Today we are announcing the immediate availability of OnTime 2008 Beta! That's V8.0 for those of you keeping track making this the 8th generation of the OnTime software suite. We have added more than 60 new improvements and some of them, such as the new Project Wiki, are so exciting that I wonder how we ever lived without them.
It's important to note that Axosoft is not just making a separate Wiki software, but instead, we've integrated a full project Wiki (or team wiki depending on how you see it) inside of the OnTime application so that OnTime can be the central repository of everything related to a project.
What's New in OnTime 2008 Video
Download OnTime 2008 Beta
So lets take a look at the new features:
New Project Wiki
Wiki pages provide a great way to collaborate and communicate important pieces of information between team members. Everything from team member directories to policies to project goals and guidelines can be tracked in wiki pages. Depending on how your organization utilizes the new wiki functionality, it can replace certain aspects of intranets, eliminate reliance on folder sharing, and preserve knowledge that would otherwise be lost in email archives. The possibilities are endless, and more and more progressive teams are adopting wikis for internal and external collaboration.
OnTime's new Project Wiki tab creates a unique way to manage Wiki documents. Like all other item types, wiki pages in OnTime revolve around the project hierarchy. When a user creates a new wiki page, it's always related to a project or to All Projects. To create a new wiki page, users can select the project and click the "New Wiki Page" button (Green Plus Sign). Here, we see a Wiki Page for Coding Guidelines:
This Wiki Page Shows the Naming Conventions to be Used by the Team
One of the problems with Wikis is that teams can generate hundreds or thousands of wiki pages over time, so it can become extremely difficult to find any particular wiki page. But in OnTime, wiki pages are stored in the project tree hierarchy, providing an easily maintainable structure where each wiki page is organized. So finding or browsing to a wiki page couldn't be easier.
In fact, there are several ways to browse to a wiki page:
- Just click on a Project - Each Project can have a "Home" wiki page associated with it. You might create a wiki page called "Project Overview and Goals" for every project. You can then set this main document as the "Home" Wiki page of that project. When you're on the new Project Wiki tab and you click on a project, the Home wiki page is automatically loaded.
- Use the Auto-Generated Table of Contents - The auto-generated table of contents in OnTime's Project Wiki is a unique and extremely powerful way to look at all or a portion of the wiki pages in your system. By clicking on the table of contents option in the wiki toolbar, you can see all the pages for the currently selected project and all of its children. Since each user's project visibility is based on their security roles, the table of contents automatically takes into consideration any security roles the user may have and therefore, the table of contents is customized for each user and for each project:
This Screenshot shows the Auto-Generated Table of Contents in OnTime's Wiki
- Use the Recent Changes Page - The recent changes page on the Project Wiki tab can be accessed from the toolbar and shows a quick list of the 25 most recent documents that have been changed in the currently selected project. Select All Projects and you'll see recent changes in all projects that you have access to allowing users to quickly find the most up to date information.
The Auto-Generated Recent Changes Page is a Great Way to Stay on Top of What's New
- Use the Wiki Page Listing for a Given Project - If none of the above methods are sufficient, you can always use the Wiki Page listings for the currently selected project. All the pages for the currently selected project are in a drop-down list on the Project Wiki toolbar:
Use the Project-Specific Page Listing drop-down to Navigate to a Page
Significant improvements have been made to Projects in OnTime 2008. We've added Project-level attachments, custom fields, a custom form designer for adding or editing projects and we've re-arranged some existing features to make them easier to navigate.
Lets take a look at what's new in Project Improvements:
Easier Project Notifications & Alerts Navigation
We added project-level Alerts in OnTime 2007, but they were a little hard to find. You had to first have Edit privilege at the project level and you'd have to go in and edit a project in order to add or modify an alert. The same was true with general email notifications at the project level. These two features have been brought down to the "Project Wiki" tab, with independent privileges so users no longer need to have the "Edit Project" security privilege just to add themselves to the email notification list or to setup a new Alert.
The new Project Wiki tab Provides Easy Access to Project Notifications and Alerts
Having the Project Notifications and Project Alerts tabs accessible on the main form makes both of these existing features more useful.
OnTime's attachments had previously been limited to attachments at the item level. This meant that if you wanted to attach project related files, there wasn't a great place to do it. But with the addition of the Project Wiki tab in the main window, we've also added the ability to add project-level attachments for the selected project. What's more is that your project-level image attachments are also accessible when creating a wiki page. So you can include team pictures, diagrams of your processes, workflows, project overview and build process inside of wiki pages where you can provide additional detailed explanations about the images.
Project Level Attachments Allows OnTime to be the Central Repository of all Project-Related Documents
Project Custom Fields
The project custom fields allow users to create their own project fields that are accessible from the add/edit project window. Additionally, you can use the new drag-and-drop form designer to edit the way these fields appear in the add/edit project window.
The new Form Designer Allow Users to Customize their Project Fields and Layout
Customer Management Improvements
Customer and contact management in OnTime became super important once we added the Incident Tracking for HelpDesk capabilities in OnTime 2007. One of the most requested features was the ability to track additional information about customers and the contacts associated with those customers. With OnTime 2008, we've added this capability and much more.
Lets take a look at each of the new improvements for Customer and Contact Management:
Redesigned Customer and Contact Management Window
First we redesigned the customer and contact management features into a single view where customers are listed in the top pane, while the contacts for the selected customer are in the bottom pane of the window. This makes customer and contact management significantly easier as you can see in the screenshot below:
The New Customer Management Window Makes it Easier than Ever to Manage Customers and Contacts
We've also added OnTime's trademark Quick Search to both Customers and Contacts on this window so you can easily find the customer or contact you are looking for. The columns on each of the list views can be customized to show any columns you wish, including any new custom fields that you create.
