Complete a Forms based Data Entry application

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Description

Experience Level: Expert
Overview
My client presently processes manual weekly cash sheets that are completed and submitted by post by their clients. These cash sheets contain a record of the basic financial transactions arising within their client�s retail operation on a weekly basis. This has now become a time consuming and expensive process, so we set about designing a web based application that the client could easily use to complete their cash sheets online.

Unfortunately other priorities within the business have limited the available resources so we are now looking for someone to help complete the project to at least a fully working prototype that can be tested by and demonstrated to its clients to assess viability.

The Process
Clients are trained to complete manual weekly cash sheets, which start on a defined date. Knowledge of the industry indicates cash sheet submissions can be incorrect or incomplete and hence require checking and potentially editing by technicians before approval. Therefore we have defined a two stage process whereby the client accesses and fills in a web form on a daily basis until the weeks information has been entered. Consequently the client will need to retrieve, update and save the form a number of times before they finally submit it as complete.

Data from third party systems, such as Point of Sale systems may also be held in the database and this will need to be presented to the client as part of the form completion exercise (although this can be added as aphase II). Logically the client should be able to accept or amend this data, so we have included a source indicator on certain tables to track any client amendments.

Each time a form is submitted by the client, the technician will need to be notified so they can approve the form/data. When the technician approves the form, the verified data must be sent to an accounting solution so monthly accounts can be generated. Presently there is a basic script which creates a CSV file that can be imported into Sage 50, although we may decide to create a XML file that can be sent via a web service to a web application using a RESTful approach and OAuth(v1.0a).

We maintain a database of clients internally on MSSQL and key client information will be sent to the MySQL database for those clients who are interested in or subscribe to the Forms solution � at this stage, this is a nice to have and can probably be done with internal resources.

What we have
We started off the initial prototype by creating a HTML form out of Excel using Spreadsheet converter software. This created a working form, using HTML and Javascript, that could be submitted to a MSSQL database hosted by Spreadsheet Converter. Similarly we used open source Form Tools to submit the form data to a MySQL database. Whilst the form presentation was excellent, having a familiar look and feel for the clients who would use it, the converted form turned out to be quite heavy at c500Kb and hence slow to load in IE 8. Additionally there are a number of limitations surrounding our ability to modify the form content, because codes and descriptions are stored within the form rather than the database and the form submission services we evaluated only held data in one table. If the project is successful, then we anticipate multiple users submitting multiple forms, with data regularly being exported to an accounting application. Consequently the form has been used as a basis for the form design. The Payments page is probably the most complex and the attached example may not clearly comunicate how it should work. Please see http://samples.infragistics.com/2010.2/WebFeatureBrowser/Default.aspx for a working example.

We created a documented data model in MySQL Workbench 5.2.24 CE (*.mwb file) and this has been generated on a test server running MySQL 5.1.25-rc-community and IIS 7.0 as the Web server. The database has been populated with live client data (imported using scripts and Excel templates) and a test output of a Sage CSV file has successfully been completed.

General design discussions have taken place, including which development tools to use. Our overriding requirement is to design a form that closely resembles the Excel based form in use by the clients. We favoured the controls available in the Infragistics ASP.NET toolkit and also looked at Farpoint�s Spread. We are open to the use of other tools as long as the user interface closely resembles the HTML example.

What we need
Initially we need a form that can interact with the MySQL database we have created, with Insert, Edit, Delete capability, built to resemble as closely as possible the prototype. Our intention was to use Infragistics controls to replicate the rich user interface of the HTML version and we also looked at Farpoint�s Spread. We are open to the use of other tools as long as the user interface closely resembles the HTML example.

An Admin application (probably as a phase II) so we can:-
Create users and their passwords (app_users)
Insert, Edit, Delete configuration information in:-
Nominal_Details
Nominal_structures
Nominal_types
Paid_types
Sites
Sources
VAT_codes
VAT_rates

Although in the early stages the above can all be modified using phpMyAdmin.

A Form example in Excel is attached together with a print of the data model. The source code behind the example form, the MySQL Workbench file and a mapping of the form to the database will be made available to the successful Freelancer.

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