Before we get started, we’d like to introduce a new category on the blog – TSG Labs. We’re planning on using it to introduce experimental and upcoming features of our products in order to get feedback from our readers and clients. In this inaugural installment, we take a look at how we could skip the step of creating and editing documents in Microsoft Word, remove the need for any plugins to download and import documents, and streamline the entire process by creating and editing documents directly within HPI.
First, let’s take a look at how we could improve the process of editing documents. The typical process for most tools goes something like this:
- Execute a checkout on the document, which locks the document for editing and downloads the native content. Depending on the application, a dialog box opens to ask where to save the file or the application may automatically save the document to a certain location for the user. In this latter case, a browser-based plugin such as Flash or a Java Applet is required, which many clients have found to be tough to administer across client machines.
- The user browses to the file, opens it and makes edits.
- Execute a checkin on the document. Typically, the checkin screen asks the user to upload the document modified in step 2 and, depending on the application, fill in some properties for the new version. This screen may also ask the user if the document should be major or minor versioned.
While the above process works, it is a bit cumbersome. Some applications implement drag and drop functionality to improve upon the experience. However, most implementations rely on browser plugins, which as noted above is tough for clients to administer across the organization. A big advancement will come in this area once more clients drop support for old Internet Explorer browsers. Currently, the HTML5 File API which drives drag and drop of files, is available on modern versions of Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer 10. That last requirement is a show stopper for most of our clients since they are still on IE 7 or 8, and in some cases IE 9.
In thinking about the user experience with editing files in HPI, we thought – why don’t we just skip the step of using MS Word in the first place and allow the user to edit the document directly in HPI? Here’s a quick demo of how this works:
Benefits of this approach include:
- Property editing is done at the same time as the content edit.
- The user can easily swap between editing properties or editing content.
- The checkout / checkin process is seamless to the user. In most systems we build, documents are always minor versioned until they are approved. However, if a client wanted to allow the user to choose the version, a widget to choose the next version would not be difficult to add.
- The user does not need to save the file to his/her local machine during checkout, and then browse to it again to check it in. This circumvents the “where did I put that file?” issue with the traditional checkin approach.
We can extend the above process for editing documents to creating documents as well:
Let us know your thoughts below in the comments!