30 April 2012

Issue Tracking And User Support In Outlook

Folder HelpDesk logoVersion 12 of the issue tracking application for Outlook will soon be released, and today I can show you the new slide show. If you are into user support or incident management  I suggest you have a look at it, to get an introduction to Folder HelpDesk!

Convert incoming Outlook e-mails into support tickets
With Folder HelpDesk incoming e-mails are converted into support tickets right inside Outlook, and a workgroup can co-operate on taking care of incidents, solving issues and giving user support without ever having to leave Outlook. The product is highly customizable, and you may use either a shared mailbox or a public folder to share the support tickets.

Slide show presentation
I have written about Folder HelpDesk before, both generally about version 12 and in descriptions of the automatic e-mails sent out by the application and of the e-mail history options. Maybe you have read these blog posts and want to know more? The slide show below gives you an introduction to Folder HelpDesk.

Helpdesk usage and settings
The show begins with some user support cases, where incidents are reported by telephone or e-mail and converted into tickets. After that presentation there are some slides for the administrator, where we show how to make the most common settings. Much more info can be found in the Folder HelpDesk user manual, which will soon be released also. The slide show is just an overview over how our issue tracking application works.

Statistics and reporting tool
Folder HelpDesk has an integrated statistics tool, OLAP Reporting Tool for Excel. This is an advanced report generator which gives managements a useful tool for creating all kinds of reports and study how tickets have been handled.

Knowledge base
There is also a knowledge base connected to Folder HelpDesk. Before a support case is closed you can save the ticket as a knowledge base article by just pressing a button in the Folder HelpDesk ticket. As the knowledge base articles can be full text searched and also sorted in categories, it is easy to find the solution to an earlier issue if it should occur again. The name of the knowledge base is KBase, and just like OLAP Reporting Tool it is also sold as a separate product.

Many organizations worldwide already know how the helpdesks can facilitate their user support and issue tracking. Folder HelpDesk has been on the market for 12 years - earlier under the names Outlook HelpDesk and Public Folder HelpDesk - and we will continue adding new features that will make the issue tracking even more smooth and easy.

26 April 2012

Norway In A Singing Protest Against Fascism

In July last year Norway was hit by a terrible deed when a right wing terrorist who wanted to hurt the Norwegian Labour Party killed 77 people, most of them young. I wrote shocked blog post about the murders in Norway right after they had happened.

Rainbox imageNow the terrorist is on trial, and he has explained that the murders were "necessary" to stop what he saw as brainwashing of the Norwegian people performed by the Labour Party. He hates the idea of a multicultural society, and as an example on the “brainwashing methods” he mentioned a popular children’s song, a translation of Pete Seeger’s My rainbow race. This song says that no race is superior and we should all share the resources of the earth.

Many Norwegians were upset, and someone wrote a post on Facebook and urged people to go to a square near the court at noon today, to sing the song together. The call was heard, and around 40 000 people gathered! That is a lot for a town of a million inhabitants on short notice and on a rainy weekday. This is only one of the many examples on how the attack has united the Norwegian people, and I say: Bravo Norway!

21 April 2012

Manage Live SharePoint Data In Microsoft Access

A SharePoint site is a very useful platform, but SharePoint cannot handle everything we might want to do with our data. The Microsoft developers have realized that and made it possible to use the SharePoint data with some of their other programs. When you utilize these possibilities you get nearly endless opportunities to work with your SharePoint list items. Here you can learn how to use live SharePoint data in Access.

Access gives extra functionality

When you link data from a SharePoint list to a table in Microsoft Access, you can do much more with your data than you can if you only use SharePoint. This is what Peter shows in the demo:
  • How to Search and Replace
  • How to make Queries  
  • How to show the list data in Forms  
  • How to make printable Reports from the list data  
  • How to use Visual Basic with data from a SharePoint list

Power use of SharePoint and Access

In the demo below you will meet Peter Kalmstrom, CEO of Business Solutions and creator of our Office applications. He says that having Access in the toolbox is nearly a must for power users of SharePoint, and he should know that. Peter is himself a power user of both Microsoft products.

Since more than ten years Access has been one of the database alternatives for sharing and storage of  data in the applications, besides SQL Server, and in recent years we have added SharePoint to the options. We also have a product that converts incoming Outlook e-mails into SharePoint list items, HelpDesk OSP.

Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist
Peter has earned all the available Microsoft certifications for SharePoint 2010, and he is also a certified Trainer on SharePoint 2010. He has shared his deep knowledge in several earlier Tips, and now he offers you one more tutorial video demonstration.  
Microsoft Certified Professional logotype

Link SharePoint list items to Access The actual linking of the SharePoint data to the Access table is handled elegantly by the two products - you don't have to do anything more than pressing the right button.

Peter shows how to link from the SharePoint list datasheet view to Access. Another possibility is to link from an Access table to SharePoint, which is shown in the Tips page about linking live SharePoint list items to Access

Welcome to have a look! I hope you will find the demo useful.

16 April 2012

Microsoft Supports "Telework Day" In Estonia

Siret Toots imageIn February I told you about the Swedish “Work from home day”. On 31 May Estonia is trying something similar, and Siret Toots, Sales and Relations Manager, will tell you more about it.

Different point of view
In Estonia the “Work from home day” is called “Telework Day”. This gives another angle to the event, concentrating more on the technical possibilities to work via the internet rather than staying at home to work from there.

In Sweden Microsoft was the sole organizer of the day, but in Estonia it is arranged by a group consisting of Microsoft Estonia, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Smart Work and Elion, a company that offers a comprehensive range of telecommunication services in Estonia as well as other countries. The image below is a part of the nice banner used to advertise the event.
Esdtonian Telework Day banner

High tech country
As to telecommunications Estonia is an advanced country, with a 99% wifi and a 100% cellphone coverage. Therefore it is very suitable for being on the forefront when it comes to “teleworking”. Welcome to learn more about the Estonian technical revolution in my blog post on our Independence Day.

Microsoft employees work outside the office
Estonian Head of Microsoft, Rain Laane, points out that their employees already work remotely for about half of the work hours. “We save money and get an increased flexibility and efficiency”, he says. “And job satisfaction is beginning to increase.”

In Estonia as a whole 57% of the business meetings are done via the Internet, and 76% use a smartphone for work, according to a survey conducted by Microsoft and Elion in February.

High expectations
The same study showed that 80% of the respondents would like to work outside the office. Looking back on the development in Estonia during the last decades I am sure they will get that opportunity!

12 April 2012

Will EU Parliament Vote No To ACTA Without Hearing The EU Court?

I have earlier discussed the ACTA treaty in a couple of blog posts, and in February I wrote about the European Commission's decision to let the EU court clarify whether the ACTA treaty complies with the fundamental rights and freedoms agreed on by all EU Members. Recent announcements imply that the Parliament might not accept ACTA anyway.

On the 29 March the rapporteur on ACTA for the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Ms. Amelia Andersdotter, proposed that Parliament withholds its consent to ACTA. And today the ACTA blog reports about a similar decision from the second biggest Parliament group.

The ACTA Blog is managed by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, an association dedicated to defend a free and competitive software market and informational freedom. Today’s article has information from a meeting between the EU Parliament's rapporteur on ACTA, Mr. David Martin, and the Parliament group Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, where Mr. Martin himself is a member.

Mr. David Martin has been appointed to submit a proposal to the EU Parliament regarding ACTA, and according to the blog post Mr. Martin says that the hopes of ACTA are not significant enough when weighed against the concerns of what the proposal will bring. Therefore he will recommend the Parliament to reject it.

ACTA is a proposed trade agreement between the EU and several other countries including the United States, with the aim to combat counterfeiting. Neither the conservative or the liberal Parliament group has yet voiced a united opinion on the treaty. Like the other owners of Business Solutions I follow the debate with interest, and I am sure I will have reason to come back to it..

Sweden’s Most Influential Author Was A Techno Freak

August Strindberg is considered to be the Swedish author who has had the greatest impact on literature both internationally and in his home country. He died hundred years ago, but he was modern for his time and very interested in new technologies. Strindberg also has a rather unknown connection to the island where Sigge and I live and where Business Solutions has its head office.
August Strindberg photo
The Year of Strindberg
In Sweden 2012 is declared The Year of Strindberg, and the memory of the prominent author is honored in various ways. But August Strindberg is not only remembered in Sweden. Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Maxim Gorky, John Osborne and Ingmar Bergman are a few of the many people who have cited Strindberg as an influence. His most famous play is Miss Julie from 1888, and a Google search shows that it is even right now performed in several places around the globe.

Rapid technological development
Strindberg was born in Stockholm 1849, and during his lifetime he experienced a technological revolution that was unparalleled in history. He saw the breakthrough of steamships and railways in Sweden and also the introduction of the telegraph, telephony, photography, art, animated films and electric light. The rapid development of society stimulated Strindberg to a revival of the metaphorical language in his books and plays.

