The Webbase Module:
Internet / Intranet / CD based display of specifications.
(Covers: Introduction; Why Webbase does NOT replace STORE; Creating Webbase files; Displaying the Webbase; Technical - file creation; Technical - index file; Deleting specifications; Converting a STORE database; Creating a CD based Webbase; Adobe PDF; Printing all STORE Ti-High Reports)
Reader Note: The features described in this Section generate files on your computer which may subsequently need to be copied to other computer systems. The discussion in Sections 14.1 to 14.4 describe the features from a PALLETMANAGER user perspective, whilst later sections are more oriented towards the needs of your technical support team.
If using Explorer 6 or later you may find that the report image is initially displayed in miniature with a button to 'enlarge to normal size'. This can easily be corrected using the instructions in Appendix 1.12.
The PALLETMANAGER Webbase Module is designed to meet the needs of users who wish to make their palletisation specifications available to others in electronic format. It forms one of the 'add-on' modules of PALLETMANAGER in the same way as (say) Collation, e-PALLET etc. The Webbase module provides a set of powerful features designed to make it easy for users to place some or all of their palletisation specifications on an Internet / Intranet server or onto a CD for access / use by colleagues, suppliers or customers. Specifications can then be accessed by others using just their standard web browser (e.g. Explorer, Netscape).
As well as providing a mechanism whereby newly calculated specifications can be saved in this Web format, PALLETMANAGER also includes facilities for users who utilise the existing STORE module so that they may also convert some or all of their STORE specifications to the Webbase format.
However the Webbase module is NOT a replacement for the existing STORE module (where used), and the reasons why this is the case are discussed in Section 14.2 below.
The steps in using Webbase are:
You select those report(s) they wish to add to the Webbase from the same screens from where you print / view specifications.
You can also add some or all of the entries from your existing STORE database (where available / used) to the Webbase.
To display these specifications on your computer you then select the Webbase Module from the Opening PALLETMANAGER screen.
Having done this the files held on your computer can be copied (usually by your technical support team) to an Intranet / Internet server (or they can be written to a CD) for others to access using a web browser.
14.2 Why the Webbase Format does NOT replace the STORE Module.
PALLETMANAGER users with a STORE license use this module to maintain a database of their specifications. Using such a database enables them to re-call a specification to the screen, re-print it, or use the e-PALLET email facility to send to others electronically. In addition users can select to 're-run' a specification held in the database. In this mode all product, packaging and palletisation information is retrieved from the STORE database and any required change can be made to this data before a re-calculation is carried out. In doing so only a minimum amount of new data entry is required in order to re-calculate a solution. In addition the STORE database is compact, with 2000 specifications occupying perhaps 10Mb of disk space. In summary:
STORE allows screen viewing, re-printing and emailing of specifications.
It also allows minor changes to made to past specifications and re-run.
It allows printing / viewing / emailing of reports in a language different from that used when the specification was saved (now English, French, German and Spanish are available).
It provides compact storage for many thousands of specifications.
In contrast to the above, the Webbase/JPG Database introduced with this release has some advantages and some drawbacks.
Advantages of Webbase/JPG format:
Anyone with a web browser can view your specifications, print them out or forward the reference for the specification to others with access to the datafiles.
Specifications held in this way cannot be modified (e.g. the language and detail of the report is fixed).
The person viewing the specifications does not require a PALLETMANAGER license.
Drawbacks of Webbase/JPG format:
If you needed to re-calculate the specification given a change in data (and did not utilise the STORE module), then ALL of the data associated with the product would have to be entered manually again into PALLETMANAGER data screens.
If you have saved a specification in (say) English, you cannot then produce the same report in (say) Spanish.
All formats available for the storage of graphics reports (such as those JPG files used by Webbase) are relatively large. Typically around 100 times more storage space is required to store the report data than when using the STORE database. A STORE database for 5000 reports might require 5Mb of disk space whilst the same set of reports in Webbase might require the whole of a standard 600Mb CD.
14.3 The Creation of Webbase Files.
PALLETMANAGER screen and printer reports are selected from one of two screens - that displayed immediately after selecting the pallet layout to be used, or the very similar screen displayed when accessing the STORE database. Both these screens have now been extended to provide an additional set of (white) buttons relating to Webbase/JPG file creation. An example is shown below.
If the user wishes to add the current specification to those held in the Webbase Database then the button(s) associated with the required report(s) are selected. An on-screen message indicates that files are being saved, and when the action is complete the button text will change to 'Done'. For example after the Webbase/JPG Palletisation Specification is selected the screen will change to that shown below.
Thus any of the reports which might otherwise be viewed or printed from this page can be saved to this Webbase database.
If you are re-calculating a specification for a product already held in the Webbase database then on arriving at the Print / View screen the text adjacent to the Webbase/JPG button will indicate that a file already exists - as shown below. It will be automatically replaced with the new version if JPG File save is selected.
