MWeb™ Enterprise Features
Not all sites have all features. If you want to try a feature but can't find it, just email us at email@example.com and we'll be happy to point you to sites with that feature.
MWeb uses its own database, optimized for maximum search performance, to provide integrated searching. The MWeb Preprocessor builds this database from your data. MWeb can load data from any databases or systems.
Using a separate database implements the "data warehouse" concept common in industry in which a second database is used for queries and the live database is used only by those who need to add or modify records. Why let the whole world into your critical live database?
This approach is also a fast and easy way for a consortium to provide integrated access to its members' data and images. Members can use different internal systems and need not provide Z39.50 access. Our Large Systems page highlights other MWeb features of interest to consortia.
MWeb Enterprise is an open system. By this is meant that MWeb integrates well with other software. You may call MWeb from other applications, or have MWeb call other applications. Images, documents, and media in any format may be linked to your database so the user can just click to view them. Furthermore, the MWeb XML Server provides a Web Service to use your data with other applications.
We want MWeb to look like part of your existing website. MWeb has templates that will match most websites, and visual elements are customizable as part of the normal implementation process. We will work with your designer if necessary as we implement the design.
Here are a few of the hundreds of options we can build into your MWeb Website:
Please note that the layouts of some existing sites have features that are not part of the standard product. In particular, because of compatibility issues we no longer offer the option to allow parts of a page to scroll separately.
If MWeb's built-in customization does not meet your needs, we can add funtionality through Special Features. These are priced on a fee basis; we are happy to prepare written estimates from your written requirements at no cost or obligation.
Special Features that would be of value to other MWeb sites are done at reduced cost or even at no cost.
Special Features (in fact, any modifications you require as well as bug fixes) are delivered immediately. You do not have to wait for the next general release of the software.
MWeb has built-in support for a multilingual interface, which can be in any Unicode characters including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Arabic, Tibetan, etc. (However, we have not tested right-to-left scripts.) Note that the potential users must have the required fonts on their computers -- but people that read those languages usually do.
We do not provide the foreign-language messages, graphics, or translation services; we ask you to supply these. We provide lists of messages and buttons for you to have translated.
System error messages are in English only, but each one has a unique number for easy reporting of problems.
MWeb can handle very large databases. Our largest implementation is approaching 400,000 records with no problems at all, and two others have around a quarter-million records. Using SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, or DB2, millions of records are possible.
There is no limit to the number of fields in a record, and fields can be any size up to 2 gigabytes in length. Any number of images or other media may be attached to a record. Any number of records can be linked to each other. The use of Unicode means there is no limit to the languages that can be added to the MWeb database.
You may feel confident you will not outgrow MWeb!
Each type of material -- such as museum records, library records, images, media, and documents -- is represented in MWeb by a distinct "Content Type". In addition, each controlled vocabulary (or authority file) -- subjects, persons, etc. -- is a distinct Content Type. This permits any record to be linked to any number of records of any type. All reciprocal links are made, so your users can navigate throughout the database freely.
Click image for larger view
Any record of any type can be linked to any number of other records of any type. Each link has a role (not shown here), such as "maker", "owner", etc.
All links are two-way. Each direction has a different role.
Each Content Type has its own record structure and fieldnames so no compromises are required.
Any Content Type can be displayed as a hierarchy, if you supply the necessary structure. Hierarchies enable the user to click their way to specific search terms without having to know your terminology (see Browse below).
Images and Image Viewer
Data records may contain links to any number of images. Likewise, images may be linked to any number of records. You provide two sizes of each image, a thumbnail and a full-size image.
Formats supported are JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs; other formats could be added if required.
MWeb Enterprise includes our famous Image Viewer. Whenever the user clicks on a thumbnail image anywhere in MWeb, the corresponding full-size image opens in the Image Viewer (IV). Each image is added to those already in the IV, to permit detailed study and comparison. The user may enlarge, reduce, drag to a new position, or remove images from the IV. The user can choose whether to display brief or full data under each image.
For those whose focus is primarily the image, the Image Viewer provides a clean, uncluttered worksurface for study and comparison, with the additional ability to resize the images to view detail or to see more images at once than would be possible otherwise.
We have recently added a Slide Sorter feature that makes each image small and "tiles" them so there are no overlaps. The user can then change their order by dragging them and the other images are repositioned. This new layout can be saved like any other layout.
MWeb provides three levels of image restriction based on the location of the user's computer:
For more on restricting images and data to specific users, see MWeb Security Model.
