Version 2.0 Work Slow and Steady

The biggest feature request has been cloud syncing feature. With such a big improvement comes a bump to version 2.0. Also on the way with this release comes a refresh to the apps icon set.

The cloud sync plan was going to be a custom hosted cloud service. However, the best long term solution for every option is the Microsoft Graph. Ink Calendar 2.0 will enable users to login with their MSA and sync via OneDrive.

All of the symbols throughout Ink Calendar are being refreshed with Microsoft’s new fluent icons. They are natural and fit the natural shape of inking better than the previous symbol set.

Work is ongoing and hopefully be finished soon. While I want this release to be perfect I also needs to get into users hands to increase their productivity.

Joe

Simple Elements and Bug Fixes

For years I’ve been adding features to Ink Calendar making it more complex. At the same time I’ve been tracking and squashing bugs. This is the classic cycle of app development. With Ink Calendar 1.27 I’ve broken the UI elements into smaller chunks making it easier to reuse them and to find exactly where the bugs are happening.

Since Ink Calendar uses calendar data from Windows 10 that means many of the calendar views are drawn using async methods. Understanding failures in async methods via AppCenter can be tricky. By breaking down the rendering of each UI component into their own UserControl I’ve been able to narrow down exactly where errors are occuring.

Another way 1.27 is more reliable and robust will be in the settings page. The page loading sequence has been reordered to put the longest running tasks at the back and let data validation occur while those long running tasks are happening. Now working hours, agenda start/stop, and week start/stop times should all validate before saving bad data. This was an issue which can be hard to find on my development machine because usually the settings page loaded so fast, but personal usage on my Surface Go highlighted this problem.

The work done in 1.27 doesn’t bring any new major features to users, but should enable me to do some cool view blending in the future. Now that each of these controls are broken out on their own they can be inserted into different views in different ways. Look forward to a possible new blog post about how views could be changing.

As always, thank you for using Ink Calendar. If you encounter any issues please email support at inkcalendar dot com, and if you have any suggestions or ideas I’m always interested to hear!

Joe

WinUI Comes to Ink Calendar

Ink Calendar now makes use of WinUI with version 1.26. In addition to this new modern UI framework comes many changes and bug fixes throughout the app. One of the elements of Ink Calendar which has been improved is when tapping the canvas even when Ink is not selected the Ink Actions menu appears to make you more productive and bring information to your fingertips.

Previously tapping on the inking canvas would just select ink. Now tapping the canvas invokes the Ink Actions menu with a new day button. This button when tapped shows appointments and the ability to quickly jump to different views. The new improvement to the Ink Actions menu means you can more quickly see appointments and can more fluidly switch between days.

When in the year view tapping on any day will enable the Ink Actions menu to show appointments for that day. Quickly zoom into a view or skim a quick list of appointments. In addition to this working on the year view, it also works when tapping the month days shown on the day view. Quickly peak into another day and see what you have going on.

In addition to these changes there have been many bug fixes throughout the app. One major change is handling the way Ink Calendar interacts with the Windows 10 Calendar data. Now when Ink Calendar does not have access to the calendar data the user is notified with a list of steps to take.

If you have any feedback about Ink Calendar don’t hesitate to email support at inkcalendar.com

Joe

Custom View Appointments and Bug Fixes

After releasing Ink Calendar 1.25.3 work began on bringing appointments to the custom views. No major issues were found with the custom views, but there have been nagging bugs within Ink Calendar which have been very difficult to understand what is happening. In addition to rewriting the appointment render logic I have been focusing on every error I see in Microsoft AppCenter.

Appointments

Adding appointments to custom views meant writing as a patchwork of controls which held the smallest size of a appointment canvas. For example the month view shows appointments for a single day, but multi-day appointments stretch over a single day. This means there needs to be a control which displays a week of days and overlays appointments correctly.

