Setting up a catalog

Interchange is based on catalogs. You need to create at least one to start getting any results with Interchange. (There is a quirk in the code that requires at least one catalog configured before Interchange will run correctly).

Interchange catalogs are structurally very simple and can even be created manually, by editing just a few files. Our document Interchange Guides: the Catalog Building Tutorial is exactly an example of a small, hand-made catalog.

You may wish to start with a custom catalog if you have very custom needs or want to keep everything under your own control. However, there is the so-called "standard" demo that ships with Interchange — it is extremely elaborate and feature-rich for someone looking to build an Internet store, and it allows for custom modifications. The most common way to create a catalog based on our demo is to run our makecat script.

Each catalog can be completely independent with different settings and databases, or catalogs can share pages, databases, and session files. This means that several catalogs can share the same information, allowing "virtual malls" (although not directly out-of-the box with makecat or our demo).

Regardless of whether you want to base your own catalogs on our demo or not, it is strongly suggested to install the demo. It will let you see whether your Interchange installation works, and it will also be a nice presentation of Interchange features.

Setting up a catalog using the makecat script

There is a catalog creation script named makecat available, that you will use to create catalogs based on catalog templates (and our demo is, of course, organized as a template).

On the first run, makecat will ask a series of questions to configure site-wide parameters. It will then proceed with the practical catalog creation phase, so the first makecat session will seem very long, and some of the questions will seem duplicated.

The makecat utility is self-documented. Each question is accompanyed with an introduction, examples, and a reasonable Unix default.

By far the most common problem on the way to installing a working demo, is wrong information given to the makecat program.

If you don't get it right the first time, re-run the configuration again, and pay close attention to the prompts given.

Setting up a catalog manually

Setting up a catalog manually involves creating the necessary files and directories, compiling the link program, and inserting a Catalog line to the global interchange.cfg configuration file.

For a complete introduction and even ready-made files to set up a catalog from scratch, see Interchange Guides: the Catalog Building Tutorial.

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