Data records may include fields that contain HTML text. These fields will display using the characters, fonts, and formats coded in the HTML. (One way to create these files is by using Microsoft Word to convert Word documents.) This is a good way to add Unicode characters to records, so you may include all the world's languages in your website even if they are not in your database.
Another use for HTML within field is to include tabular data in records, as in this example. These fields are completely indexed on every word, like all other fields.
Alternatively, HTML files may be loaded as their own "Content Type" which can be linked to one or more objects. One use for separate files would be to include background information on techniques, materials, styles, etc. that pertain to more than one object. When they are a separate Content Type, the HTML files display by themselves rather than as part of another record. (For use in electronic exhibits, see Online Exhibits/Experiences).
A third way to incorporate HTML documents is simply to add URLs to data records in MWeb, referring to documents elsewhere on your website (or any website). The URLs are turned into clickable links in the MWeb display.
Finally, HTML documents can be indexed, yet NOT loaded into the MWeb database. This works well for large documents such as finding aids. (See next section.)
Media and Documents
Data records may contain links to media, such as sound files, movies, Word documents, Acrobat documents, or any computer file. Records may have any number of media links, and media may be linked to any number of records. You may provide icons to be displayed for media links (analogous to thumbnails for images).
When the user clicks on a media icon, the media plays.
You may also include links to media on YouTube or similar services. Simply copy the complete link provided by YouTube into a data field in the record. The media will play in the page the link is displayed in.
HTML documents can be treated like media in that they "play" or display when the user clicks an icon for them. However, although they need not be loaded into MWeb, they still can be keyword indexed. This means that the rich content of curatorial notes, conservation records, finding aids, and other large documents can be indexed and still preserved as independent documents outside of MWeb.
We can accept your existing authority files or controlled vocabularies (such as artist names, placenames, style names, periods, or subjects). Or we can create authority files from your collection records. In either case, they provide a way for users to explore the database by navigating through the links.
Unicode Character Set
In order to display records in all languages, MWeb uses the Unicode character set, an international standard that comprises all languages currently in use worldwide. See the Unicode website for more information.
Data to be loaded into MWeb can use either UTF-8 or Latin-1 character encodings. MARC library records may use UTF-8 or MARC-8. We can develop specialized conversions if necessary.
Currently only latin characters are indexed.
Keyword Search provides the well-known search box in which the user types keywords or phrases. One or more keywords and/or phrases may be entered; these are automatically "ANDed" but the user can separate terms with OR to override this. Keywords may be truncated.
The user may select which Content Types to search using a dropdown list. The user may elect to search all records, or just those with images.
Every word in every field can be indexed, or you may choose not to index some fields. At your option, we can apply a "stopword" list so that common words are not indexed. You may identify a classification field in which singular words are indexed on their plurals also; this is because users often enter plural terms like "bottles" but most catalogs use singular classification terms like "bottle".
HTML documents that are linked to your data can be indexed as well. This means that the rich content of curatorial notes, conservation records, finding aids, and other large documents can be indexed and still preserved as independent documents outside of MWeb.
The Timeline feature lets users limit searches visually by date.
Advanced Search lets the user specify where in the records the search terms (keywords or phrases) should be found. Fields in your MWeb database are mapped to Search Categories, similar to the Dublin Core approach. Using Search Categories means the user doesn't have to know the fields in your database, or guess which fields might contain the search terms. This is especially useful if you have multiple fields for the same kind of data, such as multiple title fields; using Search Categories all titles are searched at once.
The Search Category mappings mean that users can search on all types of records in a single search, such as museum data and library data. Exact-match, truncated, and keyword searches are supported, and Advanced Search lets the user decide how to sort search results.
Users may quickly filter Advanced Searches if you include Filter Fields, such as the record type (museum record, library record, etc.), source, department, collection, location, whether the object is on view, and whether the record has images. These Filter Fields can be displayed in Advanced Search as dropdowns, listboxes, radio buttons, or checkboxes. Multiple selections may be made from a given Filter Field.
Finally, Advanced Search supports searches of numeric values as ranges, such as date-ranges. Date-range searching permits searching for objects or records that fall between two dates, or searching for "earlier than" and "later than" records. We can accept your existing date ranges or create them for you by converting text dates into numeric values. Date-ranges may be specified as year only, year and month, or year, month, and day; MWeb ensures that however much of the date the user enters, meaningful results are returned.
It is a frequent complaint that the search boxes do not help a new user know what kind of objects are available, or what terms to use to find items of interest. MWeb's Click-&-Search provides clickable access and avoids the dreaded search box.
