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Thread: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

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    PowerPoster MMock's Avatar
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    Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    I was asked regarding the C# WinForms application I am developing using DevExpress controls, "Can we have the ability to send a system wide pop up message to everyone who is currently logged in?"

    So I need some kind of a notification. Already the application has a timer refresh going on every 30 seconds which will make knowing about the notification easy (I am planning on creating a new table of notificiations and marking them when they're sent, and users with a high permission level, also already defined, can create a message).

    My users are on at least Windows 7 but I do have to code for that least common denominator. (I was wondering if querying each user's Windows version and using the best mechanism that's available would be fun and worth it or a pain in the neck).

    I liked this article because it has good advice how to not be annoying. Perhaps my new table can have an urgency indicator and if it's high then I am allowed to be annoying and in their faces?

    Has anyone handled a request like this that can give me advice?

    Thank you, and happy new year!
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    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    If you want to avoid having to support multiple notification mechanisms for different OS versions then I'd suggest that you display a NotifyIcon and display a balloon tip on that. You can display the icon all the time if you like or you can show it only when a notification balloon is visible.
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    OK, thanks.

    Found out 1) it needs to be annoying and 2) it needs to be answered or dismissed before the user can do anything else.

    I will look into this part of the article I cited: If the event requires immediate user action, use an alternative user interface (UI) that users cannot ignore. See Is this the right user interface? for the alternatives.
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    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    Quote Originally Posted by MMock View Post
    Found out 1) it needs to be annoying and 2) it needs to be answered or dismissed before the user can do anything else.
    Sounds like a message box is the way to go then. That said, one issue that I have with a simple message box being displayed when the user is possibly typing is that it may be accidentally dismissed by a key press without ever seeing it. That has happened to me across apps sometimes and it's very annoying. To prevent that, you might use a modal dialogue that cannot be dismissed for the first second or two.
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    OK. I will let you know how it comes together. It's marked as a future item right now so I may not begin coding for a while.
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    Fanatic Member PlausiblyDamp's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    Quote Originally Posted by MMock View Post
    OK, thanks.

    Found out 1) it needs to be annoying and 2) it needs to be answered or dismissed before the user can do anything else.

    I will look into this part of the article I cited: If the event requires immediate user action, use an alternative user interface (UI) that users cannot ignore. See Is this the right user interface? for the alternatives.
    Out of interest what is this message going to be used for? Only asking because point 1 sounds very disruptive to the end user and point 2 doesn't mean a user will actually read the thing before dismissing the message anyway. In fact if the message is intrusive they are more likely to dismiss it without reading it as it is interrupting their workflow.

    The other thing to consider is that Windows is a multitasking OS and it isn't really designed to allow a single application to completely block out every other running application, imagine what could be done if a piece of malware or a virus could do this.

    Depending on what is needed there might be another alternative, one supported by the operating system.

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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    Quote Originally Posted by PlausiblyDamp View Post
    Out of interest what is this message going to be used for?
    Well, it's a customer service application which pretty much everyone in the company uses all day long. It would be a message that perhaps we needed to bring down the database server immediately and couldn't give notice the conventional way (like the day before and in an email) and people should save their data and log out. Or anything that affected everyone.

    I joked with the person who made the request...I didn't read a company email thoroughly before the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA and didn't know we only had to work half a day on Wednesday! I said as long as it was to announce that the building was shutting down for the afternoon and everyone could go home, then yes I would do it

    Sometimes we make PA announcements, so I guess similar to that as well.

    And, I would think this would be used so infrequently, that people would pay attention and it wouldn't be like the boy who cried wolf.

    Your thoughts now?
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    Fanatic Member PlausiblyDamp's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    Quote Originally Posted by MMock View Post
    Well, it's a customer service application which pretty much everyone in the company uses all day long. It would be a message that perhaps we needed to bring down the database server immediately and couldn't give notice the conventional way (like the day before and in an email) and people should save their data and log out. Or anything that affected everyone.

    I joked with the person who made the request...I didn't read a company email thoroughly before the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA and didn't know we only had to work half a day on Wednesday! I said as long as it was to announce that the building was shutting down for the afternoon and everyone could go home, then yes I would do it

    Sometimes we make PA announcements, so I guess similar to that as well.

    And, I would think this would be used so infrequently, that people would pay attention and it wouldn't be like the boy who cried wolf.

    Your thoughts now?
    If this message is displayed by the application in question then it would be less disruptive, however that might prevent you using a separate application running in the notification area. Perhaps introducing a delay so the message box can't be dismissed immediately might increase the likelihood of someone reading it but probably wouldn't be anywhere near to 100% of the users....

    How serious would it be if the user didn't cleanly save and exit the application anyway? What are the consequences currently if the DB goes offline, application crashes, network connectivity is lost, or some other issue causes the client machine to reboot?

    I would be wary of assuming that just because it is infrequent the users will pay attention, to a lot (most?) users dialog boxes are an intrusion and they just get cancelled / agreed / ignored rather than read and properly dealt with.

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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    Well, it's almost like a told-you-so situation if the users don't pay attention to a message they are receiving.

    The consequences currently are not ideal but the users live with it. This application is currently written in VB6. My .NET version is still in development but a handful of people use it daily. The person who wrote it is one of our engineers and wrote it on the side. The application is amazing but let's face it, if you do something part-time in addition to your full-time job, it isn't going to be perfect. It crashes a lot and people just know that. Mine will crash less, and if I can warn them ahead of time that something bad is going to happen, I think they will take note and be grateful they have a few minutes to prepare.

    So JM's suggestion to use a messagebox might be the simplest and most direct way to get it done.
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    .NUT jmcilhinney's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    PlausiblyDamp's concerns are valid but there's only so much you can do to protect people from themselves. We could put a 20-foot-high fence along a river with a sign that says there are man-eating crocodiles in the water but if someone ignores all that and climbs over to go for a swim, you shouldn't feel any guilt about their getting eaten. Do what you must to protect the data from corruption due to idiot users but if a user loses a morning's work because they didn't save when your message was displayed then they should consider themselves lucky that they still have job.
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    Yes, my boss/owner of the company is pretty much a "tough love" type of person. If I put up the message and someone still loses their data, I am not going to be the one who loses her job...
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  12. #12
    Junior Member HeribertoLugo's Avatar
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    Re: Suggestions how I can post a system wide message to my application users

    if you are on a domain network, you can also send notifications to everyone through the domain controller. Theres also a way to do it through a network using batch.

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