In each column, The Support Authority discusses resources, tools, and other elements of IBM® Technical Support that are available for WebSphere® products, plus techniques and new ideas that can further enhance your IBM support experience.
As always, we begin with some new items of interest for the WebSphere community at large:
- Now you can tweet with WebSphere eSupport on Twitter!
- Does your WebSphere business process management (BPM) environment include WebSphere Process Server? If so and you plan to upgrade your environment within the next year, be sure to review the WebSphere Process Server migration planning worksheet.
- The new IBM Open Service Request (SR) tool was launched in early April, replacing the ESR tool. You can continue to use the same IBM user ID for SR that you did for ESR. All problem management records you opened prior to the launch of SR continue to be available through the new tool. For more information, see the Service Request Overview on the IBM Education Assistant.
- New maintenance releases are available for the IBM Monitoring and Diagnostic Tools for Java™ - Dump Analyzer and the WebSphere Application Server extensions for Dump Analyzer on the IBM Support Assistant. These updates contain primarily defect fixes.
- Check out the new features in the WebSphere
Commerce Feature Pack 5:
- Delivers a redesigned Web 2.0 Madisons Starter Store, which is easier for shoppers to use and customize.
- Leverages Web 2.0 technologies through XML, AJAX, and Dojo widgets for a more streamlined purchasing process.
- Provides cross-channel support through enabling Buy Online and Pickup In Store, as well as integration with distributed order management (DOM) solutions, such as Manhattan Associates' DOM.
- To find out what's new with WebSphere Portal on z/OS, visit the new WebSphere Portal on z forum and the new WebSphere Portal on z/OS space.
Continue to monitor the various support-related Web sites, as well as this column, for news about other tools as we encounter them.
And now, on to our main topic...
When troubleshooting problems, it’s often necessary to consult several different sources of information. The Support Authority column from December 2008 showed you how to navigate the knowledge base of support information to help you find the information you need. To help you further, the IBM Software Support Toolbar lets you easily get to all of those resources with just a few convenient clicks right from your browser.
The IBM Software Support Toolbar is similar to other toolbars you may have used in your Web browser. It brings together a variety of support related resources for your IBM software products in one place so you can find and use that information faster and easier.
First things first. The IBM Software Support Toolbar is available for both Firefox and Internet Explorer®, and installing it to either browser is easy:
- Open the IBM
Software Support Toolbar site in your browser (Figure 1). If you want to use the toolbar with Firefox, then you must download and install it using a Firefox browser.
Figure 1. Download toolbar
- Click either Click here to start download (for Internet Explorer) or Click here to start install (for Firefox).
- One or more windows will open (depending on your browser) warning you about installing the toolbar. Read the warning and verify that the download source is ftp.software.ibm.com. Click the Install button to begin the installation.
- Accept the license agreement (Internet Explorer) to continue the installation.
- When asked where you want to install the toolbar (Internet Explorer), accept the default or browse to a different location.
- Restart your browser (Internet Explorer restarts automatically). When your browser restarts, you will see the IBM Software Support Toolbar included in the area of your browser where your other toolbars are displayed. Figures 2 and 3 show how the toolbar will appear.
Figure 2. Left side of toolbar
Figure 3. Right side of toolbar
The remainder of this article will highlight some of the toolbar’s features and describe how you can use them to enhance your software support experience.
With the IBM Software Support Toolbar installed in your browser, you can easily administer toolbar functions by using the Options dropdown (Figure 4) to:
- Manage the toolbar
The Options dropdown lets you manage the toolbar by:
- Selecting and customizing options.
- Accessing toolbar FAQ.
- Sending feedback to IBM.
- Updating the toolbar.
- Uninstalling the toolbar.
Figure 4. Options dropdown
- Customize toobar options
You can customize the toolbar by selecting Options => Toolbar options to change the appearance, search scope, and product information scope:
- Change toolbar behavior
Check or uncheck any of the boxes in the in the configurable Behaviour Options (Figure 5) section to toggle that behavior on or off. For example, suppose you want your search terms highlighted in search results, and then be able to start a new search automatically by dragging and dropping text into the search box. To do this, you would click Options => Toolbar options, and in the Behavior Options section of the configuration page (Figure 5) check these options:
- Show highlight button
- Show Word-find Buttons (generated from search terms)
- Run search drag and drop automatically
Figure 5. Change toolbar behavior
You don’t need to actively save these settings. Each feature is automatically updated and enabled (or disabled) as you check (or uncheck) each option.
- Highlight search results
When highlighting is enabled, a HiLite icon displays in the toolbar (Figure 6). Click the button to toggle highlighting of your search results on and off.
Figure 6. Highlighter button
In the example shown in Figure 7, the search terms used were “support authority.” When the results are returned, choose one of the documents in the list, and then click the HiLite button to toggle highlighting of the search terms on (as shown in the figure) or off.
Figure 7. Highlighted search terms
- Use Word Find buttons
Continuing with the same search results, there will be a button in the toolbar for each individual search term; in this case, a button labeled support and another labeled authority (Figure 8).
Figure 8. Word-find buttons
Each time you click one of these word-find buttons the next occurrence of that word on the page is highlighted in dark blue (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Word-find highlights
- Run search drag and drop automatically
The IBM Software Support Toolbar provides a really quick way to search all of IBM Software Support by dragging keywords from any visible window and dropping them into the toolbar’s search box. When Run search drag and drop automatically is checked, then dropping a term or phrase into the search box will immediately kick off the search.
- Change toolbar behavior
- Access support resources by IBM software brand
The IBM Software Support Toolbar provides shortcuts for finding a wealth of information relevant to each of the IBM software brands: Information Management, Lotus®, Rational®, Tivoli®, and WebSphere. The information available includes:
- Software downloads.
- Education opportunities.
- Technical resources.
- Software downloads.
When you click a software brand logo in the toolbar, a menu appears to get you right to the information you need. For example, if you want to find a forum for a WebSphere brand product, just select WebSphere => developerWorks => Forums and Community (Figure 10).
Figure 10. Find forums
The toolbar options above enable you to control what software brands appear in your toolbar and what items appear in the dropdown menus. Just open the options and then check or uncheck the brands and resources to customize your toolbar further.
- Search for support resources
The IBM Software Support Toolbar also makes it easy to search many different information repositories. You can control the scope of your search anywhere from very broad (for example, all of IBM software support) to very specific (for example, WebSphere APARs). To perform a search and define the scope (Figure 11):
- Enter your search query in the search query box.
- Click the Search dropdown menu.
- Choose the repository you want to search.
Figure 11. Controlling search scope
- Search support resources applicable to all IBM software products
The IBM Software Support Toolbar simplifies how you troubleshoot problems and work with IBM technical support by giving you all of the tools you need for these tasks. For example, the toolbar can help you (Figure 12).
- Manage service requests.
- Send the diagnostic information you have collected to IBM.
- Use IBM Passport Advantage.
- Use these support tools:
Figure 12. Software support
The IBM Software Support Toolbar is one more helpful tool you can use to manage your IBM software environments. It offers quick access to almost all software support resources that are available, directly from your Web browser. If you would like more information, check out the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the IBM Software Support Toolbar.
Give the toolbar a try and see what it can do for you!
The Support Authority: If you need help with WebSphere products, there are many ways to get it
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Russell Wright has several years of experience developing and supporting data communications and middleware software including WebSphere Application Server. He currently manages the deployment of troubleshooting tools for the IBM Support Assistant and is a developer for the IBM Guided Activity Assistant.