This is a "fan" website loosely based around tools & techniques useful with Panorama, a powerful database by ProVUE Development.
The special focus of this website is using Panorama running on Macintosh web servers to deliver database content and interactivity on the Internet. Details below. Even with the spotlight on Panorama, most of the information here is useful to anyone thinking about running their own web server, especially when based on the Macintosh OS.
I bought Panorama the same day I bought my first 512K "Fat Mac" in early 1985 (it was called OverVUE then). Since that time, I've bought hundreds of software programs and upgrades - seems like I own a copy of everything ever developed for the Macintosh. I've also picked up a substantial collection of Windows software as well.
I would have to rank Panorama as my all-time favorite computer software, even above stellar packages like Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and Adobe After Effects. I was productive within minutes of starting with Panorama, but even though simple to use, this is the rare package that truly has infinite depth and capability.
I'm no super geek, and I don't consider myself a programmer. That's the beauty of Panorama -- if I can do cool stuff, it means that lots of other people can, too. (There are plenty of *real* programmers using Panorama - I just hope the code I post here doesn't draw ridicule!)
Over the years, I've become known on the official Panorama QNA list server as one of the people who have written and deployed a variety of Panorama database applications for the web. I've posted many questions, and answered lots of questions too, both on and off the list.
For now, this page is a link list of things I associate with Panorama. Maybe other users will find it useful. For myself, I am using Panorama these days mostly for creating websites and providing enhanced web interactions. Panorama has awesome text processing capabilities, and text files are the foundation of the Internet. Panorama is a perfect fit for the web.
This website is not altruistic. Panorama allows me to create custom applications. My intention is to use this site as a place to organize and document my own projects.
Databases are like machine tools. Where early man's first efforts were direct - clubs and rocks - the real power is in creation of compound tools... tools used to create new generations of super tools. Panorama is like that. The first day you install it, you can complete real work like keeping a church phone directory. Then, as time goes on -- well, knowledge is power. Where Panorama really comes into its own is when you begin to use simple lists to do amazing work.
This website is where I intend to organize my Panorama workshop and all the tools I create, plus a note pad for ideas. Maybe these will be useful to other Panorama users. Perhaps other Panorama users would like to contribute code, databases, or articles.
Maybe I'll find time to clean up the presentation here someday, but for now, I hope the beginnings below are useful.
March 14, 2001
Interesting developments that may present opportunities for Panorama developers.
PanSTAR is a WebSTAR compatible plug-in which allows Panorama databases to be deployed on the web. It does not ship with Panorama, but can be obtained by contacting ProVUE.
SiteWarrior is ProVUE Development's website production "factory" written in Panorama. SiteWarrior is actually a content management system - a database that controls and delivers structured content on the web. This is about the least expensive animal of this type available on the market - the high-end content management systems sell for up to $100,000.
If you are not familiar with content management, these are the tools that allow sites with heavy loads of information to manage constant change. News sites such as CNN are a prime example.
There are different ways to go about content management:
Static: HTML formatted text files are written to disk on the web server. Often times, these pages are created manually one at a time using software such as Adobe GoLive, Macromedia Dreamweaver, or Microsoft Front Page. Upside: serve fast, low server load, search engine friendly. Can be served on virtually any web server anywhere without modification. Persons creating web pages need to know little about server and end delivery. Downside: can't change depending on moment-to-moment conditions, no interactivity.
Dynamic: The database is online under control of the web server and creates HTML on the fly at the moment of request, not beforehand as with static pages. Upside: pages can be interactive and adapt content delivery to customize to best meet needs of each user. Downside: search engine hostile, horrendous long URLs, and high CPU overhead on web server, large programming overhead, usually requires learning a variety of scripting languages, and the website created must be delivered by a highly configured/high maintenance web server. Production involves a far greater range of skills than Static page creation - including programmers and scripters.
Hybrid: (my terminology) - Static HTML text files written to disk that extensively use Server Side Include (SSI) technology, which allows the web server to build the final page delivered by assembling various bits and pieces from different text files previously written to disk. Upside: Achieves most of the benefits of both static and dynamic content delivery, with few of their negatives. Downside: can be challenging to author, requires mix & match technology from a variety of vendors, and must be delivered by a specially configured web server, though not as advanced as required by true dynamic delivery. Intermediate difficulty production - more advanced than simple Static page creation, but not nearly as difficult as full Dynamic website building.
Of these types of content management, SiteWarrior is clearly intended for static page generation only. SiteWarrior is not server software - it is an application that runs on a single user Macintosh. What SiteWarrior produces is ASCII text files written out to disk. The difference between this tool and other static page creation systems like Dreamweaver or GoLive is that SiteWarrior approaches website creation and content management from the side of structure, site management & situations where source information is maintained in databases. Normal web production programs like those from Adobe, Macromedia, and Microsoft FrontPage are more oriented towards creative graphic artists who will build pages by hand, and rely on laborious proofreading to maintain their websites over time as the source information and data changes.
