Tag Archives: Preferences

About the Preferences feature in Kerika.

Kerika+Google users can decide whether to use Google Docs, or stay with Microsoft Office

If you are a Kerika+Google user — you signed up for Kerika using your Google ID (like a Gmail address) — your Kerika files will be stored in your own Google Drive.

Most Kerika+Google users prefer to have their files converted to the Google Docs format when they upload them their Kerika cards, canvases or boards: this makes it easy for them to edit these files from inside a browser.

A small minority of our Kerika+Google users, however, prefer to keep their files in their original Microsoft Office format.

(The most common reason for this is if you are working with complex spreadsheets: Microsoft Excel is still far better than Google’s Spreadsheets!)

If you are a Kerika+Google user, you have a choice of using Google Docs or not: just go https://kerika.com/preferences and select this option:

Google Docs format
Google Docs format

Either way your files will still be stored in your Google Drive; the only difference is whether they are stored in the Google Docs format or kept in their original Microsoft Office format.

Calendar syncing

We quietly released a new feature a couple of weeks ago that we now want to announce to the world: you can have all your Kerika due dates appear automatically on your Mac, Outlook or Google Calendar!

All you have to do is go to https://kerika.com/preferences (or click on the Preferences link that shows up under your photo in the top-right of the Kerika app), and then click on the Start Syncing button on that page:

Calendar syncing
Calendar syncing

You can sync to your Apple/Mac calendar, your Microsoft Outlook calendar, or your Google Calendar.

Pick your preference, and Kerika will show you detailed instructions on how to start syncing.

Here, for example, are the instructions for syncing to your Apple/Mac calendar:

Apple Mac Calendar synching instructions
Apple Mac Calendar syncing instructions

And here are the instructions for syncing to your Microsoft Outlook calendar:

Microsoft Outlook synching instructions
Microsoft Outlook syncing instructions

And, finally, here are the instructions for syncing to your Google calendar:

Google Calendar synching instructions
Google Calendar syncing instructions

You will notice that we have deliberately obfuscated the actual calendar URL for this particular user, in all three images above.

That’s important: your calendar URL is unique and precious — don’t share it with anyone!

As your cards on your Kerika Task Boards and Scrum Boards get new due dates, Kerika will automatically feed these updates to your personal calendar: you don’t need to do anything.

Kerika due dates always appear as “all day” events.

Please note that it’s up to  Apple/Microsoft/Google to determine how quickly these updates show up on your calendar.

On your Mac Calendar, for example, you can set the frequency with which these updates appear by doing a right-click with your mouse on the calendar and selecting Get Info:

Mac Calendar Info
Mac Calendar Info

And then setting the “Refresh time” for that particular calendar. (On Macs, the fastest that iCloud allows is every 5 minutes.)

Setting calendar auto-refresh time
Setting calendar auto-refresh time

 

Emails and notifications in Kerika

Kerika always sends emails to users in two scenarios:

  • Someone assigns a card to you. The system waits 2 minutes, to ensure that the person who made the change doesn’t change her mind, and then sends you an email that an item has been assigned to you.

    We figured that if someone expects you to do a piece of work, it would be good to know that sooner rather than later.

  • Someone chats on a card assigned to you. Any Team Member can write a message on any card, regardless of whether they are assigned that card or not.

    If someone chats on a card that you own right now, an email gets pushed to you (again, after a 2-minute wait.) We figured that if someone has something to say about a work item that you are responsible for, you would want to know that sooner or later.

Kerika optionally sends emails to users in a bunch of other scenarios, all of which are determined by your user preferences (which you can set at https://kerika.com/preferences).

  • If someone chats on the board itself (as distinct from chatting on an individual card), you can get this sent to you as email.
  • If there are cards assigned to you that have due dates, at 6AM you can get an email that lists everything that is overdue, due today, or due tomorrow.

    If you are a Project Leader on any board, this email includes all cards on those boards that are overdue, due today, or due tomorrow, regardless of whether they are assigned to you or not. (We figured that as a Project Leader you would care about overdue items even if you weren’t personally responsible for them.)

  • If new cards are added to a board where you are a Project Leader, you can get notification emails if you want to keep track of all new work items.
  • If cards are moved to Done on a board where you are a Project Leader, you can get notification emails if you want to keep track of completed work.
  • If a card is reassigned from one person to another on a board where you a Project Leader, you can get notification emails if you want to keep track of how work is being handed off from one person to another.

