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Chris21 Customisations Done the Right Way

Chris21 has built in functionality that allows you to do your own customisations. It’s a very useful tool and one that you have probably already taken advantage of. Chris21 customisations mean user defined changes to files, fields or forms. These changes can affect Chris21 or other interfaces, such as HR21.

Before I go further I would like to say that you do need to know what you’re doing if you want to delve into this area of Chris21. I would recommend some form of customisation training if you are not experienced.

If you have some experience with Chris21 customisations, you will understand the concept of the system and user areas of a file. I talked about this briefly in my blog Customising Chris21 – What Can Go Wrong? From my experience, it is the misunderstanding of this concept that causes the most issues with customisations. Many Chris21 systems I see have been customised in the system area of the file. In other words, existing fields are changed so that they can be used for different purposes.

It’s quick and easy to take an existing field and change some attributes to suit your purposes. Unfortunately this approach can cause you problems in the future.

So what’s the problem with this? The main problem is that if you use the system part of the file you can’t be guaranteed that system upgrades will not affect your customisations. There is the risk that a field that has been changed in the system area to suit your purposes may be overwritten by an upgrade. This could manifest itself as overlapping data or overlapping labels on forms. Even worse, if you have changed the data type of the field, say from an integer to a date, you may encounter errors when trying to update records.

What’s the best way to avoid this? Use the user area of the file. This area has been especially created for you for customisation purposes. The user area size is usually 120, meaning you can add fields up to a total of 120 characters onto the file. Importantly, any changes made in this area will not be overwritten during upgrades.

Keep this principle in mind when you undertake any Chris21 customisations. It will help to ensure the integrity of your database and give you less to worry about come Chris21 upgrade time.