Using Click-&-Search, users can search on any data just by clicking -- with no typing. Data values in your MWeb database are presented in groups of 200, with intermediate groupings if a section of your index has more than 200 distinct data values. Building the index for Click-&-Search is fully automated, and based simply on the values in the Advanced Search index.
Using Click-&-Search, the user can see the exact data-values recorded in your database and search on them without typing. Any record is only 2 or 3 mouse clicks away, depending on the size of your database -- with zero keystrokes and no search box.
You may supply a hierarchy of terms -- object types, genres, subjects, locations, styles, or anything else you wish. MWeb provides a clickable interface so the users can browse the database without typing by clicking through the hierarchy. When user clicks on a Browse term, a database search is performed.
Here are some of the many possible interfaces for a Browse (some of these required billable customization). For large hierarchies, MWeb has an "expanding tree-view" in which terms display their sub-terms when clicked, as shown in the fourth example.
The interface that uses buttons may include mini-thumbnails of representative objects from the collection.
There are two methods of linking the Browse terms in the hierarchy to the records to be searched when the user clicks. One way is for the click to perform a Keyword or Advanced Search; if multiple words or fields are required to specify the records you want retrieved by the click, it will have the same performance penalties and imprecision of any other search based on natural language. The other way is for you to indicate the specific records you wish to be retrieved when the user clicks; this is faster and more precise, but more work on your part.
Browse hierarchies may be developed for several purposes:
Vocabulary Views provide users with a way to search using your controlled vocabulary, such as artists names. Typically there would be a button in the Main Menu that would bring up a clickable alphabet (A to Z). Clicking on a letter would display the terms for that letter, and clicking on a term would display all the records linked to that term.
You may have Vocabulary Views on any or all of your controlled vocabularies, even those that MWeb creates from your object records.
Random Records or Images
The Random Search is the most popular MWeb search at those sites that have implemented it. Many visitors just want to see the variety of records or images in your collection. They can do this with a single click on the Random Search button. Whenever they click the button, a new set of random records or images appears.
It is very disconcerting to a user to enter a search term and get a message saying no records were retrieved. When this happens in MWeb, the user is presented with a list of similar terms which can be clicked to perform a search. The terms are chosen on the basis of their similarity in spelling to the words the user entered. These "Search Suggestions" go a long way toward making users more comfortable with MWeb.
Displaying Search ResultsYou can decide how each type of search will be displayed. We currently offer four displays for search results (others can be developed if needed):
You determine which fields are shown in each type of search result. Each record includes a link to the full record. Thumbnails can be clicked on to see the full-size images.
Some displays look better if the thumbnails can be resized by MWeb. You have this option if one of these conditions is met:
When the user clicks on a link in a Search Results screen, the full record is displayed. For very complex records MWeb can display the record in Slices that are subsets of fields (the image below under Alternative Layout shows two tabs for Slices, "Artwork Label" and "Artwork Info").
MWeb offers two Full Record layouts (others can be developed if required). Both show all images and media icons associated with the record. The Alterative Layout shows the primary image larger.
Whichever layout you choose, you determine what fields are shown, the order of fields, the labels for fields, or whether certain fields do not need labels.
With either layout, Full Records can link to other information in a dense network of discovery. At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, certain artwork records have been linked to hundreds of documents containing background, artist information, exhibition history, provenance history, and other "deep data".
When records contain so much information, you may decide to break the Full Records into Slices to avoid overwhelming the user. Slices are subsets of the record's fields. You determine what the slices are, and what they are called, such as "Core data", "Provenance", "Related works", etc. You may have tabs, dropdowns, or any other mechanism to show the user the list of slices, and allow selection of the slice to view.
MWeb is an open system, which can store and/or link to any content you wish to publish. Some of the ways this has been done are described here, and we are always open to developing new approaches to providing your content.
The Antelope Valley Indian Museum, a California State Park with a unique collection of artifacts from southwest peoples and elsewhere, has a Highlights section with discussion of important concepts and illustrative objects. This is one of the ways that MWeb can link rich content into the database.
MWeb provides Online Exhibits that allow you to link object records and HTML documents to a hierarchy of terms representing topics in the exhibit. When the user clicks on a topic in the left pane, the HTML document in the center pane and the images in the right pane change to reflect the new topic. The user can study the documents and the images at the same time, and retrieve full data when desired.
MWeb can manage sequences, such as the "tours" of New Orleans neighborhoods in the Historic New Orleans Collections site. This project was converted from a multi-media exhibit, and MWeb replicated the functionality of moving back and forth in a sequence programmed by the museum. The user can also click the images to enlarge them. (Sorry, this tour is no longer available.)
