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ZipLine Blog

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A New Look


If you've logged into your ZipLine account in the last few days, you may have noticed something: ZipLine has a new look. We're hoping you've noticed something else as well: ZipLine is now easier to use.

Screenshots and text are probably the most boring way to learn about a new UI. It's a lot more fun to click that "Customer Login" button at the top of the screen, log in to your account and take a look yourself. If you don't have an account, click here to sign up for a FREE one. But for those of you who disagree, or who just like reading blogs, here are some screenshots showing off our new look.

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This is the new Dashboard menu.  Here you can see recent activity in your account, reminders of upcoming meetings and due dates, and lists of all of the action items you have coming up.  Also notice that we've changed the orientation of the menu bar to horizontal to allow you to make greater use of horizontal space with our windowing system.



This is the dashboard window for a project.  The sub-tabs allow you several different ways to view the tasks and other information associated with the project, including a map view (formerly called ZipBoard).  Tabs across the top still appear as needed based on the content you've added to a project.  On the right-hand side you'll find the action bar with primary and related actions you may want to use.

The personal to-do list has been simplified so that you have more space to look at other windows while using it.  We've also improved your ability to filter and categorize to-do's.


Our interface is still optimized for Smartphones, so you have access to all your important information wherever you are.  No need to download an app, it works directly from your phone's web browser!


Still want to see more?  Check out the ZipLine overview video here to get a full tour of the new look.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Microsoft v. Salesforce

It’s been an interesting week in the world of web development. Microsoft’s patent suit against Salesforce.com has sparked a tremendous amount of discussion ranging from analytical to angry. The breadth of the nine patents invoked by Microsoft has caused particular alarm to many companies using web app technology because, taken at face value, they seem to cover a number of practices that are quite standard and widely used in the industry. For example one of the alleged infringements stems from Microsoft’s patent on a “[s]ystem and method for providing and displaying a web page having an embedded menu.”

While the facial scope of these patents may be alarming to some, the patents themselves are really a secondary issue to Microsoft’s decision to file suit. If Microsoft truly does hold patents on these commonly used web development practices, then why is it only now seeking to enforce them, and why against Salesforce?

Several theories have been floating around to explain Microsoft’s actions. One possibility is that Microsoft is looking to use its patent arsenal and legal muscle to undercut Salesforce which is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM, and one which had been making some major inroads into the CRM market over the last few years. It may also be looking to establish an advantage over Salesforce's Force.com platform which is a major player in the rapidly growing cloud computing market that Microsoft is trying to break into with their Azure platform. In either case, Microsoft’s interest is less in protecting the patents themselves, and more in using them as a weapon against competitors it perceives to be a threat. This would be good news for other web development companies… at least until they reach the level of being perceived as a threat by Microsoft.

A second possibility is that Microsoft is simply seeking to preserve their patents, and Salesforce makes a strategic target because 1. it’s a big enough name to be recognizable 2. it lacks a sizeable patent portfolio of its own with which to counter-claim and 3. it lacks the resources to fight an endless litigation battle. This would also suggest Microsoft won’t be seeking broad enforcement of these patents anytime soon, though they would remain as a potential axe hanging over the head of most web applications.

Yet another possibility is that Microsoft simply is getting serious about enforcing these patents and want web application development to be something that nearly requires a license from Microsoft. This is certainly the scariest possibility for web developers, very few of whom are large enough to even survive discovery in a legal battle with Microsoft. If Microsoft comes calling, you’d either have to work out a license agreement from a severely disadvantaged bargaining position, or you’d have to pack it in. Fortunately there is reason to believe this isn’t Microsoft’s motivation.

The entire system of software patents is a legal house of cards. Software patents represent a grafting of modern circumstance onto a system originally intended to protect tangible products and inventions. Having evolved rapidly from a mixture of appellate court cases and Patent Office decisions, the current framework is ill-understood and relies largely on selective and minimal enforcement by many of the largest patent holders. A behemoth like Microsoft suddenly laying the smack down with it’s plethora of patents could be enough to provoke Congressional review of the system, which those major players would likely wish to avoid.

All this is of course speculation, and it may be many months before we have any inclination where this case is headed. Especially if Microsoft is reluctant to settle, as some have theorized. For now all web developers can do is continue going about their business and keep an eye on how this suit unfolds.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Rapid Date Entry



Sometimes its the little things that make you happy. Making the subway right as the door closes. Finding five dollars in your jacket pocket. A giant coffee mug.

The same is true for ZipLine. We've created a comprehensive solution that gives us everything we need to organize and run our business, but today the thing that made me smile was our Rapid Date Entry system. Whenever you're entering dates and times in ZipLine, for meetings, events, due dates, etc., you can just type the date in the way that feels natural to you.

For instance, for a meeting on Wednesday May 5th at 3pm, you could type "5/5 3pm". You could also type "Wednesday, 3pm." If it were the 4th you could type "tomorrow 3pm". You get the idea.

It would take a very long time to list all the variations you could use and honestly it's more fun to play with than to read about anyway. Our goal was simply to let you type in the information as quickly and easily as possible without having to check a calendar, count days, or tab through multiple input boxes.

Another way we've tried to make date management easy is by giving you the ability to use date offsets to manage dates relative to each other. So if you had a project that was due May 30th and wanted to create a task that was due two days before the project, you could simply enter "-2days" in the date field and that task would be due on May 28th. If the project deadline changed to June 5th, the task would then be due June 3rd. If you have a lot of linked deadlines this can save you tons of time updating your projects when you have to make adjustments to your timeline.

