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CD Indexing / Burning software

Posted on 2011-09-20
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We are looking for software to create and burn CD's full of documents that can create an index etc.

Basically need to be able to put multiple documents (Word, PDF etc.) and then have them indexed and create some soft of a navigation page so the documents can me easily navigated to from this navigation page.

Does anyone have any recommendations on such? I know allot of legal, banking and real estate companies use such.

thanks
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Question by:mortonmark
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by:BillDL
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It's easy enough to create a web page with the *.HTM or *.HTML extension with hyperlinks to the documents in the same folder or sub-folders and (hopefully) it will autorun and opens in the user's default browser when the CD is inserted.  Being a web page, when created it will have "relative" links to the target files, so when the folders and files are burned to the CD in their same hierarchy, the links will function on any computer.

I said "hopefully" above, because recent versions of Windows and security updates for previous versions tend to disable all autorun functionality for removable drives and media.

What will you do if the person inserting the CD does not have MS Word or an alternative "office" application associated with the *.doc or *.docx file type?

There are better ways to create more professional looking "autorun menus" though.  I have created a lot of similar distribution CDs and have a drive full of menu generation programs.  I will post back later with some suggestions.
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by:BillDL
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Hi mortonmark

I have looked through my old repository of programs that allow you to create your own CD "Front End" autorun menus.  Generally they all show some form of windowed interface, but they all present this in slightly different ways.  Some create a single Executable file that fetches its settings from a text-based configuration file to display clickable items and map them to files on the CD, while others take all of your files and actually pack them into a single executable with a config file.  Depending on what you need, some of these applications are free and others can range from moderately priced to quite expensive.

Before I go into any details providing loads of links and some explanation of what they do, I think at this stage it would be a very good idea to get some details from you about how much functionality from the CD you are actually looking for.

I have experimented with loads of different methods.  The most basic is an HTML Web Page that loads in the default browser when the CD is inserted, or the user navigates to the root of the CD and double-clicks on the HTM/HTML file.  You obviously have to create your "Web" locally on a hard drive, and to keep the hyperlinks all as "Relative" to the CD, it is best to arrange your folders and files in the root of a separate hard drive partition, a USB Flash Drive, or an external USB Hrd Drive.  This involves using some form of Web Page Editor to get a reasonable layout, however I have a fairly simple DOS Batch File that just does a Directory listing of the local files and redirects them to a very basic HTML page with the folder name as a header and links to all the files in each folder beneath each header.

Your problem with an HTML interface is that opening different types of files by clicking hyperlinks imposes the browser's security settings and also relies upon the user's file type associations having the necessary application of browser plugin installed to open the target file.  For example, a link to a PDF file will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the PDF file outwith the browser or, if configured to open inside the browser, the Acrobat Reader browser plugin.  The same is obviously true of all other "Office" file types that will be on the CD.

Running a Web page locally (includes from a CD) also repeatedly prompts users with security-related prompts to open files, and it's not as though you can anticipate how tight the user's security settings will be.

Some people overcome the browser security issues by creating their HTML based interface as an *.HTA application.  HTA files run in "mshta.exe" rather than the default browser, and can launch executables and loads of other things that cannot be done in an HTML/Browser.  They are treated like programs rather than as web pages, even though in many ways the underlying code is really just an advanced web page.  Writing HTA files is another issue though.  There are editors that might make it easier with little programming knowledge, but it still takes work.

I have even created interfaces in the (old) "Compiled HTML"  Windows Help format as *.CHM files using the Microsoft HTML Help application.  Windows Help files used to allow you to do a lot of things that were subsequently demonstrated as being security risks, so patches ended up disabling a lot of this functionality that had made it a useful interface before.  It is not the ideal format for reent versions of windows now.

I have successfully used quite old versions of Acrobat Reader, MS-Office Viewers, alternative "Notepad" programs, basic HTML browsers, image viewing programs, and quite a few other "standalone" programs that can run from the Read-Only medium of a CD without requiring any resources from the host PC or creating new registry entries.  Not all of he usual "portable apps" you can run from a USB Flash Drive will work though.  It depends entirely on whether the standalone programs write any settings back to their companion "config" file on closing.  Many can be configured NOT to write back, and so work.  Whether any of these older programs I have previously used will work on recent and current versions of Windows is something it would take me some time to test out.

When creating an interface that uses "viewer" programs on the CD rather than using the default program on the user's PC for that file type, you have to specifically create the command that opens the target file in the viewer application.  If you are manually editing an interface program's plain text "config" file you can use Edit > Replace in the text editor to write your commands, but this takes a bit of work and makes the method prone to errors.

Some of the Microsoft educational CDs have a dandy little autorun program that uses a plain text file as the layout and command file, but unfortunately it is really in breach of copyright to use them for other purposes.  Yes I have used them, but only to create things like my own software installer CDs.

