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Explore Builder

Put together collections of customizable buttons for use in Explore, Search, and your Researcher hub.

Access Explore Builder from Builder or by appending /explorebuilder to your Alexandria URL.

Related Tips

Explore FAQs

Explore Builder Video


Researcher’s Explore interface is fun and attractive—patrons simply click buttons to explore their library resources. You can customize these buttons, and sets of buttons (called “panes”) in Explore Builder. Include whatever resources your patrons need—that means Researcher modules like Search or Scout; links to outside resources; popup messages; instant searches; and more. Explore Builder lets you set up endless possibilities for your patrons, by linking to other panes. You can even choose the pictures and the text that will best engage your audience. 

Download all of our icon sets here!

The Explore Pane comes loaded with various icons contained in ready-made sample panes that you can adapt to create your own iconic interfaces; everything you need to customize and configure individualized Explore panes, buttons, icons, and actions. Selecting a pane from the Panes List will populate the Explore Pane section.

What is a pane?

Each Explore pane is a collection of buttons. Each pane can hold a fixed number of buttons in a 8 x 2 grid pattern. Blank or empty buttons act as placeholders for each unused position in the grid. Depending on the Researcher interface you’re using, you can display up to two Explore panes simultaneously.

What is a button?

Each button in a pane consists of an icon, descriptive label (located below each icon), and associated action that is performed when the button is clicked.

Click a button to select it; once selected, you may change the placement of the button in the pane. Simply click, hold, and drag a button from one location to another. If there’s already a button at the destination location, the two buttons will trade places.

When you duplicate or move a button, its attributes are moved along with it.

What is an icon?

An icon is an image or picture used as a visual representation for each button. You can add icons by dragging-and-dropping images directly onto blank (or occupied) buttons—either directly from your operating system desktop or from the Copy From Pane feature. The Explore Pane accepts most standard image files (e.g. SVG—preferably, GIF, BMP, PNG, JPG), but we highly recommend using scalable vector graphics (SVG). If you’re not using SVGs, make sure that your icons have dimensions no larger than 90 pixels wide by 90 pixels high for optimal quality.

What is an action?

An action is the functionality that is performed when a button in the Explore pane is clicked by one of your patrons. These actions can include display messages, opening outside URLs, performing searches, or linking to other, existing Explore panes. Learn more about Explore Actions.

The Explore Builder window consists of two distinct areas:

  • The Panes List on the left is a list of the default, global, and local panes. Select a pane from this list to display the contents of that pane (e.g. the buttons, icons, and actions) in the Explore pane to the right.
  • The Explore pane on the right consists of the Explore Pane Buttons/Actions/Icons section where the contents of the selected pane are displayed—in full—allowing you to modify or remove them completely.

A Note for Centralized Catalog Users
If you are Centralized Catalog, each time you access the Explore Builder, it will default to whichever site you are logged into, depending on the sites that you, as an operator, have permission to access. To create Global panes (usable by any site), log in to the union site, where you can create a default Explore interface which can also be shared with individual sites.

The left-hand side of the module contains the record list, where all the Explore panes matching your search criteria are displayed. This section also contains shortcuts where you can Add or Remove Explore panes.

By default you’ll see your local (i.e. user-created) panes in alphabetical order. If there are no panes in the Panes List when Explore Builder is accessed, COMPanion can provide you with the global Explore panes to use as reference or examples; if they appear hidden, select Show Global Panes from the Actions menu.

Select a pane from the Panes List to display the contents of that pane (e.g. the buttons, icons, and actions) in the Current Pane section (i.e. the right-hand portion of the Explore Builder)


The control strip situated below the Panes List contains tools that useful for adding, duplicating, importing, exporting, or removing Explore panes.

  • Add. Create a new Explore Pane by clicking the Add button. Provide a name for your new pane (required). The name can be changed later.
  • Remove. This selection completely removes the selected pane from the Panes List. This can not be undone, so think twice before making this selection. If you’re not sure, you may want to Export the pane first for archive and backup purposes. The default Researcher pane can not be deleted or edited; however you can make a duplicate for which you can.

Actions. The Actions gear/cog menu contains specific actions and functions unique to the currently selected pane.

