Monthly Archives: October 2009

Here I am again!

It was a calm week – read: everything went as planned.


Development

We rolled out the 1.2beta2!
With quite a fat change-log. The most interesting thing is the detachable file panel and the drag’n’drop: now you can drag’n’drop files from the file panel to a tabble on the tabble floor, or to another app. The cool thing about this is that for example you can get your mp3 sorted according to the party you played them or the place your heard them, and throw them into a playing cool…. cool, isn’t it πŸ™‚

There is probably gonna be a RC before we roll out the 1.2 stable… which is giving us some more time to update the manual and rework a bit our site.
What made it and what not
We temporarily put aside the idea of making a full ZUI-ish desktop replacement. The idea is definitely cool, but we soon realized that there is a looooot of work behind such a thing, and that it has to be bulletproof, both technically and the on the UI side… you can’t just throw a desktop replacement that does 1/2 of the stuff of your current desktop and pretend that people use it… not? πŸ™‚
The new skin for the app is there! Yeah! It looks pretty neat and gives such a different feeling. It still needs some tune-up as there are a couple of bugs here and there, of course…. it’s here.
Also, the GUI went forward in different places: a couple of new effects, some fixes here and there and a redesigned “quick” window which becomes crucial as it’s the one coming out when you right click on a file in Explorer.
Explorer integration works also for the 64bits machine, thanks a lot to the guys at ezshellextension for their help! -> Techie stuff: developing functionalities to let 2 applications (Tabbles and Explorer in this case) talk to each other can be pretty painful, specially as you have to write them in C and go to a pretty low level…we couldn’t bother coding anything in C and with ezshellextension the integration was working in less than 2 days. Cool!
Well, what else? I’ll spare you the 1000 more bug fixes.. πŸ™‚



Sales, Marketing and everything else

We installed phplist and we’re on the way to create our Newsletter.
Well, this Newletter idea has been in our head for a while, and this week I finally got it kickstarted. I did some research first on the Joomla extension directory and after a couple of hours I realized that 1) I didn’t need any integration with Joomla and 2) that the phpbb of the mailinglist software is phplist.
The installation took like 5 mins, I had to fight a bit with the mysql db as the installed wouldn’t write one table, but the built-in db check function in phplist did tell me where the problem was and within 2 mins I googled the workaround on the phplist forum.
So basically, I had the first test newsletter sent some 3 hours after I started searching πŸ˜€
I found this interesting article on how to set it up and what work and what doesn’t, maybe it’s a bit outdated but it helped a lot. Then I started googling phplist free templates, and could only find this (ok, I googled 3,5 mins). But soon after I realised that since phplist uses the excellent FCKeditor to edit the templates, all I needed to do was some copy&paste from one of hour web page, in order to have the styles in the email templates…the rest can easily be done in the editor.
Some more messing around with phpbb…it’s nearly fun now


I must say I’m beginning to enjoy it: I began to do some work on our phpbb based forum as a complete neophite and at the time my mindframe was like “the less I have to fight with it, the happier I’ll be”. A few months have gone from those days, and in the meanwhile I’ve been installing a template, modifying it, installing mods, modifying them some more and eventually I started modifying the HTML files in order to have this or that button displayed or hidden…I found out what the bbcode is, and even try to do some little hacks/modifications myself (with mixed results…hehe).
The coolest thing we’d like to have on our forum is still a post voting system: people need to be able to give posts a vote so that those who come after them will know what is important and what isn’t..
Uh, we did setup Mantis so that user don’t need to register an account to report a bug, also pretty needed.
I guess that’s it for tonight πŸ™‚

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…with a fat and exciting changelog! Here you go.

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Hello guys,

This one is the first post of a series. I think it’s great idea to write here what we’re doing on a weekly base.
Development

a little flashback: Tweaking the GUI
In the last 3 weeks we’ve been mostly focusing on tweaking the GUI based on the feedback we got from our early users and friends. Among the things that mostly bothered people were the lack of a “normal” menu bar. Many people asked to have more integration with windows explorer, my brother (the guy from julay.it) mentioned a list of things to be fixed in the current GUI and Tim from the joelsonsoftware forum suggested us to reskin the windows. All of this has been progressing very well without any majour surprise, and surprisingly even the explorer integration went smooth (thanks to the use of ez shell extensions which saved us months of work…).