Fighting Bugs

With all new features there is the possibility of bugs and crashes. One of the more common crashes I was seeing after introducing Custom Views was “The added or subtracted value results in an un-representable DateTime.” It is unclear why or when this happens. I have several theories but none of them seem to remove this issue altogether.

The issue can be mitigated by making sure the DateTime isn’t of year 0 which would not work when adding a previous year. However maybe this issue happens because the ViewStateHistory list crashes due to File Access Violations. This is also unclear because the actual failure has nothing to do with the ViewStateHistory. What makes me think the ViewStateHistory could be involved is a blank ViewStateHistory could drive the main view constructor to start from a DateTime of 0,0,0.

All this to say bugs are tricky and the hardest part is finding what is failing. Hopefully 1.25.9 will bring an end to this bug and small improvements all over Ink Calendar. Thanks as always for reading.

Joe

Finally, Custom Views

From the first prototypes of Ink Calendar over two years ago I have wanted to add the ability to create arbitrary views representing specific projects or seasons. Now that time has come with version 1.25 of Ink Calendar.

Why use Custom Views?

Planning long term projects is never easy. Looking forward and plotting out when and how to get work done seems like it should be easy. Hopefully with Custom Views Ink Calendar can become a tool which makes long term planning easy and pain free.

At work I have a few long term projects which span several months. Being able to start a new view dedicated to this project enables me to see where I am and where I need to go. Not flipping through months but one unified view for everything.

Planning for a marathon? Planning travel schedules? Use a Custom View to see the schedule. Keep it as organized as you need. Be flexible and ink the way which feels natural.

How to use Custom Views

  1. Click the “All Views” button which opens a pane on the right side of the app
  2. Switch to the “Custom” section of the pane
  3. Click “+New Custom View” at the bottom of the pane
  4. Set all of the details as you want them and click “Done”
  5. Now the view you created will open and now be visible in the All Views Pane

This is the beginning of this feature and I plan to add more details and features to custom views over the coming weeks and months. Please let me know what you are most interested in seeing what is not working.

Joe

Deep Dive: “Why can’t I see ink from other views on the current view?”

Users have asked this question a couple of times. If you have ink on a day in the month view, then switch over to the week view, shouldn’t you be able to see what is written on the month view? Currently there is no mixing between views and this was a design decision but also a technical/UX roadblock.

Design Decision

The way I use Ink Calendar drove the way I designed the app. Year view represents my long term planning. When will I be traveling, when holidays land and how I’m going to use my vacation time. I use month views for daily tracking, jumping quickly between months and looking at what’s coming up in a couple weeks.

Week view is for hour by hour planning of the work week or weekend. When to expect things to come and go. Day view is used when I need to nail down a specific agenda for a day. Like there is a lot going on and I need to know where people are going to be and what is going on.

By these standards I have no need to see all of the different views overlapping each other. Generally I view Ink Calendar as a way to organize my thoughts and plans quickly and easily. When I need to share an event with someone or let it span views, then I add an appointment to my calendar.

Distraction and clutter free planning has always been a core design intent of Ink Calendar. I want to make it easy to jot down timelines and move them around. Overlapping ink from all different views on to a single view would not mesh with this design. Views would become extremely crowded and busy.

Technical and UX Roadblocks

Currently Ink Calendar relates one view to one ink file. Each ink file is loaded into an InkCanvas control. If I were to show week view ink on top of month view ink then any new ink would be added to the week view ink file. Parsing user intent on where they expect the ink to save and load gets complicated and nearly impossible to disentangle.

If the InkCanvas views were not overlapping, but laid out in some sort of side by side arrangement then there would need to be an InkCanvas control for each view. This could work, but it would make for a confusing user experience where a single pen stroke could not span the different views.

Ink Calendar currently can use a lot of RAM from loading views to the right and left of the current view. If one view contained the ink of four different views, then the RAM needs would be much larger. Since I typically use Ink Calendar on a Surface Go, I have no expectation that it would preform well, especially if there is a lot of ink.

