Author Archive

Chandler Users discuss Things 1.0

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Things recently released their 1.0 and there’s been some interesting discussion about it vis-a-vis Chandler on the Users-List.

Some interesting analysis of relative pros and cons include:

- Things’ more native Mac OSX experience
- New ability to sync Things with Apple iCal
- Chandler’s ability to share and sync across multiple computers
- Always present notes pane (Chandler) versus separate pop-up (Things)
- Lack of printing in Chandler

Have you tried out Things? What has your experience been? What do you like about Things that you would like to see incorporated in Chandler?

Things and Chandler

Screenshot of Things was taken from the Culture Code website.

Chandler at 2008 Nonprofit Software Dev Summit (Nov 17-19, Oakland CA)

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Next week, Jeffrey and I will be presenting on the Chandler Re-architecture Project at the 2008 Nonprofit Software Development Summit in Oakland, CA, hosted by Aspiration.

If you are in the area, we’d love to see you at the conference! (I will be updating this post with details as to which day we will be presenting.)

Update We will be presenting at 3PM on Tuesday Nov 18th. Here is the full schedule.

Below is the description for our sessions.


Chandler is an open source Note-to-Self Organizer designed for personal and small-group task management and calendaring, created by the Open Source Application Foundation.

Since our Preview release, we’ve had a number of users from a wide range of non-profits (ie. universities, other open source projects, summer camps, green technology, etc). Some are using Chandler individually, others have looped spouses and co-workers in to collaborate on projects and day-to-day tasks. You can read some of their stories here.

We will begin with a quick introduction to Chandler and demo what it is capable of today. However, the focus of the talk will be on newly started re-architecture work that will enable Chandler’s core note, task and calendar management workflows to become the anchor for a fully extensible and customizable information management platform.

To appeal to both everyday users of the software and developers with a technical interest in the project, our presentation will be two-part. First, we will walk through some user scenarios and then we will provide a technical overview of the re-architecture work we’ve been doing.

*****
Session 1: Extending Chandler: Chandler as a Confluence of Workflows

You can try out Chandler’s core information management workflows in the current 1.0 release: Collecting new information. Triaging tasks. Scheduling and reminders. List management and note-taking. Sharing and collaboration. Still, it was always our intention to build on these workflows to include document management, issue-tracking, and CRM (or to be even more specific, grant proposals, newsletters, and donor profiles).

In this session, we will walk through one scenario that demonstrates how Chandler’s workflow can be:

  1. Extended to integrate new kinds of information management into the core workflows mentioned above.
  2. Customized to meet the specific needs of your organization.

Session 2: Extending Chandler: Technical Overview of the Re-Architecture

Chandler’s re-architecture is focused on providing a framework with:

  1. Events driven by Trellis
  2. Strict separation of domain model, interaction model, and UI
  3. Thorough testing of each layer without depending on higher layers
  4. Thoroughly documented entry_points to make extension writing approachable
  5. Doctesting so documentation is accurate and isn’t left for the last minute

The re-architecture project is still in its early days. The current documentation is available, and of course so is the source code.

Presenters: Jeffrey Harris, Developer and Mimi Yin, Product Designer.

The “Gallery” team uses Chandler to “get the big picture in one place”

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Chris Kelly recently blogged about his use of Chandler. He uses it for personal to-dos and reference notes and collaborates with a team of 5 people on software development for Gallery.

Here are some choice quotes:

On personal use:

On August 8, Chandler 1.0 was announced and I decided to give it a shot. First I just used it for my personal tasks related to Gallery, which I stored in Chandler Hub, but in less than a week I realized how powerful of a tool Chandler really was…I stopped using my paid Remember The Milk account and Google Calendar, and over the next few days moved everything into Chandler.

On collaborating with others:

…it’s taken a little bit of effort to get everyone using it the same way but the results have been an even bigger deal here…Chandler is a very low overhead way for developers to keep track of what they are doing in such a way that anyone can easily get the big picture in one place. Chandler has gotten rid of the need for weekly status reports to our mailing list…Everyone knows who is responsible for things and I can finally spend a lot less time harassing people…This frees up a lot of time so that developers can get back to developing and our meetings are back to lively discussion and decision making instead of boring project overhead.

Gallery Collection

Jos Yule uses Chandler to manage software development.

