The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

Folger Tooltips: The limits of “Set Limits” in Hamnet

Following up on last month’s post about the new-and-improved “Limit location” in Hamnet, the one that lets you quickly limit your search to one of four locations, including just Vault material, I thought I should say a few words about the limits of the “Set Limits” feature.

Set limits first

Hamnet display with "set limits" link circled

When you go to a Search screen, the system very helpfully puts the cursor in the text box, prompting you to start typing. So, naturally, you start typing search terms, picking options from the drop-downs, and feeling very proud of yourself for knowing just the right combination of And, Or, and Not to get what you want. Then, working from top to bottom, left to right, you see the “Set Limits” link at the lower right, and decide to make your search even more accurate by limiting it to just Vault material, and just French-language material, and just material created between 1550 and 1625, or whatever, so you click “Set Limits.” 

Hamnet search screen with Location limits circled

On the “Search Limits” page, you continue to refine what you’re looking for, confident that instead of 10,000 search results (the maximum returned per search) you’ll get the four of five you really want. Then you click the “Set Limits” button… and… NOTHING! The text boxes are blank, and the drop-downs are back to their default values.

So remember, if you want to set search limits, set the limits FIRST. Then go back and enter the search terms. Also, rest assured, we know this is crazy. The next user interface for Hamnet will be more intuitive, I promise. In the mean time, thank you for your patience.

Limits only work for “keyword” searches

The good news is, all searches on the Advanced Search screen are keyword searches, so after setting limits, everything (should) just work. The bad news is, the Basic Search screen includes a mix of “browse” searches and “keyword” searches. Currently, searches that can accept limits are marked with an asterisk, and the meaning of the asterisk is almost impossible to find. You have to scroll down and notice the “NOTE” below the main search screen, on the left.

Message reading "NOTE: [ * ] indicates limits may be set prior to searching"

The only possibility for improvement within the constraints of the existing software would be changing the text in the “Find results in” list to something more informative. For example, replacing the asterisks with the phrase “can set limits” or adding “cannot set limits” to the label for each “browse” search. Please leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section. (Personally, I’m leaning toward “cannot set limits” in parentheses.)

It could be worse

If it makes you feel any better, there’s a quirk that only affects Folger staff who make heavy use of Hamnet and the “staff modules” that let us edit records. You know how “all of these” is the default Advanced Search in Hamnet, so you just type in a bunch of keywords then hit “Enter” without stopping to think about it? The default in the staff module is “any of these” so you just type in a bunch of keywords…

Search screen with "any of these" selected

then hit “Enter” without stopping to think about it…. Search screen with 500 of 10,000 results showing

…and you’re stuck helplessly clicking the “Stop” button while the system chugs through the database fifty records at a time. Somewhere around 4,000 records or so, it eventually gets around to stopping. But by that point, it’s too late: you’ve already screamed “Noooooooo!” and disturbed everyone else in the office.

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