Local Information System Help

Using the system for enquiries

Using the system to update the database

Using the system as a document library

Changes in this version

This is the third release of the Intranet version and is a component of version 5.0 of the CITA Local Information System (more detail available here).

The major changes in this version are:

  • There is a new access control system that allows you to restrict people's access to:
    • Individual entries in the database
    • Sections of an entry's text
  • The access control system creates groups of users so you don't have to specify the access granted to individual users. It also allows you to assign a group to users that access the system without a user id and password (anonymous users). It can assign different groups to different sets of anonymous users by detecting differences in the web address used to access the database.
  • You can also use groups to control how the system appears to each group. You can specify:
    • The help text that appears immediately below the search buttons on the main search page
    • The help text that appears when you click the 'Help' button
    • The splash text that appears when you first load the main search page
    • Whether they see the 'More' button (which gives access to more esoteric search options)
    • Whether they see any soft keys you have defined
    • Whether they see the Login button
    • Whether they see the 'Change password' button.
  • A new setting allows you to support anonymous users as well as web users. Previously, if you set up web users everyone had to log on to access the system.
  • You can now store documents in the Local Information System database (provided you use SQL Server to store data rather than Access). That means you can:
    • upload documents using a simple form built in to the Local Information System rather than a separate 'FTP' program
    • control access to documents in the library
    • control the size and type of documents that can be uploaded to the library.

As well as enhancing the Local Information System for use by your administrators and advisers, the above changes also make it more practical to:

  • Share the database across multiple CABx with the system suppressing entries, and parts of entries, that are irrelevant to each CAB
  • Share the database with other agencies that you might partner with
  • Open the database to access by the public.

This version also includes the following changes:

  • A new 'Less' button allows you to hide the additional search buttons revealed when you click the 'More' button. The system now 'remembers' the state of the More and Less buttons and reinstates them when you return to the search page.
  • Admin users now see a 'Save results' button at the bottom of each set of search results. This downloads a comma-separated values (CSV) file containing basic details of the matches found by your search (and a search for *all lists all entries). CSV files can be opened by Excel and other spreadsheet programs so you can work with the data.
  • When editing an entry, a new section allows you to specify which groups of users cannot see the entry (provided you have defined at least one group).
  • The Maintain users page now allows you to allocate users to groups (provided you have defined at least one group).
  • The new Maintain groups page allows you to:
    • Add, change and delete user groups
    • List all users belonging to a given group
    • List all database entries hidden from a given group.
  • When working with an entry's web links, the system no longer forces you to add http:// or https:// at the beginning of link addresses. Instead you can use a shortcut like DocLib:filename to link to a file in the document library. Otherwise, the system will add http:// if necessary to web addresses. The system detects references to the document library and shows you an error message if the referenced document is not present.
  • The CheckLIWebLinks utility also detects references to the document library and is able to check whether the referenced document is present without having to download the document itself.
  • The usage log produce by the system now records the group of each user so you can produce group-based statistics.
  • You can now suppress the 'Change password' button for all users of the system - useful if you allow people to share ids and passwords (although that's not a practice we recommend) - this change was implemented in version 4.01.
  • When using the standard splash text, adding a trailing "-" to a bureau name suppresses the "Citizens Advice Bureau" text allowing you more flexibility in specifying your organisation's name.
  • We've enhanced the Show configuration values page. It now shows:
    • The user groups available in the system
    • The default user groups for anonymous users
    • The alternate help pages for each group
    • The alternate search page text for each group
    • The alternate splash page text for each group
    • Whether people are allowed to change their own passwords.
  • We've improved the protection provided against someone using a browser 'Back' button to gain access to the system once you have logged off. Closing the browser down is still the best protection and you now see a notice explaining that when you log off.
  • The user id and password form includes a 'Continue anonymously' button if your system can be used without a user id and password. It takes you to the main search page in a logged-out state.
  • The remote system backup tool BackupLIDate comes with a new template allowing it to backup version 5 databases.
  • Version 5.0 requires an update to SQL server and Access databases. The database updater page allows you to implement that change automatically for intranet versions of the system. The Network Install program does the same for desktop versions of the system.

Version 5.0 also fixes the following bugs:

  • The CheckLIWebLinks utility overcomes a problem created by Microsoft that meant the utility reported problems with all https web links - fixed in version 4.01.
  • We've fixed a bug that caused a system error if you modified a URL used to edit an item to change the item id to one that doesn't exist in the system. You now see an error page explaining the problem.

More detail about the changes in this and previous versions are available here.

Purpose of the CAB Local Information System

The system supplements other CAB systems by providing information about local contacts and resources likely to be useful to clients. It is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need and to bring you as much as possible online without having to find data from paper files. The system will help ensure that data is as up-to-date as possible by linking directly to source material on the web and through automating review of index entries. The system provides:

  • An online index to the local information database. The online index provides a more sophisticated search and look up system than paper indexes, increasing the likelihood that you will find what you are looking for. For example: you can search for index entries containing words you are looking for, not just alphabetic look ups. The electronic index also supports multiple index entries for the same item so, for example, we can identify organisations by both acronyms as well as their full names.
  • Information about contacts and resources. Where possible, the database contains information that will help you in your dealings with clients.
  • Links to local information. The database supports different types of link:
    • Web links. The system can link directly to supporting information held in web sites. You will see links in matches found by the database's search and lookup facilities. Clicking any link will take you straight to the relevant web site page. The system comes with a utility that regularly checks web links to make sure they are still valid.
    • Document links. These work in the same way as web links except that they refer to documents held in the local network. For example, an item might link to a local policy document written in Word. The system will automatically run the right application to show you the linked document.
    • Paper file links. Some documents are difficult or inappropriate to store electronically and are better stored in paper files. In these cases the system provides a reference to the paper file.

