Knowledge Tree Makeover

I’m nearing the end of development for the next major Surfulater release which includes two important new features and I want to preview the first one for you now.

An enhancement that people have been asking for is to improve the visual characteristics of items displayed in the Knowledge Tree so that for example bold or italic text could be displayed, making specific tree items stand out from the crowd and therefore be easier to locate when scrolling or paging up and down.

I’ve actually taken this a step further and have enabled tree items to display HTML so that what you see in the content window, is what you now see in the tree. This means text foreground and background colors along with bold and italics now appear in the Knowledge Tree.

This screen shot shows an article with its Title highlighted using background and foreground colors as well as bold and italic text and its corresponding item in the Knowledge Tree with the same visual markup applied.

Knowledge Tree displaying HTML text

I’ve also highlighted some folders and other articles. One other thing to note is the article counts to the right of each folder are now displayed in Grey instead of Black, making them a bit more subtle.

You have always been able to set the images displayed for each tree item and now with the ability to set the appearance of the text, you get full visual control of tree items. Further it lets Surfulater highlight items of specific interest, as the need arises.

Apart from our users wanting this, it was needed for the other even more important new feature coming in this release, which you will hear all about soon.

Surfulater Version 3.15, Build 0.10 released

Hot on the heals of the V3.15.0.0 release this update addresses an issue in Surfulater V3.15.0.0 and some other older issues which have just been reported. I’ve also put the DBGHelp.DLL back into the Install package so people still using Windows 2000 won’t have a hiccup.

See the Release Notes in the Surfulater Help for more information. This new release of Surfulater is available from our Download Web page.

Finally thanks to everyone for their blog comments, e-mails etc. on the Version release. Now that the major code update has been completed you will start to see more frequent releases again. Don’t forget to keep the conversations going about what you would like to see in future releases. The Suggestion Box in our support forums is always a good place for this.

Surfulater Version Released

The Surfulater evolution continues with the release of Version This is another milestone release with major changes to the Surfulater code base to bring it in line with the latest Microsoft Development tools, in particular MS Visual Studio 2008 and the latest C++ Compiler. This makes Surfulater more robust and enables us to use the latest Microsoft technologies as we move forward.

I’ve also taken this opportunity to make substantial changes to the way the Surfulater code is packaged. In particular seven DLL’s have been completely removed and two more have been taken out of the Installation package. This code refactoring and repackaging removes problems caused by wrong versions of DLL’s and moves us closer to the possibility of a single .EXE file, potentially without any need for an Installer. Further it helps pave the way for a Portable USB Stick version of Surfulater. And finally it reduces the size of the Installer download file from 7.79MB to 5.67MB and the installed code footprint from 16.347MB down to 12.68MB. Substantial effort has gone into this, taking up much of our development time since the last release.

That is all below the surface, but there are good things happening above ground as well.

The most visual change in this release is how Tags are displayed in articles.

Tag Hyperlinks

They don’t just look a lot better, but they perform better as well, in that you can now click on Tag to jump to it, in the Tags Knowledge Tree and then see and work with all the articles with that tag.

The next enhancement is the ability to change the color of text using Set Text Color, which is in addition to setting its background color.

Set text Color Toolbar button  Set Text COlor Context Menu

Clicking on the button or choosing the right click context menu item changes the color of the selected text to the current color.

Set Text Color Context Menu

Clicking on the down arrow opens the color selection palette, which enables you to change the current color. Note that the current color is displayed below the A image. Restore to default is also new in this release and sets the current color back to its default value. This is also included on the Highlight Text color palette.

Another new feature is Set Title to selection which enables you to set the Title of the current article to the selected text. This is available on the right click context menu, when used on selected text.

Set Title to selection Context menu item

There are times when an Article Title is not what you want and this provides a quick convenient way to change it.

If you are observant you will have noticed Web Search on the menu screen shot above.

Web Search context menu item

This new feature enables you to perform a Google search using the currently selected text. Another handy time saver.

