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If you have new staff, students or volunteers who may need to search or add records to your databases, it is a good idea to have guidelines on data entry protocols, and some instructions on how to search effectively. However printed documents are often lost or not readily accessible, so we recommend adding notes and hints to the DB/TextWorks forms themselves. These can be as brief or as lengthy as you need – we have designed some forms for clients with incredibly detailed instructions.

The databases in all our DB/TextWorks kits feature query screens with searching hints in a text box at the bottom:

SearchScreenHints

We also often add brief instructions in a text box right next to each field on data entry screens. We indicate in the label formatting whether a field is required (red) or has a validation list (underlined).

In the screenshot below we have also divided a long data entry screen up into sections with black textboxes, and resized boxes to indicate the length of a typical entry.

EditScreenHints

The DB/TextWorks Form Designer is a drag and drop WYSIWYG interface so quite easy to learn. If in doubt use Save As to make a copy of an existing form while you experiment.

When adding either a form or a text box, parameters such as size, label position and font are inherited from the box above of the same type. You can also click on a box, and right click to copy and then paste to create multiple matching boxes for your hints.

These simple conventions and the addition of hints can make the search and data entry experience much easier for your new or irregular users! We still occasionally find clients just using the basic forms – taking advantage of these design capabilities can dramatically improve the usability of your database.

We can of course help you!  Contact us if you’d like any training or assistance with designing any DB/TextWorks screens.

Did you know that DB/TextWorks has a built-in image viewer? And that it can be used to view not only images but PDFs as well? As a well-established software application, DB/TextWorks has quite a few features that aren’t always well known or used.

Lately we’ve been helping clients make good use of the image / document viewer as part of our DB/TextWorks hosting service. This service is mainly about providing access only to DB/TextWorks software on our server, but not necessarily the entire ecosystem of applications our clients may be used to having on their own PCs for viewing and editing documents.

For our museum and archival clients with databases of historic photographs, and our many clients with databases of documents, when managing records in a textbase on our server, they still need a quick and easy way to open these files, if not to edit them, but at least to make sure they select the correct file name to add to the record. The image and PDF viewer built in to DB/TextWorks provides a great way to do this, since the files open within DB/TextWorks, with no need to wait for any other software to load.

You can take advantage of this feature in your own DB/TextWorks software and textbases, even if you’re not using our hosting service. Here’s how:

Textbase fields must be of type Image

In order to use the built-in viewer, the fields in your textbases which contain the image and document file names must be of type Image.

To check if they are, launch DB/TextWorks, open your textbase, choose the Display menu, then the Textbase Information entry. In the report, under the Field Summary heading, look for your image and document fields and see if they are of type Image. If not, you can edit the textbase structure to change them (e.g. from Text to Image).

The built-in viewer works with almost all image file types, but PDF is the only document type it can display (e.g. not Word documents). To launch external viewers, such as MS Word, for other document types, you can use the suggestions in this blog post: https://blog.andornot.com/blog/how-to-open-local-files-from-dbtextworks-search-results/

Use the complete path to files in textbase records

When adding the names of image and document files to textbase records, right click on the field you use to store the image or document file name and choose Browse Files. You can now navigate to and select an image or document and the complete path and file name will be in the textbase, with no typos.

e.g.

  • H:\DBTextWorksData\Images\SomeImage123.jpg
  • H:\DBTextWorksData\Documents\SomeDocument456.pdf

Having the full path will help DB/TextWorks to find and display the file in the built-in viewer.

(Note: an alternative to the above is to place the folders of images and documents underneath the folder that has the textbase in it, and then in the textbase record, use only the folder and file name – e.g. Documents\SomeDocument456.pdf. DB/TextWorks will find the files under the textbase folder in this case).

Using the built-in viewer

To open an image or document, when viewing a record that has a file name in a field of type Image, the toolbar button circled in red in the screenshot below will become available and clicking it will launch the viewer, with the image showing.

DBTWToolbar_ImageViewerButton

Once the viewer is open, you can use the toolbar that appears to navigate through all the images or all the pages of a PDF, within the record, even if they are in several separate fields. You can also zoom in and out, and show thumbnails of all images or pages of a PDF. How handy is that!

