Author Archive

Chandler Hub 1.0 Detail View

Monday, August 11th, 2008

A big piece of upgrading the Hub in recent months has been moving more of our UI to
dojo and sprucing up the detail view was one of the main areas we focused on. Travis did most of the work of moving ui code to dojo, and most of the detail view work. I did a final touch-up, standing on the shoulders of giants.

The detail view effort aimed to simplify what users see as they create and edit their data. Now, a simple note looks like this:

A simple note

We’ve moved the Remove and Save buttons to the top, so they don’t shift around as the detail view size changes. We’ve also simplified the UI for adding the “star” stamp (which used to be called task) and adding to the calendar.

Throughout the new UI, we make use of dojo’s elaborate support for fades, which help make expand and disappear changes easier to follow.

One of these fade-ins happens if you click on “ADD TO CALENDAR” or the event icon.

Beginning to create an event

To reduce clutter, we’ve used more hint-text in widgets and fewer permanent labels. We also hide event related widgets that don’t apply to the current event. So, for example, “anytime” events which don’t have a start time don’t need a timezone, so we don’t display a timezone picker until you choose a start time for your event.

We’ve also made a much-clamored for addition for events, a date picker. Happily, dojo gave us this for free.

New date picker

Once you fill in a start-date, end-date defaults to start-date.

Finally, we’ve moved our notes field to dojo’s expanding text area. So if you’ve got three pages of notes, the notes field (and the entire detail view pane) will automatically expand to give you room to type everything.

Expanding notes field

For reference, here’s a snapshot of the old detail view.

Old versus New Detail View

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Later sort improved

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I’m one of those people who uses their email inbox as
a task list. I keep emails around forever if I think there’s
something I need to do associated with that email. I file messages I
think I might refer to one day out of my inbox. Unfortunately, this
approach sometimes means I have a lot of email threads all clamoring
for my attention. It can be overwhelming.

One of Chandler’s appeals for me is the ability to manage lots of
different ideas, but only focus on a few at a time. The way focus
works in Chandler is that items are “triaged” to NOW, LATER, or DONE.

DONE is just like filing an email. NOW is like leaving the
email in my inbox. The big enhancement, for me, is LATER.

With the LATER section, you can mark a message as important to pay
attention to, but not right now. This risks becoming a gargantuan pit
of “someday, maybe” items, though, so you can also assign an alarm,
and that item will pop back to NOW in the future.

Now I can choose just a few things to keep in my NOW section, and
collapse the LATER and DONE sections so they don’t distract me.

One big problem with the LATER section, until recently, was that it
was sorted pretty arbitrarily. I have dozens of LATER items.
Birthdays, events months from now, reminders to do something next
month, and more. What I (and most users, from what we’ve heard on our
mailing lists) want is for the LATER section to sort according to
when an item will become NOW again.

I’m happy to announce that in our latest release (1.0rc1), the LATER
section sorts appropriately! For all you non-Chandler users reading
this, that may not seem like a big deal. But it has a surprisingly
big impact on my use of Chandler.

When LATER sorted arbitrarily, I spent a lot of my time going and looking at my calendar to
remind myself if I had upcoming events. Really, I don’t have enough
events to want a calendar view very often. Mostly, I just want to
know what’s coming soon. Now the LATER section gives me that.

I used to not bother assigning alarms to events. I’m not sure why, it
just felt like too much effort for not enough payoff. Being able to
see a prioritized-by-date list of LATER items pushes the
effort-to-payoff ratio to a point where I’m always assigning alarms to
anything I don’t want to think about right now. As a result, my NOW
section is much more manageable and I’m calmer about what I need to be
thinking about.

Triage view

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Publish calendars from Apple iCal 3 for free on Chandler Hub

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Jon Udell has been working on a series detailing how to publish public calendars using different calendar applications. Today’s post was about using iCal to publish a calendar to a WebDAV server.

Publishing using WebDAV definitely works, but as Jon points out, it’s hard to find a free web host that will give you a calendar view of your events. It also tends to be slow for large, frequently updated calendars, because the whole calendar has to be sent every time something changes.

Happily, for Mac OS X Leopard users, there’s a better option. Leopard shipped with iCal3, which includes CalDAV support. CalDAV is a protocol that allows fast (well, faster than WebDAV) multi-user access to calendars.

Chandler Hub was designed to make Chandler Desktop sharing easy, but it’s also a CalDAV server. So if you’d like to publish public calendars and edit private calendars with friends and colleagues, Chandler Hub may be a good choice for you.

Chandler Hub is a free service that, among other things, gives you shareable web-based calendars, editable using the web or a CalDAV client.

So, here’s how to share a public calendar using CalDAV and iCal3.

Sign up for a Chandler Hub account.

