Obviously we’re talking a lot about AcuWeb at the moment as it races towards it’s beta release, but AcuWeb is only half the story. We made a commitment to Kelworth customers that we were serious about Accoman/Accowin and we meant it, which is why we’ve also been working hard on Acumen 9, the new version of the system that has the horsepower to drive AcuWeb.
Messing around in the back
A lot of what’s gone on in the development of Acumen 9 is under the hood and in the backend processes. Like with any old classic, such things have to be done with care and patience (and a good bit of cursing!). We’ve spent a lot of time getting the system into version control, and it’s not been easy. The upshot is that, for the first time, we can roll back the system if a release goes wrong. We can also figure out why the release went wrong, which is perhaps even more important. Such steps, though vital, will hopefully be unnoticeable to end users, save for a general sense that things are going more smoothly (at least that’s the genuine hope!).
One major change is the huge leap from Visual Fox Pro 7 to Visual Fox Pro 9, on both the server and client. This is a big step forward in terms of stability and functionality. Again this is in the back end but was crucial for the development of the Acumen Web Service which drives the AcuWeb Web Service (XML API), which in turn drives the AcuWeb Booking Engine. This Web Service is not for public consumption (AcuWeb carefully throttles it and exposes it in a robust manner), but has been built with the same care and focus we lavish on all our developments.
A lot of the changes are there to help us start taking the system forward, but some of the features are available from the start.
The user interface was starting to get dated and really doesn’t conform to the way most Windows Applications are designed to work. Although users have grown used to the current idiosyncrasies, it makes the system difficult for new users to get to grips with. This effects everyone, not just our ability to sell the system, but existing customers have staffing issues when bringing on new recruits.
That said we don’t want to make such a huge leap that customers are lost and find the new system impossible to use. As such we’ve taken the ‘bit by bit’ approach of beginning the process of migrating the user interface into something more user friendly. We hope we’ve got the balance just right, but to put your mind at ease I thought I’d include some of the first screenshots of Acumen 9 to show you just what we’re up to.
One of the biggest changes is in the way we’re dealing with windows. We’re slowly moving many of the forms away from a set of fixed resolution, full screen modes.
We’ve also dropped support for 640×480 pixel mode, which was producing unreadable cramped windows, instead we recommend a minimum of 800×600 pixel screens as a minimum, though we suspect most people will be running on 1024×768 or even higher these days.
To whet your appetite the images to my left and right show the Booking form at different sizes, showing the resizing functionality in action.
None of this will impress new users, but it will hopefully make a difference for existing users, and demonstrate our commitment to continuing pushing Acumen ahead on their behalf.
Although it seems trivial, a lot of the new look is only possible because of the huge amount of work that’s been going on under the hood, and it is genuinely just a start. We hope to have improved the customer and booking forms fully before we release to the first customers in June, and we have plans for the Availability screen as well.
The good news is that on AcuWeb you will continue to get regular upgrades of Acumen 9 as we continue to improve the backend, and the user interface. Although AcuWeb customers will receive priority in moving to Acumen 9, existing Acumen customers can also register interest in being upgraded, and should get in contact with us through the normal channels.
Please let us know what you think in the comments below!