The week sees another release of Milestone Planner, with some new features and a lot of work behind the scenes for a complete new set of features – I’ll write more about that in the next few posts – still in private beta right now. If you would like to join the beta and are interested in tracking resources against milestones, then do drop us a tweet or a message and we’ll add you in.

Our symathies go out to those who caught up in the travel chaos caused by the ash from Eyjafjallajoekull; we trust you have made it back home now! It has certainly pushed remote working up the agenda, and although we weren’t directly affected ourselves, remote working is a way of life for the SocialOptic team. You’ll usually find us with a Skype video conference in one window and Milestone Planner in another. There has certainly been a fair bit of real-time adjustment of plans with the number of  events that were rescheduled. We still managed to get out to a few events in London, and will blog about them shortly – face to face meetings definitely still have their place!

A New Dashboard

Back to the new release. You’ll find much more information on the dashboard. It now loads dynamically and gives a clearer view of what has been done, is due and is coming up next. If you haven’t seen it yet, just click on the projects page and add a new project – so that you have more than one project active. Click over to the dashboard, or wait until you next login; you’ll see it in action.

While you are on the projects page you will notice some other new features. The most visible one is the addition of gravatars to each project in the projects page, so you can see at a glance who is on each project team. We have also tidied the look and feel for the projects page, my milestones and dashboard views, as well as adding a couple of small fixes into the main timeline application.

Passing a Milestone

There is a big difference between agreeing a later date for a dead-line (slipping a milestone) and missing it. Obviously neither of the two are great, but the first is at least a bit more controlled. The difference between them wasn’t that obvious in Milestone Planner, so after much thinking and discussion we have added a new type of history item to record when a milestone is passed without it being completed.

On the morning after a milestone falls due, a message is automatically added to the milestone’s history to show that its date has passed. If you are using the RSS feed, that means that you will receive a message there. So, when it comes to review time, you can see if the milestone was missed then pushed out, as well as slipped or brought forward.

Moving Milestones Between Workstreams

We’ve gone vertical! Well, sort of. As well as dragging milestones backwards and forwards to change the date, it is now possible to drag them up and down, to move them between workstreams. The change is noted in the milestone history, as well as by an event in the RSS feed.

This new functionality makes it much easier to evolve and adjust bigger plans. The first iteration of your plan can be built without having to worry about workstreams, simply add milestones as you think of them. Then create workstreams and distribute the milestones, simply by dragging the milestones into them.

It is also useful for larger plans, where you want to ‘refactor’ them. Adding a “key milestones” workstream and dragging the most important milestones into it has become popular in the SocialOptic offices. Remember, if you are the project owner, you can also re-arrange the order of the workstreams, simply by dragging them up and down. In the case of the “key milestones” workstream, it seems to make sense to have it at the top, so we simply create it and drag it up there.

Happy to be Blue – Blue Means Done

Blue has always meant ‘done’ in Milestone Planner, however it has become less obvious since we removed the old-style dialogues and added in place editing. But blue is back! We’ve made it easier to remember that ‘blue’ means done by adding a new icon when you click on a milestone, with a nice blue tick. Thank you to @jenniwheller for reminding us that it wasn’t as obvious as it used to be.

We have also given the ‘time line‘ a bit of a blue tint too. As well as being ‘blue means done‘, it also makes it easier to see on low contrast screens, or if you are outside working in the sun – a bit hopeful in the UK in April, but we like to look on the bright side! While we are on the subject of the sweeping time line, it now also sweeps all the way to the right when you mark a project’s last milestone complete. It might just be because I’ve watched one episode too many of Dr Who, but it does give me a little buzz as it whizzes across the screen.

Feedback, as ever, is very welcome. Share and enjoy! Almost all of Milestone Planner’s biggest fans come via personal recommendation from people like yourself, so please do share, tweet, blog and generally spread the word.