Mailing lists, company directories, product catalogs — any type of “bulk” information that has a uniform structure — belongs in a database. By structure I mean something that can be broken down into records and fields. For example, a simple database of contact information where a record would be comprised of the fields first name, last name, address, city, state, zip and phone number. Or a catalog record with the fields product name, model number, description, price, photo. You can do amazing things with the data once in the database — all kinds of searches, sorting, reporting, estimating — everything except professional graphic design and layout. That is what tools like QuarkXPress and InDesign are for. What if you could marry the two and be able to publish your data to a layout tool? You can using the concept of database publishing.

Quark and InDesign both support a plugin architecture and there are a few companies that offer database plugins. I use XData from Em Software. They have a great walkthrough that explains the whole process here that can be applied to the Mac or Windows version and that also holds true for both XPress and InDesign.

You aren’t limited to print publishing, either. Many web hosting providers support MySQL (UNIX platform) and Access (Windows platform) allowing you to add your data to your web pages. In this fashion, you can maintain the data and avoid having to maintain hundreds, possibly thousands of static HTML pages by generating web pages in response to your users’ requests. Take a look at one example I developed for wine distributor Hand Picked Selections. Check out the links Find HPS Wines, the Top 40, and Appellations & Varietals. They are all accessed via PHP queries (in the HTML files) to several MySQL tables. And as in the print version, all you need are a few HTML templates to display the results of the query. To change the look of the pages, you simply change the templates.

TeKno Ziz provides the knowledge and expertise to create print and web projects such as these. Please call when you are considering a project of this nature, and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

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