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When working on multiple projects, it’s easy to fully focus on your every-day tasks, but it’s also easy to lose the big picture of the work that lies ahead of you and your team. The Projects Timeline is designed to help you with that by laying out all of your active projects on a timeline:

Timeline

This view shows when your projects have begun, when they will end and all the progress that your team has made throughout the project. Just by looking at the timeline, you will be able to see all of the projects running parallel to one another. We have found this to be the best way to quickly see your current workload and the work that lies ahead.

Milestones are quite important for the Timeline as well. Project duration is calculated based on the start date of the first Milestone and the due date of the last Milestone in the Project. Also, the progress bar, which displays the percentage of the project completion, is calculated based on the Milestone information.

If the timetable gets too tight, you can simply reschedule a project or two and adjust them to make things easier for you. In order to do that, just drag the project bar to a more suitable time frame. All of the Milestones and Tasks in that project will be rescheduled as well, without the need to conduct any additional editing.

You may find the Timeline feature to be even more useful when you realize that you can zoom into your projects straight from this page. The Milestone dialog will be opened, so that you can see all the details and access them with ease.

Here’s a video that will show you what the Projects Timeline looks like in action:

The Projects Timeline tool has a few more “hidden” features within itself. To make things more interesting for you, we will not reveal all of them right away. Feel free to play around with the Projects Timeline tool and you will easily discover them all. In case you are not very adventurous, you can find out more about the Project Timeline in our User’s Guide.

The Projects Timeline is still a young tool, but we are always ready to make it better. We would love to hear your suggestions and ideas on how to improve it. Feel free to get in touch and tell us exactly what you would like to see here. We are standing by for your reply :)

It’s been a whole year since we’ve released the first stabile version of activeCollab 3. After six months of Beta testing, the stabile release had brought a lot of improvements and pointed the evolution of activeCollab in a whole new direction.

We have changed our internal way of communication and the way we conduct work. These changes have resulted in quite an exciting year, with some tangible results behind us. During this period we have:

  • Made more than 40 new releases. Besides bug fixes, we have also introduced a bunch of new features that our customers can enjoy. With the latest activeCollab 3.3, we have fine tuned the auto-upgrade functionality. This will help us to speed up the pace of the release cycle and to be even more productive.
  • Developed and released a Beta version of our Cloud service. It will be available on the ManageProjects.com website. You can see the latest news on our Cloud platform in this article.
  • Made a step-by-step progress towards a new major release. First, we have created a stable environment with the 3.1 branch; then we have released activeCollab 3.2 with a couple of nice usability enhancements; and finally, this spring, we have reached version 3.3 that brought a lot of new and exciting features. Today, we are deep into the code for version 4.

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During this period, we have significantly changed the way we work and release new versions of activeCollab. We used to focus on a major release and make a huge step from one version to the other. That’s what we did with version 3. By working like this, we ended up with a long release cycle and stunning changes for all of our users who switched from version 2. Now, we have learned our lesson. We are now making a slow, but steady progress: instead of aiming for the major version directly and getting stuck in there for a year or so without any new releases, we are conducting a step by step process and working in increments with constant progression and improvements. The good foundation that we’ve made with version 3 has made all of that possible.

So, not only have we improved our star product – activeCollab, but we have also learned something new about our internal organization and the workflow that fits us best. We have all grown up together!

As I have already said, this has been a great year and quite a ride for us all. In the following period, I expect even more excitements and even more fun. Stay tuned and enjoy activeCollab!

I don’t know if we can get any more obvious than this, but regardless; seeing as we are the makers of one of the best Project Management tools, we put a great deal of emphasis on organisation and its importance. Seems like a simple, logical topic, right? Wrong. Organisation is, if I may be blunt, an abstract term. Every person is different and everyone’s definition of organisation is different. So making an organisational tool is a harder task than you might believe it to be. I will try to list and explain some of the benefits of organisation, and along with it, the benefits of using activeCollab for that same purpose.

