Tips for Using the IBM DB2 Information Center Part 1: Navigating

Note: this post refers to an obsolete version of the IBM DB2 Knowledge center, and therefore many of the links are broken. For details on the current version, see The New IBM DB2 Knowledge Center

The IBM DB2 Information Center is a wonderful resource if you know what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, sometimes you do not know exactly what you are looking for. A bit of knowledge about what is there, how it is organized, and how to most efficiently use the IBM DB2 Information Center can go a long way. Experienced DBAs tend to respond to some questions with “It is in the Info Center”, while new DBAs are thinking “Yes, but WHERE?”.

I started as a DBA before the DB2 Info Center was mainstream. Everyone on my team in IBM Global Services had their own shelf of DB2 reference manuals, and some of us got extra or old copies of some of the more important ones for home as well. Don’t get me wrong, the documentation was online and we started using it more and more over time. I still have my shelf of Version 8 manuals at home.

I actually cracked one last year before I had installed a local version of the DB2 Information Center, and desperately needed a bit of syntax help that wouldn’t have changed much by versions.

The manuals did not have a search feature or even a global index. In some ways, this actually helped us to know how they are organized and how to find what we really needed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of search, and use it constantly, but there is sometimes some information that is hard to get a relevant search on. It can be useful to really understand the structure of the IBM DB2 Information Center and how to use it.

If you’re a new DBA, don’t think you will ever get a chance to get away from the Information Center. You will simply never know every detail and all syntax. Even without blogging, I visit it every single day that I work, and I have a significant amount of DB2 experience.

Also, I’m not saying that the IBM DB2 Information Center should be your only source of information – there are many good forums and blogs that, along with developerWorks and the support portal, provide a much more complete view. But the IBM DB2 Information Center should still be one of your sources of information.

While I’m covering this from a very beginner standpoint, there are some more advanced tips here as well.

How to Pull Up the IBM DB2 Information Center

The IBM DB2 Information Center is available online. There is a different Information Center for each version of DB2. If you come up with an IBM DB2 Information Center link when googling, make sure it looks like these – the ones for Z/OS may also come up in searches, and DB2 is fairly significantly different between the platform groups. The LUW IBM DB2 Information Centers are:

I keep the two or three IBM DB2 Information Centers for the versions my clients are currently using bookmarked so I can easily get to them.

Some IBM Information Centers won’t always come up in my browser of choice (Chrome). If you get a blank page, try with Internet Explorer, and it will likely work. It looks to me like they fixed it with the IBM DB2 10.5 Information Center, but for DB2 9, the issue still exists. This is true for Information Centers for other IBM Products, too.

Also, like any web resource, the IBM DB2 Information Centers are sometimes offline. To mitigate against this, I recommend downloading your own copy of the DB2 Information Center that you work with most often. You can install it and run it on your local computer, so it is never offline. My blog entry on how to do that is here: How to Install a Local Copy of the DB2 Info Center on a Windows Machine

I’m going to focus on the IBM DB2 9.7 Information center in the rest of this post and the other posts in this series – the other versions of the IBM DB2 Information Center are similar.

Overview and Buttons

If you go to the IBM DB2 Information Center, you’ll see a screen something like this:
info_center_1

Left Pane

By far the most used and useful place to start is the search box at the upper left. Put in any relevant string or error message and you’ll likely get back some decent search results. But there are other things to look at here. Let’s focus on the left pane first:
info_center_left_pane

In this case, I’ve entered a basic search term, and you can see the results of that search in this left pane. You can click on any of the results in blue to pull up that page in the right pane.

Search Scope

Next to the search box, note the “Scope: All Topics”. You can click on “Scope” and change that to only specific sections:
info_center_left_pane_scope

This may be useful if you really are looking only for one type of information, or if you get frustrated with some of the superfluous results that the info center sometimes comes up with. Changing this will eliminate some results, so be careful that you’re aware of what you’ve set this to if you’ve changed it.

Three Tabs

Notice the three tabs at the bottom:
info_center_left_pane_btabs

When you’ve done a search the right one will be the active one – it is for search results. The middle one is the “index” and the left one is the table of contents. The table of contents is what is in the left tab when you first pull up the IBM DB2 Information Center. The Index is somewhat like searching the info center, but think of it a little more like the index to a book – there are only certain topics listed there and your search results are limited to what someone thought you might need.

Three Buttons/Icons

But that’s not all that is here. Notice the three buttons in the upper right of this pane:
info_center_left_pane_lbuttons

This is what it looks like for the Search tab. These buttons can change how search results appear. The left one will cause results to be displayed by category. Categories that show up for this particular search include things like:

  • Data warehousing and analytics
  • Database administration
  • Database application development
  • Database fundamentals
  • Federation
  • Glossary
  • Product overviews
  • Replication and event publishing

This view can be useful if you’re having trouble finding what you are looking for. In this case, if I was simply looking for the syntax of the command, it’s in the “Database administration” section. But more general information might be in the “Database fundamentals” section.

The middle of these three icons toggles descriptions on or off – in the view above, descriptions are on. The description is the black text associated with each link. Turning them off can get a more compact view and may be more useful when you already know what you’re looking for.

The final icon on the right will allow you to maximize this left pane to take up your whole screen – which might be useful if you want to see more of the descriptions. However, to see any link you click on, you’ll have to minimize it again so that the right pane is visible again.