Graphically speaking, we got from here to here.

(still flashback) The desktop mode – stage 1
Maurizio has been secretly planning to develop a “desktop mode” for Tabbles, then a few weeks back he told me about his naughty desire but added that this would take months of development as he need to hook up with some hideous Windows libraries using the C language (to which he is strongly allergic). Then, one day, he googled the right thing (“pin applicaton to desktop”) and found the 4 lines of code that did the trick… the feature was implemented in literally 30 mins and this opened a whole new world in front of our eyes.
What could this mean? Well, it would mean give the user a desktop where one could zoom and a pan, as you do in google maps. Not bad at all!
Implementing this stuff can be considered a success story.

(Happened this week) The desktop mode – stage 2

This one is a little bit less of a success story πŸ™‚
Last Tuesday Maurizio told “look I think we should make the first floor detachable, and run in a window… I can make it happen in a couple of hours”… of course I said “great, go ahead!”, but a couple of hours later he called me back and said “actually this will take a bit longer…”. It took him indeed until Friday πŸ™‚
Well calling an insuccess would be a bit overdone, given the value added to the app.

(also happened this week) The desktop mode – stage 3

As Tabbles will probably be installed in desktop mode by default (the user can switch it’s behavour in real time), we also needed to to draw the files that the user has on his real desktop. This is nearly done and it took a couple of days of work and will probably need one more.
This is what we have today:



So, we wished we could release another beta before the weekend but we couldn’t make it…expect something early next week. Maybe it’ll be a bit broken, but we’re sure you’ll be impressed πŸ™‚

Sales and Marketing

a little bit of a flashback again: rethinking the sales and marketing strategy
We started off the whole project thinking on focusing on a corporate app, therefore we shaped our site and our communication in order to look like “what we thought would be appealing to a company”. Things were actually not going too bad for a startup, but when we learned about the balsamiq success and we read this post, we realised we could be trying a totally different path…not only that: while we were reading this post we already started a lively dialog with our first users on our forum (we love you guys, I hope you know that by now!) so basically we did already jumped in this “friendly small company” trend even if our website would still give the feeling of us looking like a greedy impersonal corporation.
Therefore we planned to rework our website a bit in order to show what we are instead of trying to hide it.
The last couple of weeks: some GUI stuff and some maintainance
We usually work like this: Maurizio writes the code and grosses the GUI, I try and make the GUI look prettier, do the icons, the user manual, the default databases and take care of the translation. There has been a lot of this stuff done in the last weeks, and precisely:
  • Icons tuned up and re-exported (before they were all vectorial XAML, now they’re all png), in 2 different color flavours.
  • Minimalistic default databases, in EN, DE, IT, NL, RU (now, that’s a boring task!)
  • Arrange the translations using the fabulous Zeta Resource Editor tool, on this post
The last couple of weeks again: Mantis, Wiki, getsatisfaction.com vs phpbb3