  • Duplicate Pane. This duplicates the currently selected Explore pane, including all buttons, icons, and actions; duplicated panes are given the same name as the original unless otherwise changed.
  • Import Pane. Browse your computer to locate and import the .txt file of a previously exported pane. A pane can also be imported by dragging and dropping the file onto the Panes field.
  • Export Pane. This selection instantly queues the currently selected pane to export from Operation Management. Exported panes can later be imported back into Alexandria using the Import Pane selection (above).
  • Export All Panes. This selection instantly queues your entire panes database (including Alexandria’s global defaults) to export from Operation Management. Exported panes can later be imported back into Alexandria using the Import Pane selection. This is especially useful when configuring the Alexandria Explore interface in a Central or Distributed Catalog; you can create and configure your Explore interface in one location and then share it with others who will adopt your interface.


Every Explore Pane has the following pane-level options:

  • Pane Name. Provide the Explore pane’s name (required). This name is essential when selecting the default Search and Explore starting panes in your Researcher Preferences or when assigning buttons the Go To Pane action. The site that this pane belong appears to the right of the pane name field (e.g. COMPanion Demonstration Library).
  • URL. Displayed directly beneath the pane name field, this non-editable URL provides a direct link to the Explore pane in a new browser tab. Use this to preview how panes will look and behave in the Explore interface, or copy the URL to link directly to a pane from a Bulletin Board, website, etc.

Select a button or an empty space to activate Actions section. There you can edit an existing button or set up a new one. 

Actions Menu
  • Add Icon. You can drag an item from your computer and drop it into a pane
  • Clear Button. This selection will clear all the actions, text, and images associated with the button and leaves a blank one in its place.
  • Clear Icon Only. This will clear the image associated with the button, leaving nothing in its place.
To add an icon, you can also drag and drop an image from your computer to an Explore pane.

Enter a label or title for this button, which will be shown directly below the button image in the pane. This is optional, but highly recommended to describe the button.


Use this dropdown menu to assign the selected button one of the following actions:

  • None. A button can be assigned an icon, but the button does nothing.
  • Display Message. Allows you to enter a simple message (up to 1000 characters) that displays in a popup dialog. This field accepts html, so you can format your text.
  • Open URL. Enter a valid URL, and your patrons can click this button to go to that URL. This is useful if you’ve cataloged a number of helpful websites for your patrons. If Open in New Browser Tab is checked, URLs will open in a new browser tab when the button is clicked; otherwise, the Explore interface will be replaced with the destination URL. You can also create custom Slideshow URLs.
  • Perform Search. Enter a search term (e.g. cats) or assemble your own search strings query as needed (e.g. ((title::harry–harry potter))).
    • Search is a powerful feature that can be customized through the use of various search strings such as ((NewTitles::%today)) to search for titles that are new today. To learn more, read Search Strings.
  • Go To Pane. Link to another (existing) Explore pane and create a powerful iconic interface tree. You can even make buttons that go ‘back’ and ‘next’.

When you’ve finished editing the buttons for each pane, click Save to keep your changes or Revert to cancel them.

The bottom of the Explore Pane includes the Copy From Pane option. Click this to open the Copy From Pane, which allows you to look at an existing explore pane and copy its buttons or icons for use in the pane you are editing.

Copy (via drag-and-drop) any buttons (including their actions and/or icons) from the bottom Copy From Pane onto blank (or occupied) buttons on the Explore Pane you are editing. Whenever a button is dragged from the Copy From Pane onto an existing button, it replaces that button entirely.

When you have finished copying buttons from one pane to the next, click Close to collapse the Copy From Pane. Then you’ll be able to individually modify the icons, actions, and the placement of the buttons in the selected Explore Pane. Alexandria will remember and restore the last pane you had selected the next time you use Copy From Pane.

Among other things, the Copy From Pane settings allow you to determine whether you’d like to copy the button icon only, or all associated button actions.

  • Show Global Panes. When the Copy From Pane is active, the Show Global Panes option becomes available at the bottom of the Panes List. Checking this box shows the default global Explore panes, loaded with clip art-quality icons in ready-made sample panes that are easy to adapt into your own iconic interfaces.
    • Alexandria’s global system default Explore panes are prefaced with a dot “ • ”.
  • Copy Action and Icon. If you would like to copy both the icon and all associated button actions, select the Copy Action and Icon radio button at the bottom of the pane before you drag-and-drop. You can always change or remove the icon or action later.
  • Copy Icon Only. If you would like to copy only the icon instead of the full button, select the Copy Icon Only radio button at the bottom of the pane before you drag-and-drop.

The Explore Builder allows you to import and export Explore panes. This way, you can share your creations with other libraries or librarians in your district or around the world.

Select Import Pane from the Explore Builder’s primary Actions menu to import an exported pane (or panes).

