Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Heads Up! How to Combine Tasks with Announcments

One sign of a well engineered product is when customers call you and thank you for creating a feature that really helps them out. The other sign is when it never occurred to you the product could actually perform said feature. Invariably when this happens, the use case turns out to be a really good idea. So I thought I'd pass it along.

As you know, we created the IntelliGantt Web Part for SharePoint to look for Task Lists by default. Of course we also wanted to be able to include custom lists, specialized lists and heretofore unknown lists created by IT departments that could also serve as task lists.

But it never occurred to us to add the Announcements List into the mix. Thankfully it did to one customer.

They added an announcements list to the IntelliGantt Web Part so that folks could have an easy 'heads up' to the most important things of the day pertaining to a project. Our goal as always been to minimize the context switches as users work with the data. Including the announcements within the IntelliGantt Web Part is right inline with this philosophy.

Here's what it looks like:

As you can see the announcements list can be positioned right at the top. Also, the intrinsic nature of this list lends itself well to the day-to-day of projects as announcements are only visible for a specific amount of time. Once the announcement goes 'stale', it drops off the list and new announcements appear. The end result is the project manager has just increased the odds that team members will see important communications in context.

If you'd like to experiment with this a bit, you just need to know the server template id for the SharePoint Announcements List-- 104. Plug this value into our 'Include Template ID' property as shown below:

Finally, this same technique will work just as well with any SharePoint list. But we thought it was so neat to use a 'lowly' announcements list to accomplish something quite useful-- telling people the importing news of the day right within their project.

The Five Year Zoom

Well, that's what we called our increased timescale miniaturization internally. The exact amount of time you'll see on the Gantt will depend on the width of your monitor-- we can compress time but we cannot change the laws of physics :).

For instance, if you have a 23-inch monitor and you go to 'Full Screen' mode then you should be able to see a five span for the Gantt chart. We received this request from construction companies and governments (which surely can't be a coincidence) who often manage projects spanning many years. So as of version 1.0.107 these customers will be able to see the even bigger picture.

We did update the presentation just a bit as well to handle the new zoom factor. For example, here is a project in the default zoom:

As you can see this projects extends well past the timeframe for this view. However, if we slide the 'zoom thumb' all the way to the left, we see the project easily fits within the display:

Notice that at the highest level, the 'major calendar' section shows the year and the 'minor calendar' section shows the half year. We shortened this to H1 for the first six months and H2 for the second six months.

Everything is vector-based of course so there is no perfomance penalty for any zoom magnification level you may choose. And naturally the larger the monitor and the greater the number of pixels the more time we can fit on a page. So, if you really need to see a decade worth of project tasks in a Gantt Chart, you have the justification needed to request that super-thin LED 46-inch monitor.

Or just let us know if you need the 'Decade Zoom'. Either way, we're happy to help.