– getsatisfaction.com vs phpbb3:
On top of this, I’ve been having a look at getsatisfaction.com and Maurizio made me notice how cool it’s rating feature is. Well, getsatisfaction has a clean and nice design but it’s true power is in the fact that finding meaning information is made so much easy since users have the chance to vote the stuff they find useful.
Because of this mechanism, an average Joe (or a casual user looking for some support but not willing to invest not more than 3 mins on it) will probably find what he needs within seconds, leave the site with a pleasing feeling and come back soon.
With phpbb information is way more scattered. The point is that phpbb is meant as a generic forum software, one you could use to setup a board on butterfly collecting, on politics or on forum…getsatisfaction.com is very different.
On the other hand, the upside of phpbb is that it allows things like a poll, uploading a file, creating a poll and even some integration with some other online softwares (such as the populare mediawiki).
Looking for a nice way to allow users to rate posts (and other users?) I’ve been browsing the phpbb mod repository reading a quite a chunk of the phpbb mod development forum, looking for a “rating mod” (a mod is a sort of plugin for phpbb). I found a few WIP, a few abandoned but nothing I could just install and play with…at the same time, many people are hungry for such a plugin, I can see why.
-Mantis
I installed Mantis a couple of weeks ago (here), it’s now up and running and it works pretty well given what we need right now. The fact that it’s not integrated with phpbb annoys me (and our users!) so extremely much!!!
Obviously here too there is quite a lot of people crying for a solution, and quite a few projects, but nothing easy enough for me to install… the best thing I found was this and I honestly got scared after reading the first half of the howto :-
(if anyone out there is brave enough to try that, we’d be more than happy of lending him a couple of licenses in return…as long as he doesn’t get our website melted πŸ˜€ )
– Mediawiki
This is the the platform powering wikipedia, it’s huge, powerful, open source, free and it should integrate pretty well with phpbb (here). Mantis also integrates pretty well with Mediawiki (here)…so installing Mediawiki could allow us to (at least) have a shared user database (so that user don’t have to create different accounts each time) but maybe also to have dual login! Yeah!
Of course there is a but: we’re currently using an inexpensive (read cheap) shared hosting, with 1 mysql database, and I’m pretty sure that this db won’t resist long if we install Mediawiki on it…
Any opinion on this would be highly appreciated!
Real marketing stuff: re-segmenting?
I started saying that we initially targeted businesses (small and medium, but still businesses). A refining of the marketing material was needed as even on the joelsonsoftware post we got criticized for not having a clear target.
Well, two things happened since then:
  • we decided to go “Freemium” earlier than expected: we’ll soon launch a featured limited version with no expiry date, free for personal use.
  • the desktop mode fell from the sky as an unexpected (at least for me) gift.
What is gonna happen to “Tabbles | your personal document management system“? Probably it’s soon gonna move to the attic, and be replaced by something like:
  • Tabbles | smarter folders
  • Tabbles | beyond folders and tags
Or probably something that names the new desktop mode like:
  • Tabbles | deeper desktop and smarter tags
On top of this, I’ve been thinking a bit about 4 bullet-points which would quickly give the read an idea of what Tabbles does. Those are 4 candidates:
  • Zoomable desktop: gives your desktop a third dimension
  • Unique file organization system based on tag-bubbles
  • Virtual file system: all your disks look as one
  • Ultra-easy project sharing system (we still need a feature to be developed for this, but a low development-cost one)
Ok, we put the zoomable desktop line on top, the fact has quite a meaning for us. Who are we trying to appeal? Who are we competing too? However I look at this, only one name comes to my mind: Bumptop. This topic is indeed not clear at all. We’re not sure if we want to push on appealing home users and early users, and create a community (Winamp style) or we should stick to the path we decided initially and try and hit big contracts with big companies?
But the second line, Unique file organization system based on tag-bubbles, is indeed the most controversial one. While a zoomable desktop is a not-too-hard to describe concept, the core features of Tabbles are everything but easy to tell about. Let me just tell that we went to 8 variation of that line, but none of them made us 100% happy. Any comment on this is extremely welcome!

Uh, I wrote a lot!
Next week I’ll keep it shorter, I promise πŸ™‚

Andrea
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Sexy, isn’t it? πŸ˜€

Vielen dank to Nefycee! (he commented: “with a growing db you can make a Monalisa”)
Want to see more and post yours? Go here
What else can you do with Tabbles? Well, you can make your desktop look like a mind mapping tool or even play games!
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Hello world,
What is a comunity without a chatroom? πŸ™‚

http://www.tabbles.net/forum/chat/

You can register on our forum but you’re also welcome as a guest (just leave the password field empty!).
Peace,
Andrea
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I thougth I should write something for those who are curious on how things evolved… I’ll just copy paste something from our old Facebook group:

