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Author Topic: Meeting minutes/action item software recommendations?  (Read 12483 times)
superboyac
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« on: April 20, 2010, 05:38:12 PM »

Can anyone recommend a software that streamlines the whole meeting minutes and action item process?  I'll explain what I need:

I don't need something that keeps track of tasks like a todo list.  What I need is something that can improve the way a secretary or project manager would normally keep track of meetings and action items that result from the meetings.  Normally, this is done in MS Word, and also in Excel when there are action items involved.

The end product in all of this should be something that I can print quickly that will have all the latest minutes and action items (with status indicators) on it.  It should be able to keep track of past action items to see if they are done or not.  It should be easy to configure how the report should look.  It should be easy to enter minutes, etc.

Doing it in Excel or Word is a lot of repetitive work.  Cutting and pasting all the time, doing all sorts of things with formatting, etc.  I know there must a faster, better way of handling this.  Meeting minutes and action items are a very basic part of normal business work.  Hopefully, there's a software out there that already does this.

Thanks, as always!
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2010, 06:16:12 PM »

It's not exactly what you described, but would something built along the lines of this piece of shareware be pointing in the general direction?



Link: http://minutes-of-meeting...r.smartcode.com/info.html


Quote
Minutes of Meeting Recorder 4.4

License:Shareware

Price:$39.00

Size:2.8 MB

Date Added:05 March, 2009

Author: XemiComputers Ltd.


This program allows you to take meeting minutes through recording discussion and adding text summaries. The audio recorder built in the program saves each new recording as a separate section and offers real-time OGG audio compression and voice operated recording mode. It also features transcription playback mode, audio editor for making cut-outs, Exact Time Positioner (ETP) bar for quick and precise positioning within a recorded section, mouse wheel support and a selection of keyboard shortcuts with the most important controls available in off-focus mode and accessible while working with other programs. All recordings are 8-bit, mono, with 44KHz as the default sampling rate, but you can also use 22KHz and 11KHz. On the other hand, Minutes of Meeting Recorder provides a number of rich-text fields, enabled with basic formatting options, for creating standard meeting summary consisting of information about subject, date and place, present people, agenda, actions and closure. Both text and audio are saved to the same meeting file that you can easily share using the option for attaching meeting file directly to a new e-mail. Additionally, the program can export meeting notes to RTF file and export/import audio sections to/from WAV, OGG and MP3 files. Meeting file size can go up to 2GB which gives you more than 12 hours of uncompressed recording. Note: if your microphone can not pick up meeting discussion try to find one designed for conferences.

Or this if you're looking for something more 'pro':



Quote
MeetingSense is easy-to-use software that lets project teams capture, publish, track, and then collaboratively manage meeting information and action items online. Tight integration with Microsoft Outlook adds instant structure and best practices to help optimize meeting preparation. At meeting time, use your Outlook toolbar to launch 'MeetingSense Publisher' to help efficiently record every meeting aspect, and then instantly distribute professional notes and action items via email... or publish it all online. Team meeting productivity is now a reality, making your meetings work for you!

http://www.meetingsense.c...m/meetingsense/index.aspx



Actually, that second one looks pretty cool!  smiley




« Last Edit: April 20, 2010, 06:28:15 PM by 40hz » Logged

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superboyac
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« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2010, 07:22:55 PM »

meetingsense is very close to what I'm looking for.  I actually ran across it not soon after writing this email.  The other one, not so much.

I was also secretly hoping there would be a nice freeware one available.  I was also thinking that Infoqube can do this, but the only problem with that is that I would need to set it all up...it's not an out of the box solution.  Meetingsense looks really good, though.  I'm going to play with it.
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techidave
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« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2010, 07:53:56 PM »

What a good idea!  I never thought of looking for something like this before.  Maybe someone will find a freeware offering sometime.
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Armando
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« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2010, 08:27:11 PM »

@superboyac : I don't know exactly what you had in mind but meetingsense is not exactly free, at 20$/month per user. I'm sure there must be a better (cheaper) alternative. I was going to try creating an IQ Database just for that, for the fun of it. But I wonder what the feature list would be....
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superboyac
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« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2010, 09:20:01 AM »