DBTW-ImageViewer

Another way to view an image within DB/TextWorks is to embed a Picture Box in a Report Form or Display Form, so the image appears when viewing search results or a record (rather than opening it in the built-in viewer), as shown below.

DBTW-Results-Images

To learn more about the image viewer and other image tips, launch DB/TextWorks, then choose the Help menu and Help Topics entry. In the help window, select the “Working with Images” topic.

So sad, but today I had to inform a client that the files they had saved  from an old PC did not contain their Inmagic DB/TextWorks database.   They had been subjected to a ransom ware attack and when they did not pay, various files were deleted or corrupted.   They had no backup, so it is 10 years work cataloging their collection gone.

We have had other clients lose their entire databases in the past.  One hit Batch Delete instead of Delete Record and also had no backups.  Another was a bizarre incident when the client was actually copying files to their external drive to make a backup, went for a coffee and a fire broke out in their building.  Both the PC and their only backup were destroyed. A third client had an overzealous IT guy permanently delete all her files as he didn’t think they were important.

There are several ways to make backups of your Inmagic DB/TextWorks databases if you do not have an IT department that takes care of this for you. 

Our recommended approach is to use software that runs in the background on your PC or network to backup all your data to either an external disk, or a cloud service. This way you "set it and forget it" and don't have to remember to do anything. Most of these applications and services will notify if there's a problem with the backup (but it's always a good idea to check periodically, and try restoring a database from a backup, to make sure it worked).

If this approach proves challenging to implement, then a simpler but less foolproof method is just to copy the folder with your databases in it to a USB stick and take it home or to another offsite location.  Do not just put it in your desk drawer! You can find where your textbases are on your PC or network by choosing Display > Textbase information from within DB/TextWorks.  The downside here is you have to remember to do this (e.g. every Friday) and to bring the USB stick back again for the next backup.

If you have all the actual textbase files stored safely, you can also regularly create dump files of exported records that can be reloaded if need be.  The easiest way to do this is from the menu screen by choosing Manage Textbases > Dump textbase.  These dump files are in plain text and can be opened in Notepad or Word, so as a last resort, the textbase can be recreated by scanning these and figuring out field names. They are not usually large files so you can even email them to yourself so the attachment is stored in your email system.  (The above information applies to the non-SQL version of DB/TextWorks. Clients with DB/Text for SQL versions should ensure their IT staff are aware of the recommendations in the Administrators Guide available from the Inmagic extranet. 

You can never have too many backups in too many different formats, so a combination of all of the above is also a good idea.

Clients who are taking advantage of our hosting service can be assured that the databases we host for you are safely backed up. We manage our own hosting environment and servers in a state-of-the-art co-location facility in Vancouver, Canada

Backing up your image files is of course recommended too!  Andornot is now offering a Digital Asset Storage and Cloud Backup service if you have terabytes of data that you wish to store offsite.

Contact us for more information.

For some reason, DB/TextWorks menu screens are a little used feature. We often meet clients with many databases, but without a convenient way of seeing and accessing them all at a glance. Adding a menu screen to DB/TextWorks is quick and easy to do, but makes using your databases so much easier.

The screenshot above shows the menu screen from our Andornot Library Kit, with links to each of the many databases it includes. The one below shows one from one of our clients' systems.

What is a Menu Screen?

Like a Query Screen or Report Form in a DB/TextWorks database, a Menu Screen is a screen layout you create using the WYSIWYG designer in DB/TextWorks. You would usually add to it links to each of your databases, for searching or data entry. You might also add your organization's name or logo, contact or support info for anyone who might be using the system, a brief description of each database, etc.

Having links to all your databases on a single screen saves time and helps new users find their way around your collection of databases without having to hunt for them in folders on disk. It also allows you to specify, in each link to a database, which query screen and reports to load for that database. 

One way to create menu screens is to have different menu screens for different kinds of users. For example, in an archives or museum that relies on volunteers to help with data entry, you could have a menu screen for volunteers that only lists the Accessions database, and pre-loads a simpler query screen and data entry form designed specifically for volunteers. A more extensive menu could provide the archivist or curator with links to all databases, pre-loading the more sophisticated query and edit screens for their use.

