While you'll find a few additions in the areas of change and activity reporting, this is primarily an incremental update release. The WYSIWYG editor library has been updated to the latest version which includes numerous bug fixes. Various display glitches, especially those showing up on IE7 and IE8, have been fixed. And there are a whole host of other fixes and enhancements. See the changes page for full details.
As always, thanks to everyone who tried the beta releases or otherwise reported problems to us!
Just a heads up that our license pricing will be increasing starting July 1.
Because the changes don't go into effect until July 1st, we'd encourage you to purchase a license before then if you've already been thinking about it. As well, if you'd like to upgrade your existing license, either increasing it in size, or renewing it early, please get in touch with us.
Prices for Enterprise and Campus licenses, as well as our hosting plans, will remain unchanged.
We're very pleased to announce the release of version 7.0 of both CourseForum and ProjectForum wiki software.
Also available is a complete list of changes. Some of the highlights include user interface improvements to the bottom area of forum pages, a rework of the administration pages, improved theme support including a new, easier theme editor, and several additions to the wiki markup.
You can also try the new version out on our demo server.
Our hosting customers will be upgraded this weekend; if you'd like to have the upgrade done before then, please let us know.
Hot off the, ummm, presses(?), we've just posted the first beta release of version 7.0.
As you can tell from the major version number bump, there are some large changes in this one, including a lot of significant user interface improvements. The beta page gives you a taste of those.
You'll also see that some major changes were done with regards to custom themes. We'll have more to say about that between now and when 7.0 gets officially released, but if you have your own custom themes, you may want to give it a quick spin to see if you'll need to make any changes to your theme.
We're very much looking forward to hearing what you think about this new release!
Among other things, the next major version of CourseForum and ProjectForum will be getting a bit of a facelift. I wanted to share some early work-in-progress screenshots with you to get some feedback. Click on each to see the full size version.
This first one shows how we're attempting to streamline and cleanup the 'post your comments' area at the bottom of each forum page. We're hoping switching mostly to icons will reduce the clutter, but still provide access to all the same commands.
Update: In response to Peter's comment, here's one way that the six icons without labels could be treated. Immediately when you move over the icon the label appears over top (and disappears immediately when you move off the icon), while the traditional browser tooltip appears as usual after a short delay if you keep the mouse there.
In contrast, the image below shows what the post your comments area looks like in the current version.
The next thing that we're working on improving is the look and feel of the various dialogs, and especially the administration areas. The image below shows how things are shaping up so far.
And the last thing to show is how we're making custom themes easier to work with. While you can still do all the things you can now by mucking directly with CSS, we're making it easier to do the simple things like changing logos and basic colors within themes. As a bonus, this will also mean that as we make changes to the standard themes in the future, it's more likely your custom themes will pick up those changes.
So that's it for now. As I said, these are works in progress, and we'd really like to hear what you think!
We're very happy to let you know that version 6.6 of CourseForum and ProjectForum are out of beta and available for you to download.
As a result of surveys we did a while back, this release makes some changes in the platforms that are supported. In particular, some very old versions of Windows, Mac OS X and Linux are no longer supported, and we've also ended support for Solaris and FreeBSD platforms. However, this has allowed us to do some major upgrades to the software internals which will make delivering some exciting new features in the future much easier.
A major change is that there is now a single download for Windows, which allows you to run both as a regular application (convenient to try out, and not needing special administrative privileges) and also as a Windows service (to make sure things stay running whenever the computer is on). Windows users should definitely take a look at our HOWTO about upgrading to 6.6.
For more details, you can find a full list of changes in this release.
As always, make sure to check your existing license (on the Site Administration page) to ensure that it covers this release before you upgrade. If your license needs to be updated, please let us know.
As mentioned, the new version is available for download now, and also running on our hosting services. The user manuals (for ProjectForum and CourseForum) have also been updated to cover everything in the new version.
Finally, a big thank you to everyone who helped in beta testing these releases. And if you have any questions or feedback for us, please let us know!
Just an advance notice that we will be in "holiday slowdown" mode from December 24th until January 10th. While we will be available throughout that time, please expect some delays in receiving responses to any queries you send our way. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Wishing everyone a very happy holidays and new year!
