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Friday, August 30, 2002

Saving data from a form

Having set up a form to collect visitor comments (or any other type of information, for that matter), saving the information to a database opens up a wealth of new possibilities, using Xara Modules. By connecting other modules to the database, you can search and catalogue the information, link to information stored in other database modules, and publish different selections on your public website or to a private area.

I previously showed how to set up a form to collect visitor comments and automatically send them to an email address of your choice. The next step is to add a database module where you can save the comments for later reference.

Having already created the form, adding the database is breathtakingly simple:

  1. On the left-hand menu of your module store, Select Data Manager — Database — Create New.
  2. In the database creation screen, the first option listed is 'Create Database from the outputs of another module'. Select this by clicking on the 'pick module' button alongside.
  3. You'll see a screen showing all the suitable modules in your module store. Click on the icon for the form you want to collect data from.
  4. Xara then builds the database automatically, using the fields from the form. Within a few seconds, you're taken to the finished module, where, if you wish, you can add or edit records in the database. If you want to see more detail about the database structure, clicking on the 'connections' tab will take you to a screen showing the names and types of all the fields in the database, and confirming that they're all connected to the corresponding fields in the form.
  5. The final step is to give the database a suitable name in the small white box at the top right of the screen, and then click the 'save and publish' button.

When you return to your module store, you'll see an arrow confirming that the database is connected to the original form, as pictured right (click thumbnail for larger version). This means that any new comments submitted by visitors will now be saved automatically for later reference. You'll see that the mailer module you created previously is also still connected to the form. It will continue to send emails whenever a comment is submitted, unless you choose to disconnect it.

posted by Phil 2:45 PM (GMT) | comments | link

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Easier forms, more powerful features

Xara Online has added more powerful features and labor-saving enhancements to its modules, making it even easier to set up and modify complex forms, and to connect them to sophisticated database-driven applications.

One of the most useful enhancements is the ability to make global changes to any selection of fields and cells when creating or editing a form. Xara's form editing screen now includes check boxes against each cell, as pictured right (click thumbnail for larger version). This enables you to select any collection of cells on a form and then globally change parameters, such as the font style or background color, in a single operation. I think this had been the most noticeably lacking feature from Xara's WYSIWYG form editor. Now that it's included, creating complex forms has become very easy indeed.

Another significant addition is a new 'secure file upload' feature, which can be used in conjunction with a membership database to provide member-only access to secure content, such as PDF, Word and HTML files. Other features are behind-the-scenes enhancements that give sophisticated control over the order in which connected database and query modules execute, and the ability to link multiple database modules using record IDs. I'll be providing examples of how to use these powerful new features to build cool web applications for your site in later postings.

I've gone back and updated my earlier posting on collecting visitor comments to reflect the new editing capabilities. The next step in the series, which I'll post later this week, will show how you can create a database module based on the form in less than five minutes. I'll then go on to show how to use Xara's reporter module to instantly publish visitor comments to your website.

posted by Phil 1:38 AM (GMT) | comments | link

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