@superboyac : I don't know exactly what you had in mind but meetingsense is not exactly free, at 20$/month per user. I'm sure there must be a better (cheaper) alternative. I was going to try creating an IQ Database just for that, for the fun of it. But I wonder what the feature list would be....
Whoa!  I didn't notice that.  I thought it was a normal shareware program.  I'm really not liking this trend of applications going web.  This is off-topic, but I normally don't like web applications vs standalones.  But I also understand that there is value to some web apps, like gmail, google docs, etc.  But I also feel that developers will push more and more for that model because it makes it more acceptable to charge monthly fees.  With regular shareware, it's a one time charge.  If this is the trend, I don't like that.

Anyway, back on topic...I was also thinking about setting up Infoqube.  But I haven't yet, nor do I know exactly how I would do it.  Here is the feature list I was going for:

--Firstly, the main goal here is to have a printout (report) that shows the info I want, properly formatted and all that.  If I didn't need the report, I wouldn't have even started this thread.  For example, if all I wanted was to track action items, I'd just use mylife Organized the way I'm doing now.  but when you have to share a report with people, now we're talking a different software.  I bring this up because I don't know how capable IQ is with generating reports and stuff.  I haven't explored that.

--Action items:  I should be able to add action items to a list, and I should be able to tack their progress with (I'm guessing) a checkbox just to indicate if it's finished or not.  Furthermore, I'd have to be able to add status notes to those action items that explain why it's not finished yet, or what went on with it last week.  And the notes should be dated.  So each action item should have:
title, description, who it's assigned to, potentially multiple status notes (with dates)

--Meeting minutes:  this is pretty simple.  Just a description of what was discussed during the meeting.  It could be multiple short items, or just one item (per meeting) with the details written in the html pane.  The latter is what I'd probably do since i don't like having a ton of little items for most meetings.  Just a short summary paragraph.  So each meeting should have the following information:
title, date, attendees, location, meeting minutes (notes)

Now, let's say I have a meeting now.  I need to provide a piece of paper that is going to pull in all this information and display it somewhat nicely.  So my current meeting report will have to include:
meeting minutes from the previous meetings,
unfinished action items and their status history
recently finished action items
maybe some other stuff

I don't know, that's my idea.  I guess the challenge for IQ is to do it in a way where the action item history is kept track of.  And I don't even know if IQ can do this kind of reporting.  This is pretty much MS Access kind of funcionality.  data, forms, reports...
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« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2010, 10:47:03 AM »

Whoa!  I didn't notice that.  I thought it was a normal shareware program.  I'm really not liking this trend of applications going web.  This is off-topic, but I normally don't like web applications vs standalones.  But I also understand that there is value to some web apps, like gmail, google docs, etc.  But I also feel that developers will push more and more for that model because it makes it more acceptable to charge monthly fees.  With regular shareware, it's a one time charge.  If this is the trend, I don't like that.

Yes, this is the trend. More power to the developper -- errrr... The big corporations ? But I won't get into that now. smiley

I actually dowloaded and installed the app, for the fun of it. It's pretty well done. There's a standalone part (+ an Outlook  plug-in) and it's synchronized with the web component. However, it's not really possible to use the standalone part... Alone. There are aspects of the app where the Web app is needed (to manage projects, etc.).

From what I've seen, IQ could probably mimic most of the features (and add some more)... Except for the UI, of course. smiley

There are a few features that are not fully implemented : create a calendar entry from a grid. The reverse is possible though. But I just thought that it would be nice to just enter the meeting date etc. in the grid and see it in the calendar. But that's a detail.


