Spring cleanup for your Inmagic databases. Part 3: Protecting and maintaining your textbases

by Kathy Bryce Monday, March 24, 2014 10:32 AM

In the first post of this series we wrote about cleaning up the files associated with DB/TextWorks and in the second we covered rationalizing your textbase elements.  In this post we’ll discuss some steps you can take to protect and maintain your textbases in good health.

Usually Inmagic DB/TextWorks textbases can function for many years without any intervention or problems. However if you do ever see a “Stop: textbase is in an inconsistent state….” message, please do NOT keep working in it! We have had clients tell us that they just ignore that message not realizing that the textbase might be corrupt. Frequently this message is just caused by a temporary loss of network connectivity while a record is being edited and can be fixed very quickly.

We recommend every so often running Check Textbase from Manage Textbases on a menu imagescreen (i.e. without a textbase open). This will detect and repair problems in the textbase and your user file. The process generally takes just a few minutes for most textbases, but can take a while for very large ones. We suggest specifying Options to Repair Structural Problems and Rebuild 10 or more Damaged Indexes (depending on textbase size). If any problems are found these will be listed in the .chk file with a recommendation for action. Running Check Textbase in this manner will clear the inconsistent state message if it was just caused by a network glitch.

As part of your regular maintenance we also recommend confirming that you have a backup routine for your textbases. We have have heard some horror stories over the years.  Two clients had fires, and two had floods in their buildings.  One of these had no offsite backup and lost several years work.  Another client had all their textbases deleted by an over zealous IT guy who didn’t know what they were and figured they weren’t important, and another client hit batch delete instead of batch modify!  For many of our smaller clients without any IT support you can always simply make a backup by copying your textbases to a USB stick and taking it home with you.

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.

For more information, check out the Help file built in to DB/TextWorks, or the printable PDFfor version 13.   If you run Check Textbase and need help implementing the recommendations, please contact Inmagic Support if you have a maintenance contract, or we can help you on a consulting basis.

Spring cleanup for your Inmagic databases. Part 2: rationalizing textbase elements

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, March 20, 2014 3:04 PM

In Part 1 of this series of blog posts on spring cleaning your databases,we wrote about the various files created by DB/TextWorks and what was safe to delete.

Now that you have successfully cleaned up the various folders with your textbases, it’s time to turn your attention to the textbase elements, i.e. the query screens, forms and saved sets within your textbases. 

Hopefully you have these!  We hate to find that clients are using the default basic imagequery screen and basic forms when it is possible to create your own very easily. We have watched in horror as clients scroll down long edit screens to add information to a new field they just created which of course appears at the end of their data structure.  We recommend designing query screens and forms with fields placed side by side, grouped under logical headings to allow everything to be viewed at once without any need for scrolling. Additional text boxes can easily be added to all screens to provide helpful search or data entry hints.  So no excuses – try designing some forms – it’s not hard!

On the other end of the spectrum are clients who have created so many forms it’s not obvious which are the ones in common usage.  So they may have Report-Test or Label3 or QBE_Susan etc.  Regular users of the textbase may know which ones are appropriate, but think about our succession planning motive – how can you make it obvious to a new user which they should use?

You can see a listing of all the query screens, report forms and saved sets for a textbase under imageMaintain > Manage Textbase Elements (or Display > Textbase Information to view a printable list).  This list may show more forms than from clicking the Select Form icon, as some may be for printing or web use only.  Most will say (public) after the name – any that do not are visible to you only, and are stored in your personal user file (see Part 1of this spring cleanup series).

Caution:  if you are using WebPublisher PRO you will want to make sure you know which forms are being used in your web interface before any deleting or renaming.   If you are using menu screens or script buttons in your textbase, these too may be set to use specifically named forms. However it’s probably safe to delete ones with names such as test, report1 etc. but if in doubt, before actually deleting forms, we suggest simply renaming them.  They can then be renamed back if it is found they are still in use.   Under Manage Textbase Elements there is a Rename option.  We recommend keeping the same name prefaced with an x.  This means they will drop to the bottom of the list and it is clear that that they are pending deletion at some point.  You can also create a backup of all your forms first by selecting all of them (Shift click) and choosing Export to create an .xpf file.

