Note: If you are looking for instructions on how to edit forms in Specify, please see this guide! The fundamentals of form modification are the same between Specify 6 and 7. The entire form system is documented for Specify 7 on the GitHub Wiki for advanced users.
Using Forms in Specify
A form is a window in which data can be viewed, entered, or edited. Specify categorizes forms as Data forms, which are used to enter collection data, and Interactions, which are used to record transactions of either data or collection objects. Each discipline has access to a set of forms for both data and interactions, specific to their discipline. The following sections describe basic concepts for using the form system. A separate section of help exists for both Data and Interactions forms.
Note: At this time, Specify 6 does not include a Form Editor. It is important to note that the forms have been created programmatically to be extremely flexible and can be exported as xml and either edited by on-site staff or emailed to the Specify staff. The original forms should not be edited from the hard drive, they must be exported and then reimported! Forms are exported via the Importing/Exporting tool, which exports an entire form set. Form sets reside at the Discipline level in Specify, which means that all Collections within a Discipline access the same forms, but form sets can then be reimported at any institutional level. For instance, the default form set for a discipline could be exported, edited, and reimported at a collection level, allowing all users in that collection to use the new set of forms. Members of the Specify Collections Consortium may contact our help desk at firstname.lastname@example.org for help editing their forms.
The names of tables and fields used for display within Specify, (labels), can be edited using the Schema Configuration tool.
Specific forms have been created for each of the operating systems. These include varying font sizes as well as static versus stretchy forms. The form layout can be chaged in the user preferences:
- For Mac: Choose Specify > Preferences > Formatting.
- For Windows and Linux: Choose Edit > Preferences > Formatting.
Specify includes extensive controls for limiting access to data for each user. When starting up, Specify reads the permissions for the user based on their login information, then loads the correct tables and tools based on these permissions. For this reason, some of the controls and/or data may not be available. For example, users that belong to the Guest group and only have permission to view tables and forms will not have access to data through the Data module. They must first Query to find records, then view the data in a form.
Also, if a user has permission to view forms, but does not have permission to view a particular table or tables included within the form, they will be advised that the data is restricted. For instance, in the example below the user has permission to view a Collection Object form, but not a Preparations form. When opened, the Preparations sub form does not have permission to view any Preparations data, but it does have View permission for both the form system and Collection Object table.
Form with Restricted sub form
The default permissions that Specify ships with allow Guest users to View the forms, but not modify, add or delete them. All other users can use forms in their entirety.
Forms are categorized for the data that resides in each table (Collection Object, Taxon, Geography, etc.); however, much of the data within the tables is also linked to related tables. This prevents users from needing to retype the same information and assures that information is entered only one way (for example John Smith is not also entered as J. Smith or John Smyth). Separating data into fields within tables with relationships also allows data to be searched in a more precise way.
A relationship involving a primary and related table in which many primary records are linked to a single related record in the related table is referred to as having a many-to-one relationship. For example, many Collection Object records might be linked to the same Locality record because the specimens were all found at the same location.
Related tables with a many-to-one relationship to the primary table are represented on the form as a formatted field with buttons to edit, add and search for a record within the table. The field format typically consists of one primary field within the table, but may be represented by more than one field typically separated by a comma.
A relationship involving a primary and related table in which a single primary record links to many related records in the related table is referred to as a one-to-many relationship. For example, several Collection Object records would be linked to a single record in the Collection Event table because all the specimens were collected during the same event.
Related tables with a many-to-one relationship display on a form as a Query Combo Box. Control buttons next to the Query Combo Box; (edit), (add), and (search), allow single records to be searched, added or edited in a pop-up sub form.
Related tables with a one-to-many relationship to the primary table are included on the form as a sub form with navigation controls.
Data is added and edited in sub forms the same way that it is added and edited to forms. Boxes are used in the same way and required fields have a bold label.
Specify's forms use a variety of boxes, buttons, and panels to enter and display data, called controls.
Opens a dialog listing the incomplete fields that are required.
Note: The shield only appears once a change has been made inside the form and will disappear once all required fields contain data.
