23 July 2012

Office 2013 and the apps

A week ago Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer presented Office 15 or 2013 with the words: "the biggest, most ambitious release of Office that we’ve ever done", and now Members of the Community have begun asking if the applications support it.

The technical leaders at Business Solutions, our CEO Peter and Lead Developer Jayant, have studied the Office 2013 Technical Preview thoroughly to see how it affects our Office applications. After this the QAs, Neha and Rinku, have tested all our products with Office 2013. Here is the result:

TimeCard works TimeCard logotype
The application that converts Outlook calendar appointments into fully fledged time reporting sheets already works well with the 32-bit version of Office 2013. Most users of both the Single and the Workgroup versions of TimeCard do not need Office 2013 64-bit, so an early upgrade to Office 2013 should be painless to a majority of our TimeCard users.

Kanban Task Manager also works - soon
Kanban Task Manager logotypeWhen the developers begun building our new application for project and task management in Outlook, they of course knew that Microsoft planned a release of a new Office. They therefore made Kanban Task Manager compatible with both the 32- and the 64-bit versions of Office 2010 and 2013 from start.

The developers are focusing on the business logic of our applications, re-using smart components and libraries as much as they can. In Kanban Task Manager they therefore make use of an application called Add-in Express, and it is not yet updated for Office 2013. In September we will get the updated version, and then we will publish a new Kanban Task Manager. After that we foresee no problems with this product.

HelpDesk OSP works - with one exception
The situation for the helpdesk for Outlook and SharePoint is similar to the one for TimeCard. Users of HelpDesk OSP can continue tracking incidents and co-operate on them by converting incoming e-mails into SharePoint list items even if they upgrade to the 32-bit version of Office 2013.

We have however discovered one combination that is not yet possible: Windows 8 + Office 2013 + HelpDesk OSP. Our helpdesk works just fine with Windows 8 + Office 2010 32-bit, but evidently there is something in Office 2013 that disturbs the compatibility. The developers and testers will solve the problem of course, but for now you have to avoid this combination if you are using HelpDesk OSP.

Folder HelpDesk and Calendar Browser do not workCalendar Browser logotype
The products for Outlook and Exchange were created twelve years ago, and they give us more problems when it comes to Office 2013. Even if both Folder HelpDesk and Calendar Browser have been updated numerous times, they still have parts with old programming code that will give issues.

If you are using one
Folder HelpDesk logotypeof these applications we advise you not to upgrade to Office 2013 until we have updated our products and made them compatible.

Major rewrite
Today only Kanban Task Manager supports the 64-bit version of Office. Most users only need the 32-bit version, and most other applications only support that version, but aims to be better than most.

As a few Community Members have asked for compatibility with the 64-bit version, our developers are now working with a major rebuild of most products. When that is finished all applications will support both the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of Office 2010 and Office 2013, and in the process they will have become very strong for the future.

Metro interface
Office 2013 only works with Windows 7 and 8, and by leaving the older versions of their operating system behind Microsoft has been able to develop an Office package with many news and enhancements. It has the Metro interface we first saw in Windows 8, and it is clearly designed for use with cloud platforms.

There is a lot of information on the net about Office 2013 in general, so I will not go deeper into that subject here. If you wish to try the new Office now, I especially recommend the latest Slipstick newsletter which has many good tips.

16 July 2012

Blogs And Social Media Make Newsletters Outdated?

Peter Kalmstrom imageFor many years Peter Kalmstrom, CEO of Business Solutions, has sent a monthly newsletter to customers, evaluators and others who have been interested in it. Now we have begun wondering if these e-mails are becoming outdated. Has this blog and social media taken over the role of the newsletter? We think so, and Peter is considering stopping sending these reports.

Info about products and branch news
In his newsletters Peter informs about what happened during the past month when it comes to product update and development. He also mentions important events in our business and gives his view on how they will affect the products. He often also writes something personal, to show that there is a real person at the keyboard.

Newsletters more important earlier?
The newsletter has for a long time been a good way of telling news and keeping contact with customers and others. It started with the relatively  long-winded procedure of sending out snail-mails, but when we got the e-mailing possibility  there was an explosion in the number of newsletters. Nowadays it sometimes feels as if we are bombarded with all kinds of e-mails, and many of them are not even read.

Blog and social media
During the last few years the number of readers of the Blog has increased considerably, and as we are now present on four social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, some opt to follow us there instead. All new blog posts are announced in the social media, but if you want to be sure not to miss anything in the social media noise you should subscribe to this blog directly. And it seems as if that is exactly what many do! You can either subscribe to the RSS-feed or ask for an e-mail each time a new blog post is published.

