5 Things I Hate About ACL

I have 5 things I really hate about ACL. 

No, these aren’t critical issues, but I deal with them constantly, and they waste my time. All of them deal with the user interface.

1) To close a tab, you have to click on the X on the far right* (see the Welcome, sales, and Project3 tabs and the red X below). Why isn’t the X on each tab like in modern browsers? Each tab has a pin icon, and I rarely use that.

ACL tabs have no X

Solution: I’d put both icons on each tab, or drop the pin in favor of the X.

Update: This has been fixed!

2) Counting the records in a file takes 2 clicks instead of 1. First, you click the Count button, and then you have to click OK on the Count screen before the records are counted (see below).

ACL Count

The Count screen gives you the ability to include an IF statement (or WHILE statement, which is on the MORE tab) in your count. Nice options, but when was the last time you used either one?  I don’t remember either.

All I want is a simple count. Solution: change the Count button to give the count immediately, and add a CountIF button that works the same way as the current Count button.

3) Buttons are not all on the left or right, but a little of both to ensure we get enough exercise. 

For example (see below), when you add a computed field, you click the Add a New Expression button (on left), define the field, then click the green checkmark (on left) to save the field, but when you close the Table Layout screen, you have to click the X on the right.

ACL left to right

That’s too much movement between left and right*, especially when the solution is so simple. Just add a red X below the question mark (see blue below).

ACL Edit Layout, add X to tabs

4)  One other left-right gripe: After you enter or update a filter, you have to move to the far right* to click the filter buttons (see bel0w).

ACL Filter buttons right

Why not move the buttons to the far left? That would reduce the constant left-to-right movements as you’re typing and editing filters (see below).

ACL Filter buttons left

5) You can only print from ACL to the default printer. To change printers, you have to close ACL, change the defaut printer in Windows, then restart ACL and print.

How come every other application I use can change printers on the fly?


7/22/18 Update: I just noticed that ACL now allows you to change printers without exiting! However, when I printed a ‘Display’ page (type dis on the Command Line), the first few characters of the right margin were cut off (using a printer at work, which prints from every other application just fine). Even when I clicked “Shrink to Fit”, I received the same result. But when I tried it at home, it worked fine. Different project, different laptop. Bad test, I guess :)


* Keep in mind that these screenshots don’t accurately represent the distance between the objects (e.g., between the tab and the X on the far right) as these screenshots are not full screen. Unlike in Jurassic Park, the distance between the objects is greater that it appears.

ACL has a product feedback page, but it’s in the ACL Support Center, which means you have to have a support agreement to access the link.

I didn’t see any of the above items listed in the feedback page.

Please leave me a comment and respond to the following questions:

a) Did you know the feedback pages existed? I didn’t until last year, when I heard about them in the user forums.

b) What do you think of the items I ranted about? Ever notice them? Don’t care?

c) What do you wish ACL would change?



Filed under ACL, Audit, Data Analytics, Technology, Top 10, Written by Skyyler

11 responses to “5 Things I Hate About ACL

  1. Eli Tes

    great post!

    My 2.5 cents:
    I think there is something more annoying: it’s the special character: it comes in two forms: – strange ghost space chars not visible in your script creating an error on run, (a simple ctrl+a, ctrl+x,ctrl+v solve the problem ASAP, but it is still annoying).
    and a second one is a “EOF” character at an end of really big text data file, true ACL would read it to a table, but try to run a filter or command on it and ACL would crash, – I need to remove it manually in a text editor that can support large txt files.

    Another thing I couldn’t never understand is why ACL don’t have simple debugger of syntax before running the script, or at least helping you while you type the command and the parameters of an open table(s) like in VBA for example.
    If I have a mistype why I’m finding about it only when running the script?, the only solution I could find is using the “expression validator” but that is like doing debug for every line of code, and it’s not an option on large scale scripts.


  2. Grief

    Hi Mack! I find this blog really interesting and worth reading. All the articles, or at least those that I’ve read so far, have a lot of take-homes for me. I’ve since subscribed and will be back-reading to this awesome wealth of IT Audit information. Cheers!

    P.S. I’m trying to learn more about ACL and so reading all your ACL tips and how-to’s have been extremely helpful. Thanks again!


    • Grief,
      Glad you find us interesting! Skyyler does a great job with the ACL posts, and I have fun with the rest. Please spread the word to your colleagues unless you want to keep all the tips to yourself :)

      Thanks for the kind words. We look forward to your future comments, and let us know if you think we miss the mark.
      IAS (Mack)


  3. skyyleracl

    One of my buddies was told by an ACL rep that a user interface redesign is in the works. Not sure if they are going all out or not, but supposedly they are addressing some long-standing complaints (hopefully mine).

    Of course part of the reason they’ve put this off so long is that it affects all the documentation and training (cheatsheets, books, videos, and online training classes) that ACL has created. It’s a huge investment, and risky is you don’t get it right. Users hate change, even if it helps, and auditors especially hate change, which is so ridiculous that it is embarassing.

    I’ve been approached by ACL a couple times to collaborate with them to help improve ACL, but I always decline. I don’t want to be colored by them; like an auditor, I’d rather remain independent. The last thing anyone needs is another blog or email singing the blind praises of ACL. You have to earn it.


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  7. I invite you to use Arbutus Analyzer, it covers 3 of the 5 points expressed by the author of this post


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