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

One common question about Chandler is: Are Chandler Items (Notes, Events, Messages, All of the Above) supposed to represent individual task items or projects? If they are individual tasks? How do you make a project? If they are projects, how do you split off individual tasks?

The real answer is: Neither…and Both. Chandler items are by design, ambiguous about whether they represent tasks or projects, because tasks and projects are in reality, ambiguous. Oftentimes what starts out as a neat line-item task can quickly spiral into a half-dozen issues to resolve, questions to answer, not to mention to-dos to do. Sometimes, Chandler notes are most useful simply as a way of keeping track of lists of individual tasks.

Jos Yule recently wrote into the Chandler-Users list describing how he uses Chandler items to keep track of lists: Bugs, Current Work and a Log.


I’ve been using Chandler successfully now since the 7.x release, and
have been quite happy.

I’m using it for both personal and business “stuff”, and i’m trying to
get a feel for how other might be using for Software Development.

Redmine is a web-based software development
tool, with issue tracking, milestones, message boards, wiki’s and
integrated version control tools. It really quite rocks. However, a lot
of the time i feel like it is over-kill for most of my projects. I like
the flexibility that Chandler gives me.

On one of my projects, I’m using the Hub to give access to some of the
projects notes to other stakeholders, coders, artist, audio guys, etc.
… What i’m doing is, in Chandler, i’ve got a collection, Project X,
which is where i keep all my notes related to that project. I then have
a “Project X Public” collection which is published to the Hub, where I
have dragged notes which are to be shared with other team members from
the private “Project X” collection. I’ve got a BUGS note, and a CURRENT
WORK note. This seems to be working so far, but i’m wondering what other
software devs do (if anything)? I haven’t had to get too granular so
far, ie. just a general BUGS note, but I figure that if I need to I can
create a new note for each important bug, and have that in the public
collection too… I’ve also got a LOG note where I record what I’ve been
working on…

Anyway, that’s what i’m doing… How about you? :)

Note The screenshots below do not include real data.
chandler_public_share.jpg
chandler_individual_bug.jpg
chandler_log.jpg

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Announcing the new Chandler Users Advisory Group

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

We are pleased to announce the formation of the Chandler Project User Advisory Group. Over the past 3-6 months, it’s become apparent to us (OSAF staff) that there is a lot of energy in the user community and that a more organized approach to harnessing that enthusiasm would do the project a lot of good.

Open source projects run the gamut when it comes to governance and decision-making. One of the challenges we face is ensuring that users continue to have a prominent voice as a volunteer developer community emerges around the re-architecture effort. The formation of the advisory group is a first step towards taking on that challenge.

So I am happy to say that 3 of our most active users on the users-list have agreed to form v.1 of the User Advisory Group. You probably know them from the list. Davor has been involved in the project for over 3 years. Andre, for over 2 years and Keith for a year and a half. Their contributions have ranged from providing user feedback to painstaking debugging and helping new users get started.

(I’ll hand it over to Davor, Andre and Keith to introduce themselves.)

DAVOR CUBRANIC (Vancouver, Canada)
I have always had interest in personal and group information management. Prior to Chandler, after much searching I had settled on EccoPro as my PIM, and was very happy with its speed and power. Unfortunately, it was also Windows-only, closed-source, abandoned by its developer, and wasn’t designed for syncing outside the LAN. Just around the time that the syncing was starting to become an issue for me (since I needed to maintain my calendar/pile-of-info both from home and office), Chandler started to be stable and capable enough to be used on a day-to-day basis. I slowly left Ecco behind for everything except as a legacy reference store, and—just like Keith—wouldn’t want to live without Chandler any more.

What excites me about the project.
At a project level, it has to be Chandler’s openess and its willingness to explore new forms of personal and small-group information management and collaboration. At a technical level, it’s both the basic idea of creating a distributed system for flexible information management, and the opportunity to see it (re)implemented using some very interesting programming techniques (viz. the Trellis framework, which forms the foundation of the rearchitecture branch).

ANDRE MUENINGHOFF (New Jersey, United States)
As did many past and present users of the venerable Lotus Agenda
(MS-DOS) application, several years ago while searching the web for a worthy replacement, I found the Chandler Project. I was also browsing for new PIM tools to use in my implementation of the (then new) Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. Given the promise of the early roadmaps for the Chandler application, the ground-breaking thinking, and the warm welcome and support by the Chandler team to newcomers and neophytes, I became and remain hooked as a user and a contributor. As is well documented, the project has had many successes along with its share of challenges. The 1.0 release is an important and satisfying milestone for users. With the help of an active user community, it is my hope that the 1.0 release will be able to be marked as the “end of the beginning” of the Chandler Project.

