Dreamler Release 1.7: The (Dark) Force Awakens!
- Dec 10, 2015
- By Thomas Wingate
Release 1.7 is live and with it comes a lot of new features like multi-select, copy & paste, Checkpoints and a new dark color-scheme + some fundamental development that opens doors for the future. You can get it here.
Hidden Fortress – All The Invisible Stuff
Over the last couple of months we’ve been working on an overhaul of how the real-time client-server communication works, replacing UDP with WebSockets. UDP is great for a lot of things but it has it’s drawbacks. The change was motivated by a couple of things:
- We ran into a lot was the many corporate users wanting to try Dreamler inside domains protected by rather good and tightly locked down firewalls. Too much time spent talking to IT departments about temporary firewall policy changes…
- Sockets allows us to use well known encryption (SSL) on the real-time traffic rather than having to create and maintain a home-cooked solution, something that is generally a bad idea unless you really know what you are doing.
- The UDP MTU size limited copy, paste and move operations on multiple nodes. If you tried to do this on a couple of hundred nodes the operation would not fit a single MTU and so would have to be serialized. Because of the real-time collaborative there was always the possibility that another user tried to manipulate one or more of the nodes in that stream, causing all sorts of strange problems. With Sockets this is no longer a problem as the entire move/copy action can take place, regardless of size.
The above is of course invisible to most users – you expect something like Dreamler to just work regardless of your network environment. For us it’s a big deal as it opens up a lot of future possibilities.
So What’s New From A Functionality Standpoint?
Multi-select, Move And Copy/paste
You can now select (Ctrl/Cmd-click or rectangle-select) one or more nodes to move, copy and paste them. It’s also possible to copy from one board to another, and even to paste the copied nodes into a textfile (comes in as JSON).
Rather obvious functionality and user value, but technically challenging.
Multi-manipulation of nodes is also the first major step towards private and shared template libraries, so we are really excited about this.
Multi-manipulation of nodes still has some ways to go though: In upcoming releases we will add the ability to multi-edit of fields in a selection, allowing you add the same tag, change the state, set duration, add the same resource, etc.
Improved Notification Beacons
Up until now everyone on a board saw notification beacons (conversations and warnings) whenever there was anything new added related to any participant. This quickly got overwhelming in projects with a bit of chatter going on, so now beacons are filtered in a much more sensible way. The way it works now, you only see conversations that relate to you directly.
We added a blue beacon for nodes marked as a request. The request functionality is still in its infancy and so really primitive in what it does. Expect more in the near future.
We’ve also made the beacons a lot more muted – a board with a lot of messages and warnings tended to become noisy and visually cluttered. Getting these kinds of things right is hard though, there are so many edge-cases where graphic objects interfere with each other.
Dark Color Scheme & Improved Look And Feel
The light color scheme was plagued by some aesthetic and usability issues; visibility and contrast was an issue in some cases when zoomed out and when working inside groups the gameboard tended to look gray and flat.The dark theme makes colors pop more, especially in zoomed-out views where they’re much more crisp and vibrant.
The UI and interaction element have also gone through a lot of cleanup and improvements, generally adding to a more complete and clean feel.
Keeping the modeling language as simple as possible has always been a top priority. One of the reasons process modeling languages tend to get stuck in expert-land is the complexity of the semantic and syntax. Although something like BPMN or UML is a lot less complicated to learn than English, from a language point of view, they do take a long time to master. The Dreamler language with its 5 building blocks and single relation type aims to be something you can grasp and start using in 5-10 minutes.
Naturally we are a bit hesitant when it comes to expanding it and adding complexity, but in this case we we had to give in. A lot of customer projects saw a need for something in between an activity and a Milestone; A minor milestone, subgoal, etc, simply because plans ended up looking cluttered and it was hard to differentiate between really big milestones and smaller goals.
The solution is the introduction of Checkpoints, basically a minor milestone that does not have a leading flag at the top of the window.
Like a lot of our customers we often work over Skype, Hangouts or other meeting solutions. Even though Dreamler makes it very easy to see what other users are looking at and pointing to we found that sometimes we would share screens simply because you want a group of people to sit back and follow a single presenter.
You can now go into the participants panel and chose to follow a user. The effect is that your camera movements are locked to that user’s movements, a simple and effective presentation mode.
Profile And Project Editing In The Client
This was a given. Of course you should be able to edit your profile and create and edit projects and manage board invites directly in the client. Now you can.
Besides the above we’ve spent a lot of time on fixing bugs, improving performance and laying the groundwork for future developments. The overall feeling is really positive with this release – we are nearing a level where Dreamler has all the fundamental functionality and performance that you would expect it to have.
Download the new version here!