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PT Feature Spotlight: New Post Indicators, Milestones

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  • PT Feature Spotlight: New Post Indicators, Milestones

    The new version of the Project Tools is pretty close to making it's appearance here on vB.com. There are some loose ends to tie up and some other things I want to do, but they can be done once it's on vB.com.

    Today, I want to point out one feature that will be really obvious as soon as you use the new version and another that you'll have to play with on your own installation. The latter wasn't mentioned in the initial announcement, so hopefully that'll be a nice surprise.



    New Post Indicators
    As I mentioned in the initial announcement, this covers the standard things handled by the forums. It uses the existing read marking option to do persistent read marking (or simple cookie read marking). Read marking happens at 2 levels: the individual issue and each issue type in a project. This allows some pretty interesting interactions. Let's look at a project entry on the projects overview page:
    1. This is the icon that shows you at a glance whether the project has unread posts.
    2. A bold display indicates that this issue type has new content. If only one of the types is bold, you can simply click on the name to go straight to that type's issue list (like in PT 1.0).
    3. There are 2 numbers here now. They represent "<active> / <total>". Frankly, saying there are 10,000 bugs isn't particularly useful. You probably want to know how many of them are still outstanding. The active/complete state is a setting that you can set for each issue status. It's also used by the milestones.
    4. This column represents last post now, showing your standard information. If the last post was private and you can view all private content, you'll see that reflected here too.


    Of course, there are the other features that you'd expect:
    • Bold issue titles when there are unread posts. The "go to new post" image is also included.
    • Project-level and type-level read marking is available.
    • Subscribed issues in the user CP are shown until you read them.
    • "Find New Issues" links are available from the search dropdowns within the PT. Everyone wants them integrated in the "new posts" link in the navbar, but this is really not feasible at this time. Some sort of integration might be done to make it easier to get from new forum posts to new PT posts. Tweaks are still being made.




    Milestones
    Milestone management is probably the biggest improvement to the project management tools provided in the new version of the PT. Milestones are defined per project with a few settings:
    • Milestone title
    • Description
    • Target date (read: deadline)
    • Completed date

    Once you create a milestone, you start adding issues to that milestone. This allows you to very quickly track progress towards a particular goal. With the new active/completed distinction for issues, you can see at a glance how close you are to your goal.

    Some people may have been using the 2 version fields each issue has to track this, but that's really not ideal. Bugs have a version that they apply to and a version they were fixed in. The applicable version isn't the version that you want the fix to be made in. For example, some of our larger bugs may have been reported against 3.6 but are really only targetted for 4.0. Milestones centralize this target handling and make it easier to use.

    Milestones can be used in several ways. One of the common uses is to make a milestone for every release and then assign issues as necessary. The release notes can then come from that milestone. Another alternative (actually, you can use both if you want) is to specify several milestones as you work towards a goal. For example, there might be a list of issues that need to be completed for a meeting. After that meeting, you move on to more issues. It's really just a method to group your issues together into one goal, jumping across issue types.

    Before I move on to screenshots, there are 2 new permissions to control milestones. There's one to control who can set milestones, but there's also one to control who can view milestones. If you don't have milestone viewing permissions, you won't be able to see anything about milestones... ok, except one limitation. The issue change tracking will tell you that the issue's milestone has been changed, but you won't be able to see any other details.

    Right, screenshots!


    This is your milestone overview page for a particular project. It will show you all active milestones by default, with a separate click to view the completed milestones. That leads me into another comment: you have to manually complete a milestone in the admin CP. It won't automatically complete itself when it gets to 100%. We did think about doing this, but it opened up a big can of worms: should we automatically reopen a milestone if necessary? What if one issue is added and it gets completed before all the issues are added? Manual completion gets around all that, at the price of a little more work.

    You can see that we're using the new active/completed option to give you a nice completion percentage.


    Diving into a milestone and you get a pretty similar display. The main thing here is that you see the latest changes in that milestone.

    It was available on the overview page as well, but the counts above the completion percentage take you to an issue list page, filtered to just that issue state (active/completed/all):


    There are also options to search within a particular milestone. You can get to a milestone-centric advanced search, but only from these pages. The PT advanced search is incredibly complex as is, so we didn't want to add another control that varied with the project you selected. When you do a milestone search, you will automatically be filtered down to that milestone.

    Adding the milestone chooser to each issue necessitated a large change to the issue display:

    This display allows for a much more flexible display of issue metadata. While the grid method in 1.0 served it's purpose well, it became very hard to add or remove things to it. This method doesn't have any particular limits on what data must be displayed.

    We're keen to get your feedback on the new issue metadata display. Let us know what you think!



    Once the PT appears on vB.com, I'm sure you'll find some other features that haven't been mentioned yet. Though there will probably still be a few that you won't see. I should probably cover those next time...

    • Fusion
      #8
      Fusion commented
      Editing a comment
      Great teaser, Mike!

    • kentaurus
      #9
      kentaurus commented
      Editing a comment
      A little late for commenting, but I am liking the project tools. The new icons are really nice.

      I'm planning to use it as a mini service-support-desk so those icons will prove in handy.

    • rgf207
      #10
      rgf207 commented
      Editing a comment
      I agree with King Kovifor above. I think the metadata should still be on top. It looked much cleaner that way. Having it on the side is ugly imho. Maybe an option to set the location would be a good idea
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