Top Ten Word 2007 Features

by Jonathan Jacobsen Monday, November 16, 2009 9:34 AM

Up until a couple years ago, I was a fan of OpenOffice, the open-source office suite, and in particular Writer and Calc, the word processor and spreadsheet applications. I found they had all the same features as Microsoft Word and Excel, and the price ($0) was great. Sure, the interface was a bit dated and you had to hunt through endless menus to find features, but that had been my experience with all the versions of MS Office up to that point.

Then two events conspired to change my view: Microsoft released Office 2007, with a greatly revised user interface, and I took a job teaching other people how to use it! It's a bit of a challenge to teach something you don't use, so I dived in to Office 2007, and in particular Word, poking into all the nooks and crannies to master every last feature... or at least to keep one step ahead of my students. It was painful at first, abandoning the familiar menus for the new Ribbon Bar, but I must say, within a couple of months I was a convert. I truly enjoy using Office 2007 every day now. And to celebrate that, I put together a top ten list of my favourite Word 2007 features. Many have been around for a while, but are even more usable in this version, while others are new.

1. Push Pins

As you work on documents, they appear in the Recent Documents list under the Office button in the top left corner. A single click on one re-opens it for editing, until it's pushed off the bottom of the list by new arrivals. Clicking the push pin sticks the document to the list for as long as you need to work on it.

2. Table Styles

Tables are a great way to present information, and now, it's easy to make them pretty with the built-in table styles.

3. Smart Art

Attractive, easy to use, pre-created charts and diagrams come in handy and save time when I want to add some visual interest to a document, as an alternative to a table.

4. Cropping Images

I am often pasting screenshots of websites into documents, and I think they are tidier without the browser window around them. I want the viewer to focus just on the web page content. The image cropping tool is invaluable for quickly trimming an image down, without need for external image software.

5. Visual Previews

I love seeing changes happen as I make them, such as when resizing an image or previewing different styles. Such a change from the earliest versions of Word, where you waited many minutes for a page to re-render after adding an image!

6. Track Changes

When collaborating on a document, it's critical to see the changes others make. Enabling this feature makes that such a breeze.

7. Compare Documents

However, if your collaborators forget to track their changes, this feature will find them, by comparing two different versions of the same document. You can easily accept, reject and merge changes into a final version.

8. Inspect Document

After a series of revisions, changes tracked and accepted or rejected, and comments added and removed, running the Document Inspector is wise. It will let you know about any last stray changes and comments, so that the version you release is truly the final one.

Read more about issues related to tracking changes in these two blog posts:

9. Save as PDF

Not everyone has Office 2007, but most people have or can install Adobe Reader or one of several other PDF readers. You can save your document as a PDF directly from Word with no additional software required.

10. The Ribbon Bar

Last but not least, I've found that the grouping of features on the Ribbon Bar really does make sense. A skeptic at heart, I've come to enjoy using this interface over the options buried many levels deep in menus.

Single Search Boxes and the Submit Button

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, September 10, 2009 8:32 AM

 

On a search form with only one search term box and one submit button, such as the Quick Search form in the Andornot Starter Kit, the usual user behaviour is to type search terms and press the Enter key. However, there is a longstanding issue with ASP .NET that results in seemingly nothing happening in this case, in some browsers. The form does a weird empty postback because it submits the form, but does not call your ASP.NET submit button's click event: i.e., it does a postback, but does not do anything. The user must instead use the mouse to click the Submit button.

A simple workaround for this is to add a second search box to the form, but make it invisible. For example, add:

<input type="text" style="display:none;" />

Now when the user presses the enter key, the subsequent postback operates as expected (i.e. in the case of the Andornot Starter Kit Quick Search form, it submits the search instead of just doing an "empty" postback that doesn't do anything).

More information on this ASP.NET behaviour is available here. Information on similar behaviour in AJAX Update Panels is in an earlier Andornot developer blog post.

Syncing Active Directory with Borrowers and GenieKey

by Jonathan Jacobsen Friday, August 28, 2009 11:36 AM

In a project we worked on over the summer, we needed a way to sync staff information in an Active Directory database with the Inmagic Genie borrower and user login records. Single sign on had been enabled so that staff can access their MyGenie interface to see an up to date list of their loans, orders and reserves without having to manually login. Since borrower and user information is stored in 2 separate textbases (Borrowers and GenieKey), we knew there would be several steps involved in moving and synchronizing this information. The organization has ~1,200 employees, who move departments, change names, and come and go, so it was clear that an automated sync process would save time and effort, compared to library staff manually updating Genie.

We concluded that the Inmagic PowerPack Importer was ideal for automatically importing data into the Borrowers and GenieKey textbases, but that an additional tool would need to be developed for automatically extracting data from Borrowers and Active Directory. The client developed the AD export, and from Andornot came... Extract-o-matic!

Extract-o-matic is a small, command-line application, written in C#, that uses an ODBC connection to a textbase and writes output to a text file. It accepts as input the textbase name and ODBC DSN connection, the names of fields to be extracted, a query string to select records, and information about the desired output format. Output is a single line per record extracted, so a comma-separated or tab-separated format works well (but XML could be generated as well).

