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7 The user interface

7 The user interface

The design and implementation of a user-interface for our manuscript system is proving the most complex and time-consuming part of the whole endeavour. We decided fairly early on to attempt to design our own WWW interface, instead of using an SGML browser such as SoftQuad's Panorama. Several factors told against the Panorama approach:

We have been designing our own in-house WWW interface to allow the browsing of both EAD and TEI records: it also offers users the facility to search the full-text of entries, or given indexes, by keyword, and to browse alphabetically through the indexes themselves. It aims to make our records easily accessible via any frames-compatible Web browser, without the need to install any specialized software. This frames-based application is based on Tcl scripts, and uses Open Text's PAT software for searching and browsing.

The interface allows the user to browse up and down the hierarchies of an EAD file, displaying information relating to the current level being viewed and to move down to any lower level present. In addition, it can carry out keyword searches either on the full text of catalogue entries, or on a number of given indexes[mdash ] full Boolean searching is available here, and the user has a choice of searching across all collections, or a single one only. The user may also browse a number of dynamically-created indexes (such as personal name, geographic name etc.), which can contain multiple levels of description.

The link from an EAD to a TEI record is invisible to the user: it appears as a further hierarchical level below an item description in the EAD record. The same frames interface is used to display the TEI record, reformatted to HTML: the user can choose to browse a record's basic details, contents, decoration, physical description, provenance or its attached bibliography.


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