This quotations list is generated from a Microsoft Access database I threw together in an afternoon, after having absolutely no luck finding a reliable quotations program that did what I want. Once upon a time I’d have written a full-blown program myself, but my hair has gotten too pointy (to use a Dilbert reference) for that.
Fortunately, the tools have gotten sophisticated enough that I almost didn’t have to do any programming at all. Hell, it will output both HTML and a text file my sig program will use; it almost makes the bloat worth it.
Almost. What I should be able to do is output this database to a static HTML format with few-to-no problems. But Access 97 had some serious limitations in going from report format to HTML, most particularly the bizarre idea that if a report has page breaks, Access should translate them into separate HTML pages. And Access 2000 either does the same thing, or else only works if you can run ASP on your server (or if you want to), none of which applies to me. Access XP only contniues the trend.
As a result, I had to do exports with manual HTML in them, and then do a lot of manual clean-up, which means that my WIST pages didn’t get updated very often. I load in information into the Access database fairly frequently, but the pages are more like an annual event. Or biennial.
There are other databases I could use, of course. But Access is, ah, easily accessed by me. And certainly it will be around for a while, and I’d hate to get all this stuff into a database that then gets bought out or goes away.
I’ve now thrown Movable Type into the mix having a couple of years of blogging under my belt. The advantage of MT over my previous posting tool, FrontPage, is …
… well, it isn’t FrontPage. Which means it doesn’t insist on occasionaly deleting everything else on my site, it doesn’t crash, and it doesn’t enrich Micro$oft’s coffers.
Beyond that, it lets me control the formatting through templates, and lets me take Access query output (rather than report output) and plug it into the MT entries with relative ease. That’s a Good Thing.
So the way I’m producing this page now is to run a query of all the quotations, with various HTML code bits thrown in. I export that to a text file, input it to Word, tweak around some things to generate line breaks, meld together quotation chunks of over 250 bytes, etc. Then I cut the quotes out by author letter of the alphabet and paste them into their respective 27 quotation entries.
That sounds like a lot of work, but it’s about 25% of what I was doing to get the stuff into FrontPage.
Ideally, I’d still like to produce the static pages directly out of Access, or else come up with some simple, unobtrusive way to generate pages for individual authors. If anyone reading this ….
- … knows how to make Access output to a static HTML format that doesn’t break at every page …
- … has an idea for a program to use that will either do much the same, or else will let me keep the database on the Web page without any fancy-schmancy add-ons that ISPs will charge me for …
- … has an easy way to go from queries to an MT input format that I could repopulate the database with
- Has any other ideas.
… then I’d love to hear about it. I might even pay for it. A little bit, at least. I’d certainly give credit where credit is due.
UPDATE (24 Jul 07): As later entries note, I’ve gone away from both the Access setup and the need for a custom system to something that works in Movable Type. Which only slighly bends the product beyond its parameters, so it’s all good. Would I mind a full-blow online quotations database dropping into my lap? No, but the need for it is a whole lot less urgent than it once was.