Language innovator and propagator
Right from childhood Strindberg was fascinated by science. He was a rebel and experimenter, who wanted to “to turn everything upside down to see what lies beneath”, as he himself wrote in a letter, and he used terms from physics, chemistry and medicine in his works. Many new expressions from plays and novels by August Strindberg has stayed in the Swedish language, like “tankespår” “track of thought” from the novel that became his breakthrough, The Red Room. Here he takes the image from a railway train.

Revolt against church and monarchy
Strindberg also wanted to turn the society of his time upside down. The Red Room is a satire on hypocrisy and corruption and has frequently been called the first modern Swedish novel. Here his rebellion is still comparatively subdued, but later he published texts that led to strong reactions and even prosecution for blasphemy.

Eventually Strindberg felt it impossible to stay in Sweden, and for many years he lived in exile in France, Germany and Switzerland. During this period he was an eager practicioner of alchemy, but he also wrote his most loved novel, The People of Hemsö, about farmers and fishermen on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. Strindberg eventually returned to Sweden and spent his last years in Stockholm.

Best friend from Öland
August Strindberg photoAnd the connection to From his youth August Strindberg had a very good friend, the painter Per Ekström from Öland, where the head office is situated. This painter was the model for one of the characters in The Red Room, and the friendship lasted through Strindberg’s chaotic life. Ekström was even present when Strindberg died in Stockholm, in May 1912.

If you wish to learn more about August Strindberg, I recommend you to visit the website for The Year of Strindberg, which is available in various languages.

05 April 2012

Happy Easter With Images From Spanish Celebrations

This week the CEO, Peter, and Sales Manager, Siret, are in Spain for a short holiday in our second home country. Their stay coincides with the most important holiday of the year for most Spaniards – the Easter.

Semana Santa

In Latin America and Spain the Holy Week is celebrated with religious ceremonies and various types of processions. They are organized by hermandades, religious “brotherhoods” where also women may join nowadays. During the processions the members wear long robes and hoods, a way to demonstrate penance.

In every town sculptures of the Virgin Mary are taken out from the churches and carried around in the streets. Often these sculptures are old and artistic and of a great value to the locals. Many travel to cities like Seville and Malaga to see the processions, but even the smallest village has its own Easter celebrations.

El Paso

When Sigge and I lived in Spain we saw the Easter play of Riogordo, a beautiful small village in the mountains east of Malaga. Since more than 50 years several hundred people participate in El Paso, a presentation of the last days of Jesus. It is held outside, on a hill in the village, each Easter, and nearly all the inhabitants take part in the play. It was fascinating to see even small children and animals perform, and everything was very well organized.
Easter play photo With this glimpse from Spanish Easter traditions I wish all blog readers a Happy Easter!

04 April 2012

Internet Freedom, SharePoint Tips And People - Popular Blog Posts In March

March gave me many different kinds of blog ideas. Some were read by many, while a few seem to have gone by fairly un-noticed. Let’s concentrate on the positive and have a look at what has been popular! Tips
Peter Kalmstrom, our CEO and creator of the products, has made a number of video demonstrations on various topics, and month after month the blog articles about them are among the most visited.

Peter is a Microsoft certified SharePoint Specialist and Trainer, and in March two of his SharePoint tips were the most popular: How to add Javascript to SharePoint and How to Archive SharePoint list items. Many more find their way to the Tips section of the website, and we are glad our tips are found useful!
Kanban Task Manager
The interest for our new Outlook application for Tasks is still high, and January post about the Kanban board for Outlook is still read by many. This is a good omen for the reception of Kanban Task Manager, when it is released in May.   
Kanban Task Manager in Outlook

Important women and men
Anshul Takalkar imageArticles about people always get many visits, and in March we had Peter’s post on the International Women’s Day on women who had meant much to him. I wrote about our new Developer Anshul Takalkar and of baby Rimza – son of the Lead Developer. And the February story about the engagement of Developer Kanak Joshi was much read also in March.

Skype and Internet freedom
I try to cover general subjects within the kalmstrom business area, and in March the post about the incredible growth of Skype after the Microsoft requisition arouse interest.

I also wrote two articles about the UNHRC panel discussion on internet freedom on the last day of February. It was so popular that I wrote a follow up where I reported about the results of the meeting. This article was not as much read as the first one, maybe because I was early with the news the day the discussion was held. Probably people read about the discussion more in detail in news media after seeing my article and were not as interested the second time.