Opens a dialog listing fields with incorrect data.
Note: The shield will only display when fields on a form contain incorrect data.
|Hides the form/sub form.
|Opens the form/sub form.
|Opens a new form or sub form to adds a new record.
|Deletes the record. A Collection Object can not be deleted if it links to any other records.
|Opens the related record in a sub form.
|Opens a search dialog to search for a record. Fields for the table will be available to search, but this search is not inclusive of criteria; it treats all criteria independently. For example, when searching for an agent 'John Smith' entering 'John' into the first name field and 'Smith' into the last name field will return results for all last names of 'Smith' and all first names of 'John' rather than limiting the search to only 'John Smith'.
The clone tool is only available on the collection object form in the locality field by default. It is used to clone an existing record for editing and saving as a new record. It will open a locality form with all the information from the existing locality. Changes can be made to the form and a new locality record will be created. This will not change the original record, but merely makes a clone of the original record.
The tool can be implemented on other forms that include Query Combo Boxes but requires a redesign of the applicable form; please contact the Specify team at email@example.com for more information.
|Opens more information either in a associated form or descriptive text box.
|This is unique to the locality form. It allows the default longitude and latitude information to be set on the form.
|Displays the table as a form for view only.
|Displays the table as a grid for view only.
|Displays an editable table in form view.
|Displays an editable table in grid view.
Main Form Control
- Click the (collapse) button to collapse the form/sub form. (This can not be performed by keystroke)
- Click the (add) button, or press the spacebar when the add button is in focus to add a record. A sub form will be disabled until this button is clicked.
- Click the (delete) button, or press the spacebar when the delete button is in focus, to delete a record.
Navigation Control is found at the bottom of each form. Navigation is also present on sub forms that are part of the main form, but only when viewed as a Form, not as a Grid.
Step through records by clicking on the appropriate arrow (first, previous, next, last) or choose Data > (first, previous, next, last), or press the spacebar when the appropriate button is in focus.
Also, double click within the box and enter a page number in the resulting dialog to jump to the desired page.
Number boxes accept any numerical input. Simply click in the box or use the tab key to apply focus in the box, then type in the numerical data. The box will not accept characters.
Text boxes accept any type of input. Simply click in the box or use the tab key to apply focus in the box, then type in the data.
Note: To change the length of a Text and/or Number Box choose System > Schema Configuration.
Query Combo Box
A Query Combo Box represents a many-to-one relationship with another record in another table. Data for each record in the table is formatted to display enough fields within the table for the desired record to be recognized within a list of records. A Query Combo Box used to represent the Taxon (shown above), Geography, Storage, Lithostratigraphy and Chronostratigraphy tables will use the format for the Full Name, which is configured in the Taxon Tree Definition. Other queries and resulting lists are configured in the system and are not editable at this time.
The Query Combo Box allows data to be searched and chosen from a related table, not typed directly into the box. Data chosen from the list links the current record with a record in a related table. This eliminates the need to retype data. It is possible to type data directly into the box, but the box will not accept the data; the data must first be added to the table by clicking the (add) button and creating a new record.
Choose data from a list:
- Type the first lette, or first few letters of the term you wish to use in the box, then either click on the button or use the down-arrow key on the keyboard. A list of data starting with the typed letter(s) will appear.
- If Specify can not find a match based on the typed letters, then an button will appear. Click the button or press the enter key to add a new record.
- If the required data is not in the resulting list, either press the enter key when 'Add ...' is in focus, or click the (add) button, to add a new record.
- Pressing the esc (escape) key will cancel the list box.
Note: Type more letters into the box to reduce the results and expedite the search.
Search for existing data (these buttons are not available with keystroke entry):
- Click on the (search) button. A search dialog will appear.
- Type in either the entire name or the first few letters of the search followed by an asterisk (*).
- Select a record from the results.
Enter a new record:
- Click on the (add) button and enter data into the resulting dialog.
Or edit an existing record:
- Choose the record in the list.
- Click the (edit) button to open the table in an editable dialog.
