Thursday, May 27, 2010

An Out of Browser Experience

Our new IntelliGantt Silverlight control takes advantage of a feature that let's you 'install' it on your desktop. This let's you use an icon on your desktop or start menu to launch the control-- basically as a 'super shortcut' to access your SharePoint data instead of going to the browser and navigating to the site (though yes, you could make the IntelliGantt web page a 'favorite' in your browser).

The other thing you get to do may actually be more important-- use your entire screen to view the IntelliGantt chart. Yes, maximizing the web browser gets you most of the way there, but as a 'desktop' application, you can actually use all the real estate on your monitor to get the biggest gantt chart possible. Which, if you have a large project plan, can be very helpful.

Here's what it looks like:

1. Start by navigating to the aspx page containing the IntelliGantt web part.

2. Next, right click anywhere within the IntelliGantt control. A two-item popup menu appears. The second item, whose full name is 'Install IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint onto this computer', is the one to select. This will not only install the control on your computer, it will also save the connection information so that the installed control automatically goes to this SharePoint site when its started.

3. After clicking on the menu option, a simple 'where do you want to put it?' dialog appears. The start menu is selected by default, but I prefer the desktop for my high value SharePoint sites.

4. Here is the final result. There is an 'IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint' icon that can be renamed to convey information as to what SharePoint site it came from. The title of the running app gives you a clue at least by providing the SharePoint server name.

Getting the task data from the SharePoint site was automatic as, during the process of installing on your desktop, IntelliGantt remembered where it came from and how to communicate with the SharePoint server in the future.

Also, you can install multiple controls from multiple sites and have them all run concurrently-- perhaps filling all the pixels on your multiple screens.

Finally, it's just as easy to uninstall is install. Whenever you want to remove it, go to your Control Panel. It will be listed as an application you can uninstall.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Installing the Silverlight Control on SharePoint 2010 and 2007

We just posted to our forum detailed steps how to install the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint on both 2010 and 2007. Yes, we have the full matrix: Foundation, Standard and Enterprise 2010 are supported, as are WSS 3.0, MOSS Standard and MOSS Enterprise.

The idea here is a user will be able to drop the IntelliGantt control into a SharePoint server and evaluate how well it works for them without having to bug IT. But yes, we will have an actual package to install on SharePoint servers properly as well.

In the meantime, though, this is the method. It's straightforward on SharePoint 2010, but SharePoint 2007 makes you go through a particular hoop (which we've labelled as 'Step 13').

Finally, we encourage you to join our moderated forum, where we look forward to answering your questions and providing more in-depth information.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Microsoft BPOS and General SharePoint Hosting Support

I met with a local BPOS partner in town last week to show off the new IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint. For those who don't know what BPOS stands for, its a program from Microsoft for its partners to provide businesses productivity solutions through hosted services. There's a range of offerings from hosted Exchange to online Outlook. But of course we are most interested in the hosted SharePoint online services and the value we can bring to running projects online with SharePoint.

So when she asked me if the IntelliGantt web part runs on BPOS, first I had to ask what BPOS was myself, then I told her everything I knew, which amounted to 'I think so'. But 'should work' and 'does work' are often different things in this world so this morning I signed up for a BPOS account myself.

I'm pleased to say I was able to drop in the IntelliGantt Web Part, configure the MS.SP.url parameter and, lo and behold, it did indeed work. Here's the screenshot:

As you can see, not only is this running within the the BPOS environment (check out the size of that url!), but its also running with SSL-- another feature the IntelliGantt Web Part supports.

Finally, I'd like to show another image highlighting the bottom right of the Gantt chart:

By default you will see the words 'IntelliGantt BETA' on the bottom right of the Gantt chart. Furthermore, if you click on this, a browser window will open up taking you to a forum on the site where you can post questions and look for answers.

For any SharePoint hoster and integrator (folks like Rackspace or Implement for example), this area of the Gantt chart-- the display string and the target link-- is customizable. Basically, we want to introduce a simple way for partners to 'brand' the IntelliGantt Web Part so that their name is visible and a link can take them to their website where they may help the customer with any questions.