Showing Locations on a Map or Floorplan
MWeb can be used to show object locations within galleries, buildings, or geographic areas. Here is a working prototype of this idea:
This prototype shows the locations of objects in search results, but it could be used for objects in a user's list of Favorites. This would be a way for users or teachers to plan a museum visit to see specific objects.
Flash, Ajax, and Beyond
Flash and Ajax are ways to present users with interactive multimedia experiences beyond what can be done with an HTML interface such as MWeb Enterprise. (These are often called Rich Internet Applications, or RIAs.) For example, Flash is excellent for displaying animations, movies, sound, visual effects, and other dynamic displays, and these can use the live data in your MWeb Enterprise Database by using the MWeb XML Server (priced separately). Another plus is that Rich Internet Applications look the same in all browsers.
The MWeb XML Server™
The optional MWeb XML Server (MXS) is a Web Service to provide data from your MWeb Enterprise Database in XML. This means you can use your MWeb data in any application that can handle XML data; the application can be written in HTML, Flash, Ajax, ASP, etc. For example, you can build Online Exhibits using Flash or Ajax, or even replace the entire MWeb interface with your own (see sidebar). By using the XML Server for the data retrieval, your application does not need a search engine, but can focus on display and interaction.
The XML Server retrieves only public records and images. Restricted data and images are not retrieved.
MXS queries have the identical syntax to MWeb's Direct Access requests that return HTML pages, including Boolean operators, truncation, subsets, etc. Here is a partial list of the queries currently supported:
For details, see MWeb XML Server documentation.
The XML Server is fully supported like the rest of MWeb Enterprise.
Indexing on Google
You may have part or all of your collections data indexed on Google, so that it can be found in normal Google searches.
Favorites and Presentations
The Favorites feature allows users to save objects for future reference. They may have any number of lists, containing any number of objects. Comments may be added to each list. Depending on your goals, they can export these lists, create reports, or email them to the museum or elsewhere. (Exporting requires the MWeb XML Server, priced separately. Reports require billable custom programming.)
Favorites does not provide a way to create presentations. We are building a new system, CAPS -- Capture/Author/Playback System to allow users to turn their favorites into Flash presentations, such as slideshows, timelines, etc.
Your site may have graphics or buttons that will let users send the page to a friend, to provide feedback on objects to the museum, or to order images. These three functions are customizable so they use the wording you prefer.
If you implement Favorites (see previous section), users can send their lists of Favorites to friends via email. The friends can look at the Favorites without having a logon.
Another use of Favorites would be to let users send their lists to social websites such as Flickr or Facebook. While this is not built into MWeb, it can be achieved by building your own application in HTML, ASP, Ajax, Flash, PHP, or anything you wish, using the MWeb XML Server (MXS) to retrieve data from your MWeb database. Since MXS handles all the same requests as MWeb Enterprise, you can retrieve any data, images, media, Favorites, etc. MXS returns the data in a documented XML format that can be uploaded to a social site.
A quick way to start such a project would be to build upon our MWeb Flash source code (described above). Since MWeb Enterprise and MWeb Flash use the same Favorites, users can develop their lists using either interface. MWeb Flash would also be a good starting point to developing tools for users to build presentations with, or to interact with Pachyderm for this purpose.
Google has just announced their Open Social protocol. If this becomes important, MWeb Enterprise may be enhanced to work with social sites that use this protocol. We are also considering linking Pachyderm to MWeb Enterprise for authoring presentations.
MWeb Security Model
MWeb has a sophisticated security model that you can use to protect any records, any data fields, any data values, any images, any media, or any HTML documents -- independently of each other. Each of these can be restricted from being used or seen by unauthorized users.
The default is for all content to be viewable to any visitor to your MWeb site, so if this is what you want, you need do nothing. However, if you wish to hide some content from certain users, you may use either or both of the following techniques:
IP Restrictions and Security Levels are completely independent and either or both can be assigned to any record, field, value, image, media item, or HTML document.
A site has three options for logon: no logon required, everyone must logon, or no logon for the public but certain people may logon to access special functions, data, or images. Logons are controlled by a unique User ID and an encrypted password. There are also several kinds of administrator logon for adding and deleting users, changing messages, etc.
MWeb protects data by using passwords. This provides only an average level of security, so we do not recommend MWeb for data you consider sensitive or of interest to criminals.