Anyway, back on topic...I was also thinking about setting up Infoqube.  But I haven't yet, nor do I know exactly how I would do it.  Here is the feature list I was going for:

--Firstly, the main goal here is to have a printout (report) that shows the info I want, properly formatted and all that.  If I didn't need the report, I wouldn't have even started this thread.  For example, if all I wanted was to track action items, I'd just use mylife Organized the way I'm doing now.  but when you have to share a report with people, now we're talking a different software.  I bring this up because I don't know how capable IQ is with generating reports and stuff.  I haven't explored that.
[...]
Now, let's say I have a meeting now.  I need to provide a piece of paper that is going to pull in all this information and display it somewhat nicely.  So my current meeting report will have to include:
meeting minutes from the previous meetings,
unfinished action items and their status history
recently finished action items
maybe some other stuff

IQ can generate reports. What you need to do is create a template and then IQ will fill the template with all the relevant info. I've done it for invoices and other stuff.

Look at the templates there. Is that the kind of reports you'd like ?

Depending on the kind of report you'd like, I could tell you if IQ could generate it.

It would involve (basically):
1- creating the right template
2- create a grid just for reports so that only relevant items are there

And then, all you'd have to do is to select all items and print to template. And maybe do a mail-merge from IQ or Word, depending on what works best.

--Action items:  I should be able to add action items to a list, and I should be able to tack their progress with (I'm guessing) a checkbox just to indicate if it's finished or not.  Furthermore, I'd have to be able to add status notes to those action items that explain why it's not finished yet, or what went on with it last week.  And the notes should be dated.  So each action item should have:
title, description, who it's assigned to, potentially multiple status notes (with dates)

This should be easy. You'd use a combination of fields and outline.

--Meeting minutes:  this is pretty simple.  Just a description of what was discussed during the meeting.  It could be multiple short items, or just one item (per meeting) with the details written in the html pane.  The latter is what I'd probably do since i don't like having a ton of little items for most meetings.  Just a short summary paragraph.  So each meeting should have the following information:
title, date, attendees, location, meeting minutes (notes)

This too is pretty easy to set up. Same as above : combination of fields and outline (hierarchy of items).


I don't know, that's my idea.  I guess the challenge for IQ is to do it in a way where the action item history is kept track of.  And I don't even know if IQ can do this kind of reporting.  This is pretty much MS Access kind of funcionality.  data, forms, reports...

- Generating an action history would be one of the easiest part. What would be trickier is to include "semi-automatically" in the report. That would mean that it would somehow be included in the meeting outline. It shouldn't be too hard.

- The reporting might be a bit trickier... But this is only because I haven't tried to generate that kind of report yet.

In any case, if you want I could try to generate a sample DB for minutes taking and reporting.

You could work in that DB, or eventually import it in your own. From what I've heard, Pierre is working on ways of importing fields and grids, etc. from  another DB.
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superboyac
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2010, 12:27:51 PM »

OK, Armando.  That's good info, there, as usual! thumbs up
Sure, if you can help me set something up, that would be great.  Yes, those templates at meetingsense more or less are what I'm looking for.  It sounds like IQ is pretty capable of handling this, which I'm happy about.

Instead of you doing all the work, let me have a go at it, and maybe we can talk offline.  Or we can talk here, if people really want to hear the details.  Or I can start something on the IQ forum.  I don't know.  After today, I may not even be able to spend much time on it.  But I have run into this on and off for a couple of years.  It would be nice to set aside some time and have a good system in place, so I don't have to keep doing the same thing over and over.
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« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2010, 12:55:13 PM »

Nice. But let me have a shot at it first ! I don't think it would take me more than an hour or 2 and if you haven't played with IQ's features for a while it might take you much longer.
I'll post a sample DB tomorrow, here. Is that a deal ?  smiley
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« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2010, 01:13:21 PM »

meetingsense is very close to what I'm looking for.  I actually ran across it not soon after writing this email.  The other one, not so much.

I was also secretly hoping there would be a nice freeware one available.  I was also thinking that Infoqube can do this, but the only problem with that is that I would need to set it all up...it's not an out of the box solution.  Meetingsense looks really good, though.  I'm going to play with it.