Is the ability to enter dates and times more quickly and easily going to revolutionize the internet landscape and usher in the era of Web 4.0? Probably not. But it does make my day just a little bit better, and sometimes it's those little things that you appreciate the most.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mac File-Syncing Is Here

That's right, as promised our file syncing now works on both Mac and Windows platforms! Mac users: welcome to the full power of ZipLine. You can learn all about it on our website, or watch this video for a quick demo.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

March Madness

The end of March Madness is almost as sad for me as watching my bracket get obliterated during the Sweet Sixteen was. Still, it was one of the most exciting tournaments I can recall, and we had a great time following the action here at the office.

This year we used ZipLine to help organize our office pool, and it made things much easier. I created a project for the tournament pool, assigned everyone so they could participate, and set reminders and notifications to make sure they got their brackets in on time. Then I threw in a template bracket for everyone to fill out, and when they were done they just dropped their filled-out brackets in using our file syncing tool.

Once the tournament began we could all easily track and compare our brackets. We could even use message threads to discuss the games as they were played, and talk a little smack to each other.

Less time spent organizing, more time spent reading up on which 13-seeds to watch out for. Yet another sweet use of ZipLine.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The New ZipLine

It’s an exciting day for ZipLine. We’ve released version 2.0, our first full public release!

Over the next few weeks we’ll be covering in detail some of the new features and improvements we’ve added to ZipLine, but here’s a quick run-down of the highlights.

File Syncing

This is the grand-daddy of improvements. We’ve taken ZipLine from having basic file storage and sharing capability to being a complete real-time file syncing, sharing, and back-up solution.

Our file syncing tool will automatically and instantly synchronize all of the files in your ZipLine projects with your desktop computer. Make a change to the file on your computer, and it’s instantly updated on the server, and synced with everyone else working on that project with you. It also includes complete integrated version control and backup, so several people can work on files and data will never be lost. All you have to do is work the way you want to; ZipLine takes care of the rest.

We’ve been using ZipLine file syncing for a while now before it was released, and it’s tough to describe how much it helped us work together. We hope your experience with it will be similar.

Look for a post soon with a lot more details about ZipLine file syncing, but for now we’ve got to move on.

Redesigned Interface

We listened to you. With our sincere thanks to our devout group of test users for all of their feedback, we have made a number of improvements to the look and feel of ZipLine. We’ve gone a little less overboard with the array of colored buttons, we’ve moved all of the global menus to a simple toolbar on the left side of the screen, and we’ve added a uniform bar across the top of all your projects windows so you can more easily add content.

There’s a lot more we’ve done to improve ZipLine’s aesthetics, so if you haven’t seen it lately, take a look.

Custom Work Types Made Easier

Custom work types are one of my favorite features of ZipLine, and now it’s a lost simpler to create them. For those not familiar, rather than having to call everything you do either a “project” or a “task,” ZipLine lets you create work types that match what you do. Lawyers can have “cases,” chefs can have “recipes,” scientists can have “experiments,” Brett Favre can have “interceptions,” and so on. You can also structure how these work types relate to each other and to everything else in your account.

With the changes we’ve made in ZipLine 2.0, it’s now possible to create your custom work types very quickly and easily so you can get to using them faster. Don’t worry though, you still have access to all the same high-level customization options as before so that as you use your account you can keep customizing it to fit exactly how you work.

Messaging with Comments

We’ve also redone our messaging system to make it even easier to find the information you need. All of your messages are still associated with the projects they relate to so you don’t have to go digging through your email to find what you need. Now, however, replies to messages are tracked in simple comment threads under that message so you can view the whole series as a conversation. If you are subscribed to the message all comments will be e-mailed to you just like messages were. Our whole goal is to give you an easy way to view messages relating to your projects, and we think this new system helps achieve that.

ZipBoard

We like whiteboards. We always have, and we still do. For us, being able to see an overview of everything we’re working on to quickly edit and arrange things is important. We got tired of the impermanence of whiteboards though, not to mention the marker smell, so we decided to build this capability into ZipLine, and our ZipBoard feature is the result.

ZipBoard gives you a simple overview of your project, showing all the tasks under it and letting you easily add, delete or edit tasks and sub-tasks. You can also use rearrange mode to simply drag and drop tasks around to where you want them. It’s a simple way to keep your work organized the way you want it as your projects progress. And no marker smell.

Shared Workspace

People work together in different ways. A large part of ZipLine’s power is your ability to customize it to the way you work, and our new Shared Workspace feature is an extension of that power.

Each project in ZipLine has its own Shared Workspace where you can put nearly any kind of information you want people working on that project to have. Everyone assigned to that project can add, edit, and comment on content on this page as well. There’s no “right way” to use this feature because our goal was to give you the ability to use it however you want. Some of the more common uses we’ve come across though are:
  • As a cover page. You can use this space to leave instructions for the project, link a crucial contact or file, or put any other key information you want your team members to see.
  • As a wiki-page. This space is open and editable by everyone assigned to that project, so some people prefer to use this page as an ongoing reference page for information relevant to the project that grows and changes as your project does.
  • As a discussion forum. You can add nearly any kind of content in this space, from text and links, to images and videos, and users can comment on any of the content that is added. So this is a great way to have an ongoing back and forth discussion about ideas for your project.

So those are the highlights of whats new in ZipLine 2.0, but there are many more improvements to existing features that we didn't get to cover so if you haven't seen the new ZipLine yet, check it out and let us know what you think.