I want to give you a personal example of what I mean when I say that organisation is different for every person. Walking into my mother’s office, you would not be able to find a single sheet of paper out of place. Everything is listed chronologically, stored tightly, and it is as clean as a doctor’s office. She knows exactly where her documents are and she would start working right away, without the need to search for anything. My father, on the other hand, well, his office is kind of all over the place. Papers everywhere, tools hiding under the desk! But don’t you dare and try to move something! He also knows exactly where everything is and doesn’t need a lot of time to find exactly what he needs. In both cases, they are organised, but in their own perspective ways. We, at activeCollab, realise that people are different, and our product gives our clients the freedom to choose the way they wish to organise their material.

Rubbish basket full of white crumpled papers

Now that we have seen an example of the different ways that people keep themselves organised, there are some things that are the same for every type of organisational strategy. The benefits of keeping yourself organised vary and span out, but the end results are always the same. People that keep organised tend to be more successful. An obvious statement, but highly needed to be noted, as people tend not to focus on that final achievement in their organisational strategy. Not realising the potential of their success, people tend to look past their organisational skills, and therefore, lack the success in the end. By keeping yourself organised, success will just be one tick off the checklist.

Yet another benefit of keeping yourself organised is that you will have more free time to yourself, after the work-day is over. Just as I have stated above, no matter how you keep yourself organised, being able to find exactly what you need will make your life much easier. With that being said, you immediately jump to yet another important benefit; you eliminate the stress that you may put on yourself by not knowing where you left off the previous day. This will increase your enjoyment at the end of the day and you will automatically feel better about yourself and about the completion of your daily tasks. By being able to do things calmly instead of rushing and searching through papers is essential for a successful day at work, simply because it will automatically save you time, money and precious nerves! You will then be more efficient and more productive. As you can tell, these benefits are psychological, but the right mindset plays a decisive role in a successful business.

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But organisation is not just about being able to find your papers, files and documents. Your organisation also reflects on the way that you run your business. By showing your clients that you are responsible and that you have everything in order, cooperation and collaboration with workers and clients will become more professional and more efficient. And the further you expand your business, the less stress you will have while running it, simply because you will be used to the order that you have been conducting throughout the years. Imagine being all over the place and eventually expanding your business! It would hit you like a brick wall. If that is not a good enough reason to keep yourself organised, then nothing is.

This is where activeCollab comes into play. You can choose how you wish to keep yourself organised. Choose your projects, work with whomever you want, and do exactly what is needed for your business. Your files, tasks, projects, milestones, everything, will be kept right where you left it. Conducting a quick search will help you find something right away if you think that you have misplaced it. This will save you the effort and the stress, which as we have discussed is highly important to having a successful business.

Yet another amazing task that you can do with your activeCollab, but not with your papers and documents, is that you can take your activeCollab with you wherever there is an internet connection. Imagine carrying a huge suitcase full of papers around with you. It is ridiculous and absurd. Take your tablet or even your smartphone with you and have full access to all of your files and documents, project and tasks in a paper thin mechanical folder! Working in activeCollab will be more fun for you and it will eliminate the stress of not having enough space for where to place your important documents.

activeCollab does a great job when it comes to impressing your clients and associates. There is no better way to invite them into your activeCollab setup than by having a friendly, personalised invitation. The invitational message, highly organised projects, distributed tasks and professional looking invoices will leave your colleagues stunned. At the same time, collaboration and communication will be increased between coworkers and associates as new ways to keep your projects organised will be highly essential to both the administrator and everyone else working in your virtual office. And finally, the end results will prove to everyone that this project management tool is exactly what you have been waiting for!   Now this is the revolutionised way that you should keep organised!

We have been in the business for more than 5 years now and all this time, we’ve been offering a self-hosted version of activeCollab. Now, as we are making the final cuts on releasing the stabile version of our Cloud platform, we wish to ask you: what version do you prefer? Self-hosted or the Cloud based one?

The main benefits of the self-hosted version are:

  • Host the system by yourself and have full control over the environment and settings. You can even use that old desktop computer that’s sitting and collecting dust in the corner as a local server, if you wish.
  • Extend the system with modules. There are numerous third party modules that you can add to the system to extend its functionality, and you can also write your own modules if needed.
  • One time payment. You pay for your activeCollab once and use for as long as you want. Access to support and upgrades is sold as a yearly subscription, but that’s completely optional.