  1. When you sign up you’ll need to provide an email address

    Create a Hub account

  2. Activate the account by clicking on the emailed link. Once the account is activated, log in. Initially, your account won’t have any calendars

    No calendars are created initially

  3. You’ll need to create at least one calendar (which Chandler calls a collection) in the Hub, or iCal won’t let you work with the account

    Create a calendar

Configure Apple iCal to sync with Chandler Hub

  1. In iCal Preferences, create a new CalDAV account by selecting the Accounts tab and clicking the plus at the bottom left

    iCal’s accounts tab

  2. You’ll need to expand the Server Options pane so you can enter your Account URL. The URL will be https://hub.chandlerproject.org/dav/users/your_username

    Configuring a CalDAV account in iCal3

  3. Once you click Add, you may need to refresh by going to the Calendar > Refresh menu. Within a few seconds, you should see your calendars

    A new CalDAV account in iCal’s main view

  4. [Optional] Now you can add new calendars directly from iCal, but it’s a little tricky. If you’ve already created all the calendars you need, you can skip this step.

    iCal won’t let you drag and drop an old calendar onto your CalDAV account, you can only create a new calendar. To create one, first select one of your CalDAV calendars, then click the plus at the bottom left.

    Unfortunately, when you create the calendar, you’ll get an iCal error message. The error message is mysterious, but happily it doesn’t prevent the new calendar from working. Just click OK and name your calendar.

    A bogus error iCal gives, fortunately you can ignore it.

    (Note) Don’t try to delete a Hub calendar from within iCal, delete calendars from the Hub’s web interface. If you accidentally do try deleting from iCal, it’ll make the Hub account unusable. To recover from that, you’d need to delete the account in iCal’s preferences and recreate it. No data should be lost, but it’s a hassle.

  5. You should now have a few calendars to work with in iCal.

    A new CalDAV calendar, created in iCal

View and share your calendars on Chandler Hub

  1. To share a calendar with the world, go back to Chandler Hub and confirm that all your calendars appear in both iCal and the Hub.

    Make sure iCal sent your new calendar to the Hub

  2. Click the white “i” in a colored box, to the right of the calendar name. You’ll see the calendar info screen.

    Chandler Hub’s calendar info pane

  3. To share the calendar with the wider public, click the Invite button

    Invite sub-pane with links to read-only and read-write

  4. You can just send these URLs as is, but there’s one last detail.

    Chandler has two main views, a week view and a list view. The default view is list, but that’s probably not what you want if you’re sharing a calendar.

    To change views, look at the small icons near the top left of the screen. The calendar icon is on the right.

    Chandler Hub’s list view, which probably isn’t what calendar users want

    If you’d like people viewing your calendar to always see the week view, you can add

    &view=cal

    to the end of your sharing URL.

That’s it! Here’s a link to the example calendar I used to make this blog post, feel free to play with it if you’d like to see how it looks without creating an account.

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Adventures in Gadget Land

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

In the early days of free e-mail accounts, I lived in a close-knit rural community. My close friends and I thought e-mail was the best thing ever invented, and we’d make all sorts of plans entirely by e-mail. What could be more simple and effective? It turned out almost anything.

While my closest friends all checked their e-mail hourly, many of my other friends had work that wasn’t sitting in front of a computer. Many of them got e-mail accounts only grudgingly, and checked them maybe weekly. I was constantly wasting time expecting people to have read my email proposals. Eventually, I learned that I had to kill trees if I wanted people to hear what I had to say.

Applications, even paradigm shifting applications, are only useful if you use them. Obvious though this may be, it’s critical in determining whether a tool is valuable in practice.

In my day to day use of Chandler, I often close the application down and forget to open it up again. When I want to go check whether I can schedule an event, or find some other specific piece of information, I go and load Chandler, no sweat. But when I have an idea or something I need to remember to do, I often just create an (electronic) sticky or emacs file or send an email to myself to track it.

This is a hassle! I love Chandler’s organization of my calendar, random thoughts, and tasks, especially the ability to set something to come back to my attention later. But I’m not getting us much advantage from this as I’d like, because I still have so many tasks not in Chandler. The truth is, I don’t need all that organizational power most of the time. Often, I’d just like to quickly jot down a task.

To make it easier for everyone in my position to add tasks to their Chandler collections, today we’re announcing Chandler Quick Entry for iGoogle. OK, maybe this doesn’t make anything easier for Nepalese babies. But hopefully it’ll be helpful for people who use Chandler Hub and iGoogle.

If your homepage is set to Google and you’ve never used iGoogle before, it’s worth a look. You can quickly add a few gadgets with blog feeds, news, or whatever else you’re into. And, now, you can create notes and quickly send them to Chandler Hub. If you use Chandler Desktop to sync your hub collections, your new note will appear in Chandler the next time it’s open and syncs.

Add a Quick Entry gadget to iGoogle

Give it a try and let us know what you think!

 [Note: at the moment, you can't use Google's Directory to add the gadget, the directory contains an old, non-functional version of the gadget.  You need to click on the image above to successfully add.]

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