It is good practice to note additional information in the Description line when you save a form, such as how it is sorted, if it is designed for a specific label size or for a particular function.  This can be invaluable when trying to ascertain years later why a form was created. We also recommend naming your forms consistently starting with an indication of how they are used, i.e. print only forms prefaced with Print as in the screenshot above.

For more information, check out the Help file built in to DB/TextWorks, or the printable PDFfor version 13. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this cleanup yourself or would like assistance designing forms or query screens, contact us and we can help you on a consulting basis.

Our next post in this series will cover maintaining your textbases in good health.

Spring cleanup for your Inmagic textbases

by Kathy Bryce Wednesday, March 19, 2014 11:39 AM

What might happen if you win the lottery?  Will your successor be able to understand how to use your Inmagic DB/TextWorks textbases?  In this series of posts we’ll help you rationalize your files, textbases and forms plus provide suggestions for regular maintenance of your textbases.

In this Part 1 of the series we discuss how to cleanup folders and directories which may have become cluttered with multiple copies and backups of textbases and related files.  Here therefore are some tips to help you figure out what is safe to delete.

What are all those files and what do they do?

Each DB/TextWorks database consists of a number of files; how many depends on whether you have the version for a non-SQL or SQL platform.  The SQL version, (file extensions shown in parentheses below), uses Microsoft SQL Server as the data store for the actual records. 

Do NOT delete any of the following:

.acf  (.cac) Access Control File – controls simultaneous access to the textbase
.btx Term and Word indexes
.dbo Directory to the records in the .dbr file
.dbr    Contains the records
.dbs  (.cbs)    Textbase structure file with field definitions
.ixl    Indexed list file with any validation and substitution lists
.log  (.log)    Log file of any changes to records or the textbase structure
.occ    Lists of records indexed in the .btx file
.sdo    Directory to any records with deferred updates
.tba  (.cba)    Primary textbase definition file plus elements such as forms and query screens.
.tbm    Menu screen files

On a network install, you may also have .slt files which show who has a textbase open.  If you have a thesauri there will be .tml files, which prevent more than one person at a time modifying thesaurus records.   You may also have an .ini file for some applications.

What can I get rid of?

Generally the following are temporary working files created as you perform various functions:

.chk Report created after running Check Textbase
.dmp Exported records
.x01 etc. Exception files from imports
.tbb (.cbb) Exported textbase structure definition
.xpf or .xpq Exported forms and query screens

These can usually be safely deleted unless there is a need to keep backups of the records or forms at some point in time.  If so, we suggest moving these files to a specific backup folder named appropriately to indicate the date and purpose.

How can I tell if it’s an old or defunct textbase?

We suggest doing a search across your network files for all *.tba or *.cba (SQL version) files.  You can use the Search or Find tool in Windows Explorer for this. This can have surprising results if you’ve had DB/TextWorks for many years!  It’s easy to create a new textbase or make a copy of an existing one to test out a new idea, but all too often these tests are never deleted.  Usually once you open these textbases you can search and see if there are only a few records. If there is no automatic date created field, we suggest looking at the log file to determine how long ago data was last added or modified to help determine current usage. For clients with multiple users and multiple textbases, we have a sample database inventory textbase to help you document this cleanup process. Contact us if you are interested in obtaining a copy - it’s free for existing clients.

What about all these .tbu, .tbs and .idi files?