What excites me about the project.
The early goals for the Chandler application held great promise. The 1.0 release delivers on many of them, and foreshadows many more. Chandler delivers ground-breaking thinking about managing personal workflows, sharing calendars, and small-group collaboration on top of cross-platform support, Web 2.0 tools, and an extensible architecture. Maybe one day Chandler will be able to pick up where Lotus Agenda left off and also sync bidirectionally with my Palm handheld. What excites me is the continued commitment to ensuring users are involved in the front-end of this open source project as the transition to an all volunteer organization is completed.

KEITH WINSOR (Norfolk, England)
Having been a Palm user for years, I found myself looking for a replacement with a future. I had spent years searching for the ultimate PIM, without success. I’d found Chandler some time before and kept half an eye on it, even though at the time it was little more than vapourware. Starting my own business meant I was on the lookout for a way of sharing a PIM and everything just fell into place. I’d be the first to admit there are still one or two rough edges, but I can’t imagine being without Chandler: it just sort of works the way I do.

What excites me about the project.
Chandler seems to me to be the ‘openest’ of open source projects. It genuinely seems that the future direction of Chandler will be driven by the user community and I’m very excited at the prospect of playing a role, however small, in the evolution. It’s already very usable: who knows where it could go from here?


We will be working out the scope of roles and responsibilities individual members of the group will take on in the coming weeks. Here is an initial brainstorm of project areas.

A few projects we’d like to start right away include:

  • Creating a users web forum. – Davor will be sending out a proposal for comments in the next week.
  • Crafting an advisory group “charter”. – To be worked out publicly on the Users-List over the next month.
  • Recruiting more members! – Ongoing.

One of the areas we expect to work on continuously is the issue of governance. What “rights and responsibilities” does the advisory group have with respect to volunteers who are writing code or contributing in other “tangible” ways, e.g. writing documentation, submitting art work, etc. What is the make-up of the group? # of people? How are members elected? Are there “term limits”? To get things started, OSAF staff has drafted 3 founding members. Going forward however, we want to establish processes for growing and sustaining the group.

Our first governance project is to look for models in other projects.

  • Davor brought up Apache Project’s notion of a “core developer group”.
  • What about non-software development models? e.g. Wikipedia “stewards”?

There are a few points of process we think we’d like to implement right away.

  • The group will work primarily on the Users List. Mails will be tagged [UAG] in the subject line.
  • There is a public, shared Chandler collection to keep track of projects.

I imagine that in the coming weeks, we will be bringing these issues to the users-list, looking for input from the broader community. So stay tuned for more discussions!

Note Some of you may be wondering what my role is specifically with regard to the advisory group. I am not technically a member of the advisory group. However, during this initial period as the group is finding its legs, I expect to be actively involved in getting this rolling.

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How do you use the Chandler Dashboard?

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The Dashboard collection in Chandler has some interesting properties (not all of which, intentional ;) that have proven fertile ground for experimentation by some of our more adventurous users.

Going into Preview, we had a number of theories about what user needs the Dashboard would fulfill. Some of our assumptions have played out, others haven’t. Here is a recap:

1. We thought it was important for users to get a cross-collection view of all their data where the could process items regardless of what collections (groupings, contexts, categories) they had been assigned to. It’s also a handy way to see what’s new across all of your collections without having to click on individual collections one-by-one.

2. On the other hand, given the number of “other people’s collections” an user might subscribe to, we wanted to make sure that people had a way of quarantining FYI subscriptions from the personal collections in their Dashboard. As a result, we implemented a “Keep out of Dashboard” feature that allowed you to quarantine items on a per-collection basis so that they weren’t automatically picked up by the Dashboard.

There are still some behavioral idiosyncracies to be worked out, but it’s been interesting to see how users have made creative use of these 2 relatively simple ways to define the Dashboard view.

1. Some people use the Dashboard get a view across of “their personal stuff” versus “other people’s stuff”. (I use it this way, although I don’t spend very much time in the Dashboard collection.)