But even with such great features, control and extensibility, some of our customers still faced a lot of challenges with the self-hosted activeCollab system.

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A few main issues appeared to be the most challenging:

1. Hosting

Hosting activeCollab is really not that hard, especially if you have experience with applications like Joomla or WordPress, or even in web development in general. The problem is that hosting activeCollab well can be challenging for many people.

The platform that activeCollab is running on needs to be well tuned in order to be able to host a massive web application: opcode and memory cacheing are a must and you need to have guaranteed server resources. This cuts off pretty much all of the shared hosting plans and even some lower end VPS plans. Such hosting plans are usually tailored for casual hosting (small websites or a blogs), and they often under-perform when you put a big business class application in there.

When you get the platform right, you need to be on the lookout for potential bottlenecks. We’ve had a few situations where a customer reported poor performance, even though everything looked fine: they were on a fast VPS plan and CPU time and memory were abundant, and they also had APC installed and had set to have 250MB for opcode and memory cache. All the recommendations were implemented, but the application was still crawling. Eventually, it turned out that in that particular environment, the application was “statting” a large folder for an unknown reason. Finding that out was easy for our system administrator (he audited the server), but it would not have been an easy task for someone with less experience.

2. Add-ons

Please don’t get us wrong – there are more than 50 different add-ons developed in our community and we are really proud on each of them. We really appreciate the effort that the third party vendors have put in there. But…people instantly see the benefits of having everything under their roof and sometimes like to have as many add-ons as possible. Unfortunately, they tend to overlook all the extra work that is needed for such a system to work well. Add-ons just amplify that: by adding modules to your system, you get more features, but also more elements to maintain. They may skip only one compatibility upgrade and make a mess out of their activeCollab in no time.

3. Price

The one time payment option is great for many people because it saves them money in the log run, but it can be a big problem for companies that are just starting up, or facing financial difficulties at the moment. With the self-hosted version we had one rule for all of our customers and fixed pricing. Most of the time, there were no exceptions. Everyone could tailor activeCollab to make it fit their needs, even if they didn’t wish to use some of the features, or didn’t really need the unlimited number of users.

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By being aware of the mentioned issues, we have tried to overcome them with the evolution of activeCollab. We have been working really hard to make the system more suitable for all activeCollab users, even for the ones that are not familiar with hosting and server tuning.

Some of the main reason why all of our non-tech savvy users (or even a tech savvy person who’s on a busy schedule) should pick the Cloud version over a self-hosted one are:

  • A chance to focus on your business and let us handle all the technical details (monitoring, upgrades, performance, backups and security). Our support team is monitoring your system and has direct access to it, only if needed. Thanks to that, we can provide you with really fast support. If there is a problem, there is a great chance that we’ll have it fixed without you even noticing.
  • Even if we don’t offer add-ons support at the moment, you can still tailor activeCollab to fit your needs. You will be able to choose the package that fits you best and to pick some of the pro tools (made only by A51) that are not offered with the basic Cloud pricing. That way, you can create the environment that fits your business needs.
  • Pay as you go, instead of making a big upfront investment. Our plans are affordable and designed to charge you by your actual use. If you are just starting up and going with the entry level plan, you will have everything covered (software, hosting, support and backups) for as low as $300, during the first year, distributed monthly. As your business starts to pick up and grow, you can move to bigger plans, but you will not have to make that type of an investment on the first day. The size of your project management tool can grow with you.
  • There’s no lock in. If you outgrow our service and decide that you want to self-host, you can purchase a license and we’ll help you with data migration. Of course, we will still be here to help and support you while you are facing all the challenges from the self-hosted world.

The final choice is yours, so feel free to share with us which version you would choose – a Self-hosted or a Cloud one? And why?

We don’t need to remind you how important it is to approach your password seriously. Or do we? Do you, by any chance, use a short password for all the websites and services that you visit? What would happen if one of those services was to get compromised and an attacker got a hold of your password? Will they be able to use the same password to hijack your email, Twitter and Facebook accounts, send SPAM to your friends, family and colleagues?