So that’s emailed notifications in Kerika: just two types of emails are always sent, and they relate only to cards that you are personally responsible for; all the other emails are optional and can be turned on/off as you like.

What happens if people make changes to cards while you weren’t looking? (If you were looking at the board, you would see the changes in real-time, but even then, with a very crowded board, you might not notice that a card has changed in some way.)

Kerika uses the orange color as a way to alert you of changes. You can learn more about this on our website, but the basic concept is simple: Kerika highlights, in orange, any card that has changed in any way since you last looked at it, and by “look at it” we mean that you opened up the card and looked at the specific details that changed.

For example, if someone adds new files to a card, the attachments icon (the small paper-clip) appears in orange. After you open the card and look at the list of attachments, the orange highlight disappears.

These orange highlights are very smart about making sure you know exactly what changed on a board; they even let you find changes that are outside your immediate visibility: e.g. changes on cards that are way down below the scrolled view of the board, or changes in columns that you have chosen to hide.

It’s now easier to work with Microsoft Office files

Although Kerika is built on top of Google Drive, you can still share files in Microsoft Office format.

Here’s how it works:

  • By default, your files are converted to Google Docs format when you add them to a card or canvas in Kerika, but if you prefer, you can keep them in their original Microsoft Office (or other program, like Adobe) format.
  • Go you personal preferences page, at https://kerika.com/preferences, and you will see this preference switch:
Setting your Kerika preferences
Setting your Kerika preferences

Toggle the “Use Google Docs for projects in my account” to OFF, and your Microsoft Office files will remain in their original format even as they get shared using Google Drive.

To make this preference even more useful, we have added a “smart download” feature: if you are storing your files in Microsoft Office format, clicking on a file attached to that card will automatically download that file for you, so that you can open it in Microsoft Office.

For example, if you have added a Microsoft Word file to a card, and are storing it in the original MS Office format, clicking on the attachment will download the file and launch Microsoft Word so that you can immediately start editing the file.

In some cases you might see a “403 Access Denied” message appear: if you do, there is a simple workaround for this problem – just open docs.google.com in a separate browser tab, and try again. It will work this time.

A very important point to note: if you download and edit a file, make sure you attach the modified document as a new attachment to your card (or canvas); otherwise your team members won’t see the latest version!

Our new version: Due Dates, reminders, even better usability

Yes, another update to Kerika! You can now set Due Dates on cards, and get a personalized email summary each morning of all the work items assigned to you that are due today, tomorrow and are overdue.

We implemented Due Dates in a smart way, in keeping with our focus on distributed teams: the system automatically adjusts for people working across multiple timezones. You can read more about this on our blog.

Your personalized work summary is sent at 6AM every day, adjusting automatically for your timezone, to help you organize your day. We think it is a really handy feature, but you can turn it off if you like by setting your user preferences.

Managing your Inbox and your Sentbox (all the invitations and requests that you have sent out, that haven’t been acted upon yet) are both simpler now: there’s a separate blog post describing that as well.

There are a bunch of other usability improvements as well: you will continue to see more over the next few weeks. Thanks for your support: please continue to help us improve Kerika by providing your feedback!

Use Google Drive for sharing files, without having to use Google Docs

From the very beginning Kerika has been built to leverage the Google Apps platform, and today we are one of the most elegant apps in the Google Apps Marketplace! The Google Apps integration, however, has been something of a double-edged sword: folks who are already committed to using Google Docs and Google Drive love Kerika, but there are also folks who like Google Drive but not Google Docs, and these folks haven’t been too happy to lose the advanced formatting and other “power-user” features of Microsoft Office.

This has been particularly true for some of our consulting users who make extensive use of Word, Excel and PowerPoint in dealing with RFPs and client reports.

The fact that we have always converted files to the Google Docs format is really more a historical artifact than an integral part of the Kerika design and product vision, so now we are offering users the choice of using Google Docs or not, while retaining our integration with Google Drive. Here’s how it works:

  • There will be a new user preference that lets you decide whether you want to use Google Docs or not. By default, this will be OFF, which means that you will not be using Google Docs.
  • If the preference is OFF, then files that you add to your Kerika project boards — onto individual cards or canvases — will still be shared using your Google Drive, but the original Microsoft Office format will be preserved. This means, for example, Excel files will remain as Excel files even as they are getting shared across your project team using Google Drive.