When using the Contents bottom tab, these buttons will instead look like this:
info_center_left_pane_lbuttons_contents
The left button is clearly a print button. Not exactly sure why you would want to print the contents, but then I rarely print anything at all any more. The next icon that looks like a flashlight allows you to perform a search only in the topic you’ve selected – much like setting the scope with the search box above.
The next icon with a minus simply allows you to quickly minimize all topics. The next button with two arrows going in two different directions is titled “Link with Contents”, but I couldn’t get it to do anything in any of my browsers. I’d welcome reader comments on its intended uses.

Right Pane

In the upper right, there are some additional helpful functions:
info_center_right_pane_buttons

The left two are pretty obvious – forward and back buttons. Though generally forward and back in your browser works just fine. The home button simply gets you back to the starting page for the info center, which can be occasionally useful if you don’t want to reload the whole thing.

The next button is the most interesting thing here. It looks like a short hierarchy with some arrows. This is to locate a page you happen to be looking at in the table of contents. This will show you where in the categories and so forth at the left that whatever page you are on fits. This is great for getting to know the IBM DB2 Information Center, and can be helpful for certain kinds of research.

The printer button helps you print what is in the right pane without all the other web stuff. And at the far right is the maximize button, which can make the right pane take up the full screen.

Generally, the right pane is the content pane. There is in some of the later IBM DB2 Information Centers a community section at the bottom. I’m not a fan, but I’m used to using developerWorks or Stack Exchange or whatever for that sort of thing.

Mobile Devices

One very disappointing thing is that I’ve found the IBM DB2 Information Center to be near unusable on a smart phone and hardly much better on a tablet. You simply can’t scroll and resize things like you might need to on these devices to use the IBM DB2 Information Center. I sure hope they fix this at some point. Maybe I’m just an uber-geek, but working on multiple screens when out and about and having this access would really help me.

How to Link to Pages in the IBM DB2 Information Center

You may notice that as you click around or go to different pages, the address up in your address bar does not change. This makes it a bit difficult to send a link to a specific page to someone else – for reference or education. But at the bottom of every page, you’ll find a link:
info_center_page_bottom
It is different for each page, and is not actually a link, but is an address you can copy and paste into the address bar of a browser to get to that specific page. That’s what I copy to share IBM DB2 Information Center pages on the blog and elsewhere.

Notice in that image too, there’s a “Feedback” button. That appears on every page. I’ve actually had a good response using that to report errors I’ve found with the IBM DB2 Information Centers, and been instructed a few times on how I’m looking at something wrong – so IBM does pay attention.

There ended up being a lot of information to share here, so I’m splitting this entry up into multiple parts. Keep your eyes open for future entries covering the structure of information within the IBM DB2 Information Center and things like how to read syntax diagrams.

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8 Responses

  1. Ember, great article, thanks! Appreciate the links to the IBM Information Center for each release of DB2 – this is so helpful that we’ve added the links to the bottom of http://www.DB2NightShow.com. Cheers, Scott Hayes

  2. Paul Dorwin says:

    Hi Ember,

    I enjoyed this article and picked up some tips on using the IBM Information Center. I asked around regarding
    The next button with two arrows going in two different directions is titled “Link with Contents”, but I couldn’t get it to do anything in any of my browsers. I’d welcome reader comments on its intended uses.

    This is the description of that button.. in the documentation in the Information Center itself:

    Information center – Navigating in the information center
    http://pic.dhe.ibm.com/infocenter/db2luw/v10r5/topic/com.ibm.db2.luw.common.doc/doc/navigating.html

    To keep the navigation tree and the topic pane synchronized at all times, click Link with Contents () on the toolbar of the Contents view. Click the button again to disable this function.

  3. Paul Dorwin says:

    Hi Ember,

    Here is how that double arrow icon works.

    When the background is white for that icon. Search for a term in the index. Click on link to that topic. When you go back to the TOC or “Contents” tab , whatever topic is on the right will synch to it’s location in TOC. When the background is grey, nothing happens.

    Same thing happens when you do a search. Click on a results from a search. With a white backrgound, when you head back to the “Contents” tab, the topic is synched with it location in the TOC. Grey background nothing happens.

  4. Shivraj says:

    Hi Ember

    I am avid follower of your blog. I would like to know how do you use IBM support site. Also, what recommendations do you give to a DBA who has a host of DB2 databases to tune .

    Look forward to your reply !

    • Ember Crooks says:

      I think that first would be a good blog topic to complement the Info Center series I’m working on.

      My number one choice for having a “number” of databases to tune – especially if that number is more than 10 production databases – would be to get a tool such as DBI Software’s tools (http://www.dbisoftware.com/). That said, I’ve rarely had actual paid tools myself. If you have to do it with no tools, you’ll want to script some stuff. I love this methodology: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/data/library/techarticle/dm-1009db2monitoring1/index.html?ca=drs-. I like to extend that to include history tables that I write data off to every hour or two. It’s so important to have historical data, even if you can only keep a few days’ worth. Pulling the data into Excel and graphing it or using some other way of graphing it can really help you see trends and things that are related. The one-shot view that you get with just looking at one snapshot that covers everything since db restart can be good but can really hide issues. If it’s a single database to a single server environment, STMM can be your friend, though I always exclude the package cache from STMM.

      I could go on and on – it’s a big question. Take it one database at a time, and keep historical data would be my #1 tips.

      Ember

  1. July 30, 2013

    […] Check out Part 1 in this series: Tips for Using the IBM DB2 Information Center Part 1: Navigating […]

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