1.0 GETTING STARTED WITH THE ONLINE INVENTORY
1.1 Q. "I'm new to the Online Inventory. How do I get started?"
A. You may want to begin by reading the "Getting Started"
1.2 Q. "I think I understand the basics, but I'd like to check out the other features. Can you
suggest a quick tour?"
A. Sure. Begin with the 'All records' link in the left menu. Then start exploring with your mouse.
Tip: before clicking an icon or other image, let your mouse hover for a second or two to check for
hidden text. Eventually head back to the home page, and try some of the other menu links. Be
sure to spend a bit of time on the 'Checkbox and Preset Search' page.
1.3 Q. "Why is the search box on the home page so small?"
A. To discourage new visitors from typing whole sentences. Only a few words should suffice.
1.4 Q. "But when I look up 'Petrophyton caespitosum ssp. acuminatum,' the letters go
off-screen. You should make a longer box!"
A. We could lengthen it, yes. But for now, try searching on 'petr* caes*'. This 'wildcard' technique
can save much time and grief, particularly for those of us who are clumsy typers. (Update: For a
REALLY big box, try 'Query By List of Names'.) (7-22-05)
1.5 Q. "That wildcard method is cool! Can I use it to look up several species at the same
A. Sure. Suppose you want to look up Downingia pusilla, Gratiola heterosepala, and Juncus
leiospermus var. aherti. Try this: 'down* pusi* grat* heter* junc* leio*'. Bizarre, but
it works. (7-08-04)
1.6 Q. "I want to look up several species at the same time. Can I paste a list of species into
the search box?"
A. We now provide a special form for this purpose, 'Query By List of Names'. You can type directly
into the box, or you can paste a list of names copied from a text-file, MS-Word document, etc.
Note that Internet Explorer seems to max-out at about 64 names per search, but other browsers
will go higher. (7-22-05)
1.7 Q. "I notice there are several ways to search besides the quick search form. Which search
method will work best for me?"
A. Here are some short descriptions. Start with the method that seems to best suit your needs, but
we suggest that you try them all:
- Quick Search Form
- convenient and flexible; search forms are provided on many Inventory pages
- Checkbox and Preset search
- many preset search terms that can be used individually or in
- Nine Quad Search
- a tool for botanical consultants; integrated with Checkbox Search
- Query Builder
- for 'power users'; provides access to additional search and report-generating
- Query By List of Names
- type or paste lists of names; options similar to Query Builder.
1.8 Q. "Is the Quick Search Form just for plant names?"
A. You can use the quick form to search for anything in the entire database. Even the most
complex searches can be initiated via the quick form. But unless you are an 'expert,' it
is easier and faster to do complex searches via Query Builder, Checkbox Search, or Query By
List of Names.
1.9 Q. "The Query Builder looks rather intimidating. Is there an easier way to do complex
A. Try Checkbox and Preset Search.
2.0 SAVING YOUR WORK
2.1 Q. "Your bookmarking system looks a lot like a 'shopping cart'".
A. True. But we prefer to think of it as a 'Plant Press'.
2.2 Q. "Yow! My Plant Press just emptied itself!"
A. Sorry about that. At present, we give you one full hour to work with your Press. During that
period you can open and close your browser with impunity, but don't log-off the Internet. In an
emergency, and if you provide us with a good excuse, we may be able to resurrect a defunct
2.3 Q. "How can I save my work between visits to the Online Inventory?"
A. There are several ways to save your work between visits.
1. The first is automatic: the Inventory saves your last five searches in a cookie on your computer.
2. You can save Inventory pages to your hard drive, but be sure to give each page a unique name.
Note that each page is stamped with the date and time that the page was downloaded. Also
note that the links on saved Plant Press pages remain useful, even after the Press that
generated it becomes defunct.
3. And since every search begins as a URL-based query from your browser to the Inventory, you
can bookmark searches the same way that you bookmark websites.
2.4 Q. "I'd like to keep a menu or template of my favorite search strings, not just the last five."
A. Try this simple but flexible approach: Search strings and search URLs can be copied and pasted
to a text-editor (such as NotePad or NoteTab Light), where you can edit them, add notes, and save
them to a file. To re-use your search strings or search URLs, just copy and paste them back into
the same place you found them (Inventory Quick Search Form or your browser address bar).
