Magazine article Online

DIALOG Web: Finally It's Arrived

Magazine article Online

DIALOG Web: Finally It's Arrived

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DIALOG Web: Two Views

Finally it's arrived, as Alice Klingener says of DIALOG Web-without saying exactly what "it" is. Klingener has previously written about Dow Jones News/Retrieval both on and off the Web (in the November 1996 and May 1997 ONLINEs), so what could be better than this super searcher's evaluation of how the grand old name of original online managed its transition to the Web?

Well, add a second name to the dance card. Susan Klopper, who has shared her enthusiasm for M.A.I.D.'s Profound both on and off the Internet (July 1996 and July 1997 ONLINEs), went cold turkey and used DIALOG only through its Web interface during an intensive testing period. We think the dual viewpoints-developed separately-will add exponentially to your understanding of this important resource. -Susanne Bjorner

Depending on your point of view, either the Web truly arrived when DIALOG came up on it, or DIALOG truly arrived when it migrated to the Web. Either way, the appearance of an Internet interface for the DIALOG service is a significant development. While many major online services have debuted Web platforms during the past year, making the "old-line" online services easy to use for a new audience of knowledge workers is a difficult proposition at best. DIALOG has approached the problem by creating separate services: DIALOG Web for those familiar with "Classic" DIALOG; and DIALOG Select, intended for the desktops of knowledge workers [1]. Because DIALOG Web is intended more for those already proficient at online searching, it will be considered here primarily from that perspective.

EASY ON

Current DIALOG users may visit DIALOG Web at http://dialog.krinfo. com, and gain access using their existing account numbers and passwords. Nearly all of the usual DIALOG databases and commands are available, but a few are not. The missing databases are primarily gateway and menu files, along with a few newspapers that chose not to be available on DIALOG Web [2].

Most of the absent commands are quite minor and unlikely to be missed: SET ALIAS, SET POSTINGS, and KEEP CANCEL (KEEP does work, however). There are, however, some omissions that do restrict functionality: commands may not be stacked, and result sets should be limited in size to 100 records or fewer.

DIALOG Web was originally designed to work with Netscape Navigator; it has been adapted to Microsoft Explorer. At the time of this review, the system did not work as well with Explorer: in addition to some cosmetic layout issues, several navigation buttons that use JavaScript did not work at all, and if the security warning was left on, result sets were displayed twice. Knight-Ridder Information was expecting to improve performance under Explorer with the next release, which would be a good thing, as more companies are adopting Explorer as their browser of choice.

The home page is an effective point of entry into the hundreds of potential databases offered by the service. A direct link to the search interface is available, while the rest of the space is devoted to presentation of major database categories and hot links to Help, Alerts, and Knight-Ridder Information's other services. A self-paced tutorial can also be downloaded from this page.

FINDING YOUR WAY

The Database Directory is basically a browsable hypertext catalog that allows you to perform a free DIALINDEX search on supercategories or smaller groups of databases, arranged by subject. Only predefined categories may be searched, and one cannot use SF or RF to SELECT individual files or to RANK the results. (An alternative is to use "regular" DIALINDEX from the search interface proper, which works just fine.) Once a search is entered, the results come back in file number order, with a checkbox next to each file. You check off the desired files and proceed to a database search.

The basic search interface is comparatively clean and simple. The entry box for commands takes up very little space in a small frame at the bottom, while the center of the screen is devoted to viewing searches and results. …

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