30 September 2012

Kanban Task Manager For Outlook V1.1 Released

Kanban Task Manager logotype
The team is happy to announce the release of a new Kanban Task Manager, the Outlook addon that makes project and task management a sheer pleasure! At least we think so, who have been using it for a while.

Project management inside Outlook
With Kanban Task Manager the developers have placed a Kanban board right inside Outlook. It works with Outlook task that have been given some extras, and the automatic synchronization within the team makes it easy for the group to discover bottlenecks and blockers. Here is an introduction to the new version:

More efficient task handling

The Kanban Task Manager tasks have dropdowns for selection of project, phase and responsible.Version 1.1 has several enhancement that make the work with the tasks quicker than in the first version. As I wrote about the improved task handling in Kanban Task Manager V1.1 in August, I will just mention two things here:
  • The new color system. In version 1.1 you may connect color to either project or responsible, so that tasks get colored automatically. Without any extra work you will get a colorful interface that is easy to take in.
  • The possibility to create a task by clicking in a phase. This task is by default marked with the current phase, and if the  Kanban Task Manager homepage in Outlook - the Kanban board -  has been filtered by project or responsible this value will be selected by default also.
Adjustments for big teams
The first version of Kanban Task Manager worked well for smaller teams, but in big teams with many tasks and projects there were some limitations. Now we have added functionality that makes it much easier to work with a large amount of items:
  • Search feature. Search the subjects and bodies of all tasks.
  • Faster loading of homepage and settings. This applies to all alternatives for sharing and storing, but the loading time in the new Kanban Task Manager is especially improved when used with SharePoint.
  • Auto-complete instead of dropdowns for many items.  When the number of alternatives for project, phase or responsible  is more than 100 a dropdown is not the best alternative for selection. Then the dropdowns are converted into buttons. A click opens a dialog with all the alternatives and a field of the auto-complete type. Write in the first letters and klick OK when Kanban Task Manager has suggested the correct alternative.
Try it!
You are welcome to try Kanban Task Manager for 30 days, and we give full support during that period as well as when your organization becomes a registered user. And if your organization is already managing projects and tasks with the add-on I recommend you to upgrade your  Kanban Task Manager installation.

27 September 2012

Resource Booking In Version 8 Of Calendar Browser For Outlook

Calendar Browser for Outlook Business Solutions is currently developing a new version of Calendar Browser, the application for booking resources within an organization directly from the Outlook Calendar. Most important in this version is not new features but a rebuild that will make Calendar Browser a really modern product with great development possibilites. But let me start with some history:

Created twelve years ago
Peter Kalmström created the first versions of Calendar Browser  for Outlook when clients needed an efficient way to book rooms. One of them was a Swedish town and the other one was a bank, and for both Peter developed Outlook add-ons that used resource calendars. When each resource has its own calendar, you can book the resource by simply making an appointment in that calendar at the time you wish to use the resource.

Standard product for all kinds of resources
Peter was asked to develop more resource booking applications for Outlook, so he decided to make a standard product that still would be easy to customize. That became the first version of Calendar Browser, then called Outlook Calendars. This software could not only be used for rooms but for all kinds of resources that need to be booked within an organization, like cars or even people.

Used worldwide
Peter's Outlook add-on became popular, and today it is used all over the world by many kinds of companies and organizations. A lot has been changed since that first version, but the principle has stayed the same. Many features have been added, often on users request and with the help of sponsorships. Now it is time to make a profound
modernization of the coding and components.

Support for 64-bit version of Outlook 2010 and 2013
So far Calendar Browser has only worked with the 32-bit version of Outlook 2010, like most other add-ons. But the products aim higher than the average, so now we will add support for the 64-bit version also. Most people do not need the 64-bit version, but those who do should not be kept from using Calendar Browser. We will also make Calendar Browser compatible with both versions of Office 2013.

Excel reports
The current version of Calendar Browser has an integrated statistics tool, OLAP Reporting Tool for Excel, but we have discovered that this tool is seldom used. It gives good reports about how resources have been used, but many have found it a bit too complicated.

We will therefore replace the statistics tool with a number of Excel reports, similar to those that are already used for Kanban Task Manager for Outlook. Excel iconThese reports will be much easier to understand, and as all  Excel functionality may be used they will not only give useful information but will also be possible to customize. For future bookings we will keep the Overview from earlier versions.

Dropdown limitation overcome
Calendar Browser adds a dropdown for selection of project in the appointment of the resource calendar. This is a convenient way of adding a project if they are not too many, but if there are more than 100 projects the dropdown will be converted into a button. Clicking the button gives a dialog containing a list box with all the alternatives and a text box of the auto-complete type, so that selection of the desired value is easy and fast even when there are many projects.

We hope to release Calendar Browser V8 by the end of October, and I will of course come back and tell you when we do.

