Windows Sources Magazine
of Paper into Scraps of Screen
by Mark Cheeseman
QUICK TAKE: A well thought-out GroupWare tool that
doesn't suffer from software bloat.
PC's have long been touted as the facilitator
of the 'paperless office'. Of course, as anybody who works with a PC knows, this just
isn't the case.
A lot of the pieces of paper found in any
office inhabited by more than one person, arise from that favorite of all business
pastimes - telephone tag. Aside from making one's desk look messy, they're also easy to
lose, and each of those tiny pieces of paper can be worth thousands of dollars (or more)
in a business environment.
While You Were Out has a simple user
interface, based on the paper form which it replaces.
While You Were Out (WYWO) is an electronic
version of those pre-printed phone message pads, that not only saves paper, but also saves
you the effort of taking the completed message to the recipient's desk.
A companion applet, called Message Carousel,
allows users who do not have their own PC, to read or send (but not delete) messages. The
number of unread messages for each user is displayed graphically as a message rack or
message board; double-clicking on a user's name invokes WYWO to read the messages. The
group of people displayed in the carousel is determined by the default group selected in
the main WYWO setup screen.
Designed from the ground up as a network
application (there is no single user version available), it communicates through a shared
directory on a file server, making it independent of the network operating system actually
We tested WYWO on our office LANtastic
network, installing it into a shared directory which was accessible to all people in the
Installation was straightforward, beginning
with running the setup program from the single distribution floppy, which copies all the
files to a shared directory on the server. The names of the various users then need to be
entered, as well as any group definitions which allow messages to be broadcast to a whole
group of people in the organization. By default, all users are added to the 'Everybody'
After this stage, each user needs to run
the install program from the shared directory, which creates a program group and icons.
One problem we noticed was that if you set up a shared resource just for WYWO (so that the
shared directory appears to the workstations as the root directory of a network drive),
the path names in the program properties box ended with a double back-slash, requiring
manual editing before the program would work. This problem didn't arise if WYWO was
installed in a sub-directory of a network drive (and is likely to be fixed by the time you
read this). (yes, it is now fixed)
The first time users run WYWO, they have to
select their default user name, which determines whose messages they get to read by
default. This stage of the installation also adds WYWO to the 'load=' line in WIN.INI, so
that it is always sitting in the background, ready to notify the user of new messages.
WYWO periodically checks the appropriate message directory at user-selectable intervals,
and pops up a new window whenever new messages arrive.
You also have the option of forcing the
message recipient to acknowledge a new message, before being able to return to another
application. This keeps the new message dialog on the screen even over the top of a screen
saver, but can be annoying if you receive messages frequently while working hard in
another application. (this option is user selectable
by the recipient)
WYWO is clearly designed for use in small
'friendly' workgroups, as there is no security to speak of - all users need to have
read/write access to the shared message directories, so the potential is there for
mischief if too many people have unfettered access.
The advantage of this that another user
can call in from out of the office and ask somebody else to see if they have any waiting
messages, without any password hassles. You wouldn't want to use it as an e-mail system
though! (Note: All messages are encrypted, and may
be password protected if required - Hudson Software).
While You Were Out has already found a home on
our office network, although the reflex action of automatically picking up a pen when
taking a phone message takes a bit of un-learning.
Published in Windows
Electronic Phone Slips
by Jan Wikstrom
IN THE LAST APPLET PIE, I mentioned
PostCode Express, by Victorian firm Windows Support (now HUDSON SOFTWARE). There are a couple of new
developments from that firm, the most notable being that PostCode Express is now available
in the US as ZipCode Express (what else?).
I suppose it's in the nature of trade
balance that the same firm now is importing a US product called 'While You Were Out' or
WYWO. (WYWO is now a joint US-Australian developed
This is a network applet that lets you post
typical phone slips to stations on the network. These are not the free-form little yellow
Post-Its, but a more formalized and delimited thing like the familiar pink phone slips.
