Archive for September, 2007

A Sample Form

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

In response to the requests, here’s a screenshot of a form that I built yesterday. The content of the form has been borrowed from a popular computer manufacturer’s website. I hope they do not object, but I wanted a practical example :)

Computer Configuration Form

Here’s what the request looks like when it is stored in the incident:

View the incident

When it is time to print

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

It is great to see the interest that has been shown in the Service Request Form. I have had requests to see screenshots and to show how the template could be used in a Request-Approval type workflow. I promise that I will provide these over the next few days.

I have set up a small forum on this site so that I can keep customers up to date on the latest changes. It should also serve as a place where you can get useful tips about how best to use the form.

 I have also been working on the code. The thing about forms is that it is often necessary to print them on paper so that they can be signed, archived or sent by regular mail. Trying to format the form so that it will look good when printed is generally a bad idea, as HTML was never intended as a typesetting language. With this in mind I will be adding the possibility to save and print the incident data in PDF format.* This will allow you to present the workitem data in any way you like.

* The blank PDF forms must be prepared apart, and for this purpose I recommend that you use PDF authoring software like Adobe Acrobat, though any PDF editor capable of producing PDF forms should suffice. The template is complete but I need to test it more before making it available.

Helpdesk 6 Service Pack 5

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

The latest version of Altiris Helpdesk 6 is currently in Beta and I have been experimenting with it over the last few weeks. The most notable improvements are the ability to integrate to your email server using IMAP, and the inclusion of the new Service Catalog.

The Service Catalog is particularly interesting. It builds on the existing Tasks functionality, allowing you to present predefined tasks on the Windows User Console grouped by category. Tasks can be set up to do almost anything you can imagine. The one limitation seemed to be that there is no easy way to create a custom input form. The example which ships with the product shows a pre-compiled new incident page with the title and comment fields partially completed and requesting that the user replace the marked sections.

This is fine, but it would be almost impossible to write Validation Rules to check the user input. Incident Rules, Routing Rules, Notify Rules and Automation Rules based on user input would also be extremely difficult to write. The format is also rather clumsy requiring the end user to delete and overwrite the appropriate sections.

With this in mind, I decided to adopt a generic input form template that I had written before, which dynamically creates the input form when the user makes the request. I am so happy with the results of this work that I have decided to offer it for sale. When you consider the time and trouble it takes to build and modify these forms in code or how expensive it would be to hire a consultant to build the forms for you, I believe that it is worth a lot more than the asking price of $40.

The form builder was built to facilitate the creation of Service Catalog tasks, but it can also be used to edit existing incidents.

Installation is simply a question of pasting the files into the appropriate folders. You can then immediately start creating custom input forms in exactly the same way as if you were setting up a new incident task. It takes only a few minutes to create each one, and you will not spend hours debugging the code when you have finished.

I will provide free 30-day support to anyone who purchases a copy. I doubt you will need any assistance as it is very simple to set up and no programming skills are required to use it. You can order your copy right now directly from my Shop. The transaction is handled entirely by Paypal and can be made by credit card or using your Paypal account if you have one.