Blog news are fresh
If you are familiar with the Blog, you know that I write about product updates and development, important events in our business and how they affect us. Sometimes I also tell you things about the team members that I think can be of general interest. As you see, the content is the same as in Peter's newsletters, but in the blog we can write more and go deeper than in a newsletter. Furthermore the news are fresh, as I write new articles here two or three times a week.

The wave has calmed down Folder HelpDesk logo
As late as a couple of years ago each newsletter brought a wave of e-mails to the sales and support departments, and the number of visitors to the website increased remarkably. The day after the newsletter had been sent we did not have time for much else than answering e-mails.

This situation has changed, and today the day after a newsletter is only noticed in the great number of automatic answers - many of them sent from one of our helpdesk applications, Folder HelpDesk for Outlook or HelpDesk OSP for Outlook and SharePoint. We believe the change is due to the increased blog reading. What Peter writes in his monthly e-mail is already old news to most of the receivers, as they have seen it here and in social media!

Blog and social media require active choice
To subscribe to a blog or follow an organization in social media is an active choice that requires a bit more interest than reading a newsletter that drop down in your e-mail inbox. If Peter stops sending out his newsletters, it might mean that we will loose some of these occasional readers, but the active ones are more valuable to us.

What do you think about our reasoning? As usual I welcome comments! If we don't hear anything that will make us change our minds, the newsletter for July will be the last one, at least for now. We will of course evaluate the situation after some months, and if we then see that we made a mistake I will tell you why here in the blog - and the Newsletters will be revived again.

11 July 2012

Outlook Task Management Tool Updated

Kanban Task Manager bannerKanban Task Manager is the application for project and task management inside Outlook. It was released as late as in June, but today we have published an update to correct a few mistakes that were not discovered during the pre-release testing.

Complex environment
The products are thoroughly tested before they are released, but they work in a complex environment with a nearly unlimited number of variables. We are therefore grateful for reports from users and evaluators, who have found problems not yet discovered by the team.

Quick updates
When Kanban Task Manager was published and many downloaded and tried it some issues occurred for few of the evaluators. These errors are now fixed, and we can release a new version. We cannot guarantee that this version has no bugs at all – what software developer could? – but we can promise that we will solve serious issues with highest priority. Furthermore we have begun using Kanban Task Manager for our own project management, which of course means that we are constantly testing the product.

Empty dropdowns issue solved
Some evaluators reported that their Kanban Task Manager dropdowns in the Outlook tasks were not visible or were empty and did not show the Project, Phase and Responsible even though these values were present in the settings. This was a problem that made the application useless, so the users who reported it quickly got a fix for it. It was a connection issue, and now it is solved for all.

Excel reports works fine also with Outlook 2003
We opted for Excel reports in our new project management application, instead of using our old statistics tool that requires installation of Office Web Components. Excel really gives many possibilities for creating reports, but in the first version of Kanban Task Manager the reports did not work well for Outlook 2003 users. Now these problems are solved also. Kanban Task Manager does not only support modern Outlook versions like Office 365 Outlook and both versions of Outlook 2010 but is also backwards compatible to Outook 2003. Then the Excel report should also support back to 2003, of course.

Several enhancements have also been made in the first update of Kanban Task Manager: The most important one is that the application now also works with SharePoint workflows. There are also some other, smaller things:
  • Only changed settings will be saved when the settings are saved, for a quicker process
  • A screen is added to show that the settings are loaded after the Configure button has been pressed
  • A waiting image is shown after click on the Synchronize all tasks button. When this button is used everything is updated, so it takes a bit more time than the automatic sync every five minutes when only changed data is synchronized.
You are all welcome to try Kanban Task Manager. It is a new product, and we will continue developing it and add more features. As Kanban Task Manager is licensed with a subscription model, upgrades are always free, so you will get all of the improvements if you start a subscription now.

10 July 2012

The Site Is Up Again

The server problem is solved, and now you are welcome to visit again! Not Available

Unfortunately there is a problem on the 1&1 server that hosts the website. All the customers on that server are affected, and there is nothing we can do from our side.

We have been told that the technical support is working hard to fix the error, so hopefully we will be back online soon. Fortunately we have distributed our favors, so our support and sales e-mail are still working. The online chat can be reached by this link:

Thanks for your patience!

09 July 2012

New Applications Interesting To Blog Readers In June

Among my June blog posts the ones that concerned new products were the most read. That surprises me a bit, as personal blog posts are often popular, and this month I told about both the wedding of Peter and Siret Kalmström, CEO and Sales manager at Business Solutions, and the 30th birthday of our Lead Developer Jayant Rimza. Those posts were also often read, but not as much as the product articles.

Kanban Task Manager for Outlook
The big product news in June was of course the release of the new project and task management tool for Outlook. It is a wonderful feeling to finally reach publishing day when every team member has been engaged in the work for months.