These are all User Files and are specific to each person who is using each textbase in DB/TextWorks.  The .tbu contains “private” textbase elements such as forms and saved sets.   The .tbs file stores scripting information and the .idi file stores your last used settings, such as the window size and position, and your most recent batch modification or import settings.
Ideally these should be stored in a personal User Files folder on the network for each user so that there are no conflicts and to ensure that they are backed up.  You can also store them on your PC workstation if it’s backed up. However if you want to keep these settings you’ll need to remember to copy those files over if you get a new PC.

You can easily move these personal user files to a more appropriate location under Tools > Options. We highly recommend checking where they are now located for each active user and rationalizing these settings.   You can then safely delete any remaining .tbu, .tbs and .idi files if they are currently cluttering up your textbases folders.

For more information on any of these files, check out the Help built into DB/TextWorks or the printable PDFfor version 13. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this cleanup yourself, contact us and we can help you on a consulting basis.

Spring Cleanup Part 2:  Rationalizing textbase elements

Andornot Newsletter–September 2013

by Kathy Bryce Thursday, September 12, 2013 2:22 PM

Please check out the latest issue of our newsletter.

Andornot News

  • Challenges of using SharePoint for Library Applications
  • Responsive Web Design and Accessibility

Inmagic News

  • Inmagic DB/Text for SQL and Inmagic WebPublisher PRO version 14 released
  • New Features Coming to Genie Version 3.6
  • Presto 4.2 Released and 4.3 On Its Way
  • Inmagic Newsletter, Blog and Webinar

Tips and Tricks

  • Edit Validation Lists through WebPublisher PRO

Tweets of Interest

  • Round-up of Library, Archive and Museum News

Please contact us for further information or to be added to our newsletter list.

Tags: newsletters

Challenges of using SharePoint for Library Applications

by Kathy Bryce Friday, July 26, 2013 10:56 AM

Inmagic recently blogged about the limitations of using SharePoint for library applications, and this prompted me to write this post sharing my recent experiences setting up a SharePoint site for a library catalogue.

We have been working with a client to create a SharePoint 2010 site for a new resource library to manage codes, standards and related documents.  SharePoint is this client’s preferred platform, and as their processes for getting approval for any new software such as a proper integrated library system are onerous, time consuming and often futile, it was decided to just accept the limitations of SharePoint. 

Once it was established that we would need to design a library catalogue in SharePoint, I went searching the web for advice and suggestions.   This in itself is not easy, as a core concept in SharePoint is “Libraries”,  so it is hard to differentiate terminologies and find results relevant to SharePoint usage in a corporate Library setting.  However the references I did find were mostly concerned with how unsuitable it was, although none gave any detailed specifics of particular issues.  I found one SharePoint based library system advertised, but the vendor website is no longer active, and I chatted to a reputed ILS vendor who mentioned spending three years trying unsuccessfully to port their ILS to SharePoint. 

The prospects for designing a catalogue in SharePoint for our client were therefore not promising!  I started our project with SharePoint 2007, but very fortunately the client was able to upgrade the site to SharePoint 2010 mid way through.  I would never attempt to design a catalogue (or anything else) in SharePoint 2007 again.   However with either version, there are still many frustrations, especially as in our situation we were not allowed access to SharePoint Designer which allows editing the underlying website and HTML.  We were required to work with our client’s templates, stylesheets and site structures to ensure a consistent branding across all their SharePoint sites. All comments below are therefore based on just the out of the box functionality available to a site administrator. 

Designing any site in SharePoint needs a thorough planning process, and discussion of this is beyond the scope of this post.  However for anyone contemplating designing a catalogue in SharePoint, here are some factors to consider.