Opinion: My world view is not creatives vs. engineers. If you are building a website, it is your job to communicate. Design = Communication Engineering. The bottom line is, you've got to get both creative and engineering right if you want your website to work.
To build a website in SiteWarrior, you must get your hands dirty with the HTML code. Where that code comes from is another matter -- GoLive or Dreamweaver might be excellent starting points. Once you get the prototype HTML into SiteWarrior, it serves as a "template" to mass produce web pages based on database contents.
Anybody who knows HTML understands that it is simply plain text, and that it contains "tags" which in effect make an HTML document modular, something you can put together and tear apart like Lego blocks. Once you get your page design defined with a tool like GoLive, Dreamweaver, or BBEdit, you simply look inside the text and identify which pieces change and which pieces stay the same from one page to the next on your website. After you know what changes, you want to remove the hard-coded portions of the HTML text, and build a Panorama formula that fills in these blanks from the records of your database. This is not much different than a mail merge in word processing, or from printing mailing labels.
You must be able to manipulate HTML code and understand HTML tags to be effecte with SiteWarrior. The best candidates for SiteWarrior are websites that expect heavy maintenance, or websites where large numbers of similar pages need to be created from structured data (database records). SiteWarrior is not as appropriate for freeform creative works, where pages are created randomly with little advanced planning.
As supplied, SiteWarrior is a single user system. This is the major restriction - it requires a fairly expert user with SiteWarrior knowledge plus a good understanding of HTML. Many websites are produced by multi-user teams. If your need is to support multiple content creators, as opposed to having one person do it all solo, then SiteWarrior may not be the answer, at least not straight out-of-the-box.
If you are a Panorama developer, SiteWarrior has the potential to become an outstanding multi-user content management system. The program contains hooks so that it can extract information out of any database created in Panorama and use the data to generate web pages. If you have a multi-user Panorama application, SiteWarrior may be the perfect way for you to deploy your databases on the web, and extend the powers of web authoring to every current Panorama user in your client's organization -- all with no special staff web training required. Add the power of AppleScript plus timed batch processing tricks, and it may be possible to extend a multi-user Panorama application into fullblown web publishing without any an on-site SiteWarrior user or webmaster-type specialist.
Add proximity-based calculations to your website. ZipBurst can calculate the distance between any two 5-digit Zip Codes, plus generate ranked lists of "nearest dealers" to a specified address.
Extends functionality of various free Internet mail servers, adding multiple domain capabilities & other functions. Special interest to Panorama users: Drop Folder enables Panorama to become industrial strength mail/list server by simply writing out text files to a MailBurst watched folder.
An e-mail to fax gateway. May be useful to support customers who are still in the dark ages. When they receive an e-mail, FaxBee in turn sends it to their fax machine.
Maxum Development's awesome Server Side Include extension for WebSTAR compatible web servers.
MacASP is a server side processor that is compatible with many Macintosh web servers. It is freeware if used with MacHTTP or Apple's Personal Web Sharing. "ASP" is Microsoft nomenclature for "Active Server Page", which is Microsoft's web database technology. MacASP is not related in any way to the Microsoft product.
Quid Pro Quo
Freeware Macintosh webserver that will run WebSTAR plug-ins such as PanSTAR and NetCloak. Support this product by upgrading to the nominally priced multi-domain version!
Note: Quid Pro Quo appears to be defunct.
The premiere web server suite for Macintosh. Latest version includes web, mail, and ftp servers. See "Extending WebSTAR" pages on WebSTAR website for many additional useful Mac server products and utilities -- too many to include here.
MacHTTP was the original web server for Machintosh. Developed by Chuck Shotton, also the creator of WebSTAR. MacHTTP is still being developed, and may support WebSTAR plug-ins.
Powerful URL processing, redirecting, much more. Standard equipment on my servers.
Note: Andreas Pardeike is now on the WebSTAR development team, and Welcome has been acquired by 4D/WebSTAR.
Bare Bones Software / BBEdit
Outstanding text editor - great for building web pages, great for composing Panorama procedures. Powerful freeware version, but support quality code by purchasing the full version which has a greatly expanded toolset supporting HTML composition, among other things. Once you have used this text editor, you will never look back!
VSE Be Found
If you want a successful website, you must do battle on the search engines. Registration and rankings used to be simple, but not any more. There are dozens of major search engines, each striving constantly for a competitive advantage. As a result, search engine ranking algorithms are constantly changing. No web publisher can possibly keep track - you need professional assistance. VSE Be Found is great Macintosh shareware that is constantly updated. Visit the VSE website for more information, or click the banner ad above to purchase. We use this software and recommend it - if you buy it here, 15% of the purchase price goes towards maintenance of panfan.net.
Note: VSE Be Found is useful for anyone who has a website, not just for web production people. It does not matter how or where your website is hosted, or what the server platform is (Mac, Unix, Linux, Windows, etc.), but you must have a Macintosh to run VSE Be Found. (This is not server software - it runs on any Mac with an Internet connection.)