A subtle change we’ve begun in this release is the ability to make more changes to selected text without having to be in edit mode. For example the Add a Link and Remove this Link commands can now be used when not in content editing mode. As can the new Set Text Color.

Of course there is more; drag & drop can now be used during content editing to move text and images, and Copy and Paste as reciprocal ‘See also’ links can now be used in the Tags and Chronological Knowledge Tree views.

As always all of the new features and bug fixes are documented in the V3 Release Notes in the Help as well as in new and updated Help topics. Make sure you at least read the release notes.

The latest release of Surfulater is available from our Download Web page.

We’ve recently completed a major overhaul of the Surfulater home page and I hope it does a better job of conveying to people what Surfulater does and how useful it can be. Feedback welcome.

I’d like to dedicate this release to our friend and golfing buddy Neil Oram who sadly and unexpectedly passed away last Monday 20 Apr 2009. Neil was always a pleasure to be around and had many great games of golf left to play. He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed.

Sometimes it’s the little things… Surfulater V3.00.10.0 released

Articles displayed in the Search Results folder have always been a little troublesome because you had no idea what folder(s) they actually lived in, and there are times when that meta-information is important. We’ve tossed around various possible solutions to this, but have never been happy with any until just recently. During yet another brain-storming session the penny dropped that yes Search Results articles are the main problem here, but wouldn’t it be nice to know all the folders any article is in, besides the current one of course.

For those new to Surfulater you may not be aware that an article can be in as many different folders as you like, with there only ever being one real instance of any given article. This solves the age old problem of picking just “one best” folder for an article.

So after this thought sunk in, some more lateral thinking bore fruit with the end result being to add a new “In Folders” breadcrumb row to each of the article templates, as shown here.

Article in one folder

This shows that this article is located in the Knowledge Base | Alternative Energy | Solar Power folder. Each of these three sub-folders is a clickable link which take you directly to the respective folder.

When an article is in more than one folder, each one of the locations is displayed:

Article in two folders

In addition a link named Article is included for each folder, other than the current one. Clicking on this takes you to the article in its associated folder. This new feature lets you not only see each of the folders an article is in, but also to jump to each copy of it.

Furthermore these new “In Folders” breadcrumbs are displayed for all of Knowledge Tree views. This means that when you are viewing articles in the Tags or Chronological trees, you can now see what folders they are located in, and instantly jump to them in the Normal Folder tree view. This builds on the right click context menu item “Go to Article in Normal View” in the Tags and Chronological tree views and “Go to Article” in the Search Results folder. Each of these goes to the first article found in the Normal Tree view, whereas the new “In Folders” breadcrumbs enable you to go to any article, when it is located in multiple folders.

The final enhancement here is the update to the display of collapsed folders in the content window to match  the Articles new “In Folders” row as shown here:

Collapsed Folder breadcrumbs

Like all Article rows, the “In Folders” row can be moved up and down using Edit | Enable Template Editing. See the Help Topic: Power Features | Editing Article Templates for further information on this.
I am sure you will find these enhancements let you move around and locate specific copies of articles quicker and easier than ever before.

For details on the other updates in this release see the “V3 Release Notes” topic in the Surfulater Help. The Download is in the usual place.

Surfulater Version 3 Released

Surfulater Version 3 has been officially released following review by our early access release testers. I provided a summary of the new features and enhancements in the last blog post and won’t repeat that here. Instead I’ll briefly cover some of the main new capabilities. Remember that the V3 Release Notes in the Surfulater Help go into detail.

Tagging is  the number one new feature in Version 3. This enables you to classify articles using single or multiple word tags and instantly locate them again. For example you could add the tag ‘Solar Energy’ to all articles related to solar energy and then access these in the new Tags Tree.

Partial Tags Tree

Adding Tags to articles is assisted by auto-suggest. Just type the first letter or two and a pick list will display all appropriate matches.


Select the tag you want from the list using the arrow keys and press Tab or Enter to use it. Or just click on it.