The complete data migration process in this project is:

  • An Active Directory CSV export file is generated and placed in a folder watched by the Importer.
  • The AD data is imported into the Genie Borrowers textbase by the Importer, updating existing records and creating new ones.
  • A scheduled task runs a batch file to direct Extract-o-matic to select all Borrower records except those of library staff and system administrators and writes these records to a text file in a different folder also watched by the Importer.
  • The Borrower export is imported into the GenieKey textbase by the Importer to update all regular staff user records (library staff and admins with higher Genie privileges are not updated).
  • Exception logs are monitored and any issues handled.
  • A separate, manual process is followed to handle staff who leave the organization.

This automated synchronization of an Active Directory staff database to Genie Borrowers and users works well, freeing employees and library staff for other work. We expect to find other uses for Extract-o-matic in the future. Let us know if you think of any and we'll get you set up!

Please contact us for more information on this process or on the Inmagic Library Suite.

Using XML and XSL to transform and import records

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, July 29, 2009 6:53 PM

Why enter records into your database when you can have someone else do it for you? Or at least, why not borrow records from other sources and import them into your database? It’s quite easy to do, saving time and improving accuracy. One approach to this is:

  1. Use a service such as Bookwhere, Biblios.net or PubMed to search for records in numerous online databases, for materials such as books, journals, articles, videos, maps ­- anything that might have been catalogued by someone somewhere may be found (see our blog post on Biblios.net).
  2. Save records in MARC XML format (though any XML format can be used).
  3. In Genie (part of the Inmagic Library Suite), use the included Bookwhere XSLT to convert selected MARC tags to Genie fields and import records. (XSLT is short for Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation, and is a language used to transform XML data into other formats).
  4. In Inmagic DB/Text, customize an XSLT to map MARC XML or any other XML data source to your data structure and import records.
  5. After importing records, you would of course further customize them to suit your database.

If you use Genie, it includes an XSLT (Bookwhere.xsl in the Genie ImporterFiles folder) that maps MARC XML fields into Genie fields. You can customize this XSLT further for your cataloging needs. For example, some MARC tag to Genie field mappings we have added include:

 

MARC Tags Genie Field
090 or 050 CatCallNumber
520 CatAbstract

856 subfield u

CatURL

856 subfield y

CarURLNotes

246, 247, 730, 740, 770, 772, 776, 780, 785, 787

CatAlternateTitle

Leader position 6 or 7

CatRecordType

Here's an example of the above Leader mapping added to the Genie Bookwhere.xsl transformation:

<xsl:template name="RecordType2" match="marc:leader">

<xsl:choose>

<xsl:when test="substring(marc:leader, 8, 1 )='s'">

'CatRecordType' Periodical

</xsl:when>

<xsl:when test="substring(marc:leader, 7, 1 )='a'">

'CatRecordType' Book

</xsl:when>

<xsl:when test="substring(marc:leader, 7, 1 )='g'">

'CatRecordType' Videorecording

</xsl:when>

</xsl:choose>

</xsl:template>

Virtually any XML file can be imported into a textbase using an XSL. The beauty of XSLT is that data cleanup can be done as part of the process. For example, ALL CAPS can be converted to Title case, fields can be separated or joined, dates can be transformed to other formats, and much more.

Burnaby Art Gallery: Collection Management and Art Rental Systems

by Jonathan Jacobsen Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:06 PM

Andornot recently completed two projects for the Burnaby Art Gallery in Burnaby, British Columbia: one for the gallery's main collection and one for their art rental and sales program.

Collection Management System

The gallery's main collection is largely made up of works on paper by Canadian artists. Special consideration is given to the acquisition of multiples (e.g. original prints) and of works distinctly relevant to the citizens of Burnaby.

This collection was previously managed in a legacy database application only available to gallery staff. The gallery consulted with Andornot to replace the legacy system with TextWorks and to make the collection available on the web for public searching. The results of the project can be seen in the searchable database available on the gallery's website.

Notable features of the web portion of the project include:

  • Alphabetical lists of artists included in the collection, for easy browsing.
  • Quick links to artworks by popular artists and on popular topics (created using the Andornot Search Cannery).
  • Thumbnail images of the artworks in the search results when available, with the ability to expand to a full-size image. This feature was enabled with the Andornot Image Handler with the benefit that administrators need only create a single image, and the Image Handler dynamically generates thumbnails as needed.

The desktop portion of the project provides a TextWorks interface for managing artworks, artists and exhibits and includes detailed fields for tracking conservation history.

Art Rental and Sales System

The gallery's popular art rental program provides individuals and organizations with access to contemporary works of art at very reasonable rates. The gallery was previously using two legacy applications to manage the artworks available in the program and the financial aspects of rentals and sales.

With a successful implementation of CS/TextWorks for the gallery's main collection complete, it was a natural extension to investigate using TextWorks for art rental management as well.

Darrin Martens, curator of the gallery, explains: "We wanted to make more use of the Inmagic software we already use to manage our collection and retire two older applications that weren't meeting our needs. The TextWorks databases that Andornot created are terrific and save us a great deal of time each month in managing art rentals."

Andornot's solution supports the management of artworks, artists, and clients, processing of rental and sale transactions, monthly and quarterly billing, and generation of annual client and artist statements. All functions and information related to the art rental program are now available in one set of linked databases, accessible to the staff who need it.

Contact us to learn how you can use TextWorks to manage your gallery's collection or art rental program, or any other information repository.

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