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"Ask the user" functionality revamp
We are planning to revamp views' "ask the user" functionality.

As of now, admin specify the column to search for **and the operator** such as (in)equality, string containment or date/numeric range. The user is only able to fill the values. In this case, if you want to provide extensive date search functionality you'll need a number of views: one to search for particular date, another is for date range etc.

What we want to do is to move "ask" conditions out of the filter settings: the admin will define "static" filter and may mark some of the columns "askable". For these columns the user will be presented with extended input control allowing her to choose "the operator" (partial/full match for strings, this/prev/next week/month/year selector along with calendar for a date or pair of dates etc) and the value. This change will allow you to simplify application setup and we'll be able to present input controls specific to selected operator.

-- UPDATE 09/26/11

The set of operators for the user might be completely different from those we have in a setup part - they are too "academic".
How ofter you search for "a string greater than or equal AB"? Do you really need to check for "Date is not equal current month"?
Do you need an operator when presented with a dropdown list of choices?
What's the difference between "Checkbox is checked" and "Checkbox is not unchecked"?

For the UI, we'll likely end up with:

If column has a list of choices, the operator is "equal" and the dropdown allows multiple selections.

For checkboxes it is a single choice of "Any, Yes, No"

For texts and text-based columns like URL/Phone/Email: it could be "equal", "starts with", "contains" (default). Could be solved without specifying an operator - with star wildcards.

For dates and timestamps: either a single date, or today, or predefined range like "prev/this/next day/week/month/quarter/year", or a pair of dates to form the range. Leaving first date empty resolves to "up to date". Leaving latter date empty resolves to "from here to eternity". Specifying both dates searches the range from "From" and up to and including "To".

For times, numerics and durations: the same as with dates except of predefined ranges.

Kirill Bondar  Staff 
Date Created
9/22/2011 10:23:16 AM
Date Updated
10/4/2017 5:51:55 AM
In Development
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Promoted By
tommie@medicallhealth.co.zaPhilipp MatuschkaLuison Lassala
Arnold HakobyanMegan PillsburyDean Eberly
calvin petersbasenineKelly Waters
José AlencarPaul O'BrienGii Systems
Desmond BeattyRick CogleyNathan Phillips (CW)
Martin Odendaalgerardo garciabeo
Kirill Bondar  Staff Todd ShanklandMatt Warner
Matt Warner 3/12/2008 11:57:15 AM
In views that are used as queries with some fields set to "ask the user", some of the columns may be combo boxes (pulldowns) with specific options. When this is the case it would be great to allow the user to select more than one, either by holding down CTRL key or by popping up a second combo box once the first is filled (assume it is an "OR" relation). Right now almost any query with an "OR" in it has to be custom created by administrator and made available as a separate view.
Nathan Phillips (CW) 9/25/2011 6:52:15 PM
This would be a great feature. I can see that it could create work for users, by requiring them to re-select the only operator they ever use, on every single filter they use, every time they open a view. I would vote for the ability to specify a default operator for each filter when you configure the view. That would enable configuring the filters to present the most likely use case for a particular view.
Kirill Bondar  Staff  9/26/2011 5:45:38 AM
@Nathan: updated idea description
Philipp Matuschka 11/29/2011 6:01:01 AM
Could I suggest that when search filters are displayed for the user to enter, which logic will be applied is also shown to them. For example will entering the name of a City, produce all Cities with that name or all except that name. Or will entering a value show all values at that value or below that value or or or. You get the idea.

Even better, when defining the filter, make a default logic, say greater than, and when displaying the filter, show that logic, but allow the user to change it.
José Alencar 11/29/2011 6:27:15 AM
Great idea. Additionaly, filters should have a default option
Kirill Bondar  Staff  11/29/2011 6:42:38 AM
Merged with:
478 - Search Filters - show logic to be used
Paul O'Brien 12/6/2011 9:42:13 AM
When searching on a "Reference" column, it would be nice to be able to select multiple values from a drop down list and then indicate whether the resulting record set should match all items selected (AND) or match at least one item (OR).

Example - if I have a Programmer table with a reference field called Skills that represents a many-to-many relationship to a ProgrammingSkills table, I may want to find any programmers that have both COBOL "and" JCL skills or I might want to find any programmers that have either Java or J# or C or C#.
José Alencar 12/6/2011 10:18:27 AM
It should have a default value too
gerardo garcia 2/5/2012 11:21:39 PM
For text columns with drop down list of choices currently we have the --none-- option. If left like that it will query all registers. It would be useful to have a --blank-- (null, empty) choice. As of now if I want query --blank-- columns I have to create an specific filter view.