To add a new tag to the tags database simply enter it into the Article Tags field or use New Tag from the right click context menu in the Tags Tree.

Tags context menu

Tags can be renamed, merged and deleted to build the set of tags you find works best over time. And tag maintenance tasks like rename happen instantly, unlike some other products.

You can also add tags to a set of articles in one go, and similarly remove tags from them using the new Tags… dialog.

Add/Remove Tags Dialog

Tags provide an alternate view into your knowledge base to the hierarchical folder tree. Taking an analogy with a Book, you can think of Folders as the Table of Contents and Tags as the Index. Well that is an epiphany I had recently.

See Tags and Tagging Articles in the Surfulater Help for a complete reference. You will also find several posts here on blog about tagging, along with some of the design decisions that were made.

The next big new feature in Version 3 is the ability to rearrange article layouts to best suit your needs. Out of the box a Web Template article has this layout:

Default Web article template

But what if you would prefer to have say the Tags and Comments fields moved up below the Title. This is where Template Editing comes into play. Click on Edit on the main menu and you will see a new menu item:

Edit menu with Template Editing

Choosing Enable Template Editing puts Surfulater into a special mode that enables you to change the order of article rows by simply dragging them to the location you want and then dropping them, as shown in this screen shot.

Template Editing

When you have finished rearranging the rows click on the [x] on the Information Bar at the top of the content window to exit template editing.

This is a precursor to more advanced template editing and creation to come.

See Editing Article Templates in the Surfulater Help for a complete reference.

For full details about what’s new in Version 3 do read the V3 Release Notes in the Surfulater Help.

Surfulater Version 3 has been a while in the making and has broken with our regular steady stream of new releases, however there are very good reasons for this, of which you will hear about soon. Now that V3 and other tasks are behind us, you can expect to see more frequent releases again. In fact I’m already hard at work on the next release. And I’d really like to get blogging a bit more often again.


Surfulater Version 3 Update

Surfulater Version 3 is finished and an early access release is being tested by small group of customers. It has been out for almost a week and no issues have been reported so far, which is good news.

We are working on updates to the Surfulater Web site and Web Shop and these are currently holding back the full public release of Surfulater V3.

This summary of new features and enhancements will give you glimpse of what you will see in V3.0.

  • The ability to Tag Articles using multi-word tags and auto-suggest.
  • A new Tags Tree to access articles by tags and manage tags.
  • The ability to Tag multiple articles at once and remove tags from multiple articles.
  • Template editing lets you rearrange article rows in the order that best suits your needs.
  • A new Firefox Extension which communicates directly with Surfulater.
  • Full Windows Vista IE7 Protected Mode support.
  • The Firefox Extension automatically is installed and updated by Surfulater.
  • Greatly improved Web page capture.
  • New Note Article template added.
  • Better performance when displaying all articles in a folder.
  • Migration to an SQL Database commenced.
  • Expanded context menus.
  • Web Knowledge Base publishing issues fixed.
  • All selected Knowledge Tree articles are now displayed in the content window.
  • Thirty six new images have been added to the Knowledge Tree image selection pallette.
  • The in-built Web Server has been extensively updated and enhanced.

Further all known issues in the V2.9x pre-releases have been resolved.

For the latest information on the Version 3 release see Surfulater Version 3 Released

Better Web Page Capture coming in Surfulater Version 3

There are some Web pages that don’t capture all that well in Surfulater. All of the page content is captured ok, but the layout can be a mess. I’ve been building a list of such pages (and web sites) as people report them and as I come across them. For example the BBC News web site should look something like this:

BBC News Home Page

But in Surfulater Version it looks like this:

Attached Web page in Surfulater V2.52

This was one of the more important issues for us to address in the forthcoming Surfulater Version 3 release. It actually turned out to be more complex and difficult to resolve than I’d expected, but the good news is Web page capture is much better now. As proof here is the same page captured in what will be Surfulater Version 3.0.