Even though all have been pulling in the same direction, the road has not been straight. We have encountered several dead ends, where we had to back away and start all over, but we have also found nice shortcuts and elegant solutions to difficult problems. Business Solutions does not release a new product very often, so I have written several articles about the new Outlook add-on. In June three of them are on top of the charts: the Kanban Task Manager release post, the post about the Kanban Task Manager Excel reports and the post where I describe how the team uses Kanban Task Manager with SharePoint as sharing option.

SharePoint MetaData Creator
The team mostly works with the enhancement of the current products, but in spite of this we actually begun a new development project even before Kanban Task Manager was published. The SharePoint MetaData Creator is a project that will take some time, because so far only parts of the team work with it, but the progress is good and there has been a great interest for this tool for adding keywords to documents in SharePoint libraries.

In future blog posts I will of course tell you more about the new "babies" of, but I will not forget our more mature products because they are also developed constantly.

05 July 2012

SharePoint MetaData Creator - New Demos Show Development Progress

In an earlier blog post I told you about the new project, the MetaData Creator for SharePoint document libraries. Now the product has its own webpage with two new video demonstrations, one for the installation in SharePoint and one that shows the features that has been added to the application so far.

Nagging does not add metadata
SharePoint administrators often tell users repeatedly to add keywords when they upload documents to the company SharePoint site, but still this is something that users seldom do. The work is tedious, boring and time consuming, and people tend to avoid it if they can, or do it in an inconsistent way. The MetaData Creator will solve that problem, because adding keywords with MetaData Creator is more interesting and much quicker than doing it manually.
MetaData Creator keyword suggestions
Uncheck metadata you don't want
When the SharePoint MetaData Creator has analyzed a document it suggests a number of keywords for it. The keywords are categorized, and a small icon shows the category. At each suggested keyword there is a checkbox, so take a quick look and uncheck the box for the suggestions that are not relevant.

To make it even easier a popup at each suggested word or term shows how many times it is present in the document, and how relevant MetaData Creator finds it . When you have decided what metadata to keep, click OK to save and your document will be tagged with the keywords that are still checked after your review.

Simple installation

When MetaData Creator is released it will be downloaded from the website and then uploaded to the SharePoint site where it should be used. Then the administrator just have to activate it and it will be ready to start analyzing documents and generating keywords for them.

MetaData Creator homepage
The new application will be presented in the same way as the other products, with plenty of documentation. So far MetaData Creator only has a homepage, but it's a beginning. Eventually we will add some nice graphics and links to much more information and of course a download page. There will also be a page where the subscription conditions will be explained, because MetaData Creator will be licensed within the Community model.

You are very welcome to visit the MetaData Creator homepage to learn more and see the installation video also.

04 July 2012

Outlook Tasks + SharePoint As Used By

Kanban Task Manager logotypeSome weeks ago Business Solutions released Kanban Task Manager, an application for project and task management in the Outlook tasks view. The team has recently begun using this new software internally, with SharePoint handling the sharing and storage.

Status phases

Kanban board
Kanban Task Manager is installed in a folder under the Outlook Task view, and it uses standard Outlook tasks that have been given drop-downs for selection of project, phase and responsible.

We have chosen to use the phases to show status of the tasks: New, Developing, Testing, Ready for release,
Published, Waiting, Deferred and Bug fixing. The Outlook tasks may be dragged and dropped between the phases, soᅠit is very easy to change status of the tasks as a project proceeds.

Action colors
Each ᅠOutlook task may be colored, and the team has decided to use different colors for different kinds of work. We have green for development, blue for testing, yellow for documention, orange for design and so on.

In combination with the phases the coloring makes it easy to see how projects proceed, and it is especially useful when you choose to show tasks for all projects and all responsibles. The tasks may be filtered by project or responsible also, but sometimes you need to see the whole picture.

Sharing via SharePoint

The team is placed in Sweden, India and Spain, so we need a way of sharing that works via the Internet. Kanban Task Manager gives three sharing options, SharePoint, SQL Server database and Access database, and for us SharePoint was the obvious choice. With this alternative we also get all the possibilites of SharePoint to combine with Kanban Task Manager.

Synchronization of tasks
As all members of the team have their Kanban Task Manager installations connected to the same SharePoint site, we ᅠall see and use ᅠthe same Kanban board and the same Outlook tasks, and changes are synchronized automatically within minutes. Should we want an even quicker sync we can just press the sync button.

Before we had Kanban Task Manager we used a SharePoint task list to keep track of projects and tasks. That worked too, but with Kanban Task Manager we have something much better! Maybe this application will suit your organization also? Take a look at the video to learn more, and you are welcome to try Kanban Task Manager for 30 days without any obligations!