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Where should we focus our effort next?
Time Frame

This survey ran July 25 – August 21, 2008.

222 users responded to this survey.

Overview

Having just passed a major milestone in our ‘grand development plan,’ we are about to embark upon the next leg of our journey.

The dynamics of producing a superior Helix product in an environment where hardware and operating system considerations are in a near constant state of flux requires us to periodically re-evaluate our development strategies, including both short-term and long-term objectives.

Since the Preview Release process has begun, we have received a near constant stream of feedback from those of you who have taken the plunge and started using the macOS Engine and Client. While our current focus is on stabilizing features already delivered in the Preview Releases, that work is drawing to a close and we will soon shift our attention to addressing some of the ‘other issues’ from that feedback. To do that most efficiently, we solicited your input once again via a survey that asked you to ‘allocate units’ to various projects that remain in our quest to bring all of Helix to macOS.

The rest of this page contains our comments on the input we received from that survey and an indication of the action we are taking as a result of your input.

Before We Dive In To the Details…

A number of respondents said they found the size of the numbers under the heading of Units Required for this Task to be discouraging, saying that they thought we were ‘closer than that’ to reaching our objectives. Four important considerations should give some perspective to these concerns:

  1. We never said what those numbers meant other than a measurement of the relative effort required to complete each project. They represented neither dollars, Euros, days, hours or minutes. When asked to allocate these units, it is natural to think of them as money and ask oneself, “Where would I spend it?” We tried to avoid that impression lest someone get the idea that they could just ‘write a check’ and expect it to cover the completion of work on RADE, as if it were really that simple.
  2. The numbers presented are not ‘hard’ numbers at all. We did not stop progress to do a detailed assessment of the time required to do these projects. We merely asked our engineers to give us rough estimates on how hard each section might be, and used those to create the required unit values. The numbers are not meaningless, but don’t go the other way and put too much stock in them.
  3. Second, many of the projects listed are already underway to some degree, and, in fact, since the survey was initially posted, one of the items (printing) is well on its way to completion, and others have made significant progress.
  4. Third, as concerns RADE in particular, we plan to present another survey as we come closer to the end of work on the Engine and Client projects that breaks the RADE number down into its subcomponents. The results of that survey will help guide us through the Preview Release process as we bring RADE to macOS.
Corollary Material

This summary refers to (and is referenced by) the September 5, 2008 edition of The Latest Word.

Results Discussion

So, what did the survey show us? A few things…

It is important to understand that the raw numbers shown below don’t tell much of a story. Many people allocated their votes entirely for Helix RADE, skewing that percentage high. Since this was not a blind survey, we were able to do some followup and found that if you asked those people if they would be happy with a macOS RADE that was no more stable than the current macOS Engine, they would not. In other words, those who voted for RADE are implicitly voting for a stable and feature complete RADE with adequate performance. Or, as one person jokingly wrote: “I want to have my cake and eat it too!”

Nonetheless, we have taken away from this a better understanding of the need for a macOS RADE sooner, rather than later. Although we are still working primarily on Engine and Client, we have reached a point where more and more of our internal discussions tend to gravitate toward whether to delay completing some parts of the User Mode interface (i.e. Client and Engine) until we are working on the Design Mode interface in RADE. Indeed, planning for RADE is well underway and, as noted above, a more in-depth survey focusing on RADE functionality and features is expected in the near future.

Another ‘problem’ with the survey is that it included three ‘open ended’ options: Stability, Engine Performance, and Client/Server Performance. Those aren’t necessarily tasks you can one day choose to ‘do’ — improving stability and performance are ongoing tasks that never end. That said, the relative importance you placed on these tasks reminds us that ‘just getting it running’ is not the end of our work.

Now, the question we wanted to answer was “what should we work on next?” Setting aside RADE and stability/performance for a moment, the answer is crystal clear: of the ‘unfinished features’ in Helix Client & Engine the top item you want fixed is printing. We pretty much knew that would be the case, and actually started working on that task shortly after the survey began. (Still, we needed to know that this was the right decision and your votes confirmed it.) Everybody needs to print at one time or another; very few people allocated 0 units to printing.

Beyond that, it gets a bit murky. As pointed out in the companion edition of The Latest Word, it is fascinating to note that users who voted to prioritize Power Query put no votes toward Document Management and vice versa. The split was pretty even, with Power Query drawing a few more votes. But for both of these groups of users, another factor came into play. Many users who put the weight of their votes behind Power Query or Document Management told us that without those features, they simply cannot use the macOS products; those features are deeply ingrained in their use of Helix and unlike performance, for which a “70% solution” allows everybody to work (albeit slower than desired), it is “all or nothing” for users of these features. Consequently, before we can move on to RADE, we need to satisfy these very pressing needs.

Results Summary

So what’s the bottom line? Since our last Preview Release we have spent the bulk of our time on printing. We also spent time on stability and Client/Server performance. Now we’re working on “Phase One” of Document Management: the commands under the ‘Moving Documents’ section below. Once Phase Two of Document Management (the commands in the ‘Opening Documents’ section) is done, we will probably spend a bit of time working on some specific ways to improve Engine performance and then dive in to the Power Query code. Beyond that we will take a moment to assess our situation before taking the next step.