3.0 WRITING REPORTS
3.1 Q. "I'd like to print a list of species and associated data, but your search lists and Plant
Press only show the scientific and common names, the family, and the CNPS List
A. Plant Press, Query Builder, and Query By List of Names allow you to reformat the list as a Status
and Rarity Report, an Ecological Report, a Location Report, or Custom Report, each with
appropriate fields. (Plant Press has no Custom Report.) (7-22-05)
3.2 Q. "You don't provide report formats for several of my needs."
A. Download the data in CSV format, from either the Plant Press or Query Builder. Then open the
data in your favorite spreadsheet, database, or word processor application, and reformat however
you wish. If you devise a cool template that you'd like to share, please contact us, and we will
make it available.
3.3 Q. "How does one use CSV data in a word-processor document?"
A. Use the 'mail merge' feature of your word-processor to to merge downloaded data into a document
table, for example. For a starter template, modify one of your usual reports. A single table
can have some columns assigned to receive merged data, and others assigned for manual entry.
3.4 Q. "What is XML, and what is it good for?"
A. XML is a relatively new data format, designed for easy conversion to formatted output. If you have
moderate computer skills, we can show you how to convert your Inventory search results into
hardcopy Inventory printed pages, such as this sample 'Sensitive Plants of Lassen County'
You will need a basic understanding of how to read and edit plain-text files, an XSL template
supplied by us, and freely available software (Treebeard or FOP and the Java Runtime Environment).
Contact us for more information. (2-6-06)
4.0 ABOUT LOCATIONS AND MAPS
4.1 Q. "Why are there no quad scatterplots for List 4 taxa?".
A. Our current data for this group is insufficiently comprehensive for that purpose. Because of this,
we provide no quad data at all for List 4 taxa. The absence of these data means that if you specify
quad numbers in a search request, the search results will automatically exclude List 4 taxa.
Restated: if you are seeking List 4 info, be sure not to specify quads in your search requests!
4.2 Q. "The Inventory says that Puccinellia howellii is not found in my project quad, so now I
won't have to include it in my sensitive plant survey. What a time-saver - thanks, guys!"
A. Hold it. Stop, and read the reminder: 'Species not recorded for a given area may nonetheless be
present, especially where favorable conditions occur'. Now read it again.
4.3 Q. "Where can I see the new Quad Count variable, and what can I do with it?"
A. Quad Count (aka 'Q123_count') can be seen in the record displays for List 1-3 taxa, immediately
preceding the list of quads. You can use it to compare the distribution of plants. Begin with the
Query Builder. To check which plants are found in fewer or more than a certain number of quads,
use the appropriate numerical operator. One caveat: List 4 taxa are treated as having zero quad
count. (For an explanation, see item 4.1.) So if you use the 'less than' operator, then you must
add a second search term specifically to to exclude List 4 plants. (7-24-05)
4.4 Q. "How can I search for plants in quad 37B without also getting plants from 137B, 237B,
A. If you search for '037B' you will not get the other quads. Likewise, if you want 9B, search on
'009B'. All DWR quad codes should be specified with three digits. (When using Nine Quad Search,
you may omit the leading zeros.) (9-16-05)
5.0 SPECIAL NEEDS
5.1 Q. "Can you furnish me with the correct name of the oak-like plant/tree growing on the SE
corner of 11th St. and Pismo in Los Osos?
A. Oooh ... that mail icon in the toolbar is so tempting! (Standard procedure is to direct such inquiries
to the local chapter.)
6.0 CHECKBOX and PRESET SEARCH
6.1 Q. "The Checkbox and Preset Search page provides two types of searches. What is each
type good for?"
A. The form-based search (checkboxes, text entry areas, submit button, etc.) allows you to
search on a combination of terms. But we also let you click on a single term, so that
you can search it independently of whatever else is already marked in the form. Likewise,
if you are interested in only one term, you can click it directly and skip the checkboxes
and search button. (8-02-04)
6.2 Q. "I want to use the checkboxes to search for Lists 1A,1B,2 in five quads. I figure I can
search each quad separately and accumulate the results in the Plant Press."