2. Some use the Dashboard purely as a place to collect new notes, an “intake” area so-to-speak. Once the note has been “processed” and added to the appropriate collections, it is removed from the Dashboard. In order to make this work, all of your collections must be initially kept out of the Dashboard. (This is analogous to the GTD Collection phase.)

3. Some use the Dashboard as a way of hand-picking a sub-set of NOW items to focus on “Today”. (I imagine these would be users who find themselves regularly ending up with pretty large NOW sections in each collection.) Again, in order to make this work, all of your collections must be initially kept out of the Dashboard.

How are you using the Dashboard?

Dashboard screenshot

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Mobile Chandler?

Monday, September 29th, 2008

One of the most common questions we get about Chandler is: Can I sync my Chandler data onto my mobile device?

The answer is Yes! While there aren’t full-featured Chandler mobile apps for all the various mobile platforms, you can sync Chandler data onto any device that can sync with or subscribe to calendars via .iCalendar or CalDAV.

Chandler Mobile Sync Diagram

Specifically, that means you can:

  1. Publish your collections to Chandler Hub;
  2. Subscribe to them with Apple iCal or Google Calendar;
  3. Use either Apple iSync or Google Mobile to get your Chandler data onto your mobile device.

Chandler on Hub

Chandler on iCal

Chandler on Google


Notes

You can sync all of your Chandler data to Apple iCal. Non-events will show up as tasks in the To-do list.

Currently Apple doesn’t sync To-do’s onto iPods or the iPhone, so you won’t see Chandler Notes on Apple’s devices. However, Apple iSync will sync To-dos onto Palm devices.

Google Calendar on the other hand, currently does not support tasks at all, so you can only sync events thru Google Calendar.

Apple iCal 3.x (Leopard) supports view-and-edit sharing via CalDAV, meaning you can make changes from your mobile device and they will sync back to Chandler. However, with Apple iCal 2.x (Tiger) and Google, you can only view your Chandler data.

There is a test build that supports 2-way view-and-edit sharing via CalDAV with Google. However, it has not yet been incorporated into the official release of Chandler desktop.


Liz Cademy wrote in with a success story linking Chandler to her iPod via iCal and iSync. I too, have been happily syncing 5 of my Chandler collections (events and notes!) to my new pink Palm Centro via iCal and iSync for a couple of weeks now. I’m thinking of finally upgrading from Tiger to Leopard so I can edit as well as view from my phone.

Has anyone else tried syncing to mobile devices in this way?

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Chandler Project: Next Steps

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Back in January, we underwent a significant reorganization. Our founder Mitch Kapor stepped down from the project and provided enough funding to support paid staff for about a year. In August, we released 1.0 and since then we have seen a notable increase in our user base and continued growth in the user community.

As we head into the 4th quarter, we are now turning our attention to what needs to be done to ensure that Chandler remains a healthy, open source project that continues to serve the needs of its users as we transition from a paid staff to a volunteer-driven organization.

So, we felt it was time to back-up and take stock of what we’ve accomplished with the recent 1.0 release, and talk about our options, both in the short-term (next 3-6 months) as well as with respect to long-term goals.

The question before us is: Given our goals, what is the best use of remaining paid developer time?


Our mission remains developing high quality software to help individuals and small workgroups manage tasks and calendars.

We think this means delivering a solution that supports:

  • A hosted service to support sharing and personal backup and syncing.
  • A desktop application that is stable and performant with an extensible schema.
  • The ability to get data in and out of Chandler (Desktop and Server / Service) in a variety of “standard” ways.
  • The ability to work with other apps, where APIs and standards exist.

We also remain committed to remaining an open source project by:

  • Continuing to grow and solidify the user community, including establishing processes to ensure that users have a voice in development efforts.
  • Build a development community around a code base that is well-documented, fully testable, easy to maintain and and modular enough to allow for loose collaboration among developers.

Post 1.0 Priorities: Going forward, we’ve identified the following areas as key to the continued health of the project:

  1. Hub Service
  2. Support 1.0 users on both Chandler Hub and Chandler Desktop (We continue monthly releases of the desktop and are about to release Chandler Server 1.1.)
  3. Community (more posts on this soon!)
  4. Desktop Re-architecture Project

Desktop Re-architecture Project

As with any re-architecture effort, ours is a risky one, complicated by unknowns.