We've just updated the beta releases for the next version of CourseForum and ProjectForum. This addresses a number of related issues surrounding the Windows installer/GUI, mostly around the use of Windows services.
Download at our beta page.
As an added bonus, we've made available an early beta of the next version of CourseForum and ProjectForum.
We've made a lot of internal changes and updates, so we really need your help to ensure that the new versions work ok on your systems. As well, we've also made some major changes as to how the Windows version is set up, which we're very interested in getting feedback on.
Please try things out and send us your feedback! Thanks!
Some maintenance and upgrades will be done necessitating a brief downtime for our hosting services. This will occur sometime between 9pm to 12am Pacific this Saturday Nov 6th. Downtime should be less than one hour.
Please note that we're in the process of changing over the IP addresses used by our hosting service to take advantage of some network upgrades. The new addresses are already in place, and our DNS is pointing to them. The old addresses will remain there for another week or so, at which point they'll be removed. Please get in touch with us if you have any problems or questions related to this changeover.
Another incremental version of CourseForum and ProjectForum has just been released. As you'll see from the changes, there are some more improvements with the WYSIWYG editor, as well as some other bug fixes and performance improvements.
We've just released version 6.5.4 of CourseForum and ProjectForum. These contain a number of bug fixes and changes in the WYSIWYG editor. Most notably, it includes fixes for some odd behaviour in Internet Explorer that could in certain circumstances lead to some duplication of content in saved pages. We know a number of you have run into that, and so wanted to get that out to you.
As mentioned before, we're busy working away on some larger changes for the next version, but wanted to make these editor bug fixes available to you much sooner than that.
We hope that you've all been enjoying some time off this summer holidays. While we won't be completely away, we will be slowing down somewhat over the first three weeks of August. Because of that, we may not be able to respond to inquiries as quickly as you are normally used to. Thanks in advance for your patience.
Just a quick development update on our end. We've been busy working away on the next versions of CourseForum and ProjectForum.
One of the main things that we wanted to do with that was upgrade the core engine that drives the software, and that's been pretty much accomplished. That won't provide much of a visible change (other than maybe a performance boost), but does significantly improve our capability to continue moving forward with future changes. As discussed earlier, that will also involve dropping support for some legacy platforms.
The other big part has been updating how the Windows versions work, combining the "GUI" and "service" versions into a single download, and making it easier to switch between the two. We're also giving the user interface a refresh, and incorporating some other changes to make the software an even better citizen with newer versions of Windows. This work is close to complete; the main thing we'll still be working on is making the upgrade from existing versions of CourseForum and ProjectForum as smooth as possible.
Along the way, we've also identified and fixed a few bugs and made some other small changes, which we're making available today as part of a new patch release, version 6.5.3 (so this doesn't include the two things I talked about above). As always, details can be found on our website.
In the final review of results from the recent user survey, I wanted to share some of the other suggestions that people made for improving the product. In no particular order...
While we didn't mind seeing the few users who were sucking up and said that nothing was bad enough to drive them crazy, we know there are always things that we could be doing better. So without further ado...
On our end this has been a challenging one to get right, but obviously its hugely important to do so. With the variety of different browsers and their versions, not to mention different ways that people are using ProjectForum, we've been beefing up our testing systems and processes to better capture the various special cases that are causing grief.
One thing that you can do to help is let us know when you see an error and as best you can, describe what is needed to reproduce it. Reproducing it is usually the tough part in any bug; after that, fixing it tends to be much easier. In particular we need to know:
Some aspect of 'user accounts' was mentioned by a few people, often related to how they might be hooked into an existing authentication system that is being used elsewhere (a feature available in our Enterprise version, but not the standard one). Also in that category was supporting groups of users, better user management, etc.
Requests for more formatting options was another common complaint. To some degree, this becomes almost a philosophical issue. While obviously adding more formatting to PF is technically very easy to do, we've been trying to stay fairly conservative in that regard. We view ProjectForum primarily as a communication and collaboration tool, not a document preparation tool. The more people are spending time messing with formatting, the less they're likely focusing on communication. And if pages are full of fancy formatting, they also make it more difficult for other people (especially those not as used to the system) to contribute and make changes. It's the same reason that rough drawings and sketches make it easier to discuss and change diagrams than a fully rendered 3D image would.