BBC News Home Page in Surfulater V3

An observant person may notice one small difference to the first image, but that aside the result is very good indeed. Note that these are all full Web page captures using Surfulater: Add Article plus Page or Surfulater: Attach Page to Article and we are viewing the attached web pages.

A related content capture issue is that some Web sites prevent images from being downloaded. This shows up when capturing selected content for Surfulater articles and when capturing full web pages. This screen shot shows the problem in Version

And this screen shot shows the same capture in Surfulater Version 3.0.

This proved to be another difficult issue that I am very pleased has now been resolved.

We continue to make good progress with Surfulater Version 3, with a release planned for September. I am heading up north to the Pacific for a much needed short break and to ever so briefly escape our cold winter. I look forward to wrapping up V3 upon my return, as I’m sure you all do to.

The new Surfulater V2.94.0.0 Pre-release

As mentioned a few posts back we have a shiny new Surfulater pre-release available for you to take for spin.

The focus of this release is the new  Tags dialog, which I blogged about in Tags – we need your help. Part 1.  Avi has written several follow on posts: Tags and Whitespace – more feedback requested, Tag Management Part III – adding new tags (I’m not sure what happened to Part II) and Tag Management – Live Example Page

We’ve received a lot of great feedback, which we thank you very much for. And we look forward to more.

After weighing things up we’ve settled on using the combined Add and Remove Tags dialog implementation I presented in Part 1, with a change to the Keep column, making it Remove, as suggested by Craig Prichard.

Avi has put together a sample presenting various alternate combinations (18 I think he said) in his Tag Management – Live Example Page post. Do comment on these.

In case you haven’t been following the recent flurry of recent articles, the new  Add and Remove Tags dialog enables you to quickly add new tags to a group of selected articles and remove tags from them. I don’t want to repeat the earlier discussions here, so please go and read those posts for details.

The Surfulater Help Topic: The Basics | Tags and Tagging Articles has been updated to cover the new Add and Removes Tags dialog and the Release Notes in the Help cover some of the other changes in this release. There is more going on under the cover, but we aren’t quite ready to talk about them yet.

Without further ado you can download the new release here.


Tags – we need your help. Part 1

We are currently working on the next part of the new Surfulater Tagging capability and would like some guidance from you, our users. We are working on two new and related features that revolve around letting you add and remove tags from a group of selected articles. For example you might select six articles and then want to add one or more tags to these articles. Or you might want to delete a tag or two from them. To do this now you would have to select each article in turn and edit its Tags field, to add or remove the tags, which is cumbersome to say the least. 

There are ways to make this task a lot quicker and easier, which is the focus of this post. How are we proposing to do this? Lets start with adding tags. First you select all of the articles in the Knowledge Tree that you want to add some tags to, then right click on one and select Add Tags… from the context menu, which opens this dialog.

Add Tags Dialog

You can type in one or more tags, and auto-suggest lets you choose from the list of existing tags. When you press Save, the Tags you entered are added to the selected articles. Any tags already present in an article will not be added again, so you don’t end up with duplicates. This process works just like the Tags field in your Surfulater Articles.

Some tagging systems let you add tags by displaying a list of all available tags and getting you to tick a checkbox for each tag you want to add. This is simple, intuitive and works very well when you have a smallish number of tags. However as the number of tags you add grows, this quickly gets unwieldy and you spend more and more time scrolling back and forth through the list to locate and choose the tags you want.

Our approach of quickly locating tags using auto-suggest, and of adding new tags to the tags database at the same time, delivers a much better user experience, especially as the number of tags you use grows, which it will.

Now lets talk about removing tags from articles. Assume we have three articles with the following tags:

  1. Cat, Pet
  2. Dog, Pet
  3. Cow, Herbivore

As before we’ll select all of the articles of interest, right click and choose Remove Tags… from the context menu which will open this dialog.

Tags Remove Dialog

This shows a list of all of the tags in the selected articles, with duplicates removed. In this example Pet is in two articles, but only appears once in the list. Beside each tag is a checkbox, with the heading Keep? and all checkboxs are checked. To remove the tag Pet from the selected articles it is in, you uncheck its checkbox and then press Save. If you wanted to remove other tags at the same time, you would uncheck those as well, before pressing Save.