Because keeping track of programming and ranking engine changes at dozens of search engines is a major ongoing task, VSE Be Found is subscription-based software. Be prepared to pay an annual subscription fee, less than $100 currently. It is well worth it.
Website design, management, and production tool.
Outstanding shareware graphics tool for low-cost manipulation of pixel graphics. Photoshop-like capabilities for web graphics. New AppleScript support means that Panorama can control Graphic Converter. One thing I am considering is building websites where there is an HTML upload for photos (you can incorporate a file upload into a web form). Writing the uploaded file into an FTP directory could trigger an AppleScript Folder Action invoking a Panorama procedure. Panorama is able to look at .gif and .jpg files and determine their size in pixels. If the uploaded files exceed a set specification, something has to be done. Face it - end users with digital cameras and scanners have no idea of the difference between a 2MB file and a 22k version optimized for the web. But Panorama could send an AppleScript command to Graphic Converter to downsample the image, and once complete, another Folder Action could alert Panorama to take the file, move it to an appropriate directory, and serve it on the web.
Database publishing tools for Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign. Formats typesetting codes so that entire databases can be exported with desktop publishing tags for massive publishing tasks such as College Course Catalogs, HMO Physician Directories, and phone books.
Low cost shareware printer driver for creating (.pdf) files without buying Adobe Acrobat. Enables Panorama reports to be output as PDF files.
"Application Servers" is a general term used to describe database applications which are deployed on the Internet.
WebSiphon is a highly regarded server side processor that is really a programming language with embedded database for web servers. This product is not related to Panorama, but some developers may find it useful. It has capability to use ODBC data sources.
Lasso is a middleware product that links databases to web servers. Lasso was specific to Filemaker in the beginning, but is now more oriented to ODBC data sources. The latest Lasso Web Data Engine is deployed under OS X (in addtion to various Windows and Linux OSes), and contains an embedded mySQL database. No relation to Panorama, which is unsupported by this product.
Originally developed as a freestanding middleware product/application server by a company called Allaire, Cold Fusion was acquired by Macromedia as a means to integrate database-powered websites into the Dreamweaver environment. There are two parts to Cold Fusion: a development environment, and a server deployment engine. The development environment was reworked into a supercharged version of Dreamweaver called Dreamweaver UltraDev. In late spring 2002, the Cold Fusion development environment become part of Dreamweaver MX.
Cold Fusion runs on an impressive array of server platforms, none of which is Macintosh. Allaire never supported Macintosh, so this product is an PC-only exception to Macromedia's generally good record of Mac support. Since Cold Fusion is available for Linux, Solaris, and HP-UX, it may become available for Macintosh OS X.
Frankly, Macintosh is not a player in big league database driven websites. If you are a small developer, it is good to know that you can accomplish almost anything using Mac web servers and software like the packages listed above. In many cases, that will be fine. Most mid-to-small clients don't concern themselves with how a project is being accomplished or what technology is used.
The same is not true in the corporate world. Of the application servers listed above, only Cold Fusion is likely to be mentioned in the help wanted pages of any major Sunday newspaper.
Be forewarned: the information on this page is useful for people who want to get the job done, not for people who are concerned with a job training program.
There are many application servers not mentioned here. See product offerings from Microsoft ASP & .NET, IBM, Oracle, etc. for more information.
One additional observation about databases & the web: many major websites have developed their own systems based on open source middleware and application servers. I don't know current details, but examples might include: Yahoo, Amazon.com, eBay, etc. Some of the world's most advanced web projects are built on open source technology.
Microsoft ASP and Oracle tend to be the middle ground, corporations that are not "dot coms", but which are adapting to the web. These platforms are generating a lot of jobs.
The solutions discussed on this page are, on one hand, low-end, but in many respects resemble the free-wheeling approach to advanced website construction that typify high end websites.
Free downloads of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) database, which replaced the Standard Industrial Classification system (SIC codes) beginning in 1997.
Do you have useful Panorama code? Share it here! We will deliver via the panfan.net FTP server.
All databases must be Panorama format (no ASCII text - don't want to support anyone but Panorama users!)
Our link list to other Panorama sites on the net.
Panorama / Developer Tools
Panorama developer. Be sure to join the QNA mail list. The panfan.com site will not maintain a separate mail list - all developments on this website will be announced on the official Panorama list.
Gary Yonaites' Panorama Utilities Page, with details on Gary's flagship shareware PanoMAGIC utility, plus lots of other freeware utilities for Panorama developers.
Extremely useful text processor for cleaning up ASCII text files, which often get all sorts of odd line endings and strange characters added as they pass between various computers, operating systems, and networks.
Jim Cook develops commercial software using Panorama. His products showcase the power of this database.
Jim Cook develops commercial software using Panorama. His products showcase the power of this database.
For more commercial Panorama application developers, see the ProVUE Development website "Partners" section.