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Zugg Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 4:58 pm
Looking for "Client Management Software"
Seb
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:51 pm   
 
Zugg wrote:
Looked into Version Control Pro, but that still isn't what I'm looking for. I don't want Chiara to have to mess with checking stuff in or checking stuff out. She isn't working with any other people...it's just her. What I'd prefer is something like the Apple "TimeMachine" software that would just automatically update the repository every night with any changes made to documents on that day for a particular customer. Not "backup" software...I don't want it to save the entire document every night. I just want it to automatically "commit" any changes to the repository each night.

I think I can probably just write a script to do this with SVN and run it each night. I just wanted something simple for her to be able to track changes to important client documents and be able to go back and see what previous versions looked like. But I don't want it to get in the way of her normal work flow. I don't want her to need to "check out" anything to work on it.

Well, I have a feeling that with Version Control Pro, it may not be necessary to check-out files before editing them (as in subversion) - otherwise, the watch list is rather pointless.
Zugg wrote:
What I'd prefer is something like the Apple "TimeMachine" software that would just automatically update the repository every night with any changes made to documents on that day for a particular customer. Not "backup" software...I don't want it to save the entire document every night. I just want it to automatically "commit" any changes to the repository each night.

Also, if you just want something like the "TimeMachine", Vista Business and higher do that (well, or at least, what you want) automatically (without the fancy graphics) (and I think there's even a way of enabling it on all versions of Vista). I already pointed you at where to find it in Windows Explorer, but here is an introduction to what they are calling (here) "Shadow Copy", although that is an ambiguous name for what they are describing, since Shadow Copy is described here as more than that (i.e. copying via block level file-access to enable copying files that are exclusively locked) and has been around (in limited form) since XP SP1. I'm not sure what you mean by saving changes only, but it looks like Shadow Copy does this. Is that really that important though? Most documents are not that big, so storing a fresh copy every day it changes doesn't take a lot of room.

As for Outlook, I don't think the activation rules are that tight: normally one can re-activate if needed by Internet, or telephone failing that. My boss runs Outlook 2003 in a WMWare Windows 2000 Server install fine; A quick Google doesn't bring any problems activating Outlook 2007 in VMWare... Ah, it does if I search for Office instead of Outlook, but these problems relate to Fusion where all the devices change when you have Windows in a VM compared to not in a VM, thereby requiring re-activation on every change of host where Office is run. Are you going to be doing this on Chiara's PC? There is no problem if you only run Office or Outlook when the machine has booted Windows or when Windows is in the VM. It is the running of the software under different devices that messes things up.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:22 pm   
 
Chiara isn't running Vista on her main computer (and isn't going to). Her computer also runs our main email server and it requires buying a new expensive license to work on Vista. I'm only installing Vista when I absolutely have to.

The issue with activation is that the last time I tried to activate Office (yes, if was VMware Fusion), it failed and required me to call Microsoft. Now, I have needed to do this in the past and it isn't a problem, just annoying (their automatic phone activation also fails and I have to repeat everything a second time to a real person). But this last time I tried it, the person said that my activation code was invalid. I tried to get a supervisor, but couldn't. They basically said that all I could do is buy the product again.

Chiara's computer is fine...it still runs Outlook. This was more of an issue of "principle". Their activation system has gotten out of hand, and their software is just too expensive these days. I'm not buying another copy of Office just to run it in VMware Fusion (even if I could still buy Office 2003). I simply do not believe in their policy of buying a separate copy of software for each computer. Software should be licensed to the PERSON and not the computer. I could understand requiring 2 copies, one for me, and one for Chiara. But I'm not buying separate copies for my laptop and various VMware sessions. But that's exactly what Microsoft wants you to do these days...buy a copy for each computer. Their software is too expensive for that. And that is why I have switched away from as much Microsoft software as possible (Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, etc).

As a software developer, I completely understand the need for copy protection and I understand that software piracy is a huge problem across the world. But I also understand that you need to keep your customers happy and have reasonable licensing terms. I do not want software that needs to "phone home" to activate. That's exactly why I got rid of the eLicense copy protection in my own software products. And I do not consider Microsoft's licensing terms to be "reasonable".
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Seb
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:11 am   
 
Fair enough: I'm completely with you on the licensing stuff, although I'm prepared to put up with MS's policy where (or if) their products are worth it. Well, having said that I've not bought an MS product retail since 2000 (before activation).

Anyway, back to topic. You didn't mention whether saving only the diffs on files is that important, because otherwise differential backup programs like the one I linked to earlier might be fine. Or, if the documents were stored on a Windows Server 2003 or Vista Business+ machine, and were just accessible to Chiara's computer via the network, you could still use Shadow Copy (Previous Versions) client from Windows XP.

But basically I think you may be looking for the holy grail! (It doesn't exist (in one package) (unless you make it!).)
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Tech
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:00 pm   
 
A user mentioned in in this thread, but if you haven't found a solution yet, this site may be worth a look. http://tiktrac.com/

A 2 second glance suggested it may do some of what you want.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 4:38 pm   
 
I looked at that, but it's web based and is more for tracking time rather than tracking customers and projects.

We just installed the Maximizer demo on Chiara's computer (finally) and are taking a closer look at that now to see how it's time tracking features work. I wasn't very impressed with their 350 MB installer that added all sorts of C++ Runtime and .NET crap to her computer. She already had .NET installed and updated, but for some reason the Maximizer installer spent about 20 minutes just figuring that out before it actually installed the Maximizer program itself. But it ran several other installers first, and most of them didn't even say what they were installing (just showed a progress bar). Took over 30 minutes to install Maximizer completely.

