NEXT FIELD instruction

Understanding the NEXT FIELD instruction

The NEXT FIELD field-name instruction gives the focus to the specified field. This instruction can be used to control field input, in BEFORE FIELD, ON CHANGE or AFTER FIELD blocks, it can also force a DISPLAY ARRAY or INPUT ARRAY to stay in the current row when NEXT FIELD is used in the AFTER ROW block.

  AFTER FIELD cust_status
    IF cust_rec.cust_status != "A" AND cust_rec.cust_creadate < TODAY THEN
      ERROR "Customer created today must have status A"
      NEXT FIELD cust_status
    END IF

If it exists, the BEFORE FIELD block of the destination field is executed. However, in the context of a singular dialog, or when in a DIALOG block and the next field is in the same sub-dialog as the current field, the AFTER FIELD of the current field is not executed.

In INPUT, INPUT ARRAY and CONSTRUCT dialogs, the purpose of the NEXT FIELD instruction is to give the focus to an focusable field. Make sure that the field specified in NEXT FIELD is active and focusable, or use NEXT FIELD CURRENT.

In a DISPLAY ARRAY using the FOCUSONFIELD attribute, NEXT FIELD can be used in conjunction with DIALOG.setCurrentRow(), to set the focus to a specific cell in the list.

Instead of the NEXT FIELD instruction, you can use the DIALOG.nextField("field-name") method to register a field, for example when the name is not known at compile time. However, this method only registers the field. It does not stop code execution, like the NEXT FIELD instruction does. You must execute a CONTINUE DIALOG to get the same behavior as NEXT FIELD.

Form field identification with NEXT FIELD

With the NEXT FIELD instruction, fields are identified by the form field name specification, not the program variable name used by the dialog.

Form fields are bound to program variables with the binding clause of the dialog instruction (INPUT variable-list FROM field-list, INPUT BY NAME variable-list, CONSTRUCT BY NAME sql ON column-list, CONSTRUCT sql ON column-list FROM field-list, INPUT ARRAY array-name FROM screen-array.*).

The field name specification can be any of the following:

  • field-name
  • table-name.field-name
  • screen-record-name.field-name
  • FORMONLY.field-name

Here are some examples:

  • "cust_name"
  • "customer.cust_name"
  • "cust_screen_record.cust_name"
  • "item_screen_array.item_label"
  • ""

When no field name prefix is used, the first form field matching that simple field name is used.

When using a prefix in the field name specification, it must match the field prefix assigned by the dialog field binding method used at the beginning of the interactive statement: When no screen-record has been explicitly specified in the field binding clause (for example, when using INPUT BY NAME variable-list), the field prefix must be the database table name or FORMONLY, as defined in the form file, or any valid screen-record using that field. When the FROM clause of the dialog specifies an explicit screen-record (for example, in INPUT variable-list FROM screen-record.* / field-list-with-screen-record-prefix or INPUT ARRAY array-name FROM screen-array.*), the field prefix must be the screen-record name used in the FROM clause.

Abstract field identification is supported with the CURRENT, NEXT and PREVIOUS keywords. NEXT FIELD CURRENT forces to stay in the current field; NEXT FIELD NEXT selects the field right after the current field; NEXT FIELD PREVIOUS selects the field right before the current field. When using FIELD ORDER FORM, the NEXT and PREVIOUS options follow the tabbing order defined by the form. Otherwise, they follow the order defined by the input binding list (with the FROM or BY NAME clause). The field selected with NEXT or PREVIOUS keywords may be non-focusable.

Usage of NEXT FIELD PREVIOUS and NEXT FIELD NEXT is discouraged: The target field may be non-focusable (it can be enabled/disabled during dialog execution). Dependending on the context, the field selection can be based on the last field navigation direction, and can lead to infinite loops. Always use NEXT FIELD CURRENT or NEXT FIELD field-name of a field that is focusable.

NEXT FIELD to a non-focusable field

Non-focusable fields are:

NEXT FIELD field-name may explicitly specify a non-focusable field. A non-focusable field can also be the target, when NEXT FIELD NEXT or NEXT FIELD PREVIOUS selects a non-focusable field, based on the current tabbing order.


Doing a NEXT FIELD to a non-focusable field can lead to infinite loops in the dialog; This practice is discouraged. To stay in the current field / row, use NEXT FIELD CURRENT instead.

NEXT FIELD in procedural DIALOG blocks

In a procedural dialog block, the NEXT FIELD field-name instruction gives the focus to the specified field controlled by INPUT, INPUT ARRAY or CONSTRUCT, or to a read-only list when using DISPLAY ARRAY.

When using a DISPLAY ARRAY sub-dialog, it is possible to give the focus to the list, by specifying the name of the first column as argument for NEXT FIELD.

If the target field specified in the NEXT FIELD instruction is inside the current sub-dialog, neither AFTER FIELD nor AFTER ROW will be invoked for the field or list you are leaving. However, the BEFORE FIELD control blocks of the destination field (or the BEFORE ROW in case of read-only list) will be executed.

If the target field specified in the NEXT FIELD instruction is outside the current sub-dialog, the AFTER FIELD, AFTER INSERT, AFTER ROW, and AFTER INPUT, AFTER DISPLAY, AFTER /CONSTRUCT control blocks will be invoked for the field or list you are leaving. Form-level validation rules will also be checked, as if the user had selected the new sub-dialog himself. This guarantees the current sub-dialog is left in a consistent state. The BEFORE INPUT, BEFORE DISPLAY, BEFORE CONSTRUCT, BEFORE ROW and the BEFORE FIELD control blocks of the destination field / list will then be executed.

NEXT FIELD in record list control blocks

When using NEXT FIELD in AFTER ROW or in ON ROW CHANGE of a DISPLAY ARRAY or INPUT ARRAY, the dialog will stay in the current row and give control back to the user.

This behavior allows you to implement data input rules:

    IF NOT int_flag AND arr_count()<=arr_curr() THEN
       IF arr[arr_curr()].it_count * arr[arr_curr()].it_value > maxval THEN
          ERROR "Amount of line exceeds max value."
          NEXT FIELD item_count
       END IF
    END IF

If a condition is not met for a given field, do a NEXT FIELD to that field to point the user to the problem. If a global condition for the current row is not met, use NEXT FIELD CURRENT to stay in the current row and current field.


DISPLAY ARRAY dialogs support cell-oriented navigation with the FOCUSONFIELD dialog attribute.

The NEXT FIELD instruction can be used in DISPLAY ARRAY with FOCUSONFIELD, to give the focus to a specific field in the current row. NEXT FIELD can be combined with DIALOG.setCurrentRow(), to give the focus to a specific cell in the table.