If you wish, you can link directly to most MWeb displays -- such as Search Results, Full Records, and Online Exhibits -- from other pages in your main website. This means the user does not have to go through the MWeb Start Page and perform a search. For example, you may be describing a new gift on your website: you could include a link which would display the donated objects in an MWeb display. Or in a discussion of an object you could include a link to the object's Full Record display. Or take the user directly to an Online Exhibit or Flash Experience from a curatorial page.
Interface Management System™MWeb includes the Interface Management System (IMS), which you can use to change text components of the user interface right at your site, without involving Systems Planning. Text buttons and instructions in MWeb may be customized using IMS, which you operate from any browser. (System error messages and messages that are added by the Preprocessor cannot be changed.)
Statistics on Searches
At your option, MWeb can record every search performed on your site and the number of records retrieved, as well as the time and date and user ID. Each record viewed is also recorded. This information can be studied using MWeb Reporter, a free application that reads this data and prepares monthly and annual summaries.
You may use Windows Scheduler on your server to make MWeb Reporter run automatically on whatever schedule you choose. MWeb Reporter will send you an email whenever a new report is ready.
MWeb Reporter will not run on shared hosting servers. However, the statistical information can be captured if you have some other way to analyze the data.
Here are the categories of information in the report:
"Accessibility" is the term used by web designers to indicate the availability of a site to the handicapped, especially the visually impaired. There are generally two major concerns: the ability of the partially sighted to override font sizes and colors for better visibility, and the use of the site by "screen-readers," software that reads the site out loud to the blind. Users of screen-readers are best served by having elements on the page in a meaningful order, by having alternative text for graphical elements, and by having alternatives to Flash and other visual components.
Our policy is to enable accessibility by removing barriers, such as the elimination of frames (since frames confuse screen-readers). However, we do not prescribe any specific fonts, colors, or navigation. This is a decision each client must make, depending on their policies and requirements.
For more details on MWeb and accessibility, see MWeb and Accessibility.
Adding New Data
Updates to the MWeb database are done at your site by running the MWeb Preprocessor (a Windows application) which we send you configured for your data. To update, you export data from your internal databases, run the Preprocessor, and then copy the MWeb Database to your web server. The Preprocessor is customized for each client, so there are no decisions to make or options to worry about.
On a fee basis, we can adapt the Preprocessor to make sure that all the images to be incorporated into the database are actually present in both sizes. This is a double-check for one of the most common load problems.
MWeb is under continuous development -- we make dozens of improvements each year. However, we do not issue periodic upgrades of the software. Instead, we deliver new software to each site when required (such as when a new browser requires changes), or when the site requests changes or new features. We test each new or changed feature for each site before delivery. We feel that this approach allows you to upgrade at your convenience, instead of at ours.
MWeb is a standard CGI program, compiled for maximum performance. MWeb is delivered as a compiled program (EXE) for the easiest installation onto your Windows web-server. CGI accelerators may be used if your situation warrants. The MWeb Enterprise CGI runs on Windows servers only.
MWeb Enterprise does not access your internal databases, but uses its own in order to provide integrated searching, faster searching, and for security. You continue to use whatever internal systems and databases you wish; MWeb can use data from any system.
The MWeb Preprocessor builds the MWeb Enterprise Database for deployment to the server. The Preprocessor runs on your Windows desktop computer.
MWeb can use your choice of database technologies for its database, currently Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, DB2, or FoxPro. MWeb has identical functionality regardless of what database technology is used.
We recommend using SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, or DB2 for sites with high traffic, as these systems are designed for this. However, they are more complex for you to install and manage. Each of them has a free version which works with MWeb.
For smaller sites we recommend FoxPro tables because they are fast, reliable, and free. They require no database software and there is nothing to manage. You do not need to purchase FoxPro.
FoxPro tables provide excellent performance, not to be compared with desktop tools such as Access and Filemaker. Although not in the class of the other options, they are fully adequate for the demands of most museum websites. The FoxPro ODBC driver is installed automatically with Windows Server, and requires absolutely no administration. Some of our largest installations use FoxPro, and one of them, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is now serving ONE MILLION searches per year using this technology.
Microsoft announced in April 2007 that they will stop developing FoxPro. This should not cause you concern. The FoxPro database format has not changed since 1993 and will continue to function. Furthermore, Microsoft will be supporting FoxPro through 2015.
MWeb emits standard HTML controlled by CSS, so all modern browsers for Windows, Macintosh, and Unix/Linux can use it without problems.
Installation and Support
We provide generous support in implementing and maintaining your MWeb site.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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