11 October: we created the Tabbles page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tabbles/152763993426
I’d say that the group will be replaced from the page…no? πŸ™‚
10 October: Tabbles 1.2beta1 is out for testing, and it’s very cool πŸ™‚
22 September: our blog is online!
http://tabbles-dev.blogspot.com/
14 September: it doesn’t mean much Tabbles is here too:
http://www.killerstartups.com/Web-App-Tools/tabbles-net-the-evolution-of-virtual-folders
11 September: the new training video is out and Tabbles is featured on giveawayoftheday.com!
27 August: 1.1.1 is online, with a bunch of new features! Tabbles does monitor the file system now (you can move files around), we implemented the “Subtract” (logical NOT) and many more – http://www.tabbles.net/en/support/change-log.html
26 August: 100 members in this facebook group!
16 August 2009:We’ve sold the first licenses!!! We’re now at the release 1.0.10.
3 August 2009: Tabbles got its first review and it’s a 5/5 stars! http://www.soft82.com/download/windows/tabbles/
1 August 2009: Tabbles 1.0 is online! πŸ˜€
15 July 2009: we have a slightly redesigned homepage and a quick intro! Can you understand what the software is about now?
9 July 2009: Tabbles RC3 is online! We need feedback guys: all of you who will give Tabbles a try and write something on the forum will get a free license as soon as we start selling (happening very soon!!!) http://www.tabbles.net/en/support/downloads.html
7 July 2009: Tabbles RC2 is online! We’re getting close!!!
27 June 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT1oZDVwUN0
26 June 2009: The beta 0.9.7 is online! check it at www.tabbles.net
20 June 2009: The Tabbles website is online!
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Hello world,

if you know Tabbles already, the 1.2 beta1 will let you say “WOW!”.
If you don’t know Tabbles yet, the 1.2 beta1 will make your jaw drop on the floor. πŸ˜€
More info on our forum.
You don’t believe me? Let’s see if this shot helps:

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While finishing a major redesign of Tabbles’ button layout, I had an idea which sounds important and which I would like to implement within two months.

The problem

Currently, when you see Tabbles’ desktop (aka “ground floor”), you are immediately reminded of the Windows desktop. Soon, however, you discover that it is more limited than the Windows desktop, because it cannot store files, but only tabbles. In a sense, it is as if you had a Windows desktop which can only store folders. (Because, after all, tabbles are virtual folders.)

The solution

So the idea is: extend the Tabbles desktop to also contain files (in addition to tabbles).

What would this be useful for? The short answer is: you tell me. Why, in the Windows desktop, do you find it useful to have both files and folders? Why wouldn’t folders be enough?

The long answer is: it happens that, when they download a new file, many users like to put it on the desktop. (Maybe because of the analogy with a real desktop table.) Later, they may (or may not) decide to drag the file onto a subfolder on the desktop (to make the file disappear from the desktop, thus making the desktop less cluttered).

I think the same should be possible within Tabbles’ desktop: you should be able to drag a file onto a tabble entirely within the desktop. I.e., you should be able to drag a file which is on the desktop onto a tabble which is also on the desktop.

The benefit

The major advantage would be that you would be able to categorize a file just by dragging it across the desktop.

(Of course, you will be able to drag a file onto more than one tabble, because Tabbles does not have the limitation of Windows’ folders, where a file can only be in one folder.)

This way, drag & drop would be more discoverable and it would take a much more central role than it has now.

Example

If you are still confused, here’s a detailed example of how it would work:

1. you download a file with Firefox.

2. The “file save dialog” opens, which has been extended to contain a new item called “Tabbles desktop” in addition to Windows’ desktop. So you choose to save the file in Tabbles’ desktop.


3. After the download is finished, you bring the Tabbles’ desktop on top.

4. In Tabbles’ desktop, you see the newly downloaded file. (together with the tabbles that you have chosen to put on the desktop).

5. You can categorize the file by dragging it onto one or more tabbles.

6. After you have finished categorizing the file (i.e. after you have dragged it onto all the tabbles you need), you can optionally make the file disappear from the desktop. (In the Windows desktop, this happens automatically as soon as you drag the flie onto a folder; but here we can’t make it disappear immediately because you may want to drag it onto another tabble. So you will have to explicitely tell Tabbles that you want to hide the file from the desktop. Of course a one-click way to hide the file from the desktop is needed, but this is not a problem.)

It is very important for us to understand how much would you value such a feature. Comments are very welcome. πŸ™‚

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Hello world,
I guess it must be common for small software companies to screw up with their EULAs.

