Andornot Starter Kit revamp with Google Book Covers

by Administrator Tuesday, July 07, 2009 10:59 PM
We've been doing renovations - raising the roof, adding re-bar to the foundations and while we are at it, we added a sundeck. What has this got to do with databases you ask? Well - at least in a metaphorical way - we think it does. One of Andornot's strengths is our ability to integrate a database into a website. To continue to do that - which by the way, we think is essential - we had to change a few areas of our base add-on product called ASK.

A bit of history

ASK - short for Andornot Starter Kit - started off as a desktop add-on for Inmagic DB/TextWorks, with a nice looking search page, a few well designed search results reports, a full display form and a fully functional data entry form for a typical catalogue database. This was mostly to help us quickly get a client's database up and running quickly and beautifully. I mean why keep re-inventing the wheel? We added a menu screen and navigational script buttons to each query screen and form to ease repetitive tasks. We eventually added a web search screen and a few web forms to work with Inmagic WebPublisher Pro. In due course we thought that we should have all of this on our website so we could showcase many of the bells and whistles that we have developed over the years. We set-up http://ask.andornot.com using the "include" file method that was added as of Inmagic WebPublisher version 8 with lots to show off.

And so it grows

We used the site as a vehicle for our search and results scripts (including several versions over time - adding revise search, URL Tamer, and AutoBoolean), our Email, Save and Print add-on, our Ordering cart add-on and canned searches. We used this product as a basis for many a fine looking site. But then we became restless - we wanted to add more, we wanted to change the undercarriage. We wanted to make it even better!

The renovations

The "include" files were frustrating our staff. While they were a good and simple solution, we wanted to have something more robust; something easier to maintain. As it turned out we had that in another format. We converted the includes to ASP.NET Master Pages and used our webpub results control, which our late great developer Nathan Mayr was instrumental in creating and which we previously only implemented for our high-end clients. It was time to share it with everyone.

The extras

So once we got the groundwork redone, we added the extras. Based on user requests, we had wanted to add book covers for a while, but what with copyright issues always at the door, we hesitated, but then Google Books with cover images rose to the fore. Imagine every book in your catalogue having a nice book cover image in the record and a link to preview the book all through a bit of code around the ISBN number. Note that if there is no matching ISBN at Google Books, nothing shows. The amount of information available at Google Books varies widely - see the title Knowledge and Strategy for a book that has a detailed Preview with table of contents and selected pages. A great way of letting your users evaluate a title better! Check out the canned search Example of Book Covers from Google... we have added the sundeck to the site.

The future

Who knows what more we can add to this already pretty groovy set of features and functions. Tell us what you would like. You are our lifeblood: we listen to our clients. Go to http://ask.andornot.com and be part of the next reno - we are thinking about a turret or a wine cellar or a bay-window.
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