The Survey
Where should we focus our effort next? Units Required for this Task Average Allocation
General Improvements (For features that are already implemented but could use more attention.)
Stability
Make the parts of Helix that are currently working stable so there are not so many crashes.
Open Ended 13.9%
Engine Performance
The user interface is not optimized for performance yet. Fix this so that the interface (as seen in Helix Engine) is reasonably responsive.
Open Ended 6.2%
Client/Server Performance
The networking interface is not optimized for performance yet. Fix this so that data transfer times (as seen in Helix Client) are equal to or faster than previous versions of Helix Client/Server.
Open Ended 10.4%
Incomplete Features (Features that need to be implemented or completed before the Helix Client/Engine Preview Releases are done.)
Printing
Printing is currently done by creating a 72 dpi picture of the view. Fix this so printing is high resolution and created PDFs contain selectable text.
500 16.8%
Power Query
Power Query is currently disabled entirely. Enable editing of Power Queries in macOS.
4,500 6.9%
Document Management
A very large incomplete feature, Document Management can be broken down into the various types of commands that are part of the whole:
(For Document Management the 4.8.n after each function refers to the section of The Helix Reference where this command is described.)

 Moving Documents

Copy From Volume (4.8.1) Move a copy of a document (or reference, for external documents) into the collection.

Copy To Volume (4.8.2) Move a copy of a document (internal or external) from Helix to the selected volume.

Move Into Collection (4.8.3) Internal storage only: Move a copy of a document into the collection, deleting the original.

Transfer Original (4.8.9) External storage only: Move a document from one location to another, updating the collection with the new location data.

300 2.5%

 Opening Documents

Open Original (4.8.6) External storage only: Open a document in an external application (as specified by the Finder) so it can be edited.

Open Copy (4.8.7) Make a copy of the document and open that in an external application (as specified by the Finder) so it can be edited.

Work On Original (4.8.4) External storage only: Open a document in an external application (as specified by the Finder) so it can be edited. Wait for editing to end and prompt user to retrieve modified document.

Work On Copy (4.8.5) Make a copy of the document and open that in an external application (as specified by the Finder) so it can be edited. Wait for editing to end and prompt user to retrieve modified document.

Print Document (4.8.8) Print a document in an external application, as specified by the Finder. Wait for print dialog to be answered before returning to Helix.

500 2.0%

 Deleting Documents

Delete Original (4.8.10) External storage only: Delete document from an entry view. (This is immediate: the original document is not moved to the trash: it is directly deleted and can not be recovered.)

Delete All Originals (4.8.11) External storage only: Delete documents from a list. (This is immediate: the original documents are not moved to the trash: it is directly deleted and can not be recovered.)

100 0.5%

 Updating Documents

Update Document (4.8.12) External storage only: Update Helix’s internal reference to a document from an entry view.

Find and Update All (4.8.13) External storage only: Update Helix’s internal references to documents for all records that are ‘findable’ on an entry view.

Update All (4.8.14) External storage only: Update Helix’s internal reference to documents from a list view.

100 0.8%

 Keep Versions

Additional option for 4.8.4, 4.8.5, 4.8.9, 4.8.10 Make a backup copy of the document before proceeding.

100 0.4%
RADE
Design Mode
All the editors: field, abacus, template, view, index, post, query.
24,000 39.5%
Selected Comments From Responses
  • Poor printing is currently the biggest deal killer for macOS Client for us. We print constantly.
  • Nice approach (and this answered my answered question as to whether it's recommended to go ahead and re-engineer the queries -- sounds like, "Yes" to me for anyone itching to get going in macOS.)
  • Helix has become useless to me without power query. My G4 PPC is showing significant signs of fatigue and may possibly fail in the near future.
  • Not having a way to get documents into our collection has been a complete "show-stopper" for us.
  • Please - fast internet for clients. No crashes! Reasonable printing.
  • Power query is one of the best features of Helix. I use it every 5 or 10 minutes when I'm using my Helix collection.
  • We make extensive use of external documents.
  • Thanks for your steadfastness. Your work is very much appreciated.
  • Stability, to me, is the most important factor. It doesn't matter what else works if it can't be counted on to stay running.
  • Difficult to decide how to allocate the units... I now see your quandary in deciding "what comes next?"
  • Don't use power queries, don't need documents, can live with RADE in OS9 for the time being.
  • I use Power Query throughout…, but it's just as easy to switch back to Open Query.
  • Where's the option for "have cake and eat it too"? ;-)
  • RADE with printing and stability - I wouldn't care about engine at all.
  • Open Original is the most important of the Opening Documents commands.
  • This is most difficult, as nearly all these task/feature items are essential in the way I use Helix.
  • I'm still using Engine first revision which works, not perfect but well enough for me.
  • RADE is all I ever use. I can do my work in REALBasic or MS Access but I can do it more than twice as fast with RADE.
  • I have not tried the macOS Client yet for fear of stability/speed issues
  • Thank you for listening to your clients.
  • Get a working preview/public-beta version of RADE out ASAP.
  • With Printing and Power Queries fixed in the macOS version of Client we would be able to finally move on from our aging computers.
  • I need Intel Client ASAP.
  • Really need RADE so I can get a new laptop.
  • My classic capable Mac is getting old. I hope you can finish design mode before it dies!