Visitor map   
German and Swedish growth
In February I told you that the Blog was most read in the US and UK, and it was the same in March. But then there is a change: where we earlier had India and China on the second position we now have those two plus Germany and my home country Sweden.

In February the third group of countries with many blog readers were mostly European, but in March we find Brazil and Canada here also. I am not surprised at Canada, because we have several Members of Community there, but Brazil is a happy surprise. Maybe we soon may welcome our first Brazilian Community Member?

02 April 2012

Unknown Mail Limit On Office 365

Each month Peter Kalmstrom, CEO of Business Solutions, sends out a newsletter to around 8 000 recepients. After the transfer to Office 365 Outlook we have a problem with the sending, since there is a limit of 1500 e-mails in 24 hours – something we did not discover until the sending of this month's newsletters stopped at 1500.

Application to avoid mass-emailing
Peter wanted to send out his e-mails one by one, to avoid the problems with mass-emailing. As he is a software creator specialized in Outlook, it was no issue for him to develop what he wanted, and for several years this application has happily sent out his newsletters in the same way as when you send e-mails manually.
Check Email
Bad surprise
In March migrated from Microsoft Online Services and begun using Office 365 Outlook for the mailboxes. The transfer was smooth, until it was time for the monthly newsletter. Then the sending stopped at 1500, and no more e-mails could be sent. As Peter uses the support mailbox for his newsletter, this meant that no more e-mails could be sent from the support in 24 hours. The support team had to send from the sales mailbox instead, which was a bit confusing for the callers.

Not advertised
Microsoft obviously wants to prevent spam sending from their cloud servers, and that is a good thing – even if we wish it did not affect us! But they do not inform very much about the sending limitation. Peter had of course studied Office 365 thoroughly before the migration, but he had still missed the e-mail limit. He found the rule in the Office 365 Help section.

The Microsoft solution
To solve the problem Microsoft suggests that we create groups of recipients, as each group only counts as one recipient. But that is really not a good suggestion. Then the sending will be mass-emailing, and most spam filters will stop our newsletters if subscribers have not whitelisted

The solution
Peter will continue sending out his newsletters with the e-mail application. Either he will send them from another mail server, or he will send only 1400 per day from Office 365. That would give us 100 emails left for support that day, and it is quite enough. The products work without issues for most users, so we never have to send so many e-mails in one day.

If Peter opts for the second alternative, it means that all will not have his letters on the same day. I think we all can live with that. The newsletters are still not the quickest way to get news about Those who want hot news will read them here, in the blog!

Use Outlook Meeting Requests For Time Tracking

TimeCard logotype With TimeCard for Outlook regular Outlook calendar appointments are tagged with time reporting data and used as time cards. Thanks to a sponsorship this data will now be automatically filled out when users accept a meeting request.

Select time reporting data from dropdowns
When you have TimeCard installed and you open an appointment in Outlook, it has dropdowns where you can select Customer and Task – or whatever values you wish to report on.

Categories in the settings help you to get more background information for the statistics, but you don’t have to bother with them in each appointment. Also the time reporting is done inside Outlook, and there are no double entries.   
Outlook calendar appointment with TimeCard   
Meeting requests with time reporting data
If one TimeCard user tags an appointment with TimeCard data and then sends a meeting request, the TimeCard values are not transferred to the calendar of the person who is invited. In the next version, though, we will add a possibility to handle meetings in an even smoother way than before.

When the new feature is enabled and a meeting request is sent to another TimeCard user, the TimeCard data from the invitation will be added automatically for the invited person when the meeting is accepted. Say Yes to a meeting, and you will at once have it ready for the time report!

Sponsorship speeds up development
The organizations who subscribe to the applications – we call them Members of the Community - are often very dedicated and interested in helping us improve the products. We get a lot of good suggestions, and when a Community Member is prepared to pay part of the development costs for a feature we want to add we usually make it a priority.

In this case we are grateful to Premium Member Hay Group, who sponsors this latest enhancement of TimeCard for Outlook.

Release by the end of April
Premium Members of the Community get their own copy of the product they use, a copy that has the Member organization logotype and does not need to be registered. will give Hay Group the updated version of their TimeCard copy in the beginning of April, and it should take less than a month to update the other Premium Member TimeCard copies and also create a new version of the standard product. I will come back with another blog post about TimeCard for Outlook when all TimeCard users and evaluators can try the meeting request feature.