[EpiData-list] EpiData alignment problem

epidata-list at lists.umanitoba.ca epidata-list at lists.umanitoba.ca
Mon Jul 17 11:29:11 CDT 2006

     I cannot get past info at epidata.com filter no matter what subject I use
     so I am posting this to the group

DEAR Jens and Michael ,    
      I have delayed composing this letter for quite some time because
 I so much appreciate the efforts and accomplishments of the Epidata(ED)
 team over the years.  I was one of the early users and continue to use     
 ED extensively in our very many projects here at the hospital.
      My problem is that what I see in the QES file is not translated,
 as it appears, to the data entry screens in the REC file. In other words,
 the form is not WYSIWIG; in fact, what you see is NOT what you get.
 What you sometimes get in data entry screens are fields that are
 scattered all over and the allignment between the lines is comletely lost.
 This does not happen in EpiInfo(EI).
      This problem is not apparent in the sample files because they only
 have one item on a line.  To see the misalignment, the QES file must
 have multiple lines and fields that use the brackets, such as date and
 boolean fields. I examined the header portion of the REC file generated by
 both EI and ED and they are essentially identical. The brackets and their 
 conversion are the problem!
      Consider the following very simple QES file:
 D___________   E___  F___ 
    Note: the font may be changed by you email client.  To see the
    point being made, letter D should be right under letter A, 
    E should be right under B and F under C using a fixed-width
    font, such as 'courier new' with no spaces between the fields.
 I have six fields(A-F) and have intentionally placed B right after A
 and C right after B. If this file is converted to a REC file in EI, 
 everything is aligned exactly as it appears above.  If it is converted
 in ED, it is not. What EI does is remove the left bracket in field A 
 and shift the REST OF THE LINE one space to the left. It then removes 
 the right bracket from A and again shifts the REST OF THE LINE one 
 space to the left. It then does exactly the same thing for field B. 
 Everything would now be out of alignment with the next line,
 except that EI then adds two spaces IMMEDIATELY to the right of EACH
 field from which the brackets have been removed. In fact, if you
 look at the data entry screen in EI, you will notice that after
 shifting to the left as described above, two spaces now appear right
 after field A and two space appear right after field B, and this 
 maintains the alignment with the lines below. ED does exactly the 
 same shifting as EI, but fails to add two spaces to the right of 
 each of these bracketed fields. Changing the font in ED data entry
 screens to fixed-width does not help.
 I develop QES files with hundreds of fields of all types, and  bracketed 
 fields hopelessly mess up the alignment in both the screen version and in 
 printed forms.  While I can now(since I figured it out)  make these 
 adjustments in the QES  file to maintain alignment, I cannot  recommmend  
 ED to any of  my less experienced colleagues because the entry screens     
 and printed reports will  look disorganized, resulting in a less 
 aesthetic experience and more data  entry errors.  I must therefore
 either  personally design every form  (which I do not have time for), or   
 have them use something horrible like Excel.
      EpiData is a splendid product and is indeed legacy EpiInfo because it 
 maintains the elegant features of the latter,  while adding many new and 
 really useful ones.  The loss of alignment between lines, however, sort of 
 ruins things for me although it probably does not affect most users. If my 
 analysis is correct, I hope the program can be modified relatively easily.  
 If I am wrong,  maybe you can&#8217;t do anything.  Either way, thanks again for 
 all you have done for the rest of us EpiInfo lovers.
 Steve Blum, PhD
 Associate Professor
 Albert Einstein College of Medicine
 Dept of Epidemiology and Population Health     


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