Are you a system administrator? Can you guarantee that passwords of your users are secure and that your project data is safe? No matter how strong the system security is, a log in form is still a point of entry that an attacker can use if they were to get a hold of all passwords that your users have.

Did we scare you enough? Sorry if we did, but password management is very important. Let’s see what activeCollab does in order to make sure that passwords of your users are securely stored.

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activeCollab never stores raw passwords in the database. Instead, it pushes them through an encryption mechanism and stores the encrypted values. For example, if you use SHA1 (one of the popular hashing mechanisms) in order to encrypt “my super secure password” as your password, you will get:

1e9925a661d9440ba36813b353c5dd29987747bf

It took us microseconds to generate this hash, and it may take days for someone to turn that value back to our input value. SHA1 is already considered obsolete due to the fast advancement of modern day hardware, but there are others, more secure hashing mechanisms, and we use one of them: PBKDF2. We would also like to add “salt” to your passwords (40 characters long unique key) in order to make it even more secure and hard to guess.

Now, if it’s hard to get an original password from a stored hash, how does activeCollab know that your password is valid? Easily – not by trying to get your original password from the hash, but by comparing the hash that is has on file and hash of the value that users insert in the login form. When you try to log in, activeCollab gets the value that you inserted in the login form, encrypts it by using the same hashing mechanism and compares that value with encrypted value that it has on file.

Thanks to this simple storage and comparison mechanism, a raw password is never stored in the system while login still works flawlessly. In case your database gets compromised, attackers will not get a nice, well sorted list of passwords that they can use in order to try to log in as your users on their social media services, their blogs etc.

Apart from taking great care of activeCollab’s password storage, in the near future, we’ll push this matter even further. We tend to introduce a new module that enables you to specify the rules that user’s passwords need to meet, in order for activeCollab to accept them. Stay tuned, more info will be coming soon :)

In every business and in many other aspects of life, what people resent the most is staying idle. The old saying, “time is money” is quite literal, to say the least, and by staying idle, businesses tend to lose. In a constantly changing world, the race against time is the one thing that never changes. When it comes to business owners, we know how much they value their time, which is exactly why we have one of the best project management softwares out there. What does that have to do with time saving? Our product is designed to help people organise their businesses and to improve collaboration between associates and clients by saving them as much time as possible. By bringing people from all over the world into activeCollab and by keeping their tasks and projects organised, our system allows our customers to focus directly and strictly on work.

As we always look for new ways to improve our product and services, we have recently introduced a new feature within activeCollab that is guaranteed to save our customers even more time. This new functionality is our Auto-Upgrade feature. Before the introduction of this new feature, upgrading to a new version of activeCollab had to have been done in one of two ways; by using the Manager application, or it had to be done manually.

auto-upgradephoto

The Manager application has become replaced by the Auto-Upgrade feature itself. The way that the Manager would conduct an upgrade to a newer version of activeCollab is that it would take that new version directly from the activeCollab.com website. Then, it would unpack it and upload the files, one by one through FTP or SFTP. After the upload of those files has been completed, it would begin the installation. The Auto-Upgrade, however, would only take one file between two, much faster servers. It would unpack the file and begin the installation immediately. You can see that the difference between the two methods of upgrading is quite drastic.

Besides using the Manager, upgrading to a newer version of the system could have been done manually.  Manual upgrade meant that the user had to take his or her time to conduct the upgrade by themselves. This meant that precious and productive time would have been spent on simply upgrading to a new version, thus eliminating the possibility to focus on work for the duration of the upgrade period.

With the Auto-Upgrade feature, not only do we manage to save our customers time, but we simultaneously save them effort as well. Now, in order to upgrade to a new version of the activeCollab system, you will only need a few clicks and a few seconds of waiting! By simply clicking on the Administration icon, you will see if you have the latest version of activeCollab installed. Here, in the Administration window, the latest version will be displayed, and a button to upgrade to it, if you haven’t done so already. If your system is running in the latest version, the button will be in green, otherwise, the upgrade button will be red. In a few simple steps, you will be working in the latest version of activeCollab, and with practically no effort, you can continue on about your daily tasks.

