menu item or pressing a function key.
  • MOREKEYS displays an additional set of active function keys and their descriptions; it's used when all keys cannot be shown at once.

 

The ACTION attribute is the key to using dynamic menu documentation. If you're using green-screen help panels as the basis for your menu documentation, the key item definition for the help action would be set as shown here:

:KEYI     KEY=F1         
         HELP=helpf1    
         ACTION=HELP

We can also execute other tasks from the ACTION attribute, including calling programs as shown here:

:KEYI     KEY=F1                                           
         HELP=help                                        
         ACTION='CMD CALL PGM(mypgm)'
                                           

This example will result in the program mypgm being called when the F1 or HELP key is pressed.

 

Now it's time to explore how to use this capability to launch the help documentation.

Launching Help Documentation

The concept here is pretty simple. The menu documentation is generated as an HTML file, which is saved to either a shared network drive or a Web server. You need a program to allow you to launch that HTML file. That program is shown below:

 

             PGM        PARM(&MENU)                                  

             DCL        VAR(&MENU) TYPE(*CHAR) LEN(10)               

             DCL        VAR(&CMD) TYPE(*CHAR) LEN(123)               

                                                                      

             CHGVAR     VAR(&CMD) VALUE('rundll32 +                  

                          url,FileProtocolHandler +                  

                          "http://webserver/helptext/' *TCAT &MENU + 

                          *TCAT '.html"')                            

             STRPCO                                                  

             MONMSG     MSGID(IWS4010)                               

             STRPCCMD   PCCMD(&CMD) PAUSE(*YES)                      

                                                                     

             ENDPGM                                                  

 

Note that this program assumes that your client supports the PC Organizer application. The program expects a single parameter that identifies the menu name for which the help is to be displayed. That value is then used as part of the URL for the HTML document to display. This assumes that you save your HTML documentation using the same name as the menu associated with the documentation. For example, if you had a menu named MAINMENU, the documentation would be saved so that it would be accessible from the following URL: http://webserver/helptext/mainmenu.html.

 

In this example, the server name webserver would be replaced by the name of your Web server. I've added a folder helptext to the path simply to illustrate that you would probably want to isolate your documentation into its own folder. When this program is called, it utilizes the Windows rundll32 command to launch the supplied URL via the Windows FileProtocolHandler. This is the same functionality that Windows uses to determine what application to launch based on a supplied file type. In this case, the client's Web browser will be launched to display the HTML page.

Putting It All Together

To see how to call the MENUHELPCL program from the menu help key, take a look at the example UIM menu source program shown below:

 

.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
:PNLGRP.
.*
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
.* Copyright notification displayed in the message area
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
:COPYR.
(C) Copyright Mike Faust 2011
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
.* UIM Z-variable to be used as the panel identifier
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
:VAR      NAME=ZMENU.
 