Other things that were mentioned once or twice: hard to link to files on network drives, security model, proprietary database (which isn't at all true actually), difficult to set up, lack of support, poor extensibility, lack of a published API, too high a price, no PDF export, unfamiliar terminology, can collect spam, not enough tutorials.
That was about it for dislikes. Next time we'll wrap up with a few suggestions and other miscellaneous nuggets we found in the survey responses.
We've just released version 6.5.2 of both CourseForum and ProjectForum. This version not only contains a number of bug fixes (as you'd expect from the version number) but also some improvements and redesigns in the area of user accounts which should simplify things in a number of ways. Enterprise users (Campus for CF) will also note a couple of new permissions that are available.
Changes: detailed change log
Next up in our survey results, is the things that people said they liked about ProjectForum.
I will preface this by saying that most people overall seemed pretty happy; I'm sure there is no selection bias as to who completed the survey of course!
But we did get a lot of "keep up the good work" type comments, positive comments about our support, people sharing how important it is in their group's work, and some who've purchased it at each of the jobs they've had over the last few years. Thanks to everyone who shared that with us, it's very gratifying.
Getting that right is one of the hardest things to do, but I think one of the most important for this type of tool. As best you can, you want the tool to just fade into the background, so that people can just contribute and think about what they're contributing, not the software. While I think ProjectForum is far from perfect in that regard, it's good to get the feedback that we're more or less doing this right.
The second most common like (about 10% of respondents' first choice) was also an "easy" one, namely how easy ProjectForum was to set up and administer. This has of course been another goal of ours, so good to see the feedback there.
The ease of use or ease of setup/admin came up as many peoples' second or third choices too of course, but it was just remarkable how many picked those as a first choice.
Incidentally, in the question asking you to describe ProjectForum in ten words or less, the words "easy" or "simple" came up in 30% of answers (including my favorite, "Easy, Easy, Easy, Flexible, Flexible, Flexible, Powerful, Powerful, Powerful, GREAT!").
Beyond that, we get several responses along the lines of "liked the ability to collaborate". Flexibility, adaptability, reliability also were mentioned several times as likes. Finally, a number of specific features were mentioned as "likes" (e.g. uploads, security, etc.) though no particular one really stood out.
Next time: what people dislike about ProjectForum.
The next result from the survey I want to talk about is the platform that people were running the ProjectForum server on.
Approximately 65% of you reported running on Windows, 20% on Mac, and 15% on Linux. Of the Windows people, 2/3 of those were using the Windows service version (the one that runs in the background like a traditional server process), while the rest were using the one with the little GUI front end.
While we had some anecdotal evidence (and download stats) that essentially supported this distribution, the platform question was one of the ones we were most interested to ask about, as we wanted to propose a couple of changes in that regard.
Our intention is to entirely drop support for these two, likely in our next release (i.e. 6.6), though the timing is open to change. If this is something that affects you, we obviously hope you'll get in touch to discuss this.
(Incidentally, when ProjectForum first came out, most people were running Windows 98, which didn't - really - support services at all. And for those minority running Windows 2000, it was all still a bit foreign.)
What we're thinking of doing in the future is collapse the two separate versions down to one. The little GUI would work as it does right now, but if ProjectForum was installed as a service, it would control that instead of the "application" version. More importantly, it would allow you to install the service version right from the GUI, rather than via the installer.
In other words, the one download would work both as a Windows service and a regular application, and you could switch between them using the little front-end GUI. I think doing it this way might avoid some confusion, and also help people make the transition when it is appropriate.
For the more technically inclined, right now the projectforum.exe is a Windows application that includes the GUI and the server code in the same binary, while the pfconsole.exe is a command-line executable containing just the server code. Under the new approach, the GUI would be in its own separate binary, and it would launch the command-line version, either directly as a subprocess (which would then be destroyed when the GUI application quits, as now) or via the Windows service manager.
If done right, this shouldn't present a huge change, and hopefully one for the better. But I know how things are set up is one of those things that some people have very strong opinions on, so I wanted to float this approach before going any further.
