Saturday, September 10, 2011

So You Think You Can Design A Switch List?

One of the more photogenic features of my
car assignment program is that the switch lists it displays are attractive and realistic. Many of the commercial programs out there just do computerized lists that could have been printed on a 1980's dot matrix printer. I'm pleased SwitchList doesn't do that (or doesn't just do that) - it can fool people into thinking I've been up all night writing my switchlists by hand, can imitate the standard SP switchlist form, the San Francisco Belt Line's form B-7, or (thanks to James McNab) the PICL-style computerized car list form.

Doing attractive and realistic switchlists is nice, but one of the common requests I hear is to allow others to design their own switchlists, even if they're not Macintosh programmers.

Y'all have got your wish.

The newest version of SwitchList, version 0.8.0, now allows you to design your own switchlist style, then use it both for printed switchlists and for the web-based switchlists you can view on your iPad or iPhone during an operating session. Creating a switchlist requires a bit of knowledge of HTML and making web pages, but you can get pretty far without any sophisticated knowledge of how to make web pages, and there's lots of people out there who can give you advice.

Why would you want your own custom forms?
* Change font sizes or arrangements of the standard switchlists to meet your special needs.
* Duplicate your prototype railroad's switch list form.
* Experiment with better ways to help your operators see what work is to be done.
* Make switchlists that *really look* like they've been printed on a dot-matrix printer.

Or maybe you'll just want to do something crazy, and design a switchlist for the Thomas the Tank Engine crowd. I have had a lot of four year old operators, now that I think of it.

Documentation on creating your own switch list is available on the SwitchList open source page. More documentation's probably needed, so make sure to ask questions over on the SwitchList mailing list so I know what needs improving.

And don't forget to share your final results! I'm looking forward to seeing what y'all can do!

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