An Excel spreadsheet? Not even close.
Reading the system requirements, looking at the screenshots and even test-driving the demo version of the Recital Conflict Manager, some of you may be thinking, “Oh, it’s just a fancy spreadsheet.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Recital Conflict Manager is designed to be user friendly: uncomplicated input screens, clear instructions throughout and a Conflict Alert screen that’s easy to scroll and understand, just like, well, a spreadsheet. But what the casual observer cannot see—since it’s well protected behind walls of passwords and hidden elements—are literally thousands of algorithms and functions, a pivot table or two, hidden screens and hundreds of lines of Visual Basic code that make the program work its magic.
Just think about what goes into such an application: How does it know when a student has fewer than a specified number of routines between performances? How can it tell that you’ve made changes to an input screen but have not saved them? How is it able to take your information in either a column format with a separate line for each student’s classes, or a grid format with classes indicated in a row next to each name and use either one seamlessly? Not to mention all the buttons for sorting, printing and opening and closing gaps in the recital sequence.
Developing the key algorithm to make the program “work” took all of several days and some creative formulas. Putting it all together in a user-friendly manner that was error-free and could withstand the attempts by hundreds of dance studio owners to use it incorrectly took a substantially longer time.
The hardest part of creating an application that can be used by dance studios all over the world is anticipating every possible thing that a user can do—intentionally or accidentally—that may corrupt the program. You’ll notice that the “drag and drop” Excel function is disabled while the program is being used, with good reason. All cells are protected except those where data is actually entered. And every version of the program since 3.0 has error alerts included to warn users that an incorrect routine number is being entered in the Conflict Alert screen, routine information has not been sorted correctly in the Routines screen and changes to students’ information have not been saved.
As everyone who has ever updated Windows with security and other upgrades knows, completely unexpected issues may pop up even in the best-designed programs. My sincere gratitude goes out to the studios that have brought such items to my attention, including one Microsoft glitch that I’ve never heard mentioned before and which is included in a special warning for users. But after 18 years of refining the Recital Conflict Manager, I can offer a program that is simple to use, extremely powerful and versatile, and intuitive enough to make quick and accurate changes to program sequences right up to the recital itself.
I welcome any and all suggestions to improve or modify the Recital Conflict Manager to make it easier and more helpful for dance studios. The program was born of a desire to help one studio solve a thorny problem, and it has since then helped many other studios on several continents do the same. Please feel free to send me your questions, comments or suggestions using the contact form or by emailing me at email@example.com.
Best of luck to everyone on your recitals!