Combo boxes are used to display Pick Lists, which allow data to be chosen from a predefined set of options, not typed directly into the box.
- Click the button, or press the down-arrow ( ) key to open the list.
- Click on data to select it or press the enter key when the desired data is in focus.
Note: Edit/add options to these lists in the Pick List Editor at System > Collection Setup > Configuration. Then click on the Pick List Editor button on the side bar and refer to the directions for the Pick List Editor. Preparation Type can be edited by clicking the Preparation Type icon on the same side bar.
Text Combo Box
Text combo boxes are used to display Pick Lists which are created from entered data.
- Type a new term into the box and press the return or tab key.
- Click the button, or activate the box and press the down-arrow ( ) key to open the list.
- Click on data to select it or press the enter key when the desired data is in focus.
Note: A Pick List can be changed from a Combo Box to a Text Combo Box or vice versa in the Pick List Editor at System > Collection Setup > Configuration.
Date fields require a formatted date and give a prompt for the accepted format.
Type the date as shown in the box.
The Remarks field is a text field, typically 4096 characters in length. Text can be typed directly into the text box on the form, or for a larger text box of text click the edit button, which will open a sub form for entering text.
Other Date Fields
Date Type/Partial Dates
Click the combo box for date type options.
Collecting Event Start, Collecting Event End, Cataloged Date, Determination Date and Preparation Date can be entered as partial dates by clicking on the Date combo box and choosing one of the partial date types from the list.
- Choose Date for complete dates.
- Choose Mon / Year* for incomplete dates which include the month and year.
- Choose Year* for incomplete dates which include just the year.
* Partial dates need to be stored as valid dates in the database (as day, month and year, Specify will use 01 for any missing data. For example, a partial date that displays as 07/2020 is stored in the database as 01/07/2020 and a partial date of 2020 is stored in the database as 01/01/2020. Therefore, if an exact date of 01/01/2020 is queried the partial date ( 2020) will be included in the return data.
Note: The default for the date format is Full Date, but this can be changed by editing the field on the form. For instance, if you only wish to input the Year it is possible to set the form default to Year and input the data without having to click on the Date Combo Box and select Year. For more information about how to edit edit the precision date on a form please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In most Collection Object forms the Cataloged Date is editable, but if it is left blank it is automatically set to the current date upon saving the record.
In most Collection Object forms, the Cataloger field is editable in the first new record, then automatically added and not editable in any additional forms created by clicking the add ( ) button. To enter a new Cataloger simply click the Data Entry icon in the Taskbar to open a new Collection Object form.
Formatted Number Fields
Any string can be formatted to a numbering scheme in System > Schema Configuration. Typical fields that are formatted with a numbering scheme are Catalog Number, Accession Number, Loan Number and Gift Number. Once these fields are formatted, they can either be entered manually or auto increment using Auto Numbering.
Note: When manually entering a formatted number field, it is paramount that numbers be padded with 0's. For example, if 3 numbers are available in a numbering scheme (###) and the desired number is 1, then 001 must be entered. If only 1 is entered, then Specify will read this as 100. This will produce incorrect results in searches, queries and reports.
Timestamp Modified is found at the bottom of the Collection Object form for most Disciplines, and is the date the . This is not an editable field on a form but it is important to note that it is a searchable field.
Data Entry Fields
Fields that accept data are Data Entry fields. These fields may also be required.
Fields that are View only (not editable) automatically load pre-determined information. Examples of these fields are the Collection Name field in the Collection Object form and the Children fields in the Geography, Taxon, Storage, Lithostratigraphy and Chronostratigraphy tables that are also displayed/edited as Trees.
Fields that are required, have a bold label and text areas that are shaded blue (shown in the above Query Combo Box). Records can not be saved (the save button for the form will not become enabled) until all required fields contain proper data. A (incomplete information) button will appear at the bottom of any form with incomplete required fields. Click the button for a list of these fields.
Note: The shaded color can be changed in Specify Preferences.
- For Mac: Choose Specify > Preferences > Formatting.
- For Windows and Linux: Choose Edit > Preferences > Formatting.