Our story: Tabbles was featured on GiveAwayOfTheDay.com (great btw) and with our surprise our EULA got a lot of attention: http://www.giveawayoftheday.com/tabbles/#postcomment
(comments 29, 38, 63, 68, 71 (ugh!), 77, 86, 102, 115). Well, of course we “got inspired” from other EULAs… And since we have a trained lawyer as co-founder, we didn’t feel the urge to run into a random lawyer’s office asking to write our EULAs. As a result, we probably wrote “a bit too much”.
The nasty paragraph is the (soon to be deprecated) 5.1:
You agree that Yellow Blue Soft may collect and use technical information gathered as part of the product support services provided to you, if any, related to the Software. This information is to be used solely to improve products or to provide customized services or technologies to you and will not disclose this information in a form that personally identifies you.
What Tabbles does in reality is nothing like this: all Tabbles (currently) does is automatically downloading an an xml from our site, in order to read what is the latest version of our software. The file is this one: www.tabbles.net/downloads/update.xml
No information is uploaded in any way, and we don’t even try to chek if your serial number is “owned” or “borrowed”.
Why did we include this in our EULA?
  • Well, first of cause it seems that every major EULA has a paragraph like this… If Microsoft does it then we feel like we should do it too, without asking ourselves too many questions.
  • Second, our CFO/Legal guy didn’t really know what spyware/malware/crapware was about, therefore she couldn’t sense the menace hidden behind such a paragraph. I guess you need to be somehow geeky to know about those things, and our CFO isn’t πŸ™‚
So my 2ct for today is: unless your lawyer is a geek, I’d advice you to spend some extra time explaining him what your app does and what you want or don’t want to communicate to your customers. One day you’ll need to sit down and think through your EULA. Not investing some time in it beforehand may backfire you…ok, no one got killed, but no crap is better than some crap πŸ™‚
The result? The paragraph 5.1 is gone. The updated EULA will make it into next release πŸ™‚
Peace!
Andrea
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These days I am puzzled whether it is a good idea to introduce a hiearchy of tabbles.

The problem I am trying to solve is the following: as the number of tabbles keeps growing, how do you find the tabble you need? In other words: suppose you already have a tabble in mind. How do you find it among 200 tabbles?
The obvious answer is “you type it”. This can already be done in the quick-open dialog box (shortcut ALT+c), so we already provide a solution to the problem.
OTOH, with Explorer you don’t have to type anything to find the folder you need. So we too have to offer a way to locate the tabble that you need which does not require typing and which helps locating a tabble reasonably quickly.
In version 1.1.7, we have provided various “tabble arrangements” which should help locating the tabble you want.
However, this may not be enough. Take the arrangement by “color name” for example. This arranges tabbles into several groups. If you arrange tabbles into groups, it is easy to find the tabble once you have found the right group. But how do you find the right group? It is clear that, if the number of tabbles starts growing, the number of groups will grow too. So locating the right group at a glance will not be easy. And we are back to the previous problem. In short, grouping tabbles cannot be a solution to the problem of defeating complexity.
Creating hiearchical groups does not seem a good solution either. This would be like reinventing folders. (folders which contain tabbles instead of files, in this case). But folders are exactly what Tabbles strives to eliminate. In other words: we are using tags because we didn’t like to have to open folders in order to locate files. But now, we are reintroducing folders in order to locate tags! That can’t be a good idea.
So what I am thinking about is to add the possibility to put one tabble inside another. Here is how it would work: Once you drag tabble A inside tabble B, tabble A disappears from the ground floor. So the number of tabbles in the ground floor decreases. If you repeat this a number of times, you will be left with only a few tabbles in the ground floor. So now you will be able to find tabble B more quickly. (However, you will only be able to see tabble A after opening B. So there is a drawback.).
__
Example:
In the ground floor, you drag tabble A onto tabble B. As a result, tabble A disappears, and tabble B stays visible.
Now, if you want to locate tabble A, you have to double-click tabble B. Tabble B opens. Along with the files linked to tabble B, now you also see tabbles contained in tabble B. Among these tabbles, you see tabble A, and you click it.
Comments on the desirability of such a feature are welcome. πŸ™‚
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Update: it occurred to me that there is a better way to do this: we could allow the user to manually enlarge some tabbles. This way, some tabbles would be easier to locate at a glance, even if you haven’t hidden any other tabble.
To get back to the previos example, instead of dragging tabble A into tabble B, you would make tabble B bigger. This would make B easier to locate at a glance, without forcing you to hide A to get this result.
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Download Area

Tabbles 4.1.7

(~ 9MB) Compatible with: Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10. For LAN mode, it requires Sql Server Express 2008 or above, or LocalDB

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