Auto-Upgrade

Besides time saving, what the Auto-Upgrade feature enables us to do is to introduce more frequent releases. This means that we can release one or two new versions of activeCollab per week and by simply clicking on the upgrade button, you always stay up to date on the latest version of the program. By doing this, new features and fixes would be available more frequently to our customers, eliminating problems and bugs, and making your activeCollab setup even more efficient than before.

Friday – the best day of the work-week, by far! We look forward to Fridays throughout the whole week, and when it finally arrives, do we really want to work? The answer is: “Yes!”

I know that we all feel the same and just want the weekend to begin, but just think about it: if we leave Friday’s workload untouched, we will have more to do and a harder time getting to work the following week.

Friday

At our office, Fridays seem a bit special, to say the least. Everyone is more relaxed, wants to have more fun, but we all still still finish all of the required tasks, so it’s quite bussy as well. I do believe that we have some sort of an unwritten and an unplanned Friday “code” and although it is not written, nor is it enforced, everyone tends to keep by it. Here are some things that we do on Fridays:

  • we always finish a task and never leave it for the following Monday. This way, we do not have the weekend to worry about what will be waiting for us when we get back into the office.
  • another “rule” on the code is to not start a task with a client, if you cannot complete it the same day. This ensures us that our clients will get the fastest and the most efficient service that we can provide for them. If, for example, we were to start working on a ticket on Friday, and we left the workplace, our clients would have to wait two full days to get what they need! Instead, we like to complete such tickets as quickly and as efficiently as we can. If this is a massive issue, there are two things that we do – either check our email during the weekend (if we know how to help), or ask the customer if they can hold on until Monday, so that their issue gets resolved first thing in the morning.
  • Fridays are great to plan what you are going to be working on, the following week. By doing this, you will show up on Monday and you will know exactly what to do and when to do it. Yes, I know, Mondays are hard enough to just get out of bed, but if we are already talking about priorities, by planning your next week on a Friday, these priorities will be handled with ease.

This is what our Fridays usually look like. Do you have a certain routine that you keep by on Fridays? How do you usually conclude your work-week?

We hope to hear some good suggestions, so feel free to share your experience.

Enjoy your weekend, and see you on Monday!

We all know that after a job is completed, it is not really over until someone receives a paycheque. In essence, we all work for the payday. Nothing is more satisfying than a Client who delivers the money efficiently and right on time, every time. However, this is not always the case. It can be quite annoying to a company when having to chase customers with overdue invoices.

It might have been a holiday, or the money did not go through to an account. There could be a number of reasons why the paycheque was not received and the invoice remained overdue. A reminder to the customer is not essentially needed right away (within half a day of a payment due), but after a day or two, if the money is still not on the account, someone needs to be notified. This way, you get paid quicker, and you learn the reason why your money was late.

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In activeCollab, you are now given the option to send reminders for overdue invoices. You are free to customise the duration period between these emails and the message within the email. There should be only 1 to 4 of these reminder emails, seeing that after the first one, a payment should already be made. You can also configure these emails to start off as just reminders, to slowly progress over the next few days.

Here is an example of how and what you can do with overdue invoices. The first reminder email should be mild, and just like it states, it should be a reminder that the invoice is due. It is not a crime to tell a customer that their payment is late. In fact, it might even be helpful, just in case the customer forgot all about it. The second email can be sent a week after the invoice should have been paid. In this email, you should restate that the payment is late, and nudge the customer to proceed with the payment as soon as possible. A few days later, another email should be send. This email, however, should be more pressing and urgent. The final email should state that if an invoice does not go through, that you will be going the extra step and escalating the situation. By this point, if the invoice was still not received, I would personally begin calling the client. This process is more personal and it involves more effort, but it is the client’s responsibility to come through with the payment.