The way to do this will be in the initParams value passed in to the IntelliGantt Web Part control. For example:

param name="initParams" value="BrandingText=Successful%20Partner,BrandingUri=[your uri]"

The result will be this:

Naturally this is just the start of the customizations we plan to do as initial states, color schemes and more all enter the mix. The order in which we do things will be driven by customer, and partner, demand.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint on a Mac

This just in-- Silverlight 4 works very well on a Mac with Safari!

I had to share a screenshot of our IntelliGantt Web Part talking to SharePoint and running on an Apple Mac:

Looks pretty good! Also, please notice that our web part is running inside of WSS 3.0 in this picture. I will post 'How-Tos' in the next couple days on how to site the control in SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Foundation 2010, MOSS 2007 and WSS 3.0.

Showing Rich Text in Tooltips

In my previous post I thanked Tim Heuer for creating the Floating Window control and letting us use it. This reminded me that I also need to thank David Anson for his excellent HTMLTextBlock control, which we are also using. It's what enables IntelliGantt to show the rich text content from SharePoint description fields within our 'super' tooltip.

HTMLTextBlock is great, and should also be added to the WPF Toolkit, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Searching for Tasks Through Sites and Subsites

As we've mentioned before while introducing the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint, you have the option to look at all tasks within a SharePoint site, as below:

(Note: While it was cool to see the Gantt Chart on a SharePoint site's home page, I wanted it a little bigger. So I created a new Site Page, added the IntelliGantt Web Part and had it take up all the real estate).

You also have the option to drill down through sub sites and find all tasks from buried in your SharePoint hierarchy as well:

One of the first things you'll likely notice is you have a lot of tasks to look at! Wouldn't it be nice to have a search button that let's you search for simple keywords through all the tasks that IntelliGantt finds? We thought so too. The sharped eye'd reader will notice we've introduced a new button since the last blog post-- Search!

When you click on the magnifying glass, a floating window pops up that let's you enter keywords in a simple text box just like Google. (If you're thinking 'how did you do a floating window?', go see Tim Heuer's excellent blog post and codeplex project. And please vote for it to be included in the web toolkit!).

Type in a word or two that you'd like to find...

...and IntelliGantt will query your SharePoint server for tasks that have text fields matching your words.

Just in case you are wondering, IntelliGant did not pull down all items in the Task List from SharePoint and search for them locally, one at a time, on your computer. Instead, IntelliGantt created a CAML query that executed on the SharePoint server so that only results travelled across the wire. If that sounds a little too techie, just know that you're SharePoint administrator and IT networking folks will thank you!

The other really powerful feature of Search is to easily combine it with views, which often have their own search information defined.

In the above screenshots you'll notice we used the 'Default' view for each Task List, which is usually the 'All Tasks' view. However, we can also select 'My Tasks' and apply it to every Task List.

This is very helpful in and of itself as it makes it easy for every user to see what's assigned to them. But what if they wanted to see what's assigned to them on a certain date? Again, the Search is your friend.

Bring up the floating Search window once more by clicking on the magnifying glass and type in a date (IntelliGantt will recognize dates as well and apply it to your task Start and Due dates fields).

Execute the search and now we've made a more complex search-- all my tasks on 6/15-- surprisingly simple.

Of course the more sites, sub sites, task lists and tasks you have the more powerful this feature becomes. It's perfect both for team members who would like one place to see what they need to do and for managers who need one place to see what's been done.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Print the IntelliGantt SharePoint Gantt Chart

Not to give away my age, but back in the early 1990s we were on the cusp of the paperless office. By the mid-nineties we were on the precipice. At the end of the millenium the experts assured us that, after that Y2K thing caused everything to stop, when we restarted (rebooted?) the office would be absolutely, guaranteed, bet-your-bottom-dollar-on-it paperless.

In that context, we are pleased as punched that in the year 2010 Silverlight 4 now supports printing. I have to admit I like the theory of a paperless office, but I like the reality of what customers want even more-- and in no uncertain terms people want to capture our Gantt Charts on paper.

Now you can.

1) Go to a SharePoint site with the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint installed.

2) Click the picture that looks like a printer.

3) Select a date range to print and a printer. By default IntelliGantt chooses the start and finish of the project. You can adjust this on the fly.

4) When you click 'Select Printer' the standard printer selection form in Windows pops up. I will choose a PDF for reasons that will be clear at the end of this post.