A. Try this instead:
1. Do a nine-quad search for those Lists.
2. Note the search string at the top of the page.
3. Edit this string to do what you want.
4. Resubmit... et Voilá! (7-06-04)
6.3 Q. "How do I use Checkbox and Preset Search to produce a plant list for several counties
A. The counties pull-down allows you to select one county or several. Try selecting with either
Shift-click or Alt-click; one of these methods should work for you. As an alternative, you can
select only one county, and then edit the resulting search string. Add more counties by
separating each by '|' (the 'OR' operator). This method works with word fragments, but do NOT
add extraneous spaces or a wildcard ('*'). (7-07-04)
6.4 Q. "How about adding a report option to the checkboxes, like there is in Query Builder and
A. To get reports from Checkbox and Preset Search, start your search in the accustomed manner.
Then copy the generated search string into Query Builder, and use the report options there.
7.0 QUERY BUILDER
7.1 Q. "I prefer Query Builder because it allows me to choose report fields, but I can't use it for
Nine Quad searches because Query Builder has only five input fields."
A. One input field is sufficient, if you seperate quad entries with the '|' character (the 'OR' operator).
Alternatively you can first search one quad only, and then add the other quads to the resulting
single quad search string. The easiest approach, however, is to start with a standard Nine Quad
Search, and then copy the generated search string into Query Builder. (8-02-04)
7.2 Q. "I've wondered why the Query Builder uses different and more technical-sounding field
names than the ones shown elsewhere in the Inventory. I think it's fairly clear how
the two sets correspond, but wouldn't it be less confusing if you used only one set of
A. Yes, and no. We are trying to accommodate more than one type of user. A 'power user' should be
aware of the true field names, because they are the ones seen in the search strings generated by
Query Builder (and Checkbox and Preset Search). To check the relationship between the true
name and the spiffed-up version seen by most visitors, follow the 'Database Structure' link on
the Documentation page. (6-29-04)
8.0 BEYOND THE BASICS
8.1 Q. "I want to become a 'power user'. Is there a guide to the language that your search
A. The Inventory understands two search languages.
1. The first, we can call it 'Quick Search,' was
designed to be similar to what was used by the old Alta Vista search engine. Instructions are
available via the all tips and help
link below each quick search form.
2. The second type is based on the 'regular expressions' system. Let Query Builder and Checkbox
and Preset Search show you the fundamentals. (Each includes additional help.) Though the
subtleties of this system border on the arcane, the Inventory search strings are pretty easy
to figure out. Experiment. We're here to help you.
8.2 Q. "Our office uses your data to prepare reports. Today I noticed that you just made one
of your quarterly updates. We normally like to cite the latest data, but we have a
final draft due next week, and we won't have time to cross-check our work with the new
A. Good news! It's easier to check for new changes. Visit the documentation page, and look for the
computer-generated difference file that compares the current and previous revisions. Data for
changed taxa are displayed side-by-side, with the differences highlighted in red. With this new
tool, checking for changes should take only a few minutes. (10-10-05)
9.0 BROWSER and NETWORK ISSUES
9.1 Q. "What is the best browser to use with the Online Inventory?"
A. The Inventory is intended to work properly with all standards-compliant browsers of recent vintage.
We avoid using features that 'work best' in a particular browser. Whether you use Opera 9,
Firefox 2, or the older Internet Explorer 6, the Inventory should work equally well, and have nearly
the same appearance. As for window size, the standard non-framed form of the Inventory is
designed to look best on display windows that are approximately 800 pixels wide. (1-26-07)
9.2 Q. "Are there any browsers that you recommend NOT using?"
A. Fortunately, very few people are still using the notorious Netscape 4.x series for MS-Windows.
For those who are, we recommend upgrading to Mozilla Firefox, a first-rate browser with good
security features, distributed at no cost, and which is also available for Mac OS X and other
operating systems. (7-24-05)
9.3 Q. "Both the thumbnail images and the maps are now missing on my home computer, but
they are still visible at work. For what it's worth, at home I recently re-installed
A. The IE security setting, 'Access data sources across domains' probably got changed to 'disabled'.
For websites that pull content from several domains - such as the Inventory - you may want this
setting 'enabled'. (7-22-05)
9.4 Q. "About a week ago, the maps went missing on my home computer, but they are still
visible at work."
A. Are you using 'Norton Internet Security' to block pop-ups and banner ads? After you read what
webmasters have to say about this product (link
), you might want to consider alternatives, such as
Opera or Firefox for blocking pop-ups, and eDexter for blocking banners. Opera and Firefox also
have better security than Internet Explorer. (7-22-05)