There are a few applications that create similar layouts to the two-pane Windows Help windows.  They create their own unique types of files that store the data in plain text or some proprietory formatting.  Primarily aimed at authors, the most common use is to save chapters in text and provide an index to view and edit them.  However, some of them I saw a while ago seem capable of opening external files.  I would have to look again at these applications to check their functionality, but generally they have a really old-time "Windows 3.1" type of toolbar and navigation.

There are loads of different "Windows Explorer" replacement file browsers, some of which can run independently of Windows Explorer in their own environment.  The issue with them, even if you can get one to load as the CD Autorun Interface, is that they need a whole bunch of file type conversion libraries and viewers, and I would imagine that it requires a lot of trial and error configuring them all before committing to a CD.  

I have used a retail application that takes an entire "Web", including all the target files, and packages them up into one executable that has its own built-in Web Browser and has quite a lot of support for most recent web page technologies such as Flash, JavaScript, etc.  The browser interface can be customised to hide menus and options.  I haven't looked at the recent versions of this software, but it is possible they now have inbuilt viewers for some file types like PDFs, but I couldn't be sure.

Other fancy "CD Interface" compilers create "Flash" menus.  You will have seen this on CDs that come with motherboards or add-on cards to install drivers and software.  The Flash components are usually just re-usable standards and they fetch their settings from separate files packed into the "runner" executable.

There are simpler compilers that use a fixed program window and you just use the application to create your values (eg. bitmap image for program window, text to display, target file paths, comments, etc) and it writes them to a separate "config" file that is often just a plain text *.INI file.

Taking this to the opposite extreme, I was recently reading about the "Greenstone" project in New Zealand:
Greenstone - An Open Source suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections. It provides a new way of organizing information and publishing it on the Internet or on CD-ROM.
http://www.greenstone.org/
http://wiki.greenstone.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
http://wiki.greenstone.org/wiki/index.php/Tutorial_exercises
http://wiki.greenstone.org/wiki/gsdoc/tutorial/en/export_to_CDROM.htm
(Note: Needs the software on the target machine, and it will install from CD if the instructions in the link above are followed)
http://www.greenstone.org/download

That is probably overkill in the extreme, and requires a lot of learning, but I have no real idea of what applications or interfaces you are referring to when you mentioned that legal, banking, and real estate companies use document CDs.

Obviously your constraints will be how many clickable "links" you will be able to fit onto the interface window.  You would obviously need to have some "sub-folder" structure that is navigable from the interface, but done simply enough that the user can find their way back.

So, before I can really make any specific suggestions, could you maybe explain what kind of layout and navigability you are visualising in a browsable CD, and perhaps give some indication of how many files there will be, what types of files you expect, and how they will be categorised.

Bill
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BillDL earned 500 total points
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Some links to software that I have personally used and which should be flexible enough for most projects, but may be too feature intensive for your needs.

Retail Applications:

I have just looked at the updated offerings from Klaus Schwenk.  A lot of the standalone programs I used to use were written by him, and he has really updated his "CD Menu Pro" application quite a lot.  It comes in 3 versions:
http://www.cdmenupro.com/index.htm
http://www.cdmenupro.com/autorun-software.htm
http://www.cdmenupro.com/features.htm
http://www.cdmenupro.com/galerie.htm
There may be other software titles in the links on the right of his page to interest you.

I still have an old version of "AutoPlay MENU Studio" by IndigoRose.  They changed the name to "AutoPlay MEDIA Studio" and kept it.  I have version 7 of this but used it much less than the older version.  It's now on Version 8.
http://www.indigorose.com
http://www.indigorose.com/products/
http://www.indigorose.com/products/autoplay-media-studio/

I have an older version of HTML Executable by G.D.G. Software.  It packages up a local "Web" into a program executable and you can choose to include the "Viewer" in the package so as not to prompt the user to download and install the runtime.
http://www.htmlexe.com/
http://www.htmlexe.com/features.htm
I also used their CHM to EXE application to package up some custom Windows Help Files:
http://www.htmlexe.com/chm2exe/

Free Applications:

CD Interface Studio:
http://cdinterface.sourceforge.net/
Simple layout that might not provide you with enough flexibility.

It is also possible that Visual Studio Express (free from Microsoft on Registration) might have some project templates that might help you to create an interface program, but I am not a programmer and don't really know what is available:
http://www.microsoft.com/express
http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010-editions/express
http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2010-editions/product-comparison#expressCompareTable

You will get loads of hits by googling "cd autoplay front end menu" but it will take a while to read up on the features of each.  Perhaps add "best" and "reviews" to the search to get some articles too.
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