If you have your own ideas, examples of other apps that handle this well, etc. please share them in the comments.
Next up: likes and dislikes.
This is the first of several posts summarizing the results of the recent survey we ran. But first off, a big thank you to everyone who took the time to complete it!
Size-wise, about half of you work in small companies, another quarter in education (teaching or research), and the rest distributed more-or-less equally among non-profits, government, large companies, and "other".
Organizationally, over half of people reported using ProjectForum almost entirely within a single group or department, another third mostly within several departments in the same organization, and the rest used it mostly across organizations.
This makes sense considering the product emphasis on team collaboration, and considering that most people run the software internally, you'd expect a higher percentage of intra-organizational use.
And speaking of which, a later question asked about where the ProjectForum server was being run. About 90% of respondents answered either "on my desktop", "another machine in our department", or "our IT department", more or less equally.
Just one last thing today, and that is what other tools people were using alongside ProjectForum. The most popular one reported was some sort of file server or shared network drive, used by over half of you (I know, we have to make it easier to link to files on those servers from within ProjectForum...). Chat or IM, and mailing lists or discussion groups were each used by about a third. Most of the other tools included in the survey were used by somewhere between 20-30% of you. The one exception was Microsoft Sharepoint, which scored considerably lower. This isn't too surprising, as many shops that go that route tend to mandate putting everything inside Sharepoint, and locking out other tools.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on these responses, if there were any surprises for you about what your fellow ProjectForum users are doing with the software.
The next post will talk more about what versions of the software people are using, and also what platforms they are using to run ProjectForum (expect to see some changes to how we do things here...).
After the last blog post, as well as a quick note to our announcements email list, we're starting to get some interesting responses to our survey. In a few days we'll share some of the (aggregate) results here, and invite discussion on possible implications.
In the meantime, if you hadn't yet had the chance to complete the survey, please do!. Will only take you a few minutes.
We've put together a short survey to gather some information about how people are using ProjectForum, so that we can continue to focus on improving the product.
The survey should only take a few minutes to complete, but your help in doing so would be very much appreciated. (Additionally, as this is the first cut of the survey, any feedback on the survey itself would be great... confusion questions, other suggested questions, problems completing it, etc.).
To participate, please visit projectforum.com/survey.
We've released a small update to ProjectForum and CourseForum 6.5. This fixes the previously mentioned bug where the new attachment popup would show up in the wrong place on the page in IE when a page was scrolled. It also fixes a display bug with empty list elements in Firefox.
Finally, we've made some changes to the WYSIWYG wiki editor to improve the handling of content pasted from outside sources, in particular Microsoft Word. You may have noticed in the past that Word includes a lot of extra HTML tags that aren't helpful in ProjectForum; these should now be stripped out. Please let us know if you have any issues with pasting content into ProjectForum after applying this update.
We've been made aware of a small problem with the new version that affects IE users. Note that the popup menu on attachments was changed in 6.5 so that it requires a right-click to activate (rather than being activated automatically by hovering the mouse over it).
The problem is that on IE, if you have an attachment down the page so that you have to scroll to see it, and right click on the attachment, you won't see the popup menu. It is actually there but in the wrong place - scroll back up to the top of the page and you'll see it there. Essentially IE is putting the menu in the right place, but ignoring the fact that the page is scrolled.
We'll get this fixed up for the next patch release, but just wanted to let people know now...
We've just released version 6.4 of both ProjectForum and CourseForum, which can be obtained as usual from our website. Hosted sites have also been updated.
This release packs a lot of changes into it, particularly on the content management and user interface sides, including a few popular requests. Visit our changes page to get the full scoop on what we've changed.
We've just released a new beta, the first of CourseForum and ProjectForum 6.5. Changes in this release are also described on that page.
Please download the beta, try it out for yourself, and let us know if you like what you see (or not!). And of course, any problems or other questions, don't hesitate to get in touch. We're looking forward to hearing your comments. Thanks!
While we're busy crunching away on the next major CourseForum and ProjectForum releases (version 6.5), we've just put out a small update to the existing 6.4 version that fixes a potentially nasty problem.
