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Tour of the new stuff in 2.0

Started by Gruffen, June 01, 2011, 08:11:22 AM

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This is going to be a long thread, sorry in advance.

OK, so we said that 2.0 has a whole lot of stuff in it. It does, it's enormous compared to 1.0, and right now I'm curious to see whether it ends up being closer to 2.5 times larger or 3 times larger than 1.0 :o

Anyway, because we're down to the last handful of bits and pieces and sparkles for it, I thought I'd start demoing some of the features you can play with in 2.0, and some of the refinements there are. Just for fun, I'm going to use a different theme to highlight each feature; partly that means you get to see how well SD holds up in different themes, and partly to spotlight quite visually all the different things there are. (I'm only curious whether I'll run out of themes and have to install more...!)

This post I'm going to tackle the smaller things, the things that you probably won't use every day with SimpleDesk, just to get you into the feel of how this topic is going to proceed...

First up, we have the language editor (DzinerStudio's laGusta theme). Many of you may not have been aware of SMF 2.0's language editor that's built in, but we were - and we wanted to make sure it was a bit more approachable, since it's the recommended way to edit SimpleDesk language strings. So instead of burying it under the S's in the list, and with less friendly names, we moved it to the top and made it friendly to approach.

(If you haven't ever seen this screen before, head to Admin > Configuration > Languages > Edit Language, then click on your language, and you'll see that dropdown in the lower right corner.)

Next up, the package manager. SimpleDesk has facilities for handling plugins, and we have actually written some of those (and will be sharing more in due course). Because of that, we thought it might be nice to provide a section in the package manager expressly for SimpleDesk plugins, and here that is (in DzinerStudio's Citiez theme)

While we're on the subject, I might as well show you the plugin manager (again in the Citiez theme). SMF's package manager handles installation, but SimpleDesk's plugin manager deals with making sure they work and enabling/disabling them. It's also where you can see what languages a plugin supports, and if a plugin doesn't work on your version, it'll show you there too.

That 'front page' plugin comes with SimpleDesk, by the way, it's not a package you have to hunt around for, or anything.

Last up for this post, though I'll be doing more shortly, is the maintenance area. (BlocWeb's Aeon theme) The maintenance options are fairly limited for the moment, but we'll add more as and when they become necessary. It's a bit different to what the main forum needs, of course.


Next up, one of the more interesting little features of SimpleDesk 2.0: canned replies.

For those not familiar with the term, it's a way of creating pre-defined scripted replies that you can drop in to a given reply quickly and efficiently.

For the purposes of demonstrating the UI and use, I've created a typical example that many familiar with SMF will have encountered some time or another - the needing to clear the forum cache. (This is using DzinerStudio's Micolo theme.)

First we have the home screen, where you can see all the canned replies in the system - they're laid out in categories for organisation, and you can see that these are visible to both staff and admins. You can also create them for users if needed on reply too.

Then inside we can see the editor area for a given reply, where as you can see, you can adjust the title, you have the full editor available for editing the content, and you can create them on a per-department basis (more on departments in a bit)

And lastly, there's the reply area itself, where you can insert a reply into the page as needed, even from the quick reply.


OK, let's look at another couple of smaller feature changes.

Firstly, ticket relationships - indicating that a given ticket is related to another in some way. There's only really that box to show because it's both the form for showing relationships and adding new ones with the ticket id. You can indicate that another ticket is linked to the current one, that it's a duplicate, or that one is a parent or child of the other. (Note that if you have a ticket with a child attached, the parent one cannot be closed until the child is closed, which gives you the ability to break large tasks down to smaller ones, and retain some sense of hierarchy) (BlocWeb's WorkDesk2 theme)

There is now also a maintenance mode that can be activated. When maintenance mode is activated, there is a warning at the top of the page for administrators to remind them, and for non administrators, the helpdesk is effectively deactivated.

Additionally, when in standalone mode (if you just want a good helpdesk with bridging facilities, and so on) the mode also kicks in and ensures that admins can still carry out tasks while users are shown the login prompt/error message they would be in the case of the forum being in maintenance mode. It would be useful, for instance, to use this with the find/repair errors option in SimpleDesk's maintenance in case they take a while to run. (BlocWeb's Gamerz theme)

The action log that's in the admin panel also got more powerful. More specifically, instead of just being in the admin panel, it's also displayed in tickets, for all the events just applying to that ticket, and as per this screenshot, it's also a lot more configurable - you can keep only the events logged that are of interest to you. (DzinerStudio's SilentWave theme)

I'm sorry this all seems so scatterbrained, and out of sense and so on, but that's because I want to round up all the smaller bits of change before taking posts out on the really big stuff that's different and new and exciting.