When you want to send one, you click up the icon as usual and are then presented with a
form containing the usual things - addressee (from list box), date, time (both automatic),
who called from what company, message, and what to do about it (ring back etc, from list
box) and finally originator (automatic). The picture also shows the control buttons, which
allow you to send, read, delete a message and so on.
The applet which uses a mere 18K of RAM, (latest version still only uses 300K) checks for messages to the owner at preset intervals,
defaulting to 30 seconds, and raises an alarm when a message is received. The look and
feel is not standard Windows but very much of the Unix world, of which I disapprove - but
my taste is nor everybody's taste, and we can't all be purists. At least the controls work
in the standard ways.
That's the user module. There is also a setup
module and a rather cute graphic 'message rack', presumably intended to let people without
their own workstations access their messages on a 'public' one, or maybe let a secretary
serve several computer fearing bosses...
I found the system
very effective and reliable. This is simple, task-specific e-mail at its best: you may
think it superfluous on a system that already has ordinary general e-mail, but WYWO has
two very great advantages: it reminds the originator of all the details that have to be
included in a good phone slip, and the job is quicker because of the automatic details and
the list boxes.
Published in Windows
While You Were Out
Good Idea, Great Product
by Steffen van den Berg
Once every now and again a product comes
along that seems too simple to justify the media it comes on. While You Were Out, at first
impression seems to fit in that category. But this
product is a good example of how to turn an 'ancient' and familiar way of working into a
user friendly and easy to use product.
The product comes with a manual that
appears to be more like a raw mock up. At first glance it made me wonder 'Who does this
crowd think they are kidding?' I mean 8 pages of manual for a product that can run on a
network, and under Windows is unheard of - isn't it? Well, after playing with it for half
an hour, I began to wonder how they managed to fill 8 pages at all. This product is EASY - With a capital every letter!
Setup was a breeze. Install and fill in the
user's details. That's it. It creates 4 icons: WYWO, WYWO Setup (administrator), WYWO
Monitor and WYWO Quick Start.
The screen is just under half size when
maximized, and is laid out clearly. Most of the WYWO screen is the actual message pad
which, strangely enough, looks very much like those little paper copies we have all seen
(and lose). It contains fields for who the message is for, who it's from, a phone number
field and a memo area - in the way we are all accustomed to. On the right is a column with
a number of buttons: help, send, read, erase, options, and exit.
The help button brings up the normal type of
help screen which is extensive, and probably explains where the manual got to. I didn't
really browse through the help menu, because I simply had no need to! What I did see
appeared to be concise and helpful.
Send: Believe it or not - this will send your
Read: If you have a number of messages you can
scroll through them one message at a time and select the one you want to read.
Clear: Just in case those same people keep
trying to get in touch with you and you really, and I mean really, don't want to talk to
them. Simply use this button to erase their messages and keep on pretending you never
heard of them.
The Options button sets up the default user,
generally the person who sits at the machine. If a computer is used by more than one user,
it allows for multiple users to have their own message area. It also specifies what
default group to use (you can set up multiple groups through the setup program). It sets
the time interval you want WYWO to check your message area for new messages (default of
every 30 seconds) and allows you to select whether you need an immediate response and
whether to save the message with headings.
Exit: This minimizes the application.
The WYWO Monitor is like a message rack and
can hold messages for a number of people. Great for when a single machine is used by a
number of people. It lets the user scan their pigeon hole and read their messages.
All in all, WYWO is
simple, easy to use and very handy. It works on all kinds of
networks. I was disappointed with the documentation, not necessarily its contents, but
more the presentation. Then again I am not sure why I am too concerned as it is the only
manual I have ever read cover to cover! WYWO costs significantly less than its closest
alternative and can certainly be considered to be adequate. It is a message system,
nothing more, nothing less. If you run a network (or
even stand-alone) it's worth a look. If you take into consideration its price of
just $25 per user - it must be worth an even closer look.