In a nutshell, there is an interaction between the editor we use and very recent versions of browsers using the "Webkit" web browser engine; this includes Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome browsers, among others. In rare circumstances, it was possible that when viewing the editing page, there could be glitches in the page (e.g. missing buttons) or even small pieces of HTML code randomly inserted into the content that you were editing, which if you saved the changes would result in the extra code being part of the page.
This could happen whether you were using the WYSIWYG editor or not, was more likely to occur in very long pages than shorter ones, can be quickly cured by just refreshing the page, and is, I stress, a fairly rare phenomenon that could affect only very recent Webkit-based browsers. This bug will not cause any loss of your page content.
Obviously, nobody wants to see pages not displayed right or weird HTML tags magically inserted into pages. We'd therefore recommend updating to 6.4.2, which contains our solution to this problem. As usual, this update is available for download at projectforum.com, and users of our hosting service have already been updated.
Please contact us with any questions or concerns.
There appears to be an issue in newer versions of Webkit (the browser engine behind Safari and Chrome) where in rare circumstances loading the editor page will insert some bits of HTML code into the editing area that shouldn't be there.
If anyone has been experiencing this problem, please get in touch, as we'd like your help testing out a possible solution to the problem.
It provides some details on what some of their pages look like, how they've set up navigation in their wiki, and how they've taken advantage of themes and custom links to give them the look and features they needed to make it easy for everyone to work with their wiki.
As anyone knows who has spent a bit of time looking at different wiki software packages, there are a lot of choices out there. They range from personal wikis all the way up to systems for large enterprises.
Stewart Madder, an enterprise wiki consultant and author of the excellent Future Changes site, has just published his Enterprise Wiki Software Guide, which covers a handful of the popular enterprise-level wiki tools (not alas, including ProjectForum, but that's okay).
His intro discusses some of the features typically found in these products (multiple workspaces, permissions, notifications, templates, etc.), and then goes through a bit of info on each of the tools he included.
As I said, even ignoring features, there's a pretty wide range of software options, some hosted only, some downloaded, some both, and targeting a pretty wide range of different audiences. One way to get a good sense of where they're aiming is with their pricing. These range anywhere from completely free and open source to "we won't tell you our pricing straight off, but will send a sales guy to see how much we can squeeze out of you".
Sometimes, you get the same company offering free or open source and mega-$$$ versions of their software, with the idea to get you onboard easily so you'll think about upgrading, but also to offer a solution to an audience that's outside their target market. Nothing wrong with that.. we have a free version as well, for the same reasons.
If you're curious and don't have the time to trawl through each vendor sites, here's a highly selective summary of some of the minimum pricing options for their downloadable options, based only on what's on their website. As you'll see, most enterprise-targeted products price on a per-user basis, which is normal for larger companies.
Centerstage, a Documentum add on, doesn't list pricing. But if you're already using Documentum...
Confluence (which is a very nice product) starts at $800 for 25 users, $2200 for 100 users.
EditMe is hosted-only and a bit less Enterprisey, which is reflected in their pricing ($10-$50/month, unlimited users).
GroupSwim is also hosted only, minimum $150/month for up to 15 users.
Mac OS X Server bundles its own wiki, no extra charge.
MindTouch provides their wiki open source, offers some free packages, but saves the best for their enterprise customers; no pricing on site.
PBWorks (formerly PBWiki which you may have heard of), is hosted-only, starting at $1200/year for 5 users; again, free options are available.
SamePage (hosted or downloaded) starts at $100/month for 20 users hosted, no pricing for downloaded version.
SocialText, another really good company, offer open source, hosted and downloaded, etc.; downloaded (or appliance) starts at $1000 + $5/user (if you want the multiple workspace option)
Swirrl, like EditMe, is not targeted so much at the Enterprise, and is hosted only ($10-$180/month, unlimited users).
ThoughtFarmer pricing starts at about $10,000 for 100 users.
Traction TeamPage starts at $3750 for up to 25 users.
(Undoubtedly some of the rabid open source types are tearing their hair out that anyone would pay for wiki software at all since there are so many free choices, or having a coronary at some of the higher end options.)
Not that initial price should be the overriding concern of course. There are also maintenance costs, install/admin time, training time... plus of course whether each package suits your needs in the first place, regardless of cost!