This is a similar need like check boxes that was solved with the "any,yes,no" options when before you could only get yes OR no results but not both (any).

gerardo garcia 7/12/2012 4:34:02 PM
Just checking if this idea would be considered for implementation?
Dean Eberly 5/16/2013 11:50:08 PM
to enhance user's reporting productivity, during the ask the user filter applied to reference columns, limit drop down list to relative records.

(Ask([my named reference column]=[?my named reference column])

The drop down list currently shows all rows found within the referenced table column, but I need the user to see only what matching records are available. This would eliminate the user making a choice and then encountering a blank report indicating "there are no records to show"
Perhaps someone can rephrase my idea to clarify.
Megan Pillsbury 9/9/2013 3:58:47 AM
When a user is choosing dates to filter a view, it would be very handy if I could ask them to choose date blocks. For example, from Month to Month, or Quarter to Quarter. Right now they can only view Day to Day, but this is tedious. Also, if you combine with <ask the user> defaults, then I'm in heaven.

PS, if there is a way to do this, and I don't know, please tell me, thanks!
Rick Cogley 9/10/2013 5:56:57 PM
There is a way to do it, if you only need a single period and not a range. If you take a date field and change it using a formula field, to say, quarters or months, you can then use the resulting formula field in an <ask the user> search. This is fine, if people only need to see one quarter, or one year, or one month etc.

I'd love the ability to be able to specify ranges as you say, built in.
Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/10/2013 8:47:03 AM
Merged with:
676 - <ask the user> in date blocks
640 - Ask the user record picker
190 - Allow user to select multiple options in a "ask the user" combo box in a query
Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/10/2013 8:51:42 AM
Recently we’ve moved forward with "Ask the User" functionality revamp.

Please enable “New Ask the User” in the Labs.

This will add special “Ask the User” entry on view’s “Matching” section, which allows you to specify columns you wish to ask user. Currently text, date, timestamp and checkbox columns are allowed. System will automatically generate corresponding filter condition depending on column type.

For example, for date and timestamp columns system will use dates range of table data to prefill dropdown with corresponding months, quarters and years options. User will be able to specify custom data range as well.

For text columns system will use distinct values from records data and allow selection of one or several values while filtering.

Please check how it will works for you. We will also be happy to hear any feedback on how this new functionality can be improved or expanded to other data types or usage cases.
calvin peters 10/10/2013 9:46:10 AM
Currently a text column with a list of values to pick from using radio buttons or check-boxes seems to be populating lists of values selected from data already in the database. While I understand where in some cases this would be a benefit, in my case it would be more beneficial to be able to simply select from the individual available choices rather than from multiple combinations of lists made up from the individual options.

ie: A list of check boxes with selection options of "A; B; C; D; E..." is currently offering me lists to select from like "Equal To" 1) A,B,D : 2) B,D,E : 3) A,C,D,E : 4) A,D,E

What would work better would be to be able to select from "Contains" 1) A : 2) B : 3) C : 4) D : 5) E etc and filter that way.
Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/10/2013 9:59:27 AM
@Calvin system should correctly handle situation when text column "Choices Display" property is set to "Check Boxes (Multiple Choices)". Please check your column properties. If that is not the case - please raise support ticket and we'll check your particular case.
Rick Cogley 10/10/2013 5:46:28 PM
Another vote for some kind of defaulting.

When the text selections are simple, it is intuitive. For text where there are many many different types of entries, having those same to pick from is not useful. Better that that kind of variance get a "contains" by default.

For example I created a view with this on our Support Tickets table, where the "subject" is whatever the person entered when entering the ticket. The current iteration allows us to select from maybe 20 or so of the possible subjects, but the reality is there are 1000s of records. This would definitely need a contains.

The date implementation works quite well I think.

A question: when you implement this does it mean the other style of ask-the-user will go away?
Rick Cogley 10/10/2013 5:51:31 PM
Also, it would be good to be able to select a series of text fields to run a contains search against. We can kludge this by making a formula text to concatenate them, then putting a contains ask-the-user in the search view, but, if this new section could have a way to specify:

* Text string to put on the label. Now you select which field to search, and the system shows the name of that field. This would be entering some string, to put before the word contains on the left instead of the single field name. For example "Text" would yield "Text contains:" on the left, before the box where you enter what you want to search.