This actually gives me a reason to look at outlook add-ins; something I've been wanting to do since a colleague had to make one at work.  I can't promise the timeline of it (my free time is pretty limited for such projects) but I was thinking that a simple outlook add-in that duplicates the offline portions of Meetingsense might be a real timesaver...
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Armando
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« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2010, 01:34:14 PM »

Yes for one that uses Outlook an add-in tapping into the meeting feature would be nice too.
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« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2010, 02:54:32 PM »

Ok, thanks Armando!  I appreciate your help.  I just didn't want you spending a lot of time on something that was basically just a thought experiment right now.  I often have these ideas and they fizzle away into nothing as I get preoccupied with other things.

But I do think it's a worthwhile effort.  People spend a lot of time managing all those action items and histories and meeting notes...formatting, all that stuff.

wraith...that sounds like a good idea.  I'm sure it will come in handy.
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« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2010, 12:15:02 AM »

Ok... So here's what's happening. Everything works pretty well, but I'm struggling with the reports. I'll probably have to talk to Pierre and see what's possible to do exactly. I won't post the DB tonight. Maybe during the weekend. Or maybe I'll post something tomorrow... Without the fancy report capabilities. It'll be a first draft.
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superboyac
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« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2010, 01:10:39 PM »

Ok... So here's what's happening. Everything works pretty well, but I'm struggling with the reports. I'll probably have to talk to Pierre and see what's possible to do exactly. I won't post the DB tonight. Maybe during the weekend. Or maybe I'll post something tomorrow... Without the fancy report capabilities. It'll be a first draft.
Thanks for the update.  Looking forward to it, and of course, I appreciate your help.
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Armando
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« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2010, 12:23:24 AM »

Hi superboyac,

Did you receive my little note ?

Here's a first draft. It's not perfect, it needs some polishing etc. but I'm running out of time... Working tomorrow morning, etc. Still I'm sure it could be useful. I'd certainly find some use for it... And I'll integrate that to my own DB soon (I already have my own version, but this one has some stuff that I like a bit better... Anyway.)

There's no real report feature at the moment. I'll see what can be done as soon as I can get in touch
with Pierre.

Give me some feedback...  smiley


[EDIT : see latest version in my latest post. Thanks.]

P.S. There are a few notes of explanations (readme file)... Also have a look at the Welcome grid. I wrote some stuff there too.
I could be that it's a bit too colourful. We'll see.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2010, 12:47:55 AM by Armando » Logged

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superboyac
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« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2010, 08:52:03 AM »

Wow, I had no idea IQ was this powerful.

Armando, i will need to play with this a little before I can comment.  It looks pretty good.  I like the colors, I use a lot of colors myself, even if they don't match!
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superboyac
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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2010, 10:02:51 AM »

OK, Armando, this is pretty nice.  Thanks for all your help.

My thoughts so far are this:
I like to keep things as simple as possible, so one of my thoughts on the database is that I wouldn't really use a lot of those fields.  So I would like to hide the fields that I wouldn't use just to keep everything clean and simple.  Let me list the fields that I would use:
--i would use "Participants" but I wouldn't drill it down any more than that.  if you're there, you're there.  It doesn't matter if you were invited, forwarded, or just a guest.  So, I'd prefer to just list the people under participants and that's it.

--Similarly with the Agenda.  Each item under "agenda" would be an agenda item, and I wouldn't really drill it down any further than that.  I don't think I'd use "keypoints".  Although, now that i think about it, I like how you can put action items and notes under the agenda items.  And those action items would be automatically added to the action item list anyway, so that's good.  It's confusing that you say to add notes under the agenda, but you also have a separate notes column.  I'd probably just hide the notes column.

--I like the conditional formatting.  I don't know if it's possible, but it would be nice if the coloring could be such that you can tell what is a parent or child item based on the coloring.  For example, a child would be surrounded by the parent color, or the child is a lighter color than the parent.  Something like that.  So the group of items under a meeting are somehow colored so that you can see the "container" that the group is in.  I've attached something showing how I've done this in the past:


--I can't quite seem to figure out how to add participants from the contact list.  I choose it from the contact list field box, but nothing shows up in the grid after I select it (I'm doing this int he Projects grid).

--I'd probably move the project ID field all the way to the right.  It's one of those fields that you only need to know once in a while for troubleshooting.