14.4 Displaying the Webbase Files.
Those users with a license to use one or more of PALLETMANAGER Database features will be familiar with the access buttons on the opening PALLETMANAGER screen. The new Webbase Database is accessed from the same point.
When the Webbase option is selected the files previously saved into the Webbase are examined and an index file is created which contains full product information for each of these (index.htm). The default web browser is then automatically launched and the index file is displayed. An example of such a display is shown below.
The left hand column shows the Product Code (as entered by the user into PALLETMANAGER), with the other two columns showing the Product Description and the date on which the report was created / saved. The entries are sorted in alphabetic order based on product code.
The Product Code entries are hyperlinked and selecting any of these using the mouse will display the appropriate report - which can then be printed if required.
If a user is unsure of the product code they can hold down the Ctrl key and press F which will bring up a 'Find' dialog box allowing users to search the index page for any code / description / date.
Depending upon the type of analysis carried out (Palletise, Collation, Cube etc), and the number of these reports that the user has selected to be added to the Webbase database, there may be up to 6 reports associated with a particular product code. In the above display all are Palletisation Specifications (as indicated on the screen). Appropriate labels are provided for Collation Reports, Stacking reports etc.
These files are normally stored in a folder of their own (jpgfiles) beneath that in which PALLETMANAGER is installed, and are suitable for copying (usually by your IT staff) from your computer to an Intranet / Internet server (or to a CD) where they can be accessed by others. These users can use their web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer) to view the index file and the specifications, and make printouts of the same. It is possible to configure an alternate location for these files - See Appendix 1.2 for further details.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The size of the Webbase images has been selected so as to be suitable for display (and printing) on displays of 800*600 or 1024*768. If using more recent Explorer versions you may find that the report image is initially displayed in miniature. This can easily be corrected using the instructions given on screen at the top of the Index file and also given in Appendix 1.12.
Reader Note: As described at the beginning, Sections 14.5 onwards are of a slightly more technical nature, as appropriate for those who may be involved with the transfer of Webbase files to other systems.
14.5 Technical Issues - File Creation.
Each report saved to the Webbase uses the .JPG format and is at a resolution suitable for display and printing using 800*600 or 1024*768 screen modes. The JPG report file would (ideally) be given a name which would be identical to the product code of the product. However the file naming conventions of different operating systems means that some characters used as product codes would not be valid within filenames. Thus PALLETMANAGER adapts the product code (if required) to ensure files created should be valid on whatever computer systems they may later be held. Originally the filenames created were based solely on the product code (14 characters). However to provide a more flexible system the current filenames created also utilise the first 12 characters of the description - thus one could now have a single product code 'solved' using different load heights for different customers with the height limit or customer details being entered in the first 12 characters of the description.
Filenames based on the product code (in later versions including the first 12 characters of the description) and are terminated with extensions which reflect the report type. These extensions are listed below:
Palletise Report: -Pal.jpg
Palletise (Top Layer): -PalT.jpg
Collation (Sub Primary): -ColSp.jpg
All the files produced are stored in the folder JPGFILES which will be found as a sub-folder to that in which PALLETMANAGER is installed. For each .JPG file created a small file (.inf) is created holding basic information on product description, date etc. These files are used when creating the index.htm file. All files held in the JPGFILES folder - both .JPG and .INF - must be backed up securely.
14.6 Technical Issues - INDEX.HTM
This file is produced by PALLETMANAGER and uses a basic HTML format which can be edited by a user using any suitable web development tool before being placed on an Intranet / Internet. After the .JPG files are created an HTML index file (sorted in alphanumeric order) is produced in the JPGFILES folder (replacing any previous version) referencing all the .JPG files. This file will be created when the user selects Webbase (from the opening menu) or, when a batch conversion from a STORE database is carried out (see section 14.10) at the termination of that process. In operation all the .JPG files (and their associated .INF information files) are accessed and a suitable index file created.
You should note that every time a new product is added to the Webbase (and the Webbase is accessed from the opening PALLETMANAGER screen) a complete new file index file is created. So that the file loads and formats quickly, if there are more than 250 entries, then each block of 250 entries forms its own HTML table. Naturally all the product information is held in the single index file. A technical limit of 20,000 specification entries has been catered for - far more (one trusts) than will ever be used!
In this release a very limited level of customisation is available to the user. In the above browser display (see 14.4 above) reference is made to the company name - 'Progressive Packaging Company'. On installation, no such company reference is provided in the display. However a user may use a basic text tool (e.g. Notepad/Wordpad) to produce a file named COMPANY.INF in the PALLETMANAGER installation folder. The text from line 1 of this file (up to 40 characters) will automatically be used as a descriptor at the top of the HTML Index file each time it is created.