24 September 2012

Software Wrapping - A Fierce NO From

The download files never contain anything more than we say on the download pages - a clean, digitally signed installation file. We will not abandon our conviction that this is the only honorable way to go, but unfortunately some software companies do not agree.

Wrapping at
Calendar Browser iconA year ago we rapidly withdrew all products from the cnet site, after we discovered that this well known download site had started to add other products to the download files they hosted. As we could not be absolutely certain that this would not happen also to the applications, we immediately stopped marketing our products via cnet.

Unlucky process of change
TimeCard iconAt the time of our withdrawal from I thought this ugly phenomenon called wrapping was a temporary blunder from their side, and I could not imagine that more companies would follow suit – at least not big and earlier reliable companies! But that is what has happened, and we consider it a real problem.

Frustrating for downloaders
Folder HelpDesk iconWith wrapping users  get extra software they often neither want nor need, and sometimes those programs make changes in their computers that are difficult to correct. The "present" may also be hard to get rid of. This is especially troublesome for people who are not experts on their computers and must call on help to solve the problems.

KBase iconEven if there is a box to uncheck if you don't want the extra software, we cannot accept the practice of wrapping. It is too easy to miss this box, and even users who discover it and decide to leave it checked might not understand the implications of downloading the whole package and not just the product they wanted from the beginning.

Hampering for software vendorsHelpDesk OSP icon
Not only the downloaders are affected by the wrapping. We have noted a decrease in the number of downloads from the site, even though we sell as much as before. But how much more would we sell if people were not afraid of downloads?

Document Tagger iconEarlier evaluators downloaded and installed the application first and then came to us with questions. Nowadays it is more common that evaluators first contact us and ask a number of questions and then download the product. I assume people want to feel convinced that our product is interesting to them before they "risk" a download, and they also want to be assured that we are here and willing to assist them if there are issues.

The honorable way
Kanban Task Manager iconWithin the team we all agree that we should continue giving good information about our installation files and only give downloaders what we have informed about. Everything else would be to deceive evaluators, and we would never want to do that to people who take their time to try our applications.

Wrapping foreign products into the downloads might give us a few extra euros or dollars in the short run, but in the long run it would destroy our good reputation. And we would feel really bad about that extra money!

If you wish to read more on this subject from a downloader's point of view, I recommend an article on wrapping by the knowledgable Diane Poremsky at Slipstick.

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions

21 September 2012

Ganesha Celebration At Indian Office

The team is built up of two groups of people: one in Sweden and one in India. Ties are strong between the two groups. We have different cultures and beliefs, and as we respect each other it makes work more interesting.

These days, when I see what may happen if disrespect and distrust is allowed to govern, I feel privileged having this possibility to learn how other people see the world. I know many of my blog readers share my interest, and therefore I will today let  the information about the products give room for information about traditions among my Hindu friends in Indore.

Ganesha, god of wisdom
By non-Hindus Ganesha's elephantine face is probably the most well-known among the Hindu gods. Ganesh is worshipped as the god of education, literature and knowledge, and he is also the Lord of success who can destroy obstacles and evils. His festival is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, which usually falls between 19 August and 20 September.
Vipul Dindulkar image
The Indian members of the team have created a small altar at the office, and even though Wednesday was a bank holiday they gathered at the office to pay their homage to Ganesha. Office Manager Vipul Dindulkar will tell you about the team's celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi:

An altar at the Indore office
Ganesh Chaturthi is the festival for collectiveness, so the team wanted to build an altar for Lord Ganesha in the office and worship him there. We already have a good spirit at our workplace, but this ceremony will further strengthen the harmony and friendliness among us.

Last Wednesday was a day off because of the festival, but we still went to the office – not to work but to gather around the altar and pay our homage to Lord Ganesha with symbolic offerings. In the image below you see one of my colleagues, Lead QA Rinku Rimza, lighting the oil lamp in front of the altar.

Ten days of festivities
A Ganesha idol is a clay figure picturing the god. We have our Ganesha idol on the office altar, just like us many other groups have their own idol. These idols can be small as well as very big, and they are worshipped for ten days during the festival both in homes and publicly. In Indore there are theater and singing performances and also activities like free medical checkup, blood donation camps and charity for the poor.

altarIdols carry away obstacles
After ten days the idols will be sunk into water –  in the sea or in a river, lake, pond or well. Saturday we will take our idol to the sacred river Narmada, 60 kilometers from Indore.
When we sink the idol we will wish that Lord Ganesh takes all our obstacles with him. According to our faith he will take away the misfortunes of all  those who worship by heart and with the true spirit.

17 September 2012 Execs Travel South

Siret and Peter Kalmstrom photoPeter Kalmström, CEO of Business Solutions, and his wife Siret who is our Sales Manager, certainly know how to enjoy life. They don't request much on a material level, but they choose their places of living carefully.