The system is designed to be easy and straightforward to use, and does not require you to have specific IT expertise.

Increasingly CABx are merging to form larger multiple-office bureau covering a wider geographical area. Some are creating partnerships with non-CAB organisations. The intranet version of the system supports these larger CABX through:

  • Access to a common database from any office, outreach location or anywhere that has an internet connection
  • Maintenance of the database from any location; one office can administer the database on behalf of the rest, or it can be a team effort
  • The system can present different information to different groups of people; a single database can contain:
    • Information available to everyone using the database
    • Items specific to particular geographic areas
    • Items specific to certain groups; e.g. the public and advisers
    • Items can contain sections of text visible only to specified people
  • All updates are centralised; a new software release requires just one change on the central server
  • It doesn't matter what equipment or software people have, as long as they can run a reasonably recent version of a web browser

Differences between this version of the system and the desktop one

Enquiring on the database

The intranet version of the database enquiry implements most of the features of the desktop version but there are some differences:

  1. The intranet version implements the full range of searches previously available only in the desktop maintenance program.
  2. If you are using SQL Server to store your data, you get a new ability to search the words used in database entries. Note, however, this might be suppressed in your site if it causes performance problems.
  3. In the desktop version, all pages are displayed within the same window. You have to use ‘back’ to return to the list of matches. In this version, linked pages are displayed in a separate window or tab (depending on your browser’s setup). That makes it easier to review multiple items simultaneously. There is therefore no need to provide an option to stop pages from forcing linked pages to display in a new window as there is in the desktop version.
  4. The desktop version requires you to click either the Search or AZ buttons to search the database. The intranet version will use the ‘Search’ method if you press Enter while typing in the search box.
  5. You can drag the right edge of the main page's search pane to a position that suits you best but, unlike the desktop version, the rest of the page does not resize automatically. It will adjust to fit the next time you click one of the search buttons (or refresh the page).
  6. This version does not provide a mechanism to auto-hide the search pane.
  7. This version does not show an internet search button (because web searches are supported directly by the browser).
  8. This version ignores any soft button configured to generate a web search.
  9. This version supports the special 'CABLINK' web address used by administrators with a couple of differences:
    • The desktop version supports this form of address in any page it displays (including sites it links to). This version detects CABLINK addresses only in database items.
    • This version ignores the CABLINK address variant that causes an internet search in the desktop version.
  10. This version does not provide options for zooming pages or resizing text. Instead, these features are provided directly by the browser.
  11. The desktop version uses Internet Explorer and runs under Windows PCs, this version works with just about any equipment supporting a web browser.
  12. The desktop version alerts you to updates in search results linked from a soft button by flashing the button colour. This version does this with a red border to the button.
  13. This version allows you to use the full range of features supported by your chosen browser. The desktop version implements a subset of the Internet Explorer features.
  14. This version comes with an access control system so it can be deployed on the internet without giving access to everyone. This system allows you to:
    • Restrict access to: specified items; specified sections of items; or the entire database
    • Create individual users that can each maintain their own passwords
    • Connect users together in groups to make managing access control easier
    • Set up shared ids and passwords (though that practice is not recommended)
    • Support anonymous users that do not have to log in; you can automatically assign anonymous users to a suitable group to control their access
  15. The desktop version ignores the access controls. It looks for and removes [HideFrom] tags in entries, but they have no effect. All entries and all the text of each entry are visible to desktop users that share the database with intranet users.
  16. The desktop version cannot contain a document library. Instead the document library requires the intranet version using a SQL Server database.

Making changes

The way you make changes is broadly similar between the desktop and intranet versions. There are, however, a number of differences resulting from the underlying technologies which are quite different. Most significantly:

  • Editors get the ability to create rich text for database entries using a simple editor that does not require knowledge of HTML (the language of the internet). Instead, people use highlighting and buttons like they do with, for example, Microsoft Word. The editor shows how text will appear as it is being created.
  • For each item in the database, you can specify which groups of users cannot see it.
  • When maintaining an item, you can hide sections of the text from specified groups of users.
  • If you use SQL Server, this version allows up to 800 characters for index entries. The limit in other versions is 255 characters.
  • We use a simpler method for specifying alternate index entries.
  • The desktop version tops and tails entries with <p> and </p> when displaying them in the enquiry program. That means people can create entries without knowing any HTML. The intranet version stores entries as complete web pages. The database keeps track of which version last maintained each entry, but the desktop version will require you to make extra editing changes if you update an entry that was last modified by the intranet version.

Requirements to run the system

  • Equipment
    The Local Information System is designed to run on any equipment with a reasonably modern browser. For example, we have tested it on:
    • Microsoft PCs and laptops
    • Apple PCs and laptops
    • Apple iPads
    • Android tablets and phones
  • Browser support
    We expect the system will work with most browsers. For example, we have tested it with:
    • Internet Explorer versions 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11
    • Android 'Internet'
    • Chrome (Windows and Android)
    • Firefox
    • Safari - (OS X, IOS and Windows)

    We do not intend to support IE6 or earlier.

    The intranet makes heavy use of JavaScript, which must be enabled in browsers for it to run.

Credit where it's due

In producing this application we use software provided for free by a number of individuals and organisations. In no particular order, we use:

  • The jQuery library developed by the jQuery Foundation
  • jqGrid - a jQuery-based tool for building interactive grids developed by Trirand Inc
  • CKEditor - a plugin that supports creation of rich text content developed by Frederico Knabben