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Non-image files

This is a new feature added since the manual was printed.

Cardbox allows you to store things other than text. Image fields hold images, and object fields hold objects conforming to Microsoft's OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) protocol.

Since the Cardbox books were printed, Cardbox has been extended so that image fields don't just store images, they store any kind of file at all. We refer to this kind of image field content as "Non-image files".

How to enable this feature in older builds of Cardbox

In Cardbox 3.1 this feature is automatically enabled. In older builds of Cardbox you need to enable it by hand. To do this, go to Tools > Options > Menus and turn on the option labelled "Allow non-image files in image fields". This enables the "Load Non-Image File" command described below.

What you can do with non-image files

Read them into Cardbox
When you are adding or editing a record, right-click on the image field, and you will see a new menu command, "Load Non-Image File". When you use it, a window will pop up that lets you choose the file you want to put into the image field. If you don't see the command, you are using an older build of Cardbox. Either upgrade to the latest version, or follow the instructions in "How to enable this feature...", above.
See them on the screen
When you look at an image field that contains a non-image file, you will see an icon. This is the same sort of icon that you would see if the file was sitting on your desktop.
View or play their contents
When you right-click on an image field that contains a non-image file, you will see a menu entry called "View File". This will open the file just as if you had it on your desktop and double-clicked it. What happens next depends on the file. If it is a Word document, it will be opened in Word. If it is a music or video clip, it will be played.
Save them to your disk
When you right-click on an image field that contains a non-image file, you will see a menu entry called "Save As". This will open a window that lets you choose where you want to save the file.

Non-image files and ordinary images

An image field can contain any mixture of ordinary images and non-image files. Obviously there are more things that you can do with an image than you can with a non-image file. You can view an image within Cardbox, zooming in or out if you want, and you can print the image.

Isn't it confusing, using image fields for both purposes?

We hope not. We felt that it was important to be able to mix images and document files in the same field in a record - or, alternatively, to have some records in a database containing images and other records containing video clips. We didn't want to complicate the simple concepts of Cardbox by adding yet another field type.

Can an image file be a non-image file?

This question sounds absurd - but the answer is Yes. Cardbox does all sorts of processing when importing images, to scale them down or compress them. Usually this is what you want, but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you want to store a BMP or TIFF or PDF file exactly the way it is, without changing a single byte. In that case, load it into Cardbox as a non-image file.

Non-image files and object fields

Object fields contain entities called "objects" that conform to Microsoft's OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) protocol. OLE objects are complex things and not many programs support them properly. There have been cases when upgrading from one version of a program to another has resulted in its objects no longer working. In contrast, non-image files are very, very simple. They are files and nothing more: they require no special programming support of any kind.

Because non-image files are not OLE objects, you can do only two things with them: view them, and save them to disk. In fact, those two things are really the same: when you tell Cardbox you want to view a non-image file, it stores it in a temporary location on your disk and asks Windows to open it from there. OLE objects are more sophisticated: they can appear on the screen as more than just an icon, and right-clicking on them will pop up a menu that may have more commands on it than just "View" and "Save".

Which do I choose?

Use non-image files unless you have a very good reason for risking the extra complexity of object fields and the Microsoft OLE solution.

What is this feature for?

It has several uses. For instance, if you are maintaining a "scan-and-shred" archive of all your correspondence, some of the documents may exist as Word files. You can store these files as non-image files in the image field, in the same place as the scanned papers that you are archiving. Previously, the alternative was to print out a document and then scan it, which was tedious and wasteful.

Because a non-image file maintains its contents unchanged, you can store it in your archive and later retrieve it using "Save As" and edit it further. This is something you can't do if you just store a scanned image of a document.

This feature is also useful as a quick and simple method of backup, if you are using a database that is stored away from your PC, on a network server or somewhere on the Internet. To make a backup copy of a file, just create a new Cardbox record and load the file into it as a non-image file. You will now have a backup copy of your file stored away from your PC - and if the Cardbox database is being backed up automatically, that backup copy will soon have backups itself.

© 2016 Martin Kochanski
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