* Fields to search across. You select multiple fields, and the system concatenates when needed.

... that would be great.

gerardo garcia 10/10/2013 11:58:09 PM
This is great. I am Loving it. Thanks!
Couple of comments.

When clic on the view it already shows results without hitting "execute query". Would be nice no results were shown until executing.

On key fields it only shows the number of the field. For future develompent would be great if it would also do a lookup for the related values.

Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/11/2013 1:37:28 PM
@Calvin system will display drop down for Text column with multi-choices (checkboxes) in next update.

@Rick we've plans to keep both "ask the user" methods available, but we'll move accent to the new one.
We've plan to add single edit box at the top of filters section for "search for keyword" which will perform search in all text-based column in a view by default.

@Gerardo if you'll put view with "ask the user" on dashboard it will not show data without hitting "execute query".
These new "ask the user" works differently. System will use distinct values from records data to fill drop down, so you'll just need to "ask" for lookup instead of reference column.
Rick Cogley 10/11/2013 5:19:26 PM
Hi Slava - when you say "in a view" do you mean to be searched, the text fields would need to be displayed in the results? If so, there are cases where this is problematic. If the search target text fields are large (like multi text with a lot of text written), then sometimes you want to keep them out of view, because they distort how results look on the screen...
Megan Pillsbury 10/12/2013 3:54:08 AM
This is great! Thanks for implementing!!

I have a follow-on request that either I can set the sort or that it defaults to newest first, for date 'ask the user'. I need it for the same reason one would need the 'List Changed' view - most recent data is generally more interesting.

Thanks again!
Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/17/2013 8:38:44 AM
@Gerardo we've fixed the problem and now result is not shown without hitting "execute query".

@Rick we've added "Search" box at the top that allows searching records the same way as "search for keywords" do.
You may also use all query tricks from here: http://www.teamdesk.net/help/5.10.aspx

@Calvin system now displays drop down for Text column with multi-choices (checkboxes).

Rick Cogley 10/18/2013 2:32:43 AM
Thanks Slava. The tricks work well.

It would be great if the query tricks could be extended to target the search string at a specific field. Like:

(email or mail) and outlook field:Subject

Is such an extension possible?

The reason is, sometimes too much info is returned when searching, so it could be desirable to limit the search to a single field. However, when we set up a contains search against a single field, we cannot use the special query language operators, can we?
Rick Cogley 10/21/2013 10:37:25 PM
Hi - as this is in beta, it is a separate section in the [ask the user] parameters in a search view, when you have a mix of the old ones and the new ones you just added.

And as such, the [Search:] full text search one appears at the top of the second list.

To make it easier to find for users, I was wondering, could that new [Search:] box be placed at the very top or very bottom of all the search fields (old and new), to allow a consistency in the UI?

If it were always placed at the top, it is a little easier to explain to users.
basenine 11/6/2013 4:39:19 PM
@Rick and @Slava,

I'd actually like an option to hide the Search field altogether as I can get the functionality I need without it.
i.e. keeping the existing <Ask the User> parameters on top of the new <ask the User> parameters is fine. The extra Search box is confusing.

So - an option to Hide/Show would be welcome.

Kind regards - Brett
Rick Cogley 11/7/2013 1:42:34 AM
Yes, the option to leave it off would be useful in some cases, too. I had been cobbling together formula text fields for doing contains searches on, and have had users ask for it to be LESS all inclusive, saying "it's too much info".
basenine 11/7/2013 5:43:31 PM
I was getting a "timeout" error on a particular view in a table. It turns out that a couple of columns were confusing(?) the view. The Table in question has more than 13600 records - some imported from another system and some new (since last year).
Using the new <Ask the User> function initially made things worse but after careful trial and error, I was able to find which columns were making the timeout happen. They were quite innocuous columns - a date field and a checkbox field. These fields were both used in the Match Conditions filter (Along with some others). Once they were taken out (and a different approach for filtering was undertaken), the view now works.

It was weird because another view in the same table had more 'resulting data' and performed the execution quickly. No <Ask the User> functions were used, however a broader selection was being searched. Even a "List All" view achieved a result with no "Timeout"

The reason for sharing here is because there is a post for
Archiving Data Ability to Archive Data and for
Improving Performance Improve performance of summary columns...

It seems that some of the new functions are causing the issue and that careful consideration of column use is required when filtering.