OK, it's time I stopped messing about and started talking about one of the truly big features in SimpleDesk 2.0: departments.

Departments are a way of pigeonholing tickets. Now, every single ticket will live in a department (the 2.0 installer will upgrade existing 1.0 installs silently to accommodate this), and when you create roles, you attach permissions to roles and roles within departments. It sounds complicated, but honestly, it soon begins to make real sense.

Let's start off with the Admin > Departments listing. (For this one, I'm going to use Zone99 by DzinerStudio)

As you can see, we have a list of all the departments - here, I have two - and that I'm displaying one of those on the board index. Just for kicks, let's quickly grab a copy of the board index so we can see how it looks.

While the board index looks like any other board index, there's something quite important about it that you might not realise - though I have no doubt that those admining a forum may already have guessed what it is: the board index used by Zone99 isn't the standard one, and yet here we are with a custom looking board setup. (The best part: this is done without theme edits!)

Also note the icon; it's a generic looking help icon, but it's bright and coloured - this is important to note, because it's also an unread indicator; as well as being the board icon, it's lit up and coloured if there are unread tickets and greyed out if there aren't - like the board index.

OK, moving on, we have the helpdesk-based list of departments; it only looks slightly odd because of the CSS used in Zone99 making the column smaller; we reused the column styling on the board index to give it a consistency.

Then to the departments themselves, to see why it makes such a difference. The first shot shows that we're in the helpdesk as a whole, and that we can actually see two different departments - notably, we can see both the Helpdesk and Test departments, and those tickets are prepended with [Helpdesk] and [Test] respectively.

But if we go into the individual department, here we've gone into Helpdesk, the title changes to indicate we're in a department, and this time we only get the subset of tickets that we're interested in.

Though, please note, it's more than a glorified filter of tickets; it is much more akin to the different boards in SMF - you can assign permissions per role in departments.

Let's take the example of Simple Machines and how it could make use of this. We could create the standard helpdesk, and create a Users role and a Staff role for that department. The users would include the Charter Members, while the Staff role would be attached to all of the groups of all the different teams.

You could then create a department for mod approvals, where regular users could submit the mods as tickets, so you'd create a users role there too, and attach the Regular Users group to it, whilst creating a staff role that only the Customizers would be applicable to. Here's the important thing to note: the Customizers would in that scenario be in two different staff roles, indicating that they have powers in two different departments.

But it's not a 1:1 relationship. On one site I use SimpleDesk as a project tracker, and I use departments to keep each project separate, but I only have a single 'staff' group and a single 'users' group, representing the developers/implementers and 'everyone else' respectively. Groups attach to roles, roles to departments, so I can mix and match at will. It sounds complicated but honestly, it isn't once you get used to it. It's certainly clearer than SMF's board profiles.

I'm not going to re-cover the permissions system, it's largely unchanged (except for more permissions) since I talked about it last year - in this thread, so read there if you want more information.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention. You might not want or need multiple departments, you may only need a single one. That's cool too. The admin panel will still reflect that there is a department, but as far as the user is concerned, they will only see it as if there is only one. The same is true if they can only see one department - that way, they're given the impression that they're the only customer for your system, which is quite good for customer satisfaction, even if it really isn't true.


OK, this time, I'm going to be looking at the profiles feature we added. We added a complex area to the Profile section, for all sorts of helpdesk related mayhem. (Using DzinerStudio's newBalance theme for this.)

First up, the summary page. It's not particularly exciting, but there it is. (It's more useful in Standalone mode where it also incorporates the regular Summary page, but without the forum stuff like post count and statistics.)

Next up, the show tickets/replies page. Useful if you want to browse through the sorts of things a user might be posting; naturally you need to be able to see the tickets/replies yourself.

Then there's the preferences area; I've taken two pictures to show you everything here - but be aware that by default the blocks of preferences are actually collapsed so it looks more like the third picture ;)

Plus the action log again; in addition to the master one and the one displayed in tickets (which shows just that ticket's events), you can view the profile log to see what a member has been doing in the helpdesk.

Lastly, two shots of the profile/permissions area. I used a test member rather than my own administrative account for this because as an administrator, I have every permission, which doesn't make for good illustration. You'll note that it shows per department, and there is one other thing I want to point out to those familiar with SMF already.