It may be possible to have a merged view which shows all of the different views for a particular day. I have been looking into how to render views out as .jpg files. This could help the performance problem and give a unified view to show what is going on at every level for a single date.

Continuous Improvement

If you are reading this and believe I have completely missed something or have a novel idea on how to solve this tricky situation then please let me know. I am going to experiment with adding ink between different views in different ways to see how it feels and looks, however I do not know how it will turn out.

Finally, throughout the development process decisions get made at every fork:

  • Should the ink be editable in a different InkCanvas or just view only?
  • Should year view ink be shown in the day view calendar?
  • Should I add a truncated week to the top of the week view?
  • What about the partial weeks at the end of a month, merge or overlap them?
  • Show the view-only ink as transparent?
  • Could users ink over the view-only ink?
  • Should that ink get shown on the month view?

All things considered this is a tricky problem where every users might have unique expectations. I’m not ruling this out as a possiblity, but I do not want to spend hours and hours on this feature which is only important to a small set of users. My time will probably be better used working on a cloud sync service or some other more broad appeal feature.

Please let me know what you think about all of this, and as always thanks for using Ink Calendar!

Joe

History, Calendar Fill, Month Ink Mixing in .24

The latest version of Ink Calendar is out and it is packed with new features, bug fixes, and very little else! Customize the fill of your calendars with the color of your choice. A new history pane now lists the most recent views which have been visited. Finally a new beta setting enables month ink to mix from previous and upcoming months.

Ink Calendar is all about customization! In this theme 1.24 brings the ability to change the background fill however you choose. Adjust the transparency, color, and it’s intensity to get a background fill which looks perfect! Also there is now a preview which shows you what your options will look like as you pick them.

Sometimes when I’m using Ink Calendar I find myself switching between a few different views frequently. The previous view button is nice, but sometimes I want to see where I’ve been so I can get back to it. Now a button next to the view change button shows a pane of recent history! This pane will continue to evolve into the home for a few new features which I’m personally very excited for!

I had a user leave a review where they requested the ability to show the previous month’s ink where the days overlap. This is a natural way to get a heads up when the days are show, why not also show the ink? Well now there’s an options to see the previous and upcoming month’s ink overlain onto the current month. This ties the different months together and gives continuity in the ink.

Finally I have improved the stability of Ink Calendar in a few different ways. The addition of AppCenter crash data has opened a window into the crash reports; what is causing crashes and where. hopefully Ink Calendar 1.24 is more stable than ever before. There are still a few bugs which I’m taking care of but they are within my sights!

As always, thanks for using Ink Calendar and I do hope you send me an email at support [at] inkcalendar [dot] com to let me know how you use Ink Calendar and how it could work better for you!

Joe

UNDO

In update 1.22.1 Ink Calendar will gain the ability to UNDO with the undo button and by pressing ctrl + z. There is not much more to say on this, most programs have this ability and now Ink Calendar does too!

Also you can highlight working hours on the Week and Day view. These can be turned off or adjusted to reflect your specific working hours. Let me know what you think!

I’ve been investegating an issues with quick drags freezing Ink Calendar, but the bug is hard to pin down. If you have experienced this please email support (at) inkcalendar (dot) com.

Joe

Day view improvements and more

Ink Calendar 1.21 is rolling out now with a few different features in tow. As I used the day view I found myself wishing that there was a current time indicator on the agenda, and now there is!

Also the month view appointment layout engine has been reworked to better display appointments which span more than one day. This design is similar to the built in Windows Calendar app. Hopefully it is more obvious when multi-day events begin and end.

Show or hide calendars

Finally now you can filter which calendars show up in each view. Currently Windows only gives a minimal amount of information about the origin of the calendar, but hopefully the color coding helps. Now you can reduce the number of calendars shown on month view or set aside day view for work only. Totally up to you!

Let me know what you think of 1.21 on twitter I’m @TheJoeFin or email support [at] inkcalendar [dot com] for issues, suggestions, or anything else.


-Joe