FRSProductMgr
 
 
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FRSProductMgr was designed for the small business person who wants to manage his or her inventory, track customer sales, and, optionally, manage the company's products on its web site.

However, due to its flexibility, FRSProductMgr can be used to track almost any manner of data, whether for commercial or private purposes.

The ability to maintain data is something a software application such as a spreadsheet or a database can do. What FRSProductMgr excels at is the ability to provide a very flexible display of that data, to view that data via one or more filtered reports, and to offer the option of creating web pages from that data. So, if you are used to using one of the popular office suite spreadsheet or database applications, you will marvel at the way you can easily customize FRSProductMgr.

Getting Started

FRSProductMgr is very straight-forward to use. Setting up a store only requires a store name, and then you can start adding your product inventory. That's it! After that, you can get more involved by honing what data you want to track for your products, entering customer information if that applies, set up view/print reports, and/or create web reports for generating pages for your web site. However, those are all optional features that are there if you need them, and can be ignored if you don't. Start simple, and you can always expand later as you become more familiar with the application.

Some Definitions

Due to FRSProductMgr's flexibility, let's get two definitions out of the way first. Throughout this documentation and the application itself, you will find references to the words "store" and "product". Since FRSProductMgr was initially and primarily intended to be used by small business owners who want to keep track of their product inventory and possibly publish those products on their web site, those were the terms created and used.

However, a "store" is really just a collection of data. FRSProductMgr can maintain any number of "stores" in separate data files. So, you might have one data file that holds your actual store product inventory, but you can also add another "store" that might hold your personal collection of some items. It is therefore also possible that the word "product" doesn't really apply.

For example, you could set up a "store" to hold all the web site passwords that you have to remember. In that case, "product" would be a web site whose password and user ID you want to track.

A "product" could also be an article that you have written, which you wish to publish to your personal web site.

So, if you intend to use FRSProductMgr as a collector of data that are not a "store" or "products", just mentally swap those words as you see them in this documentation or in the application.

How Do I Use FRSProductMgr?


(fig. 1: initial screen)

The very first time you start the application, and after reading the Welcome screen, you will see the Store Contact Info window, wherein you can enter your store's information. Enter as much as desired. The name of the store will be shown in the application's title bar, and it will be used as the name of the data file wherein your data will be stored. So, that is required, but anything else can be left blank. You can always go back and make changes using the "Store | Contact Information..." menu command, including changes to your store's name.

When you press the OK button, the main window appears, and you can now start to enter your store's product inventory.

The main window, shown in figure 2 below, shows the Products tab, where you will be doing most of your work. Initially, of course, it will be blank. To add your first product, use the large green "plus" toolbar button. This toolbar button is a short-cut for the "Data | Add Entry" menu command, or you can press the F4 function key of your keyboard, if you prefer.


(fig. 2: blank window)

When you add your first product, a blank row will be added to the grid of the Products tab, as is shown in figure 3 below. You are now ready to enter whatever information you would like to track for your product. Editing is done by double-clicking the mouse cursor on the cell within the row that you wish to modify, or, if the focus is already on the cell, pressing the Enter or F2 key. If there is no text, or you want to wipe out whatever text is there, you can also just start to type, if the focus is on the cell already. When you have finished editing the content, simply press the Enter key, press the Tab key, or click on another cell with your mouse. Pressing the Esc key will cancel the editing, which will reset the cell's text to what it was before. For some cells, when editing, you will be presented with options from which you can choose. Select the option that you want use for that cell.

You simply repeat these steps for each product you would like to enter. In addition to simply entering your product inventory one-by-one by hand, if you have a lot of data already in some other format, FRSProductMgr supports importing such data (with some restrictions; see the "Data | Import..." menu command). Also check out the "Data | Add Blank Product Rows..." and the "Data | Add Product Photos..." menu commands for other quick ways of adding a number of products to the inventory grid. Be sure to press those windows' Info buttons for more detailed information.


(fig. 3: adding your first product)

What If I Want Different Data?

FRSProductMgr is extremely flexible. By default, the data entry columns shown in the application make it possible for you to enter key data about each of your store's products. However, you can click on the "Column" main menu to rename, change the data type, move around, hide, add, and/or remove these data columns. The application gives you a reasonable starting set, but you are free to modify the data entry columns to fit your store and your way of working. It is this flexibility that also allows FRSProductMgr to be used for scenarios other than a retail store.

What Is the Purpose of the Other Tabs?

FRSProductMgr has three other main tabs besides the Products one, each of which is optional to use, depending on your situation. The Customers tab can be used to track information about your customers. To add a customer, click the Customers tab, and press the green plus icon on the toolbar. You can then fill in whatever information you might want to track. If you want to track your customers' orders, be sure to enter the customer's name in the Customers tab first, so that it is available in the Customers selection field of the Orders tab.

The Orders tab can be used to track orders you have received from your customers. To add an order, click the Orders tab, and press the green plus icon on the toolbar. You can then enter whatever details you want to track about the new order.

The Reports tab makes it possible to view your entered data in different ways. You can also use reports to limit the amount of data that is shown based on filters that you set up. These reports are remembered, so that you can quickly re-display any one of them. All data shown in a report can be modified, exactly like you can modify your data in the Products tab. You can also print report data, or export the data to an external file for importing into another software application. To add a report, click the Reports tab, and press the green plus icon on the toolbar. This will take you through a quick "wizard" (a step-by-step configuration window) to set up the report. You can modify the report's settings at any time. These reports are separate from, and unrelated to, FRSProductMgr-generated web pages, if you plan to use those.