I've put in a support request so we'll see what transpires from that.
basenine 11/7/2013 5:51:43 PM
Testing the new <ask the User> some more, it seems that on a large selection of data, it crashes. I've just created a view to filter the 13600+ records just using the new function and it throws back an Internal Error.

When using the old method of <Ask the User> (for example: Between Dates 1 and 2), the view works as expected.
Slava Shinderov  Staff  11/8/2013 2:26:16 AM
@Brett we can't discuss your particular database settings/problem in Idea Exchange, please use "Ask a Question" link instead.

@All there is NO DIFFERENCE between new and old "Ask the User" in terms of how query is executed.
basenine 11/8/2013 4:29:59 AM
That's fine @Slava... This post was to maybe help some other users that may be having similar issues. The fact remains, I can use the old method and I get a positive result... Using the new method has thrown up two errors. A timeout error and an internal application error.

I have raised the issue with support and I look forward to their help with instance to the issue I've recently experienced
basenine 11/9/2013 5:10:37 PM
Hi all

It seems that there was ONE date (out of 13655 records) that was causing the issue. The format was dd/mm/YYYY.... This one particular record was entered in as 12/11/0012 - somehow? It was record #5 so it was new to the user so maybe just a typo(?). The new < ask the user function> Was adding in every year starting from 0012!!!! And therefore internally crashing or having a timeout on execution

One bit of data caused the issue...not the new functionality. The new function uncovered the truth! Lol
TD support found the problem after creating a particular view.
The reason for posting this?

1: some users have had some timeouts and are questioning TD's ability to handle large data - yes it can
2: if you are having timeouts, check your data entry
3: I love the taste of humble pie in the morning!
Rick Cogley 11/9/2013 5:33:54 PM
Yikes, it's always something small, eh?
basenine 11/9/2013 6:45:45 PM
Yep - a faulty $1.00 "O" ring was responsible for the space shuttle blowing up back in 1986.

I must admit... My original thought was something small regarding a relation that was being cross referenced so I looked through everything there first. When I couldn't find anything, I looked at how the new function was behaving differently to the old. And presumed it must be an error at that end... And put in a Support request.
Have I mentioned before about assuming - lol!

Even the two columns that I mentioned earlier (a checkbox and a date) weren't related to each other in any way so taking out the checkbox, whilst improving the result, theoretically shouldn't have. That threw me off the scent!

Philipp Matuschka 12/20/2013 1:03:25 PM
This is good funtionality. Is there a reason why one cannot use it for UserIds, e.g Last Modified By
Rick Cogley 12/21/2013 4:40:48 AM
I was re-vamping a search form today, and noticed that the new search section does not allow search on durations. Any reason it could not be?
Rick Cogley 12/22/2013 8:42:02 PM
In the new date picker, it would be good if you could sort the date columns ascending or defending. It is great that they are available as months, quarters or years, but, when you have a lot of data, users have to scroll down to get to the recent months or quarters. Depending upon the usage, it would be good to specify the sort in the other direction, so it is easier for users to pick.
Rick Cogley 12/23/2013 10:30:15 PM
In the new "ask the user" section, I painstakingly arrange my fields before saving, putting booleans with booleans and dates with dates. Then Lo!, when I save, they get all mixed up, booleans fraternizing with dates and text mixing with the numbers!

It would be great to be able to either have Save honor the order I set, or, allow me to re-arrange at will.
basenine 12/23/2013 10:38:29 PM
I raised the issue with the label ordering getting mixed up earlier with support - @Slava said they were going to update that in the next release.
Rick Cogley 12/23/2013 10:48:51 PM
Glad to hear that, thanks!
Slava Shinderov  Staff  12/25/2013 3:16:17 AM
@All here is our roadmap on what is planned for next releases for new “Ask the User” functionality:

* Add the option to turn off free text “Search” field.
* Add support for User, Numeric and Duration column types.
* Respect the order of columns specified in “Ask the User” section.

Currently first 200 unique values for each text-based column specified in “Ask the User” section are displayed. That works well if you have limited number of different values or relatively small number of records. Obviously, it’s not always the case, so to deal with that situation we’ve plan to automatically emulate “dependencies” between columns specified in “Ask the User” section. When some filter option is selected in one column, system will dynamically recalculate available options in other columns used for filtering. For example, you’ve large car database with following columns used for filtering “year”, “make” and “model”. If you’ll select 2010 as year, “make” and “model” options will be dynamically rebuilt to show only available cars for that year. If you’ll select “BMW” in “make” after that, then “model” options will be dynamically rebuilt again to show only models available for 2010 BMW cars from database.