When you look at a user's permissions in SMF, you get every physical permission they have, which for more senior community members will often be _own and _any permissions, that is to say they will have permissions that apply to both their own things and to any (e.g. lock own topic, lock any topic). SMF will list this twice, once for each, but SimpleDesk only lists whichever is more appropriate; if they have an _any permission, it automatically includes _own anyway, no point showing that twice!


Next up, the one I have had the most fun with, and the most hassle, and the one that I suspect most of you will be most interested in - one way or another - is custom fields.

That's right: you can declare pretty much arbitrary fields for your tickets, and their replies. Let's kick off with the front page. We have two fields, and that should really be all self-explanatory but just in case it isn't, let's take a look at the configuration for that first field, because there's a lot of flexibility in the system. I'll actually go through each of the sections in turn; there's a lot to look at! (It's also contextual; stuff that doesn't apply to a given field type isn't displayed. For example, the multi-choice widget isn't shown for a free text area)

The multi-select is a fairly complicated field: it's essentially a way of offering multiple choices under a single banner, and providing tick-boxes for them all at once, as we'll see in the ticket in a minute!

The first picture shows the general field details, stuff that applies to all fields, such as the name for it, a brief description displayed by where the field will be filled in, an optional icon to use next to it (like those used in the ticket listing on the left), whether a field is ticket-only, reply-only or both, who can see and edit it (out of user/staff/admin) and where it should be positioned. Yes, even that's flexible - you can either have it as a block underneath the main 'ticket details' sidebar, or above the replies, or even be used as a form of prefix for the ticket (and if it's a select/radio, you can even use that as a filter, but more on that shortly)

The second is where we configure the type of field. There are certain rules about switching between field types once you've created a field - to prevent data being changed or damaged. (You can't, for instance, turn a floating point number into an integer without risk of damage, but you can the other way. The system will not let you change things, it just won't give you the option, it may be worth experimenting with this to see how you want to use it.)

The last image shows the per-department rules. Some fields will apply to multiple of your departments, some will only apply to one - and this sets whether a given field is applicable or not, and if it is, whether it's required. (Normally, 'required' is just a tickbox, but for multi-select, it's a box to input a number, of how many items on the list must be checked minimum, e.g. if you have three choices and indicate that two must be chosen, this is where to set it.)

Next up, I just hit the create ticket button and was presented with this screen, where I can enter a ticket - as you can see, I wasn't in a department at the time, so it's asking me to pick a department, and it tries to make sure that the fields you see are the ones that you need to fill in.

As you can see, there's my fields, waiting for me to fill them in, so let's do that and see what happens...

...which is my last picture. I'm not going to get into demoing how ticket category filters work, it should be obvious enough! This was more a tour, really, of the new features.

I do need to add email notifications but we're still polishing that up right now, so I don't have any pictures to share just yet, but as soon as it's polished, I'll share them - and with that, I'll unlock the thread so you can comment about it to your heart's content :)


Slightly surprised that there weren't any comments here :/


I already knew about those. :P

Announce the topic? It only shows on twitter and FB. Nothing from email.
"I was given the wardrobe of a nobleman, and so I played the part, a puppet ever dancing for the amusement of patrons unseen. This wretched world does not reward endeavour. It is the patron and his troupe who are receipt, maggots grown fat on endeavour's corpse. Most men but play the part they're given. Most live and die not knowing they play a part at all. But I am past all that now. I am their unwitting puppet no longer! No more! I will extract from them the price of their gluttonous feast! ~ Delita Heiral


That's true, actually, hadn't thought about.


Ha... I was around when it was locked (hadn't realised when you were done)... then again i'm able to keep up with all the sweetness as it happens, well after it's committed :P.



Quote from: Gruffen on June 02, 2011, 10:55:58 AM
And I've just spammed it too ;D
Looks like the spam is working :P

Another theme that SD looks nice on is skinmod's dynolight2, a very neutral colour scheme.


Funnily, I believe I am the only person who "LIKES" the blog post on FB. :P
"I was given the wardrobe of a nobleman, and so I played the part, a puppet ever dancing for the amusement of patrons unseen. This wretched world does not reward endeavour. It is the patron and his troupe who are receipt, maggots grown fat on endeavour's corpse. Most men but play the part they're given. Most live and die not knowing they play a part at all. But I am past all that now. I am their unwitting puppet no longer! No more! I will extract from them the price of their gluttonous feast! ~ Delita Heiral


Actually, it was the SD page itself, plus you that liked it - now I do as well :D


Those are real right ??? ... Omg ! i'm kinda stunned here
The Evil One