New ORDS demo video available

For an overview of what the ORDS has to offer and how to use it, watch our new demo video. Clicking the image below will take you to the video on YouTube.

ORDS demo video

Click to view the ORDS demo video

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ORDS Release 1.0.7

The Online Research Database Service (ORDS) was upgraded to version 1.0.7 on the 27th January 2015. This upgrade includes the following fixes:

  • Fixed crash when navigating between pages of query results
  • Fixed issue where sorting the results of a newly-defined query would cause a crash
  • Fixed syntax errors when re-running queries caused by the way the new query interface parses SQL
  • Improved explanatory text for query interface
  • Fixed crash when accessing the editing interface for tables with spaces in their names
  • Fixed problem where relationships were not being displayed properly in the schema designer
  • Fixed registration issue affecting people with long email addresses
  • Fixed issue where some emails to users consisted of two separate messages that had become merged
  • Improved documentation regarding ‘decimal’ fields
  • Warning message added when trying to delete a field containing data
  • Removed warning message relating to overwriting existing data where there is no existing data to overwrite
  • Removed instances of ‘trial project’ labeling when users actually working with a full project
  • Removed buttons from database page that were erroneously appearing during the database upload process
  • Open database connections should now be closing properly (this is a ‘behind-the-scenes’ change which should improve performance)
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ORDS demo: video slideshow available

The ORDS was represented at the recent Force2015 conference in Oxford, where we had a poster and a demo on display. Force2015 was all about improving research communications and e-scholarship, so a member of the team went along to promote the ORDS as a means of working with research data online, sharing it, and making it publicly available.

The poster featured in a previous ORDS blog post. The demo included a video slideshow, which gave an overview of the service, and demonstrated some key features in action. You can view the slideshow (which lasts just under 4 minutes) by clicking on the image below.

ORDS slideshow title slide

Click the image to start the slideshow. The slideshow will play in full screen mode – press Esc to exit.

Alternatively, a WMV version is also available.

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ORDS Release 1.0.6

Since the last release we have been focusing on re-engineering the ORDS schema designer to overcome a number of fairly minor problems that, in combination, have made it difficult to save changes to database structures. The system now checks that each edit a user makes in the schema designer is valid before they actually save those changes. This makes it much easier to identify what is causing a problem, as well as overcoming several issues where errors were being caused by one part of a database being re-built before another part.

Fixes in this release include:

  • Database schemas now load correctly into recent versions of Internet Explorer
  • Edited database schemas can now be saved in recent versions of Internet Explorer
  • Ticking the ‘Prevent this page from creating additional dialogues’ check box after saving changes no longer prevents later changes from being saved in Firefox
  • SQL querying interface redesigned to  break out different parts of query
  • Datasets viewed via the public search interface can now be sorted
  • Invitations to join a project sent to non-registered users should now work correctly
  • New users with usernames greater than 20 characters can now successfully register
  • Error messages now presented if users attempt to create invalid relationships between tables
  • Improved error messages relating to duplicate table and field names
  • User are now warned about unsaved changes to a database structure when exiting the database designer
  • Improved warnings about potential data loss when a field is changed from one type to another
  • Fixed error when converting integer numbers to double precision
  • Fixed error when converting integer numbers to big integers
  • Primary keys can now be renamed and include capital letters
  • ‘char’ fields now retain defined length
  • Added the three basic data types to top of list when defining a field
  • Schema designer now checks for errors as changes are made
  • Fixed error relating to order in which changes to a database structures are saved
  • Fixed issues relating to relationship creation in the schema designer not work reliably when using ORDS-created foreign keys
  • Fixed memory issues preventing edits to database structures being saved where one or more tables consists of a very large number of records (greater than c.300,000)

A side effect of these changes is that the positioning of tables in the schema editing screen has been reset. Many apologies for the inconvenience of having to rearrange them!

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ORDS poster and postcards

We now have a poster describing the ORDS. Click the thumbnail below to see a larger version.

ORDS poster - click to view larger version

ORDS poster

If you’d like to let researchers in your department or research group know about the ORDS, we also have handy postcards to advertise the service. Again, click the thumbnail to see the postcard in full.

ORDS postcard - click to view full version

ORDS postcard

If you’d like copies of the postcard to distribute, let us know by emailing the ORDS team on

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First ORDS training session

If you’re a proud parent, you wait eagerly for your new baby to sit up for the first time, or for the appearance of the first tooth. If you’re nurturing a fledgling IT service, there are similar milestones, and a warm rosy glow was detectable among the ORDS team last week as we reached one of these – the first official ORDS training session. This was a half day course, organized through IT Services’ IT Learning Programme.

