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Sources of information

What and where to go in looking for coding answers and knowledge


Whether you’re just getting started or just don’t code often, it helps to know where to look.

Colleagues and those of you who have emailed me with questions since I started this blog would know, whenever someone asks me for help with a coding problem and they want to learn – as opposed to just being given the answer – one of the first questions I ask is, where else have you looked to find the answer and what else have you tried?

That’s because both of those answers give insights into where they might be struggling; either in the discovery process or the application and logic of the coding itself.

If you’re trying to teach yourself, then knowing the places to look for information to help with that, is fundamental.

I know the list below is obvious, but whether its paraplanners & admin staff starting out or experienced xplan administrators who rarely code, its surprising how many seem to not get past this 1st information discovery stage and forget about other sources.

XWord Toolbar
When you’re starting out, this is your best source of all things Xplan coding. It’s used as the basis of IRESS’ coding workshop videos (via the help menu of your Xplan site) so take the time to use it while you’re learning.

As you move past the basic stuff it’s also a good grounding point for acclimating yourself with the inbuilt portfolio reports, portfolio values and standard xtool outputs. It has some coding for advice tools like risk researcher in it as well, but I would encourage you to go through other sources to build your knowledge of those areas.

IRESS Template Library
This should absolutely be burnt into your mind as a key source of information.  It isn’t perfect, has a lot of gaps and in some instances, barely tries at a suitable explanation – but, it often shows examples and puts them into a relevant context, moving it well beyond what XWord can teach you and help you with. 

Even for experienced developers, this is a useful resource because Xplan is huge beast! Time will pass before you circle back to coding various aspects or modules again.  For in-depth ones like advice tools, a lot can – and usually does – change in that time. When IRESS keeps it updated, the library can get you up to speed of those changes quicker than anything else (especially in regards to Supersolver and Risk Researcher).

The link to the library can be found here

Your own xplan site templates
Chances are, often what you are trying to build is something you’ve already seen.  You might be trying to build a policy schedule but its just not working, yet you’ve seen it merge out like or similar to this before…where else would insurance data like that merge out?   Fact Finds, advice documents, review documents. 

Your own Xplan site will have templates like that, even if they are the incredibly old and outdated kickstarter ones.  

Potentially this is the slowest form of getting the answers you need but still a solid source for self discovery and learning.  This approach will appeal more to those genuinely curious or interested in coding.  It also lends itself well to those who learn via comparisons and seeing first.

The OSC (IRESS Online Support Community)
The OSC probably seems like a convoluted mess that is amazing anyone finds anything in it, let alone posts anything useful to it.  1990’s aesthetic aside, it contains a wealth of valuable information and an excellent tool that’s quick and easy to search if you’re having problems in specific area.  For common modules chances are someone has already had that problem and you’ll find coding an explanations buried within. 

It can also help you identify if something is or may be a bug, as opposed to why your piece of coding might not be working (more so for experienced devs). 

The OSC can also provide valuable insights into what other users and businesses are asking for, what changes are to come and if you’re really paying attention can give you BI into bigger ticket items i.e in recent times IRESS Prime and Innergi, long before they were announced or discussed.

For developers this should be the equivalent of CPD points, take the time to browse this occasionally you’ll be surprised what you might learn.  You’ll find the link here.

Concluding thoughts

Today more than ever, is a great time to code more or starting coding with Xplan.  There’s more resources to help you self-learn and lots of people available to help if you get stuck.  IRESS’ support team and account executives are also better placed and better resourced to help. 

So for those teaching themselves, trying to get into it or even those stuck and wondering how to proceed; make use of every source and resource you have and just keep learning.

P.S…Release Notes

I wouldn’t consider these a good primary source to list but for both administrators and developers they contain essential information and should be up there of things to stay on top of.  They also include bits of coding more and more….so worst case, they make for great bed time reading if you’re struggling to get to sleep and counting <:=’, ‘.join([str(count_sheep) for count_sheep in range(1,100)])+’ ZZZzzzzzzz’:> isn’t working for you.

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