14.7 Deletion of Specifications.
As described earlier, all the .JPG (and .INF) files created are named according to the product code. In this release, if you wish to delete specifications from the Webbase Database, Windows Explorer should be used to view and delete the .JPG files which are not required. On the next occasion when the Webbase is accessed a new (updated) index file will be created leaving out the files which have been deleted. Ideally (but not necessarily) the .INF files associated with deleted .JPG files should also be deleted. It should be stressed that for products held in the Webbase, not only the .JPG files but also the .INF files are vital for ongoing indexing. Appropriate security backup of all these files is required.
If a particular group of files are not required - perhaps you never use Stacking reports but find that some have been produced in the JPGFILES solder, then you could also use Windows Start / Find to locate and delete these. Such files all have names terminating with either Sta.inf or Sta.jpg .
Using Find those files in the JPGFILES folder matching *Sta.* could be located and deleted.
14.8 Notes on Converting the whole of a STORE Database.
Users with a small number of STORE specifications can add these manually to the Webbase using the following procedure:
Use the STORE Retrieve Option on the Opening Screen, select the product you wish to add the Webbase, and then select Print / Inspect. Screen 9P is then displayed from which you could print or view on-screen the report(s) available for this product. An extra set of (white) buttons allows you to create JPG file(s) which will be added to the Webbase. Repeat this action for other products you wish to add to the Webbase.
However those with many specifications would find the task of converting all manually daunting. For this reason we have also provided a mechanism for converting all STORE specifications to .JPG format without any user action. This is described in 14.9 below.
However, before going ahead with this procedure you are advised to consider the following:
Do you really need all your reports in web format? Most examples of STORE databases we have seen contain very large numbers of redundant specifications and perhaps a few dozen currently active.
A database of (say) 2000 products could typically produce up to 7000 or more reports (Palletise, Collation, Stacking etc etc), and these would occupy perhaps 850Mb. (This is a function of all graphics formats and not just the .JPG format used here). The Index file to access this number of reports would be very large and load very slowly.
To convert this number of data entries would also be time consuming. Even under automatic operation one must allow perhaps 4 seconds / report - i.e. at least 8 hours for 2000 products / 7000 reports!
14.9 The Automated Conversion of a complete STORE Database.
The procedure described below will convert ALL the specifications held in the STORE database to web format and save these in the JPGFILES folder beneath that in which PALLETMANAGER is installed. Before starting the process you will have the opportunity to select which types of reports you wish to output to the Webbase.
In doing so the procedure will add to any files currently held there, but overwrite (replace) any which may already be there that have the same name (i.e. are for the same product code). Thus you may wish to consider what action should be taken with any files already in that folder BEFORE selecting the conversion program.
In addition you may need to consider whether you have sufficient space available on your disk for the files. As discussed above a database of 2000 products (with all report types selected) may produce around 7000 reports and require perhaps 850Mb for file storage. (Note that if modes such as CUBE predominate - where each product produces just a single report - the number of reports produced will be substantially lower)
In order to carry out the conversion process:
Ensure that PALLETMANAGER is NOT running.
Ensure that the computer has sufficient hard disk space free (see above).
Ensure that the computer will NOT be required for the likely period taken for the conversion process - perhaps 15-20 minutes for each 100 product codes.
Use Windows Explorer to locate the program BATCHJPG which will be found in the PALLETMANAGER folder (default folder on C: drive, folder PMNT), and double click on the BATCHJPG entry to start the program.
You will then be presented with the screen below from which the Create JPG button can be used to start the process.
On entry the Palletise and Collation reports are automatically selected. You are able to decide which types of report are produced before you 'Create JPGs'. As the process continues the database list will scroll down (with the cursor marking the entry being processed), and as each file is produced a screen message is displayed. Once started the process cannot be stopped (except by using the Ctrl / Alt / Del key combination and killing the conversion process). Obviously the computer screen can (should) be switched off if the machine is to be left on overnight.
Once completed the screen will display the final group of entries from the STORE database. The Exit option can then be selected at which time an Index file will be created. If you have produced a considerable number of reports then the indexing process may take a couple of minutes - a suitable message is displayed on screen.
14.10 Creating a CD based set of Specifications.
It is clearly possible to copy all the files found in the JPGFILES folder to an Intranet / Internet server and for users to access the specifications using their web browser via the index.htm file created by PALLETMANAGER. Likewise the same set of files could be copied to a CD and the same access method used.
A simple enhancement to a CD based set of specifications would be to have the CD auto-start and to display the index file automatically. This can be achieved if two additional files, which will be found in the PALLETMANAGER installation folder, are copied to the CD together with the index files . These are the files autorun.inf and goal.exe.