ORDS: An Introduction - slideshow

ORDS: An Introduction – slideshow

A smallish but receptive group of participants put the ORDS through its paces over the course of three hours on Friday afternoon. The session combined a presentation to explain the theory with a variety of hands-on exercises designed to demonstrate some of what the system can do.

The slides and coursebook from the training session are now available for download from the Research Support team website. Both offer an overview of key features of the ORDS system; the coursebook also includes the exercises, which you can work through in your own time. There’s even a sample database for you to practice with.

If you’d like to attend an ORDS training course in person (and thus have the opportunity to ask questions and get practical assistance from the instructors), we’ll be running it again in Hilary term. You can express an interest in this here – you’ll be notified once the next course date has been scheduled.

In the meantime, any specific queries about the ORDS can (as always) be addressed to the ORDS team at

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ORDS User Group to be established

We are now in the process of establishing an ORDS User Group, which will have responsibility for prioritizing future improvements and functionality, as well as raising any issues concerning the ORDS software and service. The precise terms of reference for the group will be debated at its preliminary meeting in January. The Group will probably meet once every two months for an hour thereafter.

We would like to have representation from all academic divisions in the User Group, and we do not intend to restrict the membership to actual users at this point – the user base is still very small at present, though growing. We will also consider volunteers who are considering using the ORDS in the future but who are waiting for funding confirmation or additional functionality to be in place first.

If you are interested in being part of the User Group, please get in touch via

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ORDS Release 1.0.5

After a slight hiatus we have now released ORDS version 1.0.5. This doesn’t contain as many changes as previous releases as we are currently in the process of making some quite significant improvements to particular aspects of the service.

Firstly, we are close to implementing a full ODBC service for users. This will enable you to securely edit data hosted on ORDS from third-party database software such as Microsoft Access. It is possible to do this already with help from the ORDS team, but these improvements should make it much easier to connect from different devices in multiple locations.

Secondly, we’ve been hearing about a few issues with the schema designer. Saving changes to database schemas can take a long time, and occasionally it results in some rather impenetrable error messages. The designer also struggles when processing databases with very large tables, and we’ve encountered all manner of problems when using Internet Explorer, although Chrome and Firefox generally work OK.

Anyway, the improvements that you will find in release 1.0.5 are as follow…

  • In Internet Explorer, database structures should now appear properly in the schema designer
  • Improved contextual help for variable types in the schema designer
  • Saving a database in the schema designer no longer reverses order of fields
  • Improved explanation on database upload failure
  • Behind the scenes improvements as to how error messages are handled
  • Improved trial project explanation and presentation
  • Added button to request a project upgrade from trial to full

As always, do report any issues you find to the ORDS team and we’ll do our best to fix them rapidly.

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ORDS server maintenance work, 7am-9am Tuesday 7th October, 2014

The ORDS may be unavailable for a few minutes tomorrow morning as we restart the service after some maintenance work on the application servers. If you are unable to log in during this period, just wait five minutes and try again.

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ORDS releases 1.0.3 and 1.0.4.

We’re currently releasing updates to the ORDS on a fortnightly basis, which we hope to stick to over the next few months. Version 1.0.3 was released on the 1st September, and version 1.0.4 was released yesterday evening. Here is a summary of the changes…

Version 1.0.3.

  • Datasets can now be defined in milestone and test versions of databases
  • Datasets can now be edited
  • Drop-down lists in the add record form now list options alphabetically
  • Added a ‘please wait’ message whilst modifications to a database schema are applied
  • Timestamp data types can now be saved in the schema designer
  • Fixed problem with non-registered ORDS users being invited to join the wrong project
  • ‘Go to records’ now works in Internet Explorer

Version 1.0.4.

  • Users from outside of Oxford can now accept invitations to join a project
  • Pending project members can now be removed from a project
  • Fixed bug where database connections were not being properly closed after user queries
  • Users can no longer land on other project screens by altering URLs (no information was being revealed besides the project name)
  • Trial Projects no longer appear in the public search interface
  • Static dataset definitions can no longer be edited

Users should be aware that the database schema designer is not working correctly in Internet Explorer at present. We are working to fix this as a priority. The schema designer is working as it should be in Chrome and Firefox browsers.

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