5) Since I chose PDF, it will ask me where I want to save it on disk. I find this step interesting because, remember, this is from a Silverlight application. Good golly, we can start to interact with the desktop. Awesome!

6) Here's probably the coolest visual part-- you can watch the pages being printed one at a time with a full preview for each page. If you see something you don't like, cancel it.

7) Voila, we are done! This example happens to be in PDF, but it just as easily could have been to your printer where the Gantt Chart would be waiting for you-- nice and warm in the print tray.

One thing to note about the output. Compare the visual in step 1 with the last visual above. Notice that the print output shows the complete Gantt Chart while the first image didn't have quite enough space for the start and finish dates? The print routine pays attention to the start and finish you specify in the print dialog and figures out what's necessary to print the range. Nice.

Of course, it's still hard to send paper through the internet. But I do have this PDF file! Which means if you want to see the actual PDF I just produced and print it for yourself, here you go.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The IntelliGantt Web Part Within SharePoint

While a great looking and full-featured Gantt Chart has many merits on its own, if you're going to call something a Gantt Chart for SharePoint it's probably a good idea to actually show it within SharePoint. Not that I don't appreciate a good developer view now and then, but here's a screen capture of the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint within SharePoint 2010.

The most important thing to note: This is not photoshopped!

I'll cover how to drop our web part within a SharePoint page in a separate post, but rest assured we're making it very easy for anyone to give the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint a test run.

What I wanted to point out in this post is how this web part gives you a full visualization of the entire hierarchy. In this image you see six total items from the SharePoint site called 'SubSite 1', the task list called 'SubSite 1 Tasks' and the actual task items in the task list: Container, Chew Gum, Look and Walk. So far so good.

Since IntelliGantt gets its data from a SharePoint Task List, you can of course see the same data using just your web browser. However, when you navigate to the SharePoint Task List notice that only the three top-level items are visible: the Container folder, Look and Walk. The Container folder does indeed still contain sub tasks, but what you see in SharePoint is the following:

If we switch to the Gantt View for this list, we still just see the folder and 2 tasks:

IntelliGantt, on the other hand, gives you a complete view of your task hierarchy.

And naturally, the values roll up, like Start Date, Due Date and Percent Complete-- all reflecting the collection of child tasks. With this web part you can see all the tasks in your project just like you can in MS Project or IntelliGantt on the desktop.

Finally, we took this ability to its logical conclusion-- if you would like to see all the tasks in your project, then it stands to reason you might want to see all the tasks in your sub sites too. Just click the arrow next to the 'Views' dropdown (yes, that will be covered in another post) and IntelliGantt will discover the task lists lurking in your subsites and gather everything into one view.

Ah, I see that a few tasks we pulled in are behind. Looks like we have more work to do!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Worlds Best SharePoint Gantt Chart

Coming soon to a browser near you.

I thought folks might like to see a peek of the new Gantt Chart TeamDirection is working on. We're calling it the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint and have created a brand new section in our forum to start fielding questions.

Obviously we will have screencasts and tutorials. But here's what will be available from day one:

1) It is in Silverlight 4 and therefore will use the new PRINT capability

2) It will have interactive zoom in and zoom out to seamlessly move from hours to quarters when viewing your tasks. Gantt zooming is probably the number one request from folks interested in SharePoint Gantt Charts. It's really cool to see so I'm looking forward to demo'ing this feature!

3) All changes you do to the grid and gantt will be reflected immediately both in the UI and in the actual SharePoint item. No need to worry about clicking an 'Update' button, IntelliGantt figures it out for you.

4) You will be able to include subsites and all tasks from subsites in the web part with a click of a button (the arrow next to the print image. The preview picture below is actually including subsites.). This gives the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint simple, yet powerful, rollup capability for any hiearchy of projects.

5) Did I mention beautiful printing?

6) Extremely intelligent auto-refresh features that automatically pull down all the data, or just the changes from the last time IntelliGantt refreshed.

7) Task grid columns that automatically configure based on SharePoint views.

8) Scaling, Scaling, Scaling. We've already tested the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint with thousands of tasks with just about zero performance impact.

And of course much much more. Please contact sales at teamdirection dot com if you'd like to give the beta a test run. The first release will be targetted toward SharePoint 2010 (both Foundation and Server) with a follow on released supporting WSS 3.0 and MOSS 2007.

And finally, the picture: