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08 November 2012

Issue Tracking Tool Gets New Glory In Two Step Rebuild

Folder HelpDesk logotypeThe kalmstrom.com team has long reaching plans for product development, and to our flagship application for issue tracking they mean profound architectural changes that will make it even stronger for future development.

Issue tracking in Outlook
Folder HelpDesk is the most used of all kalmstrom.com products, and first created in the year 2000 it is also one of the oldest. The popularity of this tool for user support and incident management comes from the convenience of having everything in Outlook. We currently have version 12 of the software.
Folder HelpDesk animation

Folder HelpDesk converts incoming e-mails into tickets, manually or automatically, and the ticket list is also found right inside Outlook.

During the years many good features have been added, but even if the build of the product has been modernized several times there are still some old code and limitations we want to get rid of. The modernization will be done in two steps in version 13 and 14.

New sharing options

Even if we will keep the features that users all over the world have come to like and rely on, the kalmstrom.com technical leaders have decided to make profound changes to the Folder HelpDesk architecture in both version 13 and 14.

The Folder HelpDesk foundation will continue to be Outlook, where there is a lot of functionality for us to build on, but Folder HelpDesk will no longer rely on a shared network folder or public folder.

Instead we will give three options for sharing and storage of data: an Access database, an SQL Server database and a SharePoint site. Folder HelpDesk will also be entirely based on the VSTO tools and .NET, which will give us many new opportunities.

Compatibility enhancements in V13
Work with Folder HelpDesk V13 has now begun, and here the build will be changed to give a much better support for Office versions. Currently Folder HelpDesk is only compatible with the 32-bit version of Office 2010, Even if that is enough for most users we want to support the 64-bit version also - and now we have to consider Office 2013 too.

Many users of kalmstrom.com applications are eager to try new versions of the Microsoft products we build on, so we know that some of them will get Office 2013 even before the final version is released. Therefore we will make Folder HelpDesk V13 compatible with the 32 and 64 bit versions of both Office 2010 and 2013. It will of course also work fine with Windows 8.

No more OWC
In the current version of Folder HelpDesk you need to install the Office 2003 Web Components to use the settings and statistics tool. Even if the 2003 OWC version is suitable for later versions of Office too, this is of course not a good solution in the long run. In version 13 we will therefore replace both the settings forms and the statistics application with better options and thus get rid of the OWC dependency.

Kanban Task Manager Settings form

New settings dialog
The settings dialog in version 13 will look like the one in our new application Kanban Task Manager - which is not dependent of OWC. The screenshot here above comes from the project and task management application.

Another benefit of the new settings form is the possibility to change the names of different values, like category or type, without getting problems with the statistics and search of old tickets. The old tickets will just take the new name, and the statistics and search can continue as before.

Excel reports
Excel iconInstead of using the current OLAP Reporting Tool as the default platform for statistics and reports, version 13 of Folder HelpDesk will have integrated Excel reports. An extensive number of standard Excel reports will be created, and as they can be used with all the Excel features the possibilities are nearly endless.

Even if OLAP Reporting Tool is a great application that has served well for many years, it is unfortunately a bit complicated to learn. The new Excel reports will be much easier to use.

Common solutions
If you have followed this blog, you might recognize some of the Folder HelpDesk changes and enhancements from articles about Kanban Task Manager, KBase or Calendar Browser. You can for example already find Excel reports in Kanban Task Manager, and they will soon come in KBase and Calendar Browser.

This similarity is intentional, because we want the kalmstrom.com products to have more common elements than they currently have. This simplifies development and troubleshooting for our technicians, and it is also very convenient for users.

A membership of the kalmstrom.com Community gives the right to use more than one kalmstrom.com product without extra cost, and those who take advantage of this offer in the future will recognize some parts in their second or third application and find them easier to understand.

Merging of two issue tracking applications
For several years already kalmstrom.com Business Solutions is offering an issue tracking application for Outlook and SharePoint. When we now plan an addition of a SharePoint option for Folder HelpDesk these two products will come closer to each other, and eventually we will combine the good features of both into one single software.

This is a long term plan, though, and before it comes true we will make sure that HelpDesk OSP is kept up to date with Folder HelpDesk.

New features
When you have read this far you might ask yourself if there will be only architectural and compatibility changes in version 13 of Folder HelpDesk?

Not at all! We will add several new features, some of them kindly sponsored by Community Member Swiss Post. I will tell you more about them in a later blog post, but you are already welcome to the Folder HelpDesk Plans page for an overview.

Release next year
We plan to release version 13 of Folder HelpDesk in March next year, but Swiss Post will get their version earlier. We always give sponsors a chance to test and approve of "their" features before release.

We hope to have version 14 ready at the end of 2013, and by that time kalmstrom.com Business Solutions will have an extremely powerful helpdesk application. This is an exciting perspective, and I am looking forward to telling more about it and to seeing it become real.