So far so good, or at least I hope so.

Our next step in evolving these designs was to look at a further simplification which would enable you to both Add and Remove Tags within the one dialog, starting from a single context menu selection Tags…. Most of the time you want to either Add or Remove, but there are times when you want to do both. The new combined dialog looks like this.

Add and Remove Tags Dialog

When Save is pressed in this example animal and herbivore will be added to the selected articles and pet will be removed. If the New tags field had been empty, no new tags would have been added. Likewise of no tags were unchecked in the list, none would have been removed from the selected articles. All quite straightforward.

On closer examination one issue became evident and that is there can be some confusion when a tag you want to Add is shown in the Existing Tags list. In our example this is the tag herbivore. 

When you notice herbivore in the list you might decide not too include it as a New tag, which would be a mistake. Referring back to the articles and tags summary:

  1. Cat, Pet
  2. Dog, Pet
  3. Cow, Herbivore

you see that herbivore is only in one of the three selected articles, but there is no way to tell this from the Existing Tags list. Because you didn’t include herbivore in New tags, it won’t be added to articles one and two, which isn’t the desired outcome.

To help to resolve this we concluded that you need some indicator in the Existing Tags list which clearly shows which tags are in All of the selected articles and which are not. The outcome is this dialog.

Revised Tags... Dialog

Note the new In All… column, which in this example is completely empty, because there are no tags which are in all of the selected articles. After we press Save the story changes to.

Revised Tags.. Dialog

You now see animal and herbivore are clearly identified as being in all of the selected articles. You can group the tags that are in all articles together by clicking on the In All… column heading. Now when you see a tag that you want to add is already in the Existing Tags list and it is In All articles, you can skip it if you want, or you might find it easier just to add it and let Surfulater look after things.

The bottom line is that there really isn’t any point in scrolling through a long list of Existing Tags to see if a tag you want to add is there or not, just go ahead and add it.

Where do we need your help?

First does this all make sense? Can you think of better ways to add and removes tags from a group of articles? Should we have separate Add and Remove processes or does combining them into one dialog deliver a better user experience? If so, does the combined dialog we’ve presented above, work for you?

Do you find the user interface for removing tags intuitive? Could you work out how to use it just by looking at the dialog or is it confusing or difficult to grasp?

Please do give us your feedback and help us make some important decisions on this aspect of tagging and untagging multiple articles at once. All our lines are open. 😉

The Next Pre-Release

I am in the midst of wrapping up another new pre-release which will include the combined Add + Remove Tags dialog as described here. It should be available this week. Keep your eye on the Blog for details.

To be continued…

The Topic for this post says Part 1. We have an alternate combined Add/Remove dialog user interface on the drawing board, which we will present here as soon as it is ready, so stay tuned.

Surfulater Pre-Release Version Tagging moves ahead

The next Surfulater Pre-Release, Version is now available. If you haven’t already read about Version 2.91 and its Tagging goodness, I suggest you start there.

V2.92 addresses the pending issues noted in the Release Notes for the last release, namely Article Tags now copy when Articles are copied across KB’s, Search searches Article Tags and the Tags auto-suggest list vertical position is now correct when the Content window is scrolled.

We have also revamped the Tags Tree to remove the unnecessary root node, as well as the vertical lines that connect the top level tags. The image used for the nested sub-tags has also been changed, so they look different to the top level tags. This is what it looks like now.

Updated Tags Tree

These updates simplify and improve the look of the tree and make it easier to use.

We still have further work to do on Tagging, including the ability to Tag multiple articles at once, remove tags from multiple articles, show all UnTagged articles in the Tags Tree and more, so stay tuned.

If you held of installing the last pre-release I am pleased to report it has proven stable with no significant problems showing up.

Click this pre-release and do keep your comments and suggestions coming. Full Release Notes are in the Help as always.