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Give Me More Text

Saturday, November 27, 2004
To continue with my previous post (Give Me Text), I wanted to show a little UI from the SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence Studio. There are obvious improvements in the feature set formerly known as Data Transformation Services. The toolbox is brimming with tasks and transformations you can drag and drop into the Data Flow designer. Stuff like “Pivot”, “Aggregate”, and “Fuzzy Grouper”.

There are parts, however, that remind me why I still prefer programming with keyboards and text files to GUIs. GUIs do not scale. In order to perform multiple operations I need to perform multiple actions. Like the following dialog: 

The problem here is it took at least 34 mouse clicks to change the behavior of each column. from “Fail Component” to “Redirect Row” (to send erroneous records from a flat file to an error file instead of halting). UI designers do this to me all the time, and it’s the reason I get frustrated with them.

Text files scale because you can select one operation and have it applied to multiple locations. UIs do not do this too well – they make you click, click, clickety drag click. It’s why I try to avoid the DTS designer in 2000. The OLAP designer in 2000 is even worse.

The good news in 2005 is that there really is a text file underneath, and perhaps with some more documentation on the XML format these tasks might become easier.

It might also be interesting to see what UI accessibility improvements come along with Avalon and Longhorn. Perhaps they can provide some sort of meta layer where I can group similar controls easily and modify them with one action.

Even better would be if I could speak to the computer and ask it to “change all error drop down selections to redirect rows”. The magical accessibility layer can find drop down controls under the Error column and set everything without me moving a mouse.

That would be cool, but I’m still not giving up my text files.