How to use record skeletons in Inmagic Genie to save time when cataloguing

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, August 09, 2017 8:15 AM

Inmagic DB/TextWorks has long had a popular feature called 'record skeletons.' They're a great way to save and add consistency and accuracy to data entry. 

Here's how they work: Suppose you're cataloguing a group of materials that all share some data in common. This could be as simple as books, written in English and published in 2017. Or it could be a series all with the same title, author, publisher, date, subjects, etc. and only the subtitle or volume number changes.

In both of these cases, when filling in a data entry form, you'd be filling in some fields with the same values over and over again.

Why repeat work when there are tools to save time?

The Duplicate Record feature in DB/TextWorks is handy when you have the first record finished and want to duplicate it. But this copies all the fields, and you then need to change or remove fields that are different in the next item you're cataloguing.

This is where 'record skeletons' are useful. A record skeleton is a set of values to populate in select fields in a new record, such as:

Material Type = Book

Language = English

Publication Date = 2017

Long-time DB/Text users are well versed in these features, but what if you manage your library with the Inmagic Genie system?

While record skeletons are not a feature of Genie itself, there's a reasonably easy way to add them, using browser extensions know as 'form fillers'. These tools work just like a record skeleton, storing default values for fields, but within your browser, rather than in Genie itself. So, you might have one profile (a set of fields) for books, another for journals, another for internal corporate reports, etc.

When cataloguing an item in Genie, you pretty much just just click on your form filler extension and choose a profile and the appropriate fields will be filled in. 2 clicks and you're done!

To set up a profile, you can populate the fields you want in the skeleton, then save the profile. You can also, in some cases, access an editor, such as shown below, for fine-grained control.

A form filler could be used in any module in Genie. Orders would be another good place, for example.

Of course, it's most useful if you have many similar items to catalogue. For more unique items, there's no time savings over just cataloguing as per usual, one record and one field at a time.

Depending on the form filler you choose, you may want or need to consolidate all your Catalogue fields into a single tab (the default is 4 tabs: Biblio 1, Biblio 2, Physical and Serials) so that the form filler can populate them all at once. This is easily done by editing the MyEditScreens.config XML file in Genie. 

Since the different profiles you set up are stored in your browser, if you have colleagues who also catalogue, you'd want to export the profile from the form filler and import it into their browser. You might store a master exported profile on your network somewhere so that anyone who needs it can get it. Many of the form filler extensions have export and import ability.

One form filler extension we recommend is Autofill for Chrome (shown above).

Andornot would be happy to help you select, install and configure a form filler extension for your browser and your Genie instance. Just mailto:#mce_temp_url# and we'll tell you more.

To Print or Not to Print URLs in the Twitter Bootstrap Framework

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, October 11, 2016 11:32 AM

Andornot uses the Twitter Bootstrap framework for almost all our web application development these days. This framework saves considerable development time, with so much pre-built, and allows a single site to adapt to the viewing device, meaning a search engine such as the Andornot Discovery Interface, works just as well on a tablet or phone as in a desktop browser.

One of the "features" of this framework is the display of URLs in print views. By default, the print stylesheet appends the URL of a hyperlink to the hyperlink text in print view. For example, a link to the Andornot website with the text “Learn more about Andornot” would appear in a printout as

Learn more about Andornot. http://www.andornot.com

This is a very helpful automatic feature, as without it, you’d have a print view without the URLs needed to get to the sites mentioned. It's great when the URLs are short, but when they are long, such as a pre-created search for a set of results, or anything with lots of parameters in it, they tend to make for a print view cluttered with not very useful HTML.

For example, a link whose text is “View information about Fish and Fisheries” might have a URL such as http://www.someserver.org/Search/Results?lookfor=Fishes+OR+Fisheries+OR+Fishing+OR+%22Juvenile+fish%22+OR+%22Resident+fish%22+
OR+%22Sport+fish%22+OR+Sportfish+OR+Eulachon+OR+Anadromous+OR+Trout+
OR+Salmon+OR+Coho+OR+Chinook+OR+Sockeye+OR+Fishway*&type=AllFields
&limit=20&sort=relevance

This is too long a URL for anyone to retype, so it’s not useful to have in the print view. It just makes the plain text hard to read.

(As an aside, see our recent blog post about URL shortening for tips on using short URLs in blog posts, Tweets, Facebook posts, etc.).

A very simple adjustment you can make to Bootstrap is to add this bit of CSS to your stylesheet, overriding the Bootstrap default:

@media print {

  a[href]:after {

    content: none;

  }

}

This will suppress the display of URLs after links in all cases. You might want to be more sophisticated and only suppress them for certain types of links, ones you know will be long, while leaving the behaviour as-is for shorter ones. Easily done by adding a class to certain links and adjusting the above style addition to reflect that class.