  • Bug fixes and new feature work will slow down considerably. In the short-term we’ve decided to focus on strengthening Chandler’s “mobile device” support with extensions to Chandler Hub such as a new quick entry iPhone app and the ability to broadcast and receive email notifications. (However, we remain committed to fixing serious blocker bugs as well as helping volunteers interested in fixing bugs and building new features.)
  • The timeframe for a fully re-architected, usable Chandler Desktop is still unknown.

Still, one thing that has been clear to us for some time is that the the performance and stability issues we face on the desktop can’t be fixed by continued work on the current code base.

Therefore, the choice we face is one of timing: Either we continue feature work on the current code base and defer the re-architecture to some later date (probably as a volunteer project), or bite the bullet and use remaining paid staff resources to work on re-architecture now.

In the end, we decided to re-architect now for a number of reasons, including:

  1. Re-architecture projects are unlikely to be implemented by volunteer developers.
  2. A re-architected desktop will be much friendlier to new developers and put Chandler in a stronger position for attracting volunteers, both for fixing bugs and building out new features.

That being said, our first milestone is to get something developers can start hacking on in the next 3 months, even if there isn’t enough UI for end-users to try it out.


The significance of 1.0: If we knew all along that we needed to re-architect the desktop, why did we decide put our energies into shipping a 1.0?

Shipping 1.0 has helped us clarify what the re-architecture needs to support. Both from a technical standpoint as well as from a design and user interface perspective.

Preview and 1.0 allowed us to put theory into practice. Through user feedback, we validated the problem space we had identified and workflows we had developed. We also identified what didn’t work and what wasn’t necessary. All of which will be essential in maintaining a sharp focus as we proceed with the re-architecture project.

Last but not least, 1.0 has been instrumental in helping us build a user base and enthusiasm for the project, two things we will need to sustain the project through the re-architecture effort..

Goals of the Re-architecture

  • Address performance and stability issues.
  • Make it easier for developers to fix bugs and add new features.
  • Separate the storage, domain model, interaction and presentation layers of the app in order to parallelize development. (So for example, developers can work on building the interface for a new feature without having to wait for the domain model to be defined.)
  • Comprehensive test coverage.
  • Extensible schema.
    – Allow developers to add functionality around an expanded range of data types supported by the app. (e.g. Documents, Media, Contacts and Directories, etc)
    – Allow developers and users alike to define custom attributes.

Non-goal: Create a generic developer toolkit.

What we think we can accomplish in the next 3-5 months:
There are a number of paths we can pursue. At a minumum, we know we need to implement fully-tested interaction, domain and storage layers for Chandler. After that, there are a number of different ways to stage added functionality. A few configurations we’ve discussed include:

1) Sharing a simple task list through Chandler Hub. This would involve:

  • Ability to import data from current desktop. (aka Port EIM.)
  • Baseline sharing support.
  • List view.

2) Basic Calendar

  • Week view
  • Detail view
  • Recurrence

3) Initially bypass core Desktop 1.0 features and instead implement add-on apps (e.g. bookmarks manager, personal jogging tracker, reading list). Small, discrete apps that require less upfront investment in infrastructure work and allow us to get usable UI on the re-architecture branch faster.

For a more detailed discussion of our re-architecture plans, see Grant’s write-up on the Chandler-Dev list. Ultimately, our goal is build community interest around the re-architecture work. So please stay tuned for more discussions on the dev list and jump in with questions and feedback.

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Want to minimize Chandler to your system tray?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Windows and Linux users: A couple of users have written in to the Users-List about handy tools they’ve found to make it possible to minimize Chandler to the system tray.

  • TrayIt for Windows: http://www.teamcti.com/trayit
  • AllTray for Linux: http://alltray.sourceforge.net
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Avner sends new items to Chandler from his phone

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Avner recently wrote in to the Users’ List about how he can create new items from his cell phone by sending text messages to Chandler via email and Chandler IMAP folders.

See instructions on how to set up Chandler IMAP folders.

How are you making using of Chandler’s IMAP folders?


…I just figured out a pretty good way to add things to Chandler on the move. I can send texts to e-mail addresses, so I set up a filter to put
emails from my cell phone in the proper IMAP folder. It works pretty
well for me…

-Avner Shanan-

configure_imap_folders.png

Chandler IMAP Folders in Email

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