This setting is on a per-user basis: it means that you are controlling whether projects in your own account are going to use Google Docs or not. Other Kerika users may have different preference settings, so on some projects you may find that the files have been converted to Google Docs because that account’s owner prefers that way of sharing files.

This is what the new user preference looks like: it can be found at https://kerika.com/preferences

Your new Kerika preferences page
Your new Kerika preferences page

More ways for Project Leaders to get smart email notifications when changes take place on your projects

We are adding a bunch of new ways in which Project Leaders can choose to get email notifications when there are important changes taking place on their project boards; these include the following:

  • Email me when cards are added to my project: if new cards are added to a board where you are one of the Project Leaders, you can get an email notification. By default, this is turned ON: it’s a useful way for Project Leaders to know when the work expected of the team, particularly in Scrum projects, is increasing. (Team Members never get emailed when new cards are added.)
  • Email me when cards on my projects are marked Done: if any cards are moved to the Done column on a Task Board or Scrum Board, the Project Leaders can get notified by email. By default, this is also turned ON. (And Team Members never get emailed.)
  • Email me chat messages on cards in my projects: this is actually a two-part change that we are making. Previously, everyone who was part of a project got an email if there was any chat on a card. Now, this is more targeted:
    • If a card is assigned to one or more people, chat messages are emailed only to the assigned people. This reduces the overall volume of emails sent by Kerika by targeting only those folks who care the most about a particular card.
    • If a card isn’t assigned to anyone, chat messages are sent to everyone who is part of the team. Here, our assumption is that if you are writing a message about an unassigned card, you would like to get everyone’s attention with that message. For example, you might be suggesting a path forward for an unassigned card, or calling attention to an issue that isn’t assigned to anyone to fix.
    • Project Leaders can choose to be part of the chat notifications for all cards, even if they aren’t assigned to these cards, and this is a new preference setting that we have created with a default value of Off. So, if you are a Project Leader that would like to know about each and every chat message on your project boards, you could turn this preference On.
  • Email me general chat messages: this refers to chat that takes place on the board itself, that isn’t tied to any particular card. Chat that takes place on the board itself is usually intended for the entire team, so this preference setting applies to Project Leaders and Team Members. By default, this is turned On.
  • Email me when cards in my projects are reassigned: when a card is reassigned, i.e. an old team member is taken off a card, or a new person added, everyone affected by the change is notified by email: the people who were formerly assigned the card, and the new people. This is an easy way for you to know when someone expects you to handle some new work, or, conversely, if someone else is now expected to do the work that had previously been assigned to you. We have added a new preference setting for Project Leaders to be told, by email, when cards are reassigned: this is an easy way for you to know that your team has self-organized itself to handle its work differently.

All these changes means that your Preferences page, which is always found at https://kerika.com/preferences, now looks like this:

Your new Kerika preferences page
Your new Kerika preferences page

We have been using these new features internally for the past couple of weeks, and have found them to be really useful!

Big improvements in usability with our latest version!

We rolled out our latest version over the weekend, and it features some big improvements in usability. As usual, feedback has come in from all sources, and is always welcome, but for this particular version we need to acknowledge the particular contributions of Alexander Caskey, Barry Smith, Seaton Gras, Andrew Burns, and Travis Woo.

We were able to incorporate most of the improvements that were identified, although one significant one couldn’t make it in this particular release. (That’s to do with providing a project-centric view, and we will talk about that in a separate blog post.)

So, here’s the bundle of goodness that is Kerika today:

  1. There are fewer buttons on the Toolbar, and we have made them more clearly visible.
  2. We combined the old Team and Share buttons into a single Share! button, since “sharing” and “managing a team” are very closely related activities.
  3. We have also dropped the old Join! button that let people ask to join projects owned by other users. This button apparently had little practical use, and dropping it helped simplify the overall user interface.
  4. The Preferences button has been moved: it is now part of the “Manage Account” drop-down menu. We have also implemented something we call “implied preferences”: now, when you set a particular style preference, such as a font style or color, Kerika assumes that this is your new preference going forward (until you change it something new in the future).
  5. We simplified the user interface by completely hiding buttons and menu options that are unavailable. For example, if you are viewing a page where you don’t have permission to make changes, the drawing toolbar on the left disappears.
  6. We have made some extensive improvements to the formatted text feature (the one that you access with by pressing the “T” button on the drawing toolbar). When you are creating or modifying a block of formatted text, the toolbar for this now appears above the canvas area, where it doesn’t get in your way, and the drawing toolbar is temporarily hidden.
  7. We have hugely expanded the selection of fonts and colors that are available, and made it much easier to change the appearance of several items on a page at the same time.
  8. A “help bar” appears when you are viewing an account to help guide you.
  9. We have added more pricing levels to support smaller teams.
  10. We have made numerous fixes to the feature that produces snapshots (thumbnail pictures) of your project pages. We got most of the kinks out; there are a small handful that we are working on this week.