Import Customers and Contacts
From the toolbar of the Manage Customers window users now have the option to import Customers and Contacts. When importing new customers or contacts, OnTime allows users to automatically update existing customers or contacts by matching pre-existing records based on company name, URL and contact Email address. Like all other import capabilities in OnTime, fields can easily be mapped from any existing CSV file to the OnTime built-in or custom fields and the field mappings can be saved for reuse.
Importing Customers and Contacts couldn't be Easier. Save the Import Template to Reuse it Again
By saving an import template, OnTime allows users to re-import a list of customers on a regular basis. This could be extremely useful when a separate CRM tool might contain a master list of customers. You could easily re-import all customers on a regular basis allowing OnTime to stay up to date with the latest customer information.
Customer and Contact Custom Fields
Now any number of custom fields can be created for customers and contacts. With the new Customer and Contact form designer, users can add grouping tabs to group similar custom fields together. Take a look at this example:
Customer Form Designer with 3 Custom Tabs and Multiple Custom Fields
Fields can be dragged-and-dropped from the available fields list (which includes custom fields) onto the new form designer. You can even drag-and-drop fields to re-order them and click on any text box, checkbox or drop-down to set default values. The new form designer is limited to just setting up forms for Projects, Customers and Contacts. I know a lot of you (myself included) will be asking for the form designer as a means of creating field templates for defects, features, incidents and tasks. Unfortunately, that will not be in V8.0 as those item types require a more complicated form designer. We hope to address that in a future version.
OnTime's rapid email notification and alerts system can send out any of more than 40 different emails and with the release of OnTime 2008, users can now customize these emails to include whatever information they want the email to include.
The New Email Template Designer Gives User the Option to Customize Email Notifications
Email notifications or alerts can include static text as well as special placeholder fields that can be filled by OnTime as the email is being prepared. The email placeholders can be replaced by a URL to access the item via the OnTime Web client, the changes that triggered the notification and any other fields that the template creator wants to include. This feature also allows our International customers to localize the emails to whatever language they prefer.
Having attachments or even pasting attachments is nothing new to OnTime, but with the release of OnTime 2008 we wanted to make attachments even easier than before, so we have added the ability to drag-and-drop attachments so that you can add a large number of files easily. This is especially helpful with the new Project attachments tab where you might have a large library of files that should be associated with a given project. Now you can just drag-and-drop all of the files and OnTime will import each file and even give you a chance to set the options and description for each attachment.
Now OnTime Users can Drag-and-Drop any Number of Files to Quickly Attach them to Items or Projects
New Hyperlink Custom Field
Sometimes it would be nice to be able to pass the information from a given project, customer, contact, defect, feature, task or incident onto another application or web page. With OnTime 2008, you can easily do this using the new "Hyperlink" custom field. You can setup a hyperlink field that includes placeholders, which are replaced with a property of the currently selected project, customer, contact, defect, feature, incident or task.
For example, you might want to lookup the details of a customer's previous purchases in your accounting application. You could potentially setup a web page in your accounting application that retrieves such information and OnTime can provide an easy link directly to that page from any given incident, customer or contact. Here's how something like that might work:
First, you create a custom Hyperlink field for Incidents:
The New Hyperlink Custom Field Allows Information About Current Item to be Passed to any URL
As you can see from the screenshot, you can pass any incident property to any URL. In this case, we've chosen to pass the customerid to "MyAccountingApplication".
Use the Toolbar List of Hyperlink Fields to Activate a Hyperlink and Pass Relevant Information to the URL
By selecting an incident and clicking on the hyperlink custom field from the toolbar drop-down list, OnTime will automatically open your default browser and pass the appropriate URL and associated information from that item into the URL. The "MyAccountingApplication" in this case could use the customer ID information to lookup a history of purchases for that customer.
Addressing Concurrent Edits
What happens when 2 users edit the same record at the same time? Ever since OnTime V1.0 (and all the way to OnTime V7.x), the answer was simple: if you attempted to save a record which had been modified by another user after you opened the record, it would give you a warning indicating that the record was modified. Then it would give you the choice to either overwrite the other user's edits or to cancel your own edits.
Although this method works great for smaller teams where this type of even is extremely infrequent, it definitely leaves something to be desired for teams with lots and lots of active users. So now, thanks to the insistence of many of our larger customers (thank you Graham!), we've addressed this issue in the following way:
- When a user edits an item a "lock" is established
- The default lock timeout is for 30 minutes (but can be changed from the system options)
- If another user tries to edit a locked item, it'll say it's locked by another user
- If the lock expires and the user is still editing, it'll re-lock the item if the system "Refesh Locks Automatically" setting is checked, otherwise, the lock is automatically released
- If the user still tries to save after the lock is released, OnTime will check to see if the item has been edited by anyone else and if not, it will still allow the edit to go through
Adding the edit Lock feature also means that in OnTime Windows, we needed to provide a way for users to just view items that are being edited. So there's a new View Item feature that works similar to the view item in OnTime Web. Also, in case an administrator wants to remove a lock prior to the lock expiration, they can do that from System Options.
Lots of Little Stuff Too!
We have been very busy for the past year with improvements in OnTime 2008. There are so many things changed and improved that it's too much to go over in detail, but here are some additional noteworthy items:
- Change Due Dates on Multiple Items by using New "Push Back [X] Days" Feature
- Ability to Auto-Login (by remembering password) in OnTime Windows
- Quick Sort Pick-List Values Alphabetically
- Option to Show History in Ascending or Descending order
- Lots of changes and improvements under the hood
- And More Improvements Coming Before Release
Let us know what you think. We want to hear your feedback. Feel free to leave comments on this blog post or email me directly ("hamids" at you-know-where).