We’ve no immediate plan to completely remove or disable old “Ask the User” functionality and you can even mix “old” and “new” methods in views now. But if, for some reason, you like to stick with “old” way we’ll be happy to hear why, so we’ll be able to better understand you needs and new “Ask the User” limitations.
basenine 12/25/2013 3:41:35 AM
Thanks Slava. An exciting roadmap.
Megan Pillsbury 12/26/2013 9:02:01 PM
Slava, this is great! The 200 record limitation has been a problem for us. We will definitely benefit from the dependencies filter. Thanks!!
Slava Shinderov  Staff  4/10/2014 8:07:54 AM
@All we've improved new "Ask the User" with ability to automatically emulate "dependencies" between columns specified in "Ask the User" section.
It should help to deal with "first 200 unique values" limit somehow.
We'd appreciate users, who has that problem, checking if new behavior helps in their particular cases.

Philipp Matuschka 11/13/2014 6:34:38 AM
Another small improvement idea:
Where I have both Filter fields and Ask the User fields, the Search field which the system automatically generates once any Ask the user field has been selected, appears in the middle between the Filter fields and the Ask the user fields. This sometimes looks very odd. Also sometimes I don't want this field at all.

Can we have options for this field
Position for Search field
- none
- above Filter fields
- between Filter and Ask the User
- below ask the user

Rick Cogley 11/18/2014 6:40:16 AM
I like Philipp's positional idea. That would help keep it organized.
basenine 12/2/2015 4:07:01 AM
As DB's grow, the Ask the User list grows with it....see pic:


Maybe a drop list within the drop list would stream line this (only one can be selected anyway when it's a date specific filter)
Philipp Matuschka 12/2/2015 4:13:57 AM
I found also that loading the ever increasing number of possibilities was slowing down the load time for the form, so I have stopped using it for date fields. I still find it very useful for other fields
Philipp Matuschka 2/3/2016 11:52:56 AM
Coming back to my idea of 20 November 2014, I would just like to highlight it again. Especially as the serach field seems not to actually search all fields. There may be technical reasons for this, but whatever they are it is inexplicable to a user that there is a field on the screen called search, which doesn't actually search
Alexander Sepe 2/3/2016 9:41:38 PM
Yes I agree with Philipp, this search field seems that doesn't actually search
Slava Shinderov  Staff  3/30/2016 9:26:22 AM
@All columns from "Ask the User" section respect the order now and can be easily reordered with drag and drop.
Rick Cogley 3/31/2016 3:06:15 AM
Thanks for adding the re-ordering @Slava. Helpful.

I'd love to have some indicator as to what operator was selected for ask-the-user search parameters. If I set one as =, it's the same visually as a >, for example.
Philipp Matuschka 4/2/2016 5:39:08 AM
That's great thanks. That's very usefuly

Two things
1. Is this still a Labs functionality or can we rely on it staying

2. Re-iteration of previous comments on the Search field. I've just cut/pasted and edited below

Where I have both Filter fields and Ask the User fields, the Search field which the system automatically generates once any Ask the user field has been selected, appears in the middle between the Filter fields and the Ask the user fields. This sometimes looks very odd. Also sometimes I don't want this field at all. Especially as the Search field seems not to actually search all fields

Can we have options for this field
Position for Search field
- none
- above Filter fields
- between Filter and Ask the User
- below ask the user

basenine 8/23/2017 5:18:00 AM
At the moment --Custom-- date range position is at the end of the list in the third column.

I find it's more commonly used than the pre set months. Anyone else find the same?
Suggest to move it to the top of the list in the 1st column

I would also like to be able to limit the list to up to 10 presets with the option to --Show all--
I find that the lists can sometimes be enormous.
This would also give a more consistent and 'set-sized' drop field display
Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/4/2017 4:59:12 AM
@All we've added an option to show/hide "Search" field if needed.

basenine 10/4/2017 5:17:39 AM
Beautiful. Is it done through Labs in one hit or individually per view
Slava Shinderov  Staff  10/4/2017 5:31:09 AM
@Brett we've added new option for the "Ask the User" section for view/dashboard/record picker/relation.
basenine 10/4/2017 5:51:55 AM
Thanks Slava
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