Specifying content types:

  • Most corporate library catalogs will include different types of material, i.e. books, reports, journals, videos, websites etc.  Some of these may require columns (fields) unique to a specific type.  For example you will probably want to add a Frequency column for a journal but not for the rest.
  • By default, all columns show in all displays regardless of whether they have data.  (This reminds me of the original library systems which have now all long since hidden any empty fields!) SharePoint_1000x569
  • To get around this, we set up different reusable Content Types each inheriting from a core set, and different views (display forms) for each type of material.
  • Depending on your version of SharePoint and your specific site settings, there may be a lengthy list of content types and existing site columns to choose from.  There is a very rudimentary description of the expected content for each column,  but no indication in advance of parameters such as if the column type is pre-set, i.e as single line of text, multiple line of text, choice, lookup etc.  Changing a column from one type to another after the fact is often not an option.  Some may also have unexpected settings, e.g. the Route to External Location column.  There is no indication when adding it to your content type that this is a Required Yes/No column, or that it is a  persistent or “sealed” column that cannot be deleted!   There are 28 or so of these persistent columns including others with innocuous sounding names such as Article Date.
  • SharePoint has several reserved column names that cannot be changed. Therefore “Author” in SharePoint terminology is the person creating the resource (record), not the author of a book. It’s not difficult to add a new column for BookAuthor or equivalent, but on the default search results, all records include this SharePoint Author column which is of course inappropriate in a library context. “Date” is also included by default too, but this is the Date entered not a Publication Date.

Formatting views:

  • Most default views in SharePoint are columnar which is perfect for many types of information but does not work well with variable library data where for example, a title can be very short in one record, and very long in the next.  There is no easy way to force a set column width unless you have access to SharePoint Designer.
  • There is a Datasheet view option which is very similar to Excel and would be great for quick editing, but SharePoint does not support this type of view if your content type includes any Managed Metadata columns. 

Managed Metadata:

  • Managed Metadata provides a new taxonomy capability in 2010 which mitigates some of the other negatives when working with SharePoint. 
  • We are using this new column type in several ways: SPTermStore
    • As a controlled vocabulary for our LC Subject Headings so that our technician can start typing and any matching terms are displayed. 
    • Synonyms or abbreviations can be included, so we use this for Publishers so that they are findable by both their full name and their acronym.
    • Terms can be added in a hierarchy so we use this for specifying a general Location and then a specific Office where the items are stored.
    • Multiple terms can be added to a record quickly, and new ones added either on the fly, or through the Term Store.  (However there is no way to batch add an existing list without SharePoint Designer.)
    • Best of all, we can use these Manage Metadata columns as Search Refiners to produce a faceted search results page.
  • The downsides are that you cannot import records from a spreadsheet or use a Datasheet view if the list contains any Managed Metadata columns. 

Search Refiners:

  • We were able to set up several custom search scopes and set the default search to the Library Catalogue only.  
  • Our custom search results page is set up with multiple Search web parts including a Refinement Panel.  Choosing which columns to use as refiners is picky requiring editing a popup XML Editor, but at least it can be done without requiring SharePoint Designer.  However we have not been able to force a consistent order for displaying these refiners, so if a result set mostly belong to the same material type, that refiner is not considered important so it appears lower down the list. 

We have had to lower our expectations regarding what we will be able to accomplish without SharePoint Designer or any IT support. Fortunately the collection is predominantly virtual, so we have not had to think about printing spine labels or shelf lists sorted by LC Classification.  We now have a functioning catalogue and some workflow created with InfoPath forms to support requesting and approving new orders, but there is no question that a purpose built integrated library system would be preferable. 

It may appear that migrating an existing library system to SharePoint or starting a new catalogue would be a cost saving measure if an organization already has SharePoint.  However, as there are no commercial library packages offered on the SharePoint platform, any system will have to be developed and maintained internally.  This reminds me of the many library systems set up over the years in Microsoft Access that end up unsupported when the particular developer leaves. We have converted many of these Access databases to standard library software, but this can be a time consuming process as often the records have limited fields or authority control, requiring us to upgrade the cataloguing. 

Please contact us if you would like further information.  Check out our blog post on options for integrating DB/Text data into SharePoint, or ask about the SharePoint integration capabilities in Presto for DB/Text.

Tags: SharePoint

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