Specify adopts the standard keyboard functions for entering data on forms via keyboard entry. Examples of keyboard strokes for the form controls are described in the control section. The following are a few guidelines:
Tab moves the focus to the next field.
Spacebar activates a button.
Down-arrow ( ) opens a combo box and moves focus to the next item in the box.
Esc. (escape key) closes a combo box.
Return selects a highlighted item within a list.
Cntl/Cmd + S will save a record or Query.
Cntl/Cmd + C will copy data within a field.
Cntl/Cmd + V will paste data into a field.
Cntl/Cmd + X will delete and copy the data.
Cntl/Cmd + Z will undo the last action.
Cntl/Cmd + Y will redo the last action.
Cntl/Cmd + Q will exit Specify.
Cntl/Cmd + E will toggle from view mode to edit mode and back.
Cntl + Enter activates the OK button.
Cntl + W closes the current tab (on Windows only).
Cntl + Shift + W closes all tabs (on Windows only).
F1 opens Help.
Forms that include a list of records have the following keyboard functions on Windows and Linux:
Alt + Up Arrow will go to the first record.
Alt + Down Arrow will go to the last record.
Alt + Left Arrow will to go to the previous record.
Alt + Right Arrow will go to the next record.
Forms that include a list of records have the following keyboard functions on the Macintosh computer:
Alt + Home will advance to the first record.
Alt + End will advance to the last record.
Alt + Page_Down will move to the previous record.
Alt + Page_Up will advance to the next record.
Note: If the keyboard functions are not working properly, try to click somewhere else in the application and change the 'focus'. The operating system does not coordinate keyboard functions in some of the more intricate tools in Specify.
Specify 6 allows values in specific fields to be copied from the current record into new records using Carry Forward.
To use Carry Forward
- Enter data into a form and click Save.
- Configure Carry Forward ( Data > Configure Carry Forward).
Carry Forward automatically turns on after being Configured.
When Carry Forward is already configured, it can be turned on by choosing Data > Carry Forward or right-button clicking within the form and choosing Carry Forward in the context menu. A checkmark will appear next to the name Carry Forward in both the drop-down and context menus.
To disable Carry Forward choose Data > Carry Forward or right-button click within the form and choose Carry Forward in the context menu. The checkmark will disappear from both the drop-down and context menu.
Note: When Carry Forward is disabled in the Data or context menu, it will need to be Configured before becoming enabled.
- Choose Data > Configure Carry Forward or right-button click within the form and choose Configure Carry Forward in the context menu.
- Choose individual fields or click the Select All button and then the OK button in the resulting dialog.
Sub forms that represent a one-to-many relationship to the primary table do not carry forward EXCEPT the Determinations table for Collection Objects, Collectors for Collecting Events and Citations for Collection Objects. These three will carry forward all the associated records. For example, if a Collection Object has 6 Determinations associated with it and Carry Forward is enabled all 6 of the Determinations will carry forward into the new record.
Note: Fields that are check boxes, or use an auto-formatter will not carry forward. However, auto-formatted fields will still update using Auto Numbering. For instance, Catalog Number is a field that is always formatted for a numbering scheme. If the Catalog Number (C#)is 1234 and Carry Forward is turned on but Auto Numbering is turned off then the the next record will not include a C# (one will need to be entered manually). If the C# is 1234 and Carry Forward and Auto Numbering are both turned on then the next record added will include a C# of 1235.
Fields that have been formatted for a numbering scheme automatically increment their numbering scheme using Auto Numbering. These are typically the Catalog, Accession, Gift and Loan Number fields, but any field that is a string can be formatted using the Schema Configuration tool ( System > Schema Configuration). Forms open with Auto Numbering on. Turn off Auto Numbering by choosing Data > Auto Numbering.
Once Auto Numbering is turned off it will stay off until the Workspace window is closed; however, new windows will open with Auto Numbering turned on. For instance, if a Collection Object (CO) form is opened and Auto Numbering is turned off, it will remain off while new CO's are entered using the same window. If a new CO form is opened in a new window (creating a new tab) it will open with Auto Numbering turned on.