If you have no need for one or more of those main window tabs, you can hide them via the "Settings | Main Window Tabs..." menu command. If only one tab is to be shown, the space used for the tab buttons will be reclaimed giving you more space in the main window.

What Are Web Reports?

If you have your own web site, and you would like to list your product inventory on that web site, FRSProductMgr can be of use. It is not a complete solution, so if you are not familiar with creating web sites, an employee or consultant may be required. FRSProductMgr uses HMTL-based template files to use as its guide for the output files. The special brace-tags that are to be encoded in those template files are replaced with actual values of the data you have entered into FRSProductMgr. It merges those to generate the various output files. These output files will need to then be tied into the rest of your web site, and uploaded (if necessary).

The use of template files is what allows FRSProductMgr to generate output web page files that look exactly like the rest of your web site. The special brace-tags that are unique to FRSProductMgr is what allows the application to replace them with your actual data.

If so set up, FRSProductMgr can also upload the new and/or changed output files to your web site's server. If your webmaster is not part of your company, or is located remotely, he or she can upload the template files to your web site server, and FRSProductMgr can be set up to automatically check for any updates to those and download them if necessary. This allows you to hire an outside consultant (or an employee that is not on the premises), and allow him or her to completely manage your web site, even though you continue to update the data you track in FRSProductMgr on your own computer.

When all set up, one toolbar button press will do all this for you, so routine updates of your web site are trivial.

Sample Data Files

FRSProductMgr now comes with 6 sample data files. When you run the installation program, they are automatically installed in the "Samples" sub-folder where you installed the application. They are small files, but if you really don't want them, you can delete them. Below, is an explanation what each of their purposes is.

Favorites.fpm

Use this data file to keep track of your web browsing favorites or bookmarks. The user interface for managing your web site bookmarks in web browsers leaves a lot to be desired, so you can make your listing independent of your web browser, better organize them, but yet still quickly show them in whatever your current browser is. Plus, with FRSProductMgr's extensibility, you can easily add more data columns if you need to track more data related to bookmarks.

Journal.fpm

Use this data file to keep your personal journal.

Shopping List.fpm

Use this data file to keep track of your immediate and extended shopping list or future wish list.

Special.fpm

Use this data file as a way of keeping track of your passwords. You may want to enable the password protection in FRSProductMgr (see the "Settings | Password..." menu command), so as to protect access to this data. The data is stored in an encrypted format in this data file itself.

To-do List.fpm

Use this data file to keep track of your to-do list items for various projects.

Web Site Articles.fpm

Use this data file to hold information about a topic that you would like to publish to your personal or business web site. This is great for how-to articles, a simulated blog, or general content supplemented with lots of photos.

How to Use A Sample File

Close FRSProductMgr, if you have it running. Then use Windows' file explore, or our FRSFileMgr if you have that installed, to copy the desired file to the folder wherein you have FRSProductMgr installed. When you then start FRSProductMgr, click on the "Store | Select Store..." menu command. You should see the file you just copied listed as one of the options. Click it to open that "store" data file, and you can then start to add entries using the green-plus toolbar button, or F4.

How Do I Get the Latest Version?

You can always download FRSProductMgr directly via the "Download" tab above. However, FRSProductMgr automatically checks to see if a new version has been released each time you run it, if you have enabled that option and your computer has an active Internet connection. When a new version has been found, it will be downloaded, and you will be notified of the automatic upgrade when you close the application. Making sure you are always up-to-date is both free and easy!


(fig. 4)

When an upgrade is being downloaded, a download icon appears in the status bar (see figure 4). Note that you can close the application at any time. If an upgrade was in the process of being downloaded, the application will stop and try again the next time you run it.


(fig. 5)

When the download has completed, the icon will change to one showing a sun (see figure 5). At that point the application will be upgraded when you close it.

If for some reason you wish to disable automatic upgrading, click on the "Settings | Automatic Application Upgrade" menu command to turn OFF that feature. The state of the check mark to the left of that menu command indicates whether or not FRSProductMgr checks for new upgrades. If you turn that option on again, FRSProductMgr will immediately check the Fourth Ray Software server to see if a new version is available, and download it if there is one.

For How Long Can I Use the Free Version?


(fig. 6)

FRSProductMgr comes with a one-time, 21-day trial period during which you can use the full functionality of the application for free. There are no restrictions during that time period. When the free trial period is over, you must purchase a license to continue to use the application (click on the "Buy" tab above). All of the data you entered during the free trial period will still be there after you have paid for your license. There is no separate download required after you have purchased your license. The status bar (see figure 6) indicates how many days you have remaining in your free trial period.

How Do I Enable the Paid-for Version?

When you have paid for a license for FRSProductMgr, you will receive your unique serial number. You can enter the serial number via the "FRSProductMgr | Enter Serial Number..." menu command. You will also see this window when you start the application and you have allowed your trial period to expire. You need to enter the serial number you received from us. We recommend copying and then pasting the serial number, as it is easy to mistype it. When ready, press the OK button to have FRSProductMgr verify the serial number. If it is valid, the application will switch to a "paid-for" version, which you can verify by clicking on the "FRSProductMgr | About..." menu command.