Unlike a Query Screen or Report Form, the menu screen isn't stored in any one database, but rather as a separate file on disk (with a .tbm or .cbm extension). You would usually store it in the same folder as all your database files.

How do I create a Menu Screen?

  1. Open DB/TextWorks but don't open a database.
  2. Select Menu Screens > Design from the main menu.
  3. Choose "Create a New Menu Screen File."
  4. Browse to the folder where your databases are stored to save the menu screen in the same location, and give it a name.
  5. In the WYSIWYG Menu Screen Designer, you may now add links to textbases, your organization's name or logo, and other information. Use the examples above for ideas, or come up with your own design.
  6. To add links to textbases, choose Edit > Add > Textbase box.
  7. In the Textbase Properties Dialogue, select the textbase to link to, then on the Initial Elements tab, pre-select the query screen and forms to use by default. Note that these override the default screens and forms set in the textbase, and that in either case, users may still change to other screens and forms once they are in the database.
  8. On the Initial Action tab, be sure to select which window to open. For example, if your link is one such as "Search the Database", select a Query Window. If your link is "Add a New Record", select Edit New Record as the window to open.
  9. Save your new menu screen when your design is complete.
  10. If you ever create more than one menu screen, you can even add links from one to another on each of them.

How do I use a Menu Screen?

  1. On each PC that has DB/TextWorks, open DB/TextWorks but don't open a database.
  2. Select Menu Screens > Select from the main menu.
  3. Choose "Use the Menu Screen in a File", then browse to and select the Menu Screen file (ending with .tbm or .cbm) that you created earlier, usually stored in the same folder as your databases.
  4. Close and re-start DB/TextWorks and your menu screen will now automatically load, ready for use.

See this blog post from earlier this week about two other helpful but little used features of DB/TextWorks: Sets and Record Skeletons.

A recent project has reminded me that many clients are not aware of the power of these three functions that have been available in DB/TextWorks for years, and which can potentially streamline and speed up your workflow.

The first is Menu Screens.  Many clients have a menu screen that loads up when they open DB/TextWorks but usually the ones we see are either the default from the old Inmagic Library Module, or rudimentary boxes linking to their databases. However they can be so much more useful! Here is an example from a recent project.

CLGA menu

A menu screen is super easy to set up and we’ll be posting a detailed guide here in our blog soon.

However first we need to discuss the other two functions, as they can be used separately or in conjunction with your menu screen.

The second function is Sets. Whenever you do a search you can choose to Save the Set from the top toolbar. Sets are a great way of providing quick access to a search with several parameters to save you from entering them each time using the query screen. So for example, find all records with a Review date in the next 30 days; or find digital image records that have been entered but not checked yet; or find all books that are not on permanent loan and that have been out for more than 60 days. You can use the @date variable in the search strategy without needing to actually input an actual date each time. Never used the @date function? It can be very handy especially when combined as in @date-7:@date which retrieves all dates within the past week.   A Sets box can be added to your query screen to give you quick access to running these searches or they can be embedded in your menu screen.

The third function is Record Skeletons. You may have a student or volunteer adding records for reports in particular series; or images in a photographic collection; or documents in a fonds. You can create a record skeleton to prepopulate the edit screen with publication or descriptive data that is common to all these new records. You can find Skeletons under the Records menu. Note that once you select a skeleton to use, it will be the default until you re-set to none, or choose a different one.

In the menu screen example above, every database has a link to the search screen plus a link straight in to a new record edit screen. If your database has several edit screens these can be specified on the menu screen too, as well as specifying a skeleton appropriate for these new records. It may not seem like much, but this can save a couple of extra clicks and let you get straight to work. This screen also has Sets specified to prepopulate the query screen with the value for a particular collection. So easy to set up and a great way to ensure people can search quickly and effectively.

Check out more tips and tricks for getting the most out of DB/TextWorks in our blog archive:

We are always available to help you with updates to your databases. No project is too small!

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