Dialog quietly released an upgraded version of its professional search tool, DialogLink, to its customers in late May 2004. DialogLink 4.0 incorporates several new features and enhancements, including secure access (HTTPS), enhanced output options via new commands, Dialog eLinks, and improved reporting features with Microsoft Office.
DialogLink 4.0 is functionally equivalent to version 3.0, however users will need to evaluate carefully whether the upgrade fits into their current search habits. Unlike prior versions, the upgrade communicates via Web protocols rather than telnet/dial-up, therefore the increased functionality revolves around technologies previously only available on Dialog's Web-based platforms.
A prime example of the enhancements offered by version 4.0 is the incorporation of Dialog eLinks, which allows information professionals direct access to full text via their electronic journal subscriptions. In addition, other remote linking features enable access to Investext PDF reports and ProQuest full-text reprints directly within the interface. (For more information on these features, see the Dialog Chronolog: http://support.dialog.com/publications/chronolog/200405/.)
Cynthia Murphy, Dialog senior vice president of strategic marketing, stated: "DialogLink 4.0 represents a level of sophistication not available before (for the information professional)." Murphy noted that the development effort focused on preserving and enhancing all the search features that information professionals depend upon, while going beyond the traditional search interface available in prior versions.
DialogLink 4.0 makes frequent use of pop-up windows to improve the search experience. DIALINDEX, RANK, and EXPAND have increased functionality via pop-up windows that simplify selecting databases and terms for search development. Management of account preferences and alerts is significantly improved, and switching Dialog user IDs between Connect Time and DialUnits no longer requires modifying a user's profile. Finally, a secure HTTP connection option to Dialog services gives command searchers privacy that was previously only available on the DialogClassic Web and DialogWeb interfaces.
The most notable feature for the information professional is the enhanced post-processing reporting tool, which allows the development of multiple, offline reports in Microsoft Excel and Word from a single XML file. Using a combination of text, HTML tags, and styles in a Word template, users can create highly customized research reports with ease. The learning curve is high, although the benefit is worth the effort. For example, physical property and pharmacokinetic data from the Pharmaprojects database (stored in XML) can be reported in an Excel table, while the clinical and indications data from the same set of records can be reported in a customized Word report. Since all reporting is accomplished offline, there is no charge to generate multiple reports from the same data set.
The upgrade to version 4.0 is limited to Microsoft Windows users, and requires the installation of Microsoft .NET Framework (version 1.1). In terms of functionality, only a handful of features are eliminated in the new version, such as the loss of dial-up support, removal of the TARGET command, and the CURRENT qualifier. Surprisingly, several unsupported legacy commands still function properly in the release. Support for DialogLink 3.0 users will continue, including dial-up access, and both versions can coexist on the same machine.
DialogLink 4.0 continues a progression of enhancements to the Dialog platform in 2004 that should please both new and experienced Dialog users. (See: "Dialog Technology Changes Foreshadow Improvements," http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16495.) The DialogLink 4.0 software installer is provided at no charge to Dialog customers, and is available for download at: http://support.dialog.com/downloads/dialoglink/.
[Editor's Note: McBride plans a thorough review of DialogLink 4.0 for a future "Better Mousetrap" column in Searcher.]