  • Choose File. This opens your standard operating system explorer (i.e. finder) window, allowing you to specify the location of the file you would like to import.
  • Allow Replacement of Existing Panes. When this box is checked, imported panes will replace existing panes of the same name. When this option is not checked, all panes will be duplicated, even Global panes; however, duplicated Global panes (when imported to a site that is not the union site) are no longer considered Global and will no longer be affected by the Show/Hide Global Panes control.

To create an Explore interface for your library, you can:

  • Start with a clean slate; hide the default (i.e. Global) panes and build your own interface entirely from scratch.
  • Use the Global panes as a starting point and adapt them to accommodate your specific needs.
  • Import a ready-made pane or panes created by someone else.
  • Do any combination of the above.

Creating an Explore interface for your library is easy to do. Here’s how:

  1. From Builder, go to Explore Builder, or go directly to /explorebuilder.
  2. In Explore Builder, click the Add Pane button located near the bottom of the Panes List; this creates a blank Explore pane, which allows you to customize and configure individualized Explore panes, buttons, icons, and actions.
    • Or, select an existing pane you want to use as a template, and select the Actions menu > Duplicate Pane.
  3. In the new Explore Pane, select one of the blank (or occupied) buttons.
  4. Once a button is highlighted, give it a Label.
  5. You can add icons by dragging-and-dropping images directly onto blank (or occupied) buttons—either directly from your operating system desktop or from the Copy From Pane dialog. We recommend SVG (scalable vector graphics); otherwise, make sure that your icons (GIF, BMP, PNG, JPG)are no larger than 90×90 pixels.
  6. From the Action dropdown menu, select the desired action (Display Message, Open URL, Perform Search, or Go To Pane). If you select Display Message, enter your message. If you select Open URL, provide the complete URL (including http://) and decide if you want to Open in New Tab or Browser Window. If you select Perform Search, enter a search term (e.g. cats) or assemble your own search strings query as needed (e.g. ((title::harry–harry potter))). If you select Go To Pane, use the Select Pane dialog to link to another pane in the Explore interface. When finished, click OK to close the Select Pane dialog.
  7. Click Save in the upper-right corner of the window.
  8. If properly configured, the next time you use the Explore interface, your panes, buttons, icons, and actions will be integrated and functional.

You can include one or two explore panes in your Search interface.

  1. Create the panes you want to use in Explore Builder.
  2. Go to Builder > Display and scroll down to the Explore Pane area. Set the Search (top) and/or Search (bottom).
  3. These panes will now show in Search.

Modify or customize Alexandria’s Researcher pane by adding, deleting, or changing its buttons, icons, and actions. Alternatively, you can choose a completely different Researcher pane by using the Set as Researcher Pane. This is useful if you’d like to completely remove access to some of the Researcher’s patron interfaces (like Scout or Explore) or change where some of them take you (e.g. Bulletins).

The default Researcher pane cannot be deleted or edited. If you would like to make changes to this pane, you must first duplicate it by clicking on the Actions dropdown menu, selecting Duplicate Pane, and clicking Save. Then you can edit the duplicated pane. Be sure to set it as your Researcher Hub pane in Builder > Display.
  1. Go to Builder > Explore Builder.
  2. From the Panes List on the left, select (highlight) the current Researcher pane. Most often, this is Alexandria’s default “Researcher” pane; however, it may have been previously changed to another pane. Regardless, the current Researcher pane will always appear bold in the Panes List. 
  3. To remove a button from the pane, select it and choose Actions menu > Clear Button.
  4. To change a button’s name, select it and type the new name into the Label field (e.g. Weekly Bulletins).
  5. To change a button’s graphic, select it and click Actions menu > Add Icon. Then choose a new image from your computer. Alternatively, you can drag-and-drop a new image directly onto blank (or occupied) buttons or click on Copy From Pane to copy a graphic from another pane (make sure Copy Icon Only is selected).
  6. To change the action of a button, select it and choose an option from the Action dropdown menu. It can display a message, open another website, perform a search, or go to another Explore pane.
  7. When are you finished, click Save.
  8. The next time you visit your Researcher hub (/researcher), it will show your changes!
Change the Designated Researcher Pane

You can elect to use a pane other than the default by changing the Default Explore Pane in the Display section of Builder.

Use Explore Builder to set a custom Slideshow URL based on specified search strings.  This allows you to build Slideshows for holidays, seasons, famous people or any other topic. It’s a fun and dynamic way to present new and exciting books to your patrons!

Learn how on the Slideshow page.

Explore FAQ

How can I change a Researcher pane?

How can I make changes and updates to my Explore search buttons?