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Working with the CA ERwin Interface

There's a lot of talk about "fluid" these days and whether your interaction with your tools is "fluid." It's not a bad metaphor for discussing how you interact with your user interface. In fact, when your interface with a tool isn't fluid -- when you hit a bump or a detour -- it does feel a little like hitting rough water or having your shower suddenly turn off (or switch to cold water). After reviewing CA ERwin Data Modeler in the December issue, I'd probably characterize the tool's UI as 'sort-of' fluid: lots of stuff where you expect it, doing what you expect, and helping you do what you want. Then there's the odd bit of rough water.

When you start up CA ERwin, your first reaction is probably going to be, "Whoa, that's a lot of toolbars." I counted seven, stacked three deep along the top of the window, not including the tool icons at the top of the three tool windows. When I see that many toolbars when I first open an application, I'm never sure if that means that there's a lot of functionality in the application or if the vendor just wants me to be aware of how many toolbars there are. Sort of a "Gosh, this must be a terrific app -- look at all those toolbars!"

When I check the Windows menu I notice that all the toolbars are checked -- I don't think there's any application where I actually use all the toolbars straight out of the box. Or even long after it's been out of the box.

ERwin's screen layout is so familiar -- just like Visual Studio -- that it made me realize how ubiquitous that layout has become. It really has just six items: editing window + tool windows + menu + dialog + toolbox + context menus. You can start mousing around almost immediately and figuring out how to get things done.

There's the odd difference from the Visual Studio paradigm. I notice right away, for instance, that in the editor window the tabs appear along the bottom. Which, I guess, isn't the end of the world. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if an interface isn't "fluid" or if I'm just getting set in my ways.

It took me awhile to figure out the other difference: none of the tool windows have captions. I ended up looking at the list of tool windows on the Windows menu to figure out what each window did. I recognize the need to reduce visual clutter, but I would gladly have given up one row of toolbars to get headings on the tool windows.

One real UI annoyance, though: Help is always on top. If you open it, you'd better be prepared to read it and don't expect to be able to switch back to ERwin. The only way to make the Help Window go away is to minimize it or close it.

Fluid? Sort of.

Posted by Peter Vogel on 12/10/2010

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