Contact Andornot for assistance with this and any similar web development tweaks.

Shortening 2: Peter’s Flaky Pastry Recipe

by Peter Tyrrell Wednesday, September 21, 2016 9:51 AM

I use shortening in my pies, and they are reckoned to be very good, if I do say so myself. Here is my flaky pastry recipe.

3 cups all-purpose flour (400g, 14.4 oz)
0.5 cups unsalted butter (114g, 4 oz)
0.5 cups shortening (114g, 4 oz)
1 tbsp granulated sugar (15mg)
1 tsp salt (5mg)
1 cup water

1 beaten egg
1-2 tbsp sugar

Mix the dry ingredients. Cut the butter and shortening into acorn sized lumps. Using a mixer, pastry knife or a pair of table knives, mix in the fat until the butter lumps are the size of small peas. You can hand-fondle any remaining lumps to size. Don’t overmix, as can occur when you use a mixer. If the dough has the consistency of breadcrumbs, you’ve gone too far. In fact, when using a mixer, I turn if off early and do the rest by hand. Just to be sure. Those little lumps of fat are going to create pockets in the pastry while in the oven, which is where the pastry’s flake comes from. If the butter and shortening are mixed too thoroughly into the flour, you’ll wind up with a dense, heavy pastry.

Add the water bit by bit while mixing. (A mixer is invaluable here.) Watch the dough carefully, because you may not need all the water. You want the dough moist enough to clump together, but not wet. How much water the pastry will want depends on the humidity, temperature, and probably the phase of the moon. Temperamental stuff, pastry. When I make pies at our summer cabin, I always need to add the full amount of water, but at home, never. And again, do not overmix.

Dump out the dough onto a floured surface and knead it gently by folding it over 5 or 6 times, just enough so it is holding together. Overmixing or too much kneading at this stage will lead to tough and chewy pastry, because you will have over-activated the gluten in the flour.

Divide the dough into two halves, wrap with cling film plastic, and put in the refrigerator for at least an hour. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have that much time, you probably shouldn’t have tried to make pies today.

Make your filling, and put that in the refrigerator too. Side note: whatever your filling, be sure to mitigate its moisture content with enough flour, cornstarch, chia seeds or what have you, and avoid adding excess liquid when ladling your filling into the pie. Too much liquid and your pie will come out of the oven with a soggy bottom.

When your dough has chilled long enough, haul out one half and roll it out on a floured surface to fit your pie pan. Ceramic pie pans are best because they conduct and evenly distribute heat super well. However, glass pans are fine, plus they allow you to check the bottom of the pie as it bakes, which is arguably more important when you are still getting used to a recipe. The dough should hang over the edge of the pie pan.

Add filling. As above, the less liquid the better. Put the uncovered pie in the fridge.

Roll out the second half of the dough on a floured surface and cover the filling, so that the dough hangs over the edge of the pie pan. You want enough so that you can pinch and roll the bottom and top dough together to create a seal, and that raised crust around the edge. Cut off any excess before your pinchrolling activity or you’ll end up with an uneven or overly thick crust.

I press my thumb into the crust to create a sort of scallop pattern. Do whatever you must, just make sure the crust seals the top and bottom together.

Beat an egg and brush it lightly onto the pie surface to create a lovely browning effect in the oven. Sprinkle sugar on the top also if you’re into that.

Cut some blowholes into the pie with a sharp knife so it can breathe while baking. Don’t do this and you can expect exploded pie guts all over your oven. I used to put fancy scrollwork into my pies for vents but now just stab them with XXXs.

Bake at 375 F (190 C) for about an hour. Check the pie after 50 minutes. When ready to come out, the pie should have brown highlights, and the bottom—if you can check through a glass pan—should be a golden brown. The filling will probably bubble out of the vents a bit. Don’t be afraid to keep baking for 10 or even 15 minutes past the hour if that’s what it needs. You’re more likely to underbake than overbake, in my experience.

Let cool, then serve it forth.

General Tip: Keep the ingredients cold, even going so far as to put them in the refrigerator or freezer before you begin. While you’re working, everything you don’t need immediately should go back in the refrigerator until you do. Even put ice cubes in your water. Really.

Tags: tips

The Many Uses of Shortening

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, September 20, 2016 9:42 AM

Shortening is a wonderful thing: in baking it makes pies and cakes light and fluffy, and on the web, it makes long, unwieldy URLs short and manageable. This blog post is all about the second usage, but we can think about the first as we read it.

You might wonder why you should care about short URLs. After all, isn't a long one like 

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

a perfectly good URL?