Now Peter and Siret have left Sweden, and during a long weekend they drove from Sweden through Europe to the family apartment at Costa del Sol in southern Spain.

Summer together on Öland
We have had a wonderful summer together, the four leaders of Sigge and I live on the island Öland permanently and manage the Swedish office, and Peter and Siret have a summer cottage near us.

As the business is a common interest there has been a lot of working, planning and discussing, but we have also eaten fabulous meals together. Siret loves to cook, and the rest of us love eating her creations! Last winter, when she visited the team members in Indore, she was inspired by the Indian cuisine , and that has given us some delicious dinners.

Peter likes to sit outside with his computer whenever possible, and in the image below we see Peter in the Öland landscape. He uses a quality screen, so it works well.
Terrace Photo

Towards warmer weather
Now autumn has come to Sweden, and as both Siret and Peter like warm climates they have decided to spend the coldest part of the year at the southernmost end of Europe, in a village near Marbella in Spain.

This is a friendly, cosmopolitan area,  so I am sure they will enjoy their stay. The photo below shows the roof terrace of the apartment, which has a fantastic view over the Mediterranean.
Terrace Photo

In Spain Peter will work with the applications as usual, but he will also continue his lecturing on advanced IT-courses. He is a Microsoft certified Trainer, and he enjoys the contact with his students. As these courses are often held in Sweden they will mean some flights back and forth - and an opportunity for us to meet.

Visit to India
In December there will be more travelling for Siret and Peter, when they go to Indore to meet with the Indian members of the team. They will also attend the wedding of our developer Kanak Joshi, so they are really looking forward to the trip. Siret has already promised to guest blog about this adventure, so I know there will be some interesting posts and good photos also!

12 September 2012

Using Kanban Task Manager In Big Teams

Kanban boardWe are sometimes asked if Kanban Task Manager for Outlook can be used by big teams. The answer is Yes. In next version the developers have made sure our new project management application will work well even if you have many tasks, projects and responsibles.

Demos with few tasks
The Kanban Task Manager documentation on the website shows a software that is used in a small group, but this is only for practical reasons. A few tasks and projects show how the application works just as well as many of them do. The images and video demonstrations have to be rather small, and that makes it difficult to show Kanban Task Manager with many tasks in Outlook.

Outlook tasks with dropdowns
Kanban Task Manager uses standard Outlook tasks, but dropdowns for selection of project, phase and responsible has been added to each task. In the Kanban Task Manager homepage – which is the Kanban board where the tasks are visualized and synchonised within the team – the tasks may be filtered by project and responsible. These values are selected from dropdowns too.

Buttons for more than 100 valuesKanban Task Manager dropdown-button
Using dropdowns is a good way of minimizing errors and making selection quick and easy, but if you have too many alternatives the dropdown will be difficult to handle even when the values are shown in alphabetic order. Therefore our technicians have decided to convert the dropdowns into buttons to show phases, projects or responsibles when the number of alternative is more than 100. In the image above both the Project and the Responsible dropdowns have been transformed into buttons.
Kanban Task Manager Project dialog
When a user clicks on one of these buttons a new dialog will be shown. It has a listbox with all the values and a text box of the autocomplete type, so that selection of the desired value is easy and fast.

Support for up to 1000 itemsKanban Task Manager logotype
Kanban Task Manager supports as many as 1000 alternatives each for project, phase and responsible, and it is highly unlikely that an organization will need more than that.

We have also tested the application with 1000 tasks in the Kanban board, and it works fine with all three sharing options: a SharePoint site or an Access or SQL Server database. With even more tasks Kanban Task Manager will be a bit slow and difficult to navigate, so if you need to have more than 1000 tasks we suggest that you break down the team using the same Kanban board into two or three.

10 September 2012

One Year Of Testing The Outlook Add-ons

Neha Gupta imageIn September 2011 Business Solutions hired a new QA Engineer, Neha Gupta. Neha has now been with us for a year, and during this time all users of the products have benefitted from her work.

Support team
Some members of the support team answer e-mails and chats and have a direct contact with users of our products. Others in the same group also play an important role when giving support services to users and evaluators, but their contribution is not as noticed and praised as they work more in the background. Neha is one of those team members.
Reproduce errors
When a user reports a problem that we have not heard of before, Neha is often the first one to work with it. She gets all the information gathered about the issue and about the environment our product is installed in. Then she creates the same environment, often using virtual machines, and tries to reproduce the error.

When Neha succeeds, she documents exactly what she did, and with this info the developers can give the caller a solution to the issue. This is normally a rather quick process, and the team member who sends the solution gets a grateful answer ‒ a credit which should actually go to Neha and the developer.