Technically it is not necessary to copy the .INF files found in the JPGFILES folder to the Internet / CD. However these files are vital to the ongoing indexing of the database (they contain product information etc), and given their small size it is strongly recommended that all files in the JPGFILES folder be copied to whatever media is being used.
14.11 Adobe PDF - a technical support section!.
In designing the Webbase module our objectives have been to provide a quick and reliable method of displaying specifications on both Internet / Intranet or CD. This has been achieved using the Webbase JPG file format. However, we are well aware that in some organisations there might be a requirement to present the Webbase in an Adobe PDF format and this is indeed possible as described below.
The remainder of this section discuss issues relating to the possible use of PDF format.
PALLETMANAGER users may be aware that the e-PALLET add-on module used to email palletisation specifications uses the Adobe PDF file format. When developing the Webbase module the PDF format was one of those formats considered for use, however it was eventually rejected on 3 grounds:
(1) Methods to generate PDF files in large numbers directly from PALLETMANAGER did not meet our reliability criteria.
(2) Users selecting from the Webbase Index file would need to load the (free) PDF viewer each time they wished to access the specifications.
(3) Recent versions of the Adobe Viewer have been criticised as being somewhat slow to load.
We have added a utility to STORE that allows users to output STORE'd Ti/High reports to the default printer or direct to PDF - this is discussed in 14.13 below.
However a number of companies provide reliable low cost software (USD 40-60) which will convert images from various graphics formats to the PDF format. We have used software from one such company (www.verypdf.com) for a number of years and in building the Webbase module we have included links so that those who must use the PDF format can license a copy of the appropriate software from Verypdf, and automatically link that software with Webbase.
Specifically they produce 2 products which could be used with Webbase.
(Route1) Some users may have a requirement to generate an Intranet / CD based set of specifications in PDF format on an occasional basis (say every 3 months). In doing so they would be quite happy to take a set of Webbase JPG format specifications, quickly (< 5 minutes) convert them to PDF format, and to then place these files, together with an index file, onto the Intranet / CD. The Windows application Image2PDF (approx USD40) will quickly convert the .JPG files of Webbase into multiple PDF files. As described below (14.12) we have also provided in the PALLETMANAGER toolkit a program which will automatically index these .PDF files (to create an index file INDEXP.HTM) in an identical fashion to that used for the Webbase .JPG files.
(Route 2) Other users may have a requirement to maintain at all times a up-to-date set of PDF format specifications. This can be achieved by using the Command Line version of Image2pdf (approx USD 60) to automatically create .PDF files each time the normal Webbase 'Save JPG File' function is executed. At the time the Webbase .JPG specification is created the Image2PDF software is immediately executed to create an identical PDF format file. Thus at any time both .PDF and .JPG files would be available for each specification. This will only work if the JPG files are held in the default folder jpgfiles.
The application of these two 3rd party solutions is described.
14.12 PDF Links.
The Route 1 approach would require the user to use the Windows Image2PDF software to be used to convert all the .JPG files in the JPGFILES folder to .PDF files, these also being saved to the JPGFILES folder. To create the index file INDEXP.HTM, the program MAKEINDP found in the PALLETMANAGER folder would be executed (view in Explorer and double click). The INDEXP.HTM file will be created in the JPGFILES folder, and will provide hyperlinks to all the .PDF files.
The Route 2 approach would require the Command Line version of Image2pdf to be installed in the PALLETMANAGER installation folder. At the moment that any Webbase .JPG specification is created the Image2PDF software is executed (invisibly to the user) to create an identical PDF file. Thus at any time both .PDF and .JPG files would be available for each specification. Once again, to create the index file INDEXP.HTM, the program MAKEINDP found in the PALLETMANAGER folder would be executed (view in Explorer and double click). The INDEXP.HTM file will be created in the JPGFILES folder, and will provide hyperlinks to all the .PDF files.
In practice, if PALLETMANAGER finds that PDF files are located in the JPGFILES folder then it will, when Webbase is selected from the opening menu, automatically create both the standard INDEX.HTM (for the Webbase.JPG files) and INDEXP.HTM (for the .PDF files).
14.13 Printing out ALL STORE Ti-High Reports.
For most users the Ti-High report has become the standard report used for most Palletise / Collation / Tertiary analysis. We have recently introduced a new utility - BATCHPRINT1.EXE - found in the PALLETMANAGER install folder, which allows users to take a complete STORE database and output for all products a Ti-High report to the default printer. Whilst this may be useful for paper output we have been able to extend this (using the free / low cost PDFMACHINE software - from pdfmachine.com ) to provide the automatic production of a pdf Ti-High report for each STORE'd product. Future extension of this facility for other reports would be possible subject to demand. Further documentation on the pdfmachine software is available on our website (technical) - http://www.goweralg.co.uk/pdf/PDFMachine.pdf ..