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Understanding the Hyperlink Base

If you use any of the hyperlinked document fields available in LIMS, it is important to understand the purpose of the Hyperlink Base field on the Workstation Configuration screen. Hyperlinked document fields allow linking external documents to a LIMS record and are available on the Results by Analyte, Results by Sample, Customers (Contact History), Instruments, and Methods screens. While hyperlinks can be created for web pages and email addresses, they are most often used to provide access to external document files.

When you add a new hyperlink to a document, you can make the path to the document an absolute, or fixed, path. Alternatively, using the hyperlink base, you can add the hyperlink with a path that is relative to a base folder. Relative paths make the hyperlinks somewhat portable since you will only need to change the hyperlink base if the documents are moved to a new location.

An example will help to illustrate the benefits of relative paths using the hyperlink base. Assume we have a standalone installation of LIMS where both the LIMS software and database are installed in the default C:\LIMS folder. To keep all of our hyperlinked documents well organized we have created additional folders Customers, Instruments, Methods, and Samples within the C:\LIMS folder as shown below.

We have also created additional folders within the Customers folder to organize customer-specific documents. Assume that we just mailed a letter to ABC Company and we want to add a hyperlink to the letter in the Contact History section of the Customers setup screen. Without a defined hyperlink base, we can add a hyperlink to the letter, which will have an absolute path to folder C:\LIMS\Customers\ABC Co. As long as the letter remains in this folder, the hyperlink will continue to retrieve the letter. However, if we later upgrade to an LIMS multi-user license the hyperlink will only work on the original workstation since only that workstation has the relevant folders and files. A similar problem will occur with absolute hyperlink paths in a multi-user environment if the location of the shared document folders ever changes, such as when moving to a new file server.

We can solve these problems by defining a hyperlink base before we add any hyperlinked documents. In our example, all of the hyperlinked documents are in folders within the C:\LIMS folder, which is the base folder. Since all of the paths to hyperlinked documents begin at folder C:\LIMS, we can define this folder as our hyperlink base in the Workstation Configuration screen.

With our C:\LIMS hyperlink base folder defined, we can now safely add hyperlinks to any documents within this folder and its subfolders. The screen below shows the hyperlink for our ABC Company letter. Note that the Customers\ABC Co path to the letter in the Address field omits the C:\LIMS base folder. Our path to the letter is now relative to the C:\LIMS folder.

If we move to an LIMS multi-user environment, all hyperlinks will continue to work with proper selection of the hyperlink base. For example, in a simple two-workstation peer-to-peer network configuration where the LIMS database is shared from the original workstation’s C:\LIMS folder, the original workstation’s hyperlink base remains C:\[1]LIMS and the second workstation’s hyperlink base is set to the name of the first workstation’s shared folder. If the LIMS database is moved to a shared file server folder, simply move all of the hyperlinked documents folders to a file server folder and set the hyperlink base on all workstations to the server folder.

There is nothing inherently wrong with absolute paths to hyperlinked documents. Only when you move the documents will the shortcomings of absolute paths become apparent. To avoid manually editing all of your hyperlinks after moving documents, take advantage of the benefits of the hyperlink base.

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