We will be continuing to work on usability: over the next several weeks we will be making some changes to support a “project-oriented view” for you, as well as improvements that will make Kerika more tablet-friendly.

Our latest version, and then some!

In the immortal words of Jim Anchower: “Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya.”

Our apologies for not posting blog entries for a while, but we have the usual excuse for that, and this time it’s true: “We’ve been incredibly busy building great software!” It’s going to be hard to summarize all the work that we have done since June, but let’s give it a shot:

  1. We have curved lines now. And not just any old curved lines, but the most flexible and easy to use drawing program that you are likely to encounter anywhere. You can take a line and bend it in as many ways as you like, and – this is the kicker – straighten it out as easily as you bent it in the first place. There’s a quick demo video on YouTube that you should check out.
  2. We have greatly improved the text blocks feature of Kerika. The toolbar looks better on all browsers now (Safari and Chrome used to make it look all scrunched up before), and we have added some cool features like using it to add an image to your Kerika page that’s a link to another website. (So you could, for example, add a logo for a company to your Kerika page and have that be a link to your company’s website.) Check out the nifty tutorial on YouTube on text blocks.
  3. You can set your styling preferences: colors, fonts, lines, etc. Previously, all the drawing you did on your Kerika pages was with just one set of colors, fonts, etc., but now you can set your own styling preferences, with a new button, and also adjust the appearance of individual items.
  4. We have improved the whole Invitations & Requests process. Now, when you invite people to join your projects, the emails that get sent out are much better looking and much more helpful, and the same goes for requests that come to you from people who want to join your projects, or change their roles in your projects. Check out this quick tutorial on how invitations and requests work.
  5. We have made it easier for you to personalize your Account. You can add a picture and your own company logo, which means that when you use Kerika your users see your logo, not ours! Check out this quick tutorial on how to personalize your Account.
  6. We have hugely increased the kinds of third-party content you can embed on your Kerika pages. The list is so long, we really should put that in a separate blog post. We have gone way beyond YouTube videos now; we are talking about all the major video sites (Vimeo, etc.), Hulu, Google Maps, Scribd and Slideshare… The mind boggles.
  7. Full screen view of projects. There’s a little button now, at the top-right corner of the Kerika canvas: click on it and you will go into full-screen mode, where the canvas takes up all the space and all the toolbars disappear. This makes it easy to surf pages that contain lots of content, or work more easily with your Google Docs.
  8. Full support for Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). Not as easy as you might think, given that Microsoft has historically gone their own way, but we have sweated the details and now Kerika works great with IE9. As Microsoft continues to converge around common standards, this should get easier for us over time.
  9. Full support for all desktop platforms. OK, so this isn’t really a new feature, but since we are bragging we might as well emphasize that Kerika works, and is tested, to work identically on Safari, Chrome and Firefox on Windows 7, Mac OSX and Linux.
  10. Literally hundreds of usability improvements. Yeah, okay, we should have gotten it all right in the first place, but our focus over the past few months has been very much on working directly with our early adopters, observing them use the product, and noting all the tiny friction points that we could improve upon. We are not saying that we have all the friction removed, we are just bragging about the hundreds of tweaks we have made in the past 3 months.

Since June, we have had two major releases: one at the end of July that had nearly 150 bug fixes and usability improvements, and one this week, with over 120 bug fixes and usability improvements.

The product is now in great shape from an infrastructure perspective: the core software has been well debugged and is now very robust. Performance is great: you should get sub-second responsiveness when working in an environment with decent broadband wireless, where you see updates to your project pages in less than one second after a team member makes a change. (We test this with users in Seattle and India working simultaneously on the same project.)

Having this robust infrastructure that’s been well debugged and tuned makes it easy for us to add new features. In the coming weeks, look for more social media hooks, a revamped website, an extensive collection of public projects (that you can use as templates for your own work), and more. Much more. After all, if “less is more”, just think how much more “more” could be 😉