Test of updates and new products
Kanban Task Manager logotypeNeha is also engaged in the testing of product updates and of new products, and in that process she also suggests changes and enhancements. Recently she has done a great job with Kanban Task Manager, a new application for task management inside Outlook that soon will come in its third version.

Team spirit
We are happy about the good spirit in the team, and Neha has helped cultivating it by remembering birthdays with heartfelt and joyful videos. The first one was for Peter's birthday in January 2012 ‒ a big surprise. Neha is well liked by all, and she is also dedicated in her work and always willing to give that little extra. We are happy to have her in the team and hope she will stay on for a long time.

05 September 2012

Kanban Task Manager V1.1 Slides Ready For Release

Kanban Task Manager Business Solutions will very soon release a new version of Kanban Task Manager, the add-on for project and task management inside Outlook. I have a version that works just fine for me, so I have been able to finish the documentation update. Today I will introduce the new slideshow.

Visualize work processes
Kanban Task Manager uses the Kanban board idea on Outlook Tasks, so that team members can see how work with projects and tasks proceeds inside their Outlooks. Integrating the board in Outlook gives many advantages besides the benefit of using a platform that many people already know and use.
  • It is easy to drag and drop tasks between different phases of a project.
  • Tasks are synchronized automatically within the workgroup, so everything is up to date and everyone can see what is happening.
  • Tasks for multiple projects can be displayed in one Kanban board.
  • You can filter tasks by project and by responsible.
  • Statistics reports are automatically generated to Excel. Seven different reports are generated, and the data can be studied and shown with all the features of Excel.
V1.1 quicker and more efficient
The enhancements in the version of Kanban Task Manager that we will soon release have mostly come from input from evaluators and from our own staff, as we are also using our product. I have described them in earlier blog posts, so today I will just recommend you to have a look at the slideshow. If you already know Kanban Task Manager you will see the difference, and if our application is new to you I hope you will like what you see!

None of the slideshows are intended to be a full instruction on how this Outlook add-on works - for that we have the manual. Instead the slideshow is meant to be a first presentation of the application, so that the viewer can see if it might be interesting for the company or organization he or she represents. If the answer is yes, it is time to study the rest of the documentation and to try the application.

I hope you will enjoy the show even if the quality when showing it here is not the best. As soon as Kanban Task Manager V1.1 is released we will upload a .pps file to the website, to give you a slideshow with better quality for download.

02 September 2012

MetaData Creator Becomes Document Tagger

Document Tagger logotypeI have already told you about the new application for tagging documents in SharePoint libraries that is under development at Business Solutions. In those blog posts I called the software MetaData Creator, but now we have decided to give it another name: Document Tagger. We also have a new icon, and in the demo below Peter describes a new feature: how to tag multiple files in a SharePoint document library with keywords.

Document managing in SharePoint 2010
SharePoint 2007 introduced important document management infrastructures and enabled users to apply structure and management to their document libraries, and in SharePoint 2010 those features are enhanced and reinforced. One of the main principles in the document management of SharePoint 2010 is the use of metadata, but tagging documents with keywords and other metadata is a time consuming task. Therefore it is often skipped because of lack of time. This is a pity, because tagging your SharePoint library documents gives you a lot of benefits.

Better search is just one of the advantages
The most obvious benefit of tagging documents is probably the improved search capability. But there is more! For example you can create SharePoint views and forms using tags.  Document Tagger already comes with a custom form that displays all documents within a site that are tagged.
Document Tagger keyword suggestions
Do the fun stuff only
The Document Tagger does the tedious job and leaves the final decisions about the document tagging to you. The application analyses the document and suggests a number of keywords to be tagged to it. Your job is to review the suggestions and uncheck the ones you don't want and then hit the Save button to save them. Before that you may of course also add your own tags if you want to tag it with some metadata that cannot be extracted from the document itself - or  if you think Document Tagger has missed something (but it seldom does).

I hope you like the new Document Tagger graphics! They include small icons for different categories of suggested tags, so that it will be easier to identify them and see if they are relevant or not. In the Document Tagger icon the designer has used the hashtag symbol on a document to explain what it is all about.

Tag multiple files
The latest development of Document Tagger has added the features to tag .pptx files as well as .docx and to tag many documents at the same time. This is shown in the demo below by the CEO, Peter Kalmström, who is a Microsoft certified SharePoint expert.

Peter still wants to give Document Tagger some additional features before we release it, but if you are are waiting for a possibility to use this helpful application, you should not have to wait too long. Sometimes during the last part of 2012 we plan to release Document Tagger. I will keep you posted, and you are welcome to contact us for any queries you might have about this new software. On the Document Tagger homepage new information will be added gradually. Are you interested in reading the earlier blog post about this product? Just make a search for MetaData in the Search field here to the right, and you will find them.