Sure, your web browser will have no trouble with that and will access the web site and cause it to run the search specified by all those parameters.

But what if you want to share this URL via email or on Twitter, or post it to a blog or Facebook. That URL is 144 characters, so it's not going to fit in a tweet.

Long URLs are often wrapped to two or more lines in an email and sometimes this breaks the URL itself, resulting in a bad link.

And, as the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network discovered recently, posting long URLs with many parameters to Facebook is problematic. When posting the URL above, Facebook stripped out all the equals signs, leaving a non-functioning URL. Who knows why Facebook would do this, but happily, there’s an easy workaround for this, one that lends itself well to emailing and tweeting long URLs too: URL shortening services.

As Wikipedia tells us, "URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using a redirect, often on a domain name that is even shorter than the original one, which links to the web page that has a long URL."

In practice, this means that a long URL such as

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

can be shortened to something like

These fit handily in Tweets, blog posts, emails and are not edited by Facebook when posting there.

You might now ask, is this the same as a permalink? Well, it is a link, and a short one, so it’s close, but there's no guarantee of permanence, as you're reliant on a third-party service to keep the redirect in place indefinitely. Although that may happen, it's probably better to think of these as short but disposable URLs, like a post-it note you stick on a desk or document pointing at something.

Some of the most common URL shortening services are: 

So when you next need to send or post a long URL, especially one with lots of parameters and query strings, give one of these a try.

Succession planning and your databases

by Kathy Bryce Tuesday, May 03, 2016 8:45 PM

We’ve heard recently from several long time clients that they are retiring soon or considering a move to another job. Most are concerned about their “legacy” when they leave, and so we have been talking about succession planning with regard to their databases.  Many have been using Inmagic software for many years and know it well.  However for their replacement coming in fresh, it’d be helpful to provide some documentation and background information, especially if there is no overlap and the new person will be faced with learning the software on their own.

Sometimes it’s hard to look at a system from an outsiders perspective especially if “it works fine and has always been that way”. For example, we came across a client recently who used basic everything, i.e. basic query screens, basic reports and basic edit screen.  He regularly needed to work on writing abstracts which often exceeded the default 3 lines provided in a basic edit screen, so he would use the scroll bar up and down to view the contents as he typed.  

image edit-ASK

Basic edit screen

Edit screen from the Andornot Starter Kit with field groupings, boxes sized for contents, added help tips.

It was something he’d never thought about, but he had to admit that creating a new edit screen with the box height set as unlimited made life much, much easier. Basic screens also always list fields in the textbase structure order, but fields may have been added over the years resulting in no logical groupings.  Think how confusing working with basic screens will be to a newcomer to your system!

We therefore suggest you make it easier on your successor by doing a check of the usability of your databases and writing up notes on your infrastructure. This will also be helpful for new IT staff, and if you have to contact Inmagic for support.

  • Which version of the software is installed and what are the serial numbers?  What is the operating system of the server? Where is the software installed and who has access set up to use it?  Are there any older versions of the software that should be uninstalled?
  • Where are all your databases located on the server?  In multiple folders?  Are any restricted to certain staff or have other special permissions? Do they have passwords? Are there any older copies that may have been saved as backups or are the remnants of recover operations?  Search for *.tba or *.cba to check, then delete the duplicate copies now to avoid confusion later. Are there any obsolete or test databases that could be deleted or archived?
  • Are all your database field names clear and unambiguous?  In older versions of DB/TextWorks there was a limit to their length so we’ve seen some pretty cryptic abbreviations!  Are all the fields in use still?
  • Do you have unused report forms or edit screens.  Are they named clearly and consistently?
  • If you have Genie or WebPublisher PRO, where are these installed and what is the web address and full UNC server path? Do you have access to these folders?  If you have DB/Text for SQL, do you have access to the Admin tool? Is the Importer set up for automated import of data?  If so, what is the source and the format?
  • For WebPublisher PRO are there test or unused query screens? Is the data live immediately or is there some script that transfer databases nightly to a webserver? (This can cause much head scratching trying to figure out why changes don’t appear if this workflow is not documented.)
  • If you haven’t upgraded to version 15 or 15.5 yet, note that this requires an upgrade to your textbases and thus the textbase and forms creation date will be updated too.  This was previously a handy way of checking on the vintage to help determine the history and retention value.

Check out our series of blog posts from last year on Spring Cleanup for your Databases which provide some detailed suggestions covering many of these points:

See also our post on Retirement Planning for Servers. Please contact us if you need any assistance.  We are available to analyze your databases and infrastructure and can write up a report and/or implement changes to your databases to make them easier for your successor to work with.

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