That's the direction that software is headed that I really hate.

Anyway, she is slowly learning how to use it and I'll let you know if it ends up being any good.
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nexela
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 1:18 am   
 
Well if you don't mind spending $885 for the gold version (recomended) then I would go with QXpress http://www.qxpress.com It intergrates with quickbooks and does scheduling/contacts/time tracking/project tracking/job costing. Of course it might be overkill its more geared for managing crews in a service industry but it does everything you need.
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Guinn
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 9:06 am   
 
Probably a bit late, but SugarCRM is supposedly pretty good. It has free and paid for options
http://www.sugarcrm.com/crm/
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 4:57 pm   
 
Sigh...thanks for the attempt guys, but you all need to go back to the first post in this thread and read the list of requirements again.

We do *not* want a web-based solution. It needs to be a standalone program that can run on Chiara's computer and keep her local Office documents associated with each customer. For example, her customers have contract documents, work documents, etc that all need to be kept together so that she just clicks on her customer and it shows the list of documents stored for them.

This is what Maximizer and/or Act! do. You can't do this on a web-based system. She doesn't want to upload her documents to some hosted system. She doesn't need to share with any other people so we are just looking for a local system, not server based.

And Maximizer or Act! are about $200-$300 so that is the price range we are looking at. We don't want *monthly* charges, like with a web-based system. And $885 is *way* too much.

So far it looks like Maximizer is working for Chiara, so we are getting ready to buy that I think. It's still a bit overkill, and she still hasn't quite figured out the new time-tracking features (poorly documented), but the new version *does* seem to have time tracking in it. But it definitely seems to be better than Act!, even if it does have a slow and bloated installer (and Act! is no better).

Looks like part of the install time was installing the Microsoft SQL Server Express stuff. That seems to be the database system that is uses, and that was responsible for at least one of the "Installing" dialogs that didn't tell us anything about what it was doing. So I can blame that one on Microsoft.
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Guinn
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28, 2008 6:47 pm   
 
I think one of the SugarCRM downloads includes a 'quick and easy' Apache & MySQL install that'll let you set it up locally anyway, so it's browser based rather than online.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 7:17 pm   
 
I looked at some more SugarCRM demos and didn't find any way to store or associate documents with a particular customer or project.

But it looks like we are going to go with Act! instead of Maximizer after all. Chiara wants to be able to install the product on both her desktop and laptop and synch/share the data between the two computers. When I went to the Maximizer web site, I couldn't find any information in their knowledge base for doing this, and they don't have any Forums currently working. It looks like I'd need to buy 2 copies, one for the desktop and one for the laptop.

On the other hand, when I went to the Act! web site, there was excellent and detailed documentation in their knowledge base about doing exactly what we want. I just entered "sync" in their KB search and found exactly the article that I needed. And it was very clear that not only could I share the data between the desktop and laptop, but in fact I'd only need to buy one copy of Act! to do this. Also, they have an active online Forum already, so I can easily ask for help from other users if I don't want to pay for support.

Support is a huge part of buying a product like this. Both Maximizer and Act! obviously encourage you to pay for support or buy a support contract. But there was a lot more "do-it-yourself" support on the Act! site compared to the Maximizer site. Given that the applications themselves are very similar, this extra support for Act! is making the difference.

I read a lot of negative reviews of Act! on the Amazon site. But most of them seem to be complaining about previous versions, and especially converting data from old versions of Act! into newer versions. None of that really applies to us since we are starting from scratch. Since Amazon doesn't sell Maximizer, we can't really compare Apples to Apples and see any real Maximizer feedback. Some people commented on how bloated and slow Act! was (again, previous versions), and my direct experience with the Maximizer demo shows that it isn't any better. Both products use MS SQL Server Express. In operation we have found that Maximizer makes very poor use of SQL Server and it's memory usage just grows and grows over time (up to 500MB after leaving it running overnight). So I'm not sure how Act! could be any worse than this.

Chiara's demo of Maximizer is almost over and she is going to look at the Act! demos on their web site before we buy it. It's still very depressing to see how poor most of the software in this area really is. Looks like Maximizer wanted to be something better originally, and either Act! started stealing ideas from Maximizer, or Maximizer ended up getting just as bloated and complex as Act!. Maybe it's just the nature of this software and all of the features that it needs to deal with the diverse set of customers. Since it's not a very focused type of software, every customer has their own needs and requirements. Adding this to a product naturally ends up making the product bloated and complex.

Maybe someday after Chiara has had years to play with Act! and determine what works for her and what doesn't, then maybe I'll write her a custom app. Someday...in my copious spare time. Heh.
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Rainchild
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 11:47 pm   
 
I'm still not sure how Act! will go with the time management, but yeah the two products are pretty much on par with each other, though I lean slightly toward Act! as being the superior (my old work uses Maximizer 8, my new work uses Act! 2007). Both products are fairly bloaty, Act! takes a little while to start up even on a decent machine - longer than it should IMO, but not everyone can use good programmers... and most CRM companies seem to lack in that department. My only real complaint about Act! is it locks you out of the SQL server instance so you have to work within their framework and tools, aside from that it does what you would expect a CRM to do.

I'm certainly not going to give either a glowing review... Maximizer I'd give 5/10, Act! 6/10 - both products could be so much better. Both are functional, stable, complicated to customize, etc... nothing special to make them stand out in the crowd.
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Zugg
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:53 pm   
 
She'll probably use something like the ProjectTimer utility mentioned earlier in this thread to track the time. The Time tracking feature in Maximizer was pretty basic anyway and could only track the time it took to write a note (or keep the note open to track time and then pause/start it as needed). So it's not a big loss.
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