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As stated above, there is nothing  more frustrating to a company than having to remind someone of an overdue invoice. It is a real hassle to keep calling customers for them to pay you. A lot of people simply try to escape this process, but by ignoring it, they become at a loss for their own money. activeCollab helps you by completely automating this setup. This means that the system can send reminders even when you are sleeping!

It is said that exposure to nature improves physical and mental health. Yet many of us live and work in urban centres, away from any nature. We spend every day in the so called, concrete jungle, where any traces of green have long disappeared. Why am I saying all of this? It is quite simple; this phenomenon is especially clear to us when the snow has melted and when the trees regain their leaves. Correct! Spring is finally here, and we, at A51, are starting to feel its presence all around us.

We are quite lucky, to be honest, since we have two balconies in our office. Escaping the office environment is very relaxing for us, yet we still retain the same working attitude. Due this fact, on our balconies, we have a small table and a few chairs. Anyone that is willing, can go sit, take out their laptop, and continue with their daily tasks with the sun in their backs. And do not think that we are slacking! No, no, no. By working outside, we actually improve our emotional stability and our extend our attention span. The sun gives us over 90 percent of our Vitamin D, which is the essential vitamin for staying happy. And by being happy, we, at the office, increase our productivity and retain our positive attitude! 

My office, in particular, has been blessed with one of the balconies and I share this office with two of my coworkers, Ivana and Marko. Come to think about it, it seems that the three of us have developed an every day ritual. The first person in the office would open the balcony door, put on some music and sit back and work. Not only does this lift our spirits on busy days, but we actually get more work done than we initially plan. Our office has become the go-to “hang out spot”, since most of our colleagues make their way to our office at least once a day. This creates a friendly environment and brings our team closer together. I do wonder if this “hang out spot” would exist if we did not have a path to the outside world, straight from our office.

Nevertheless, it is quite safe to say that working outdoors, even if it is just on the balcony, lifts our spirits and pushes us on throughout the day. We enjoy the days a lot more and, believe it or not, we have increased our productivity noticeably, since spring came knocking on our door. We, at A51, are super busy this season, with the release of our new system and with planning of a whole new set of projects, and if it wasn’t for the friendly, relaxed environment in the sun, we would have a difficult time completing the tasks that are ahead of us.

 

 

Did you know that on average, a human will spend up to a year in his lifetime looking for misplaced objects? It is an amazing fact which makes you wonder; if you had not misplaced them, how would you have used that lost year? Similarly enough, in the business world, how much time would you have used productively if you had kept track of everything you did? Time management is one of the most important skills that you can possess in every aspect of your life.

In the business world, managing your time will help you with your priorities. Organisation means that you will keep a track of the things that you need to complete. By managing your time, you will see which things you will have to do first. That way, you will get the important tasks out of the way immediately. Most importantly, managing your time will allow you to focus more on quality work. By knowing what to work on and how much time you will spend working on it, you will be more focused. Better focus means better quality, and you will immediately see a drastic change in your performance.

We all have things at work that we dread doing. They may be difficult, they make take up a lot of time, or they may simply be boring! It does not matter! These tasks still need to be completed. By writing them down, you will be forced to do them. Managing your time will put a time limit on those tasks. You will not spend more time working on them than what you have initially planned. This way, even if they are not completed, rescheduling them for a later time will still enable you to keep on track of what you have missed.

While being on the topic of keeping yourself on track, there is nothing better that time management can do for you. SImply put, time management keeps you on track. By stating your plans and goals and by estimating your time, staying within this time limit becomes a more reasonable option. Of course, certain things do come up, However, by increasing your time management skills, you will be able to organise all the overdue hours with ease.

To finish it up, you have to realise that time is something that no one can control, and no matter what you do, you cannot get it back. Due to this fact, constant improvising in your daily schedule may be necessary, and fussing over overdue goals will not make a difference. Therefore, you will always need to have a positive attitude. Time management will help you discipline yourself and it cannot do you any harm. Every business focuses on deadlines, and so does your everyday personal life. Time management is a part of everyone’s life cycle. The only difference is that those who are aware of it and those who organise their time will feel its benefits, while the ones that don’t will suffer its consequences.