Tuesday, November 30, 2004

TimeTool: Export Options

Cratchit.org TimeTool for Windows is a quick and easy way to keep track of the time you spend on multiple projects. Unfortunately for users outside the United States, it only supports the English language at the present time. Some feedback from European users (I didn't know there were any)indicated that they had a problem exporting to CSV in their locale. I've added a little mod to help those users. Click File | Options (or press Ctrl-Alt-O) to bring up the new options dialog and change the delimiter characters to whatever you need. (See Figure 1.) I'm told that the results work well.

Note that I do not use the Windows localization for these settings because, as it stands, Cratchit.org TimeTool can be re-compiled under Kylix for use on Linux boxes. Cross-platform compatibility is far more important to me than OS "integration", so don't look for that feature... ever.


Cratchit.org Options Dialog
Figure 1: the Options screen

Saturday, November 27, 2004

New VIC CRM Release

There's a new release available on OpenNTF.org today. This one marks the appearance of a long-awaited feature... VIC JournalEntries now synch with the Notes Calendar, without modification of the Notes mail templates! This is as "upgrade-proof" as it gets. Many thanks to Rob Breault for this and quite a number of great contributions.

Friday, November 26, 2004

VIC CRM: Using the "Make Document Inbound" Action

One of the nicest things about VIC CRM is its ability to provide you with a completely spam-free inbox. It does this by simply white-listing your mail. Mail from anyone not in your customer index simply isn't imported into VIC. Your normal Notes inbox simply becomes a spamtrap. If you're like me, you might wind up using VIC as your primary inbox just to avoid the noise. This might sound a bit draconian for email, but consider the purpose of VIC... it's to manage your existing customer relationships and to focus on those new ones that you're cultivating. This is the sort of datastore you really don't want to clutter up with unsolicited mail of any kind. Draconian measures are actually called for in this case, and that's what we provide.

Also, by adding this restriction, the incoming mail is tagged with info about the sender that enables VIC to automatically index and categorize your correspondence for you. No more dragging and dropping into folders; no more tagging with labels; and no need to write filters.

Nevertheless, there may be some instances of mail that you want to let through anyway. VIC provides you with the ability to let mail pass through the spam trap if the sender provided one of a number of keywords (that you specify) in the subject of the email. For instance, if you want to write to me about VIC, just put "VIC:" in the subject of the mail, and I'll read it right away (otherwise you'd have to wait until I cull my spamtrap).

Now, there's a kind of in-between state possible here as well. I might receive a mail and want to import it for future reference, but I might not want to add the sender to the VIC Index. Well, in Notes it's pretty simple: I simply edit the incoming mail and put a keyword in the header. The problem is that once you've edited the mail it no longer looks like it was inbound. And VIC not only uses the inbound flag to display the little "waving man" icon in correspondence views, but it uses that flag to determine whether it's proper for you to reply to a message.

This is what the "Make Document Inbound" method is for. When the mail document has been imported, highlight it in the view, then pull down the Action menu and click "Make Document Inbound." The waving man will appear and the doc will be properly identified as inbound mail.

And that's all there is to it!


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Welcome to Cratchit.org

Welcome to the Cratchit.org weblog. This is my first post, and my first weblog, so bear with me. Occasionally I'll post articles of interest about some of the projects I'm working on, including usage tips. I maintain a few Open Source projects, the major two being Cratchit.org TimeTool for Windows and VIC CRM. Both of them can be found on this website.

TimeTool is a simple utility for tracking the time you spend on various projects. It's quick and simple, and has the distinction of being, to my knowledge, the one and only tool of its kind that continues to accrue time to a project even when the power to your PC is shut off. This makes it ideal for using on a laptop (or even carrying on a UML data thumb to go from place to place). This one's a fairly slow moving project, but there are some nice features in the pipeline, among them a more robust export to Excel, logging by date, and an XML export to make it easier to tie in to timesheets or accounting software.

VIC CRM is currently the more active project. VIC (which stands for "Vital Information Center") is primarily designed for the small company that really needs to better manage its correspondence, but can't afford a commercial CRM. VIC runs in Lotus Notes and it's getting better every day. As it stands, VIC gives you a very quick and easy way to manage all correspondence, including emails, phone conversations, letters, faxes, and contracts in a single data store. If you're a professional and you have a computer, you really should look at this, and I'm not just saying that because I wrote it. I use it myself because it really is good.

Open-Sourcing this project was the best thing that I could have done for it. The "many eyes" advantages of OSS are obvious, and I should have done this sooner. I'd encourage anyone to take a look at the work that's being done on OpenNTF.org and see for yourself.

So much for the opening advertisement. In the future I'll jump right in and make these posts more informative.

Coming soon: "VIC CRM: Using the Make Document Inbound action"