But ignoring all that... how does ProjectForum fit in? It's got a comparable feature set to many of those products, so is on par that way, offers either hosted or downloaded options, and I'll try not to say anything about how easy it is to set up! (Oops..).
Our main audience is what I'd consider small-medium groups, perhaps supporting people in a few different departments in an organization, or a more far-flung group of loosely joined collaborators. Our standard pricing for the downloaded version reflects the type of pricing those groups are more comfortable with, namely per-group, unlimited users, starting at $249 for one group (with other free/cheap options).
ProjectForum gets used in larger organizations too, sometimes just with the standard license but a larger number of groups. But we also have an enterprise licensing model, offering the per-user (unlimited workspaces) pricing that larger organizations commonly expect. Minimum there is 150 users for $1000 (though I'll admit we've been known to have our arm twisted a bit by smaller organizations).
So again, while pricing is just one component, it is a valuable indicator when trying to decide if a product is really aimed at people like you, or a totally different audience. Too low a price tells you something, just like too high a price does.
Again, thanks to Stewart for posting the article. If people really want to get the most out of their collaboration tools, you owe it to yourself to at least subscribe to his blog.
We've done a bit of a redesign on our website. The new design is a bit more modern, simpler, and we hope easier to use. We've also added a Search area in the header of every page. You'll find the new design both on our main site and on this blog.
Speaking of new designs, you'll notice also that our online ordering pages have had a facelift as well. Kagi, our e-commerce partner, has put a lot of effort into redesigning the shopping experience, again to make things easier to use.
Any problems please let us know.
We've just released version 6.4.1 of ProjectForum and CourseForum, a small patch to the 6.4. release. The following changes to the wiki software were made:
Only until June 30, we're doubling up new CourseForum and ProjectForum licenses; purchase a one wiki license and we'll give you a two wiki license. Or buy a five, get a ten. Ditto for any other sized license.
We're not leaving out existing customers either; you can upgrade to a larger sized license for 25% off the regular upgrade price.
This is definitely a once-in-a-very-long-time opportunity, but it's only available until June 30.
More info can be found at courseforum.com/2for1/.
We are doing some upgrades on our hosting servers, and expect there to be one or more very brief outages this Friday morning for our hosting customers.
We've completed the upgrades on our hosting servers. Please let us know if you run into any problems.
ISO 9001:2008 requires document control: reviewing, updating and approving documents prior to use; ensuring that relevant versions are available at points of use; identifying necessary updates and making changes; and preventing the use of obsolete documents. Easier said than done -- and paper-based systems and typical office software can make it almost impossible: Nearly everyone ends up with obsolete or defective documents stashed in desks, files and email in-boxes. Custom or packaged document-control software is expensive and may not be flexible enough to suit an organization’s needs. In short, controlling documents is a recurring challenge.
Fortunately, there is a new, affordable and flexible tool to tackle this challenge: a wiki. This tool makes document control straightforward, even enjoyable if you have ever attempted other methods.
We've just released version 6.4 of both our wiki products, which can be obtained as usual from our website.
This release packs a whole lot of mostly incremental improvements, which when taken together are a nice step up from the previous versions. Visit our changes page to get the full scoop on what we've changed.
Please note that the address of our business office is changing (new address can be found on our contact page). This shouldn't affect too many people.
There may be some small delays in responding to emails next week as things get settled in.
Just wanted to pass along a pointer to this article about CourseForum on ghacks.net by Jack Wallen. It concludes with these thoughts:
"If you have been looking for a tool to allow students (of any type) to not only stay current in your classroom but also be able to interact, CourseForum might very well be the solution for you. I have deployed it for a few teachers who have been very pleased with the results. It’s remarkably easy to install, simple to use, reliable, and it’s a fairly cheap solution ($119.00 USD)."
We've just released a new beta, the first of CourseForum and ProjectForum 6.4. Changes in this release are also described on that page.
This is mostly an incremental release, but the number of user-visible changes to existing features, cosmetic and otherwise, suggested an increase in the version number.
Please download the beta, try it out for yourself, and let us know if you find any problems. Thanks!