When Auto Numbering is not on, formatted numbers must be manually assigned. This is useful when entering legacy data. When manually entering a formatted number field, it is paramount that numbers be padded with 0's. For example, if 3 numbers are available in a numbering scheme (###) and the desired number is 1, then 001 must be entered. If only 1 is entered, then Specify will read this as 100. This will produce incorrect results in searches, queries and reports.
Series Data Entry allows users to create multiple collection objects with consecutive catalog numbers and pre-filled values with a single Save operation.
To use Series Data Entry you must have the following:
- A catalog number that includes a numeric string that is an 'incrementor'
- Series Data Entry is included by default only for entomology. For all other disciplines it is turned off by default. For these and all existing databases contact the Specify team Specify team to have this feature included on your forms.
To use Series Data Entry:
- Turn off Auto Numbering by choosing Data > Auto Numbering in the main menu.
- Configure Carry Forward by choosing Data > Configure Carry Forward in the main menu.
A right facing arrow button will appear next to the catalog number field.
Catalog Number field with an Expand button.
- Click the button to expand the catalog number field.
A second box will appear on the form.
Catalog Number fields for Series Batch Entry
- Enter the starting number in the series into the first catalog number box and the ending number in the series into second catalog number box. Make sure to follow the format for both numbers.
The series can not include more than 500 records.
Note: Series Data Entry has a 500 record limit.
- Complete the data for the first collection object that you wish to carry forward. Depending on how carry forward has been configured, all or part of the fields and tables selected in the series will be copied to all records in the series.
- Click the Save button.
Specify automatically creates a record set of the collection objects that were created. The record set will be named with the first and last number in the series and appear on the side bar.
To open the collection object records in the work space simply click on the record set located on the side bar.
Batch Identify allows users to create and/or update the determination information for several collection objects at one time.
If several collection objects will be updated it is recommended that you create a record set of the collection objects before launching Batch Identify.
- Choose Data > Batch Identify in the main menu.
A dialog will appear asking for either catalog numbers or record sets (if applicable).
- Choose to either enter catalog numbers, separated by commas, or choose a record set.
A determination form will appear as well as a table listing the catalog numbers of the affected records.
- Fill in the appropriate information in the determination form and click 'Save'.
A new determination will be created for each of the collection objects and it will be made current. If no determination exists, a determination will be created.
As in Specify 5, Specify 6 works with a bar code reader. Specify treats the bar code reader as an ordinary data entry device. No special configuration within Specify is necessary. Refer to your bar code reader documentation for instructions on how to install and configure the bar code reader. Once the bar code reader is successfully installed and configured, it should work automatically in Specify 6.
- Activate the Catalog Number field within the Collection Object form by clicking in it.
- Scan the bar code.
- Activate the Search box by clicking in it.
- Scan the bar code.
- Activate a Loan, Gift or Information Request by choosing it in the Interactions Sidebar, this will activate a Catalog Number dialog.
Records that are related, or linked, to other records can not be deleted. For example, a Preparation that is linked to specific Collection Objects can not be deleted while the link and/or Collection Object exists. To delete the Preparation, first edit each Collection Object record and remove the Preparation.
When related records are edited, the data changes in each record that references that data. For example, if the spelling of a name in the Last Name field is changed in the Agent record, the spelling will also change in the Deaccession Agents, Loan Agents, Authors and other records.
Note: Only users with add and edit privileges will be offered the add and edit button on their form.
Multiple records can be entered within a single tab in Specify. Records can also be deleted from within that original tab. Once the original tab has been closed, the record will need to be searched and reopened within a form to delete it from the database. The following example shows the steps to delete a Collection Object record with Catalog Number 100.
- Use Simple Search or the Query tool to find Catalog Number 100.
Simple Search results with results for Catalog Number 100
- Double click the Catalog Number (100) to open the record in a form.
- Click the (edit) button at the bottom of the form to edit the form.
- Click the (delete) button at the top of the form to delete the record.
Edit Collection Object form