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
.* UIM Z-variable to be used as the panel identifier
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
:KEYL     NAME=menukeys
          HELP=keyl.
:KEYI     KEY=F1
          HELP=help
          ACTION='CMD CALL PGM(MUHELPCL) PARM(SMPLMENU)'
          VARUPD=NO.
F1=Help
:KEYI     KEY=F3
          HELP=exit
          ACTION='EXIT SET'
          VARUPD=NO.
F3=Exit
:KEYI     KEY=ENTER
          HELP=enter
          ACTION=ENTER.
:EKEYL.
:PANEL    NAME=MYMENU
          HELP='MENU/help'
          KEYL=menukeys
          ENTER='MSG CPD9817 QCPFMSG'
          PANELID=ZMENU
          TOPSEP=SYSNAM.
Sample Menu
.*
.* -------------------------------------
.* Define the menu area
.* -------------------------------------
:MENU     DEPTH='*'
          SCROLL=NO
          BOTSEP=SPACE.
:TOPINST.Select one of the following:
.*
.* -------------------------------------
.* Specify the action to be taken for each option
.* -------------------------------------
:MENUI    OPTION=1
          ACTION='MENU MAIN'
          HELP='MENU/option1'.
Main Menu
:MENUI    OPTION=2
          ACTION='CMD CALL PGM(MYPGM) PARM(PARM1)'
          HELP='MENU/option2'.
Run Program MYPGM
:EMENU.
.*
.* -------------------------------------
.* Use a command line and allow commands and option numbers
.* -------------------------------------
:CMDLINE  SIZE=LONG.
Selection or command
.*
:EPANEL.
.*
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
.* Define help modules for the menu panel
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
:HELP     NAME=keyl.
Function Keys - Help
:XH3.Function keys
:EHELP.
.*
:HELP     NAME=exit.
:PARML.
:PT.F3=Exit
:PD.
Ends the current task and returns to the display from which the
task was started.
:EPARML.
:EHELP.
.*
:HELP     NAME=customkey.
:PARML.
:PT.F13=Custom Key Action
:PD.
This key performs a custom action.
:EPARML.
:EHELP.
.*
:HELP     NAME='MENU/help'.
Sample Menu - Help
:P.
Sample Menu
:EHELP.
.*
:HELP     NAME='MENU/option1'.
Go to another menu,
:XH3.Go to menu MAIN.
:P.
This is the help text for option 1.
:EHELP.
.*
:HELP     NAME='MENU/option2'.
Run a program
:XH3.Run MYPGM
:P.
This option runs the program MYPGM.
:EHELP.
.*
:HELP     NAME='enter'.
Enter Key Help Text
:XH3.Enter Key
:P.
Press the enter key to execute an option or command.
:EHELP.
.*
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
.* End of menu source
.* -----------------------------------------------------------------
:EPNLGRP.

 

Note that the definition of the ACTION attribute for the KEYI associated with the help (F1) key is defined as 'CMD CALL PGM(MENUHELPCL) PARM(SMPLMENU)'. This defines that the menu should call the HELPMENUCL program passing the menu name (SMPLMENU) as the single parameter. Figure 2 shows the green-screen representation of this menu.

 

121411FaustUIMFig02

Figure 2: This is a very simple UIM menu. (Click images to enlarge.)

 

When a user presses the F1 Key for help on this menu, a Web browser is launched and the documentation shown in Figure 3 is displayed.

 

121411FaustUIMFig03

Figure 3: This is a sample of the document displayed by the help function.

 

It's also possible to launch other types of documents in the same way simply by changing the path or file type. The code below shows a replaced version of the command launched in the MENUHELPCL program:

 

             CHGVAR     VAR(&CMD) VALUE('rundll32 +                  

                          url,FileProtocolHandler +                  

                          "\\networkserver\share\Documentation\' *TCAT &MENU + 

                          *TCAT '.pdf"')                            

 

In this example, the code opens a PDF file stored on a network shared drive identified by the UNC path \\networkserver\share under the Documentation folder. The result is the same in that the required document is launched when the user presses the Help key.

 

The code for the MENUHELPCL program can be found here.

Documentation or Document-ation

Whether you use an HTML file or a PDF file, or even if you get more advanced and store your system documentation in a database and display the results using an ASP or PHP script, the ability to display custom documentation from a System i menu using the Help key will allow you to implement more dynamic usable system documentation with only a few keystrokes.

 

Mike Faust

Mike Faust is a senior consultant/analyst for Retail Technologies Corporation in Orlando, Florida. Mike is also the author of the books Active Server Pages Primer, The iSeries and AS/400 Programmer's Guide to Cool Things, JavaScript for the Business Developer, and SQL Built-in Functions and Stored Procedures. You can contact Mike at mikeffaust@yahoo.com.


MC Press books written by Mike Faust available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

Active Server Pages Primer Active Server Pages Primer
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JavaScript for the Business Developer JavaScript for the Business Developer
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    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.