--I wouldn't use a lot of the fields in the addressbook.  The only thing I'd use it for is to keep a list of meeting participants.  I have other things I use for contact list management.

--I like the fields in the action item grid.  I initially was not thinking about those other fields, but after seeing them, I can see me using it.

--The meeting files is an interesting one.  I haven't used IQ's file linking capabilities yet, so I'll have to play with that.  Definitely useful.

Thanks for your work so far.  I know it's no small task, and I really really appreciate the effort.
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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2010, 03:58:18 PM »

OK, Armando, this is pretty nice.  Thanks for all your help.

You're welcome.

My thoughts so far are this:
I like to keep things as simple as possible, so one of my thoughts on the database is that I wouldn't really use a lot of those fields.  So I would like to hide the fields that I wouldn't use just to keep everything clean and simple.

Sure.

What I basically did was to mimic all features in the MeetingSense app.

The grids are easy to modify. So you can right click on any column and hide them. Conversely, you can add any field you want in the grid.

In any case, I'll make a simplified version keeping these

--I like the conditional formatting.  I don't know if it's possible, but it would be nice if the coloring could be such that you can tell what is a parent or child item based on the coloring.  For example, a child would be surrounded by the parent color, or the child is a lighter color than the parent.  Something like that.  So the group of items under a meeting are somehow colored so that you can see the "container" that the group is in.  I've attached something showing how I've done this in the past:

Yes, colors are useful.
This is certainly possible (within limits), but not with the conditional formatting option as it is now. I can script it though.
The thing is that the rows will be fully colored, not individual cells as it is now. In any case, I'll try something.


--I can't quite seem to figure out how to add participants from the contact list.  I choose it from the contact list field box, but nothing shows up in the grid after I select it (I'm doing this int he Projects grid).

Normally it should appear in the item, and other fields (like phone # etc) should get filled too. Did you double click on one of the names from the "drop down" list (it's not exactly drop down, but I'm sure you get it... More of a dialog, I guess), or jut click OK once you selected a name ?

--I'd probably move the project ID field all the way to the right.  It's one of those fields that you only need to know once in a while for troubleshooting.

PErfect.

--I wouldn't use a lot of the fields in the addressbook.  The only thing I'd use it for is to keep a list of meeting participants.  I have other things I use for contact list management.

It's probably possible to import everything in IQ though -- not replace your current solutions, but it would probably be handy.


Note that I saw a couple bugs here and there... Like the fact that the template was actually the project appearing in the project grid. That shouldn't be and I already fixed it. Templates are "Locked" and the source bar in the project grids filters out locked items...

Anyway, I'll post another version soon.

In my DB, action items are treated as tasks (todos, with a complete project management solution), only with a different icons and "assigned to" details. You can use the gantt to manipulate dates etc.

My urgency calculations etc. are more sophisticated than what's there, but it'S probably not useful to get into that now.
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« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2010, 12:47:16 AM »

Here's the 2nd draft. (yes, please keep in mind that it's a DRAFT, part of a work in progress. Don't use for important stuff at this point.)

Hopefully it's going to work ok.
The last one was buggy. Sorry.


Biggest changes :

- colors : I tried to implement some of your suggestions. There are a few drawbacks (explained in the DB), but not too many... Wink
- Created a simplified template with less items (I think you confused fields with items in your comments, but I got what you meant) : got rid of keypoints and the different categories of participants, etc.
- Changed many other little things but they'll probably go un-noticed since they mostly happen in the background.


What didn't really change (AFAICT) :
-I left the project ID field where it is as it's a very important field... It can really help in all grids to know on which project you're working, without having to look at the whole outline. Plus, it's part of the grid source in many grids.
- I also left most fields in the grids. You can always get rig of those you don't want to see. BUT, some of them will be necessary if you want the individual cell coloring for keypoints, action items, etc. The grid component has this small bug that makes it necessary to have the fields there in the grid for the conditional format to function. I must say that this "bug" is actually quite useful sometimes -- when you don't want any colors in a grid, and some in another...!


Bug (?):
- I was able to reproduce the contact list problem, but it works most of the time -- I have no idea about what does it. Can you make it work sometimes ? Usually, it doesn't work only the first time I try it, and after there are any problems.


That's it... Time to get some sleep !

[Edited to clarify]

[4th draft in my latest post -- removed previous version here 2010 04 27 -- 12 42]
« Last Edit: April 27, 2010, 11:42:03 AM by Armando » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2010, 12:53:42 AM »

There's something buggy with the contact list. I'll send it to Pierre. (I does work here, but it seems that there might be a slight problem with the grid component -- hypothesis only at this point.)
« Last Edit: April 27, 2010, 08:46:00 AM by Armando » Logged

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« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2010, 01:04:15 AM »

A few Screenshots...





[Edit]

==========

Presenting the whole thing in an outline is one way of doing it, but everything could be split into panes (grids) without too many outline levels (e.g. : The project level could go away and you'd only keep the project field as an identifier, etc.). Some don't like deep outlines; I don't mind... especially if I know that I can explode and flatten the whole tree whenever I wish.

And that's what the different grids in my example are there for : allow to see different aspects of the meetings/projects, displayed in specific sets of columns and without all the other levels and details. This what I tried to show in the screenshots (but maybe didn't succeed) : any part of the project grid can be seen and followed in another grid. Very convenient for the  actions items which can be followed as a todo list, with urgencies, priorities, etc. without the need to transfert them to another list.

Note that in my own DB, these action items will/would be merged with my own todo lists and  I'd be able to filter them out as needed. IMO the best is to have this specialized DB inside the main DB so that you can have immediate access to all other info. Of course, if Pierre can bring in a feature allowing the displaying of several DBs at once (within the same IQ process), this won't be needed.

==========

The templates aren't really necessary once one understands that a project needs an ID and that the project field needs to be checked... Same logic of meetings, etc. The color coding should help.

I haven't played too much with fonts, etc. But the template could use different fonts types and sizes, a bit more.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2010, 08:50:14 AM by Armando » Logged

"I suppose it can be said that I'm an absent-minded driver. It's true that I've driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I've stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it."
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« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2010, 11:25:58 AM »

I don't have much time today, but I took a look at the DB during my lunch break.
I'll upload another version shortly as my template grid gave erroneous tutorial indications. Sorry about that. Like I said, it's a work in progress... embarassed

(I did correct a few more colors and changes some fields. I think it's clearer now and pretty easy to use. Colors make it clear as what fields are related to which item, etc. I there are too many colors, let me know. I can change that easily.)
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"I suppose it can be said that I'm an absent-minded driver. It's true that I've driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I've stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it."
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« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2010, 12:25:08 PM »

4th draft...
5th draft
It's much better.

[TO download the latest version go to my latest post : http://www.donationcoder....22501.msg203422#msg203422]
« Last Edit: April 28, 2010, 10:10:00 PM by Armando » Logged

"I suppose it can be said that I'm an absent-minded driver. It's true that I've driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I've stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it."
Glenn Gould
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« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2010, 03:56:30 PM »

There's no rush Armando!  But it's looking good.  I haven't had a chance to play with it too much.  I have noticed the buggy disappearing stuff that you mentioned.

I got used to the interface, and it's nice.  Very flexible.  I can have the heirarchy however simple or complex as I wish, I just have to assign items their function with the checkboxes.  What's the deal with refreshing?  Is there a way to have the grids with the linked content to automatically refresh or do I always have to use F5?
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« Reply #24 on: April 27, 2010, 04:42:34 PM »

If I don't do it now, I probably never will, so that's why I'm rushing a bit.

Refreshing ? It's always been like that. It's a DB thing... smiley
F5 to refresh the state of a grid also allows avoid useless slowdowns.
In any case, it's part of IQ's development plan to automate refreshing as an option.

What do you mean by "linked content" ?
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"I suppose it can be said that I'm an absent-minded driver. It's true that I've driven through a number of red lights on occasion, but on the other hand, I've stopped at a lot of green ones but never gotten credit for it."
Glenn Gould
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