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More Gain, Less Pain getting started in 3.6

UPDATE: The release candidate of xTuple 3.6.0 is available for download (no installer yet, just binaries and databases). 

We have really ramped up our efforts this year to increase the appeal and usability of the user interface. From the new Desktop and Quick Start Wizard, to  improved search functionality we have focused efforts on making it easier to get started and use xTuple.  Version 3.6, now in Beta, will continue that trend by allowing users to launch virtually any document from any other document.   That's right:  No more hunting around the menu system trying to find the edit list for the records you are searching.  Just jump to where you need to go from right where you are.

The new search cluster introduced in 3.5 now replaces all searchable widgets including customer, vendor and work order, and now you can create documents from any of those by selecting "New" on the menu list.  Similarly The combo box pictured on the left also includes the ability to jump directly to the edit list for those items (provided you have privileges of course).

But that's not all.  We've completely reorganized and consolidated the maintenance areas of xTuple in one common and easy to understand "Setup" screen. Read more »

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Rpt. from the other xTuple Project

We tend to put a lot of emphasis on xTuple ERP here since that is clearly the most influential project we sponsor as indicated by its consistent #1 ranking on Source Forge (yes, that's right... #1 of over 240,000 projects).  My recent kudos to the many xTuple contributors were focused almost exclusively on the PostBooks project.  However, I also need to give praise where it is due to major contributors of the original xTuple open source project: OpenRPT.  Open source contributor Ilya Diallo contributed print preview capability to OpenRPT and superstar full time developer Chris Ryan both wrote and rewrote OpenRPT almost entirely. Both efforts have a significant impact on xTuple ERP 3.6Read more »

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The Dangers of Unchecked Power

One of my favorite quotes these days is from “Sideshow” by Sheri S. Tepper: “Evil comes from unchecked power.” Oracle's recent lawsuit against Google over their use of Java in the Android operating system is ample proof of this if there wasn't enough already in the world at large.

How does Oracle get away with this? Java is mostly open source, isn't it? Well, actually, software can be open source and still be proprietary - and Oracle, now that it owns Sun, defines the specification for Java. Open source or not, Java is Oracle's intellectual property. They have taken a phenomenal technological development that millions of people depend on, and have turned it into a weapon against their foe(s) - and by doing so are endangering the stability of the entire Java ecosystem. Are you surprised? As Lord Acton said: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Fortunately for the xTuple community the PostBooks project rests entirely on foundations that are rooted in not only open source projects, but international standards not owned by any corporate entity.

  Read more »

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Open source working for you

It's easy for us full time developers to get sucked into blogging mostly about our own achievements in a release cycle. However, as an open source project I don't think we should neglect shining the spotlight on contributions from our community.  After all, these are the people using the software in the real world and trying to solve real world problems with it.  In fact well over 100 contributions have been implemented in the core in the 3.5.x series already.  Project Time & Expense, Support for electronic banking in Austrailia, saving files directly to the database,  G/L Account mappings for cost elements, a new Incident report, more ubiquitous use of the Job Costing report, increasing price precision for P/O and an API view for accounts payable memos are some of my favorites.

 
Project Time & Expense Lite
This was an enormous contribution from our partner szuke at Core Services Group who was incidentally the winner of the 2010 haxTuple bug derby (final results here). He submitted the extension package for a Time & Expense tracking system for CRM Project that is now part of the xTuple core project on Source Forge (no pun intended).  Core Services also offers a premium version that can used for billing purposes.  Both the free and commercial versions are available for download from our xChange app. store.
Support for Electronic Banking in Australia
We have had support for generating electronic checks for some time... but only for North America (NACHA format).  Thanks to this contribution from dataforge we now support the ABA electronic check format for Australia.  Implementing this one also forced our hand a bit to find a way to implement hooks to allow for users to create and implement functions to support any local banking format.  Now those hooks are in the system as a configuration option.  We're hoping more people will submit functions to support additional formats in the future.
Saving Files to the Database
Power user and xTuple partner benson liked our ability to link documents to each other using our Documents widget, but didn't like so much that we only supported URL linking for external documents.  So he submitted code to enable saving external files directly in the database.  That way users don't have to worry about links getting broken because of inaccessible file server paths (especially a problem in a mixed OS environment) or users moving a file and therefore breaking the link.  We got so excited about this one that we even enhanced it ourselves a little further by adding a file watcher to the file when it's opened. When you open a file from the database the file is exported to a temporary directory; if you make changes to the file and click save, the file watcher sees the changes and quietly imports the new version of the file back into the database. That keeps the copy of the file in the database current.
G/L Mapping support for user defined cost elements
This is another contribution by benson.  We have supported user defined costing elements almost from the beginning, but one big shortcoming is they didn't really have any impact on the General Ledger.  This got kind of ugly when they were used on a manufactured item because any cost attributed to one of these elements had no place to go so always ended up being recorded as a variance.  Now you can specify a G/L account mapping on the cost element so costs associated with that automatically get expensed to the proper account when production is posted.  Hooray!
Ability to print an Incident report
U-Haul power user pallavi noticed a functional hole in that there was no way to physically print an Incident.  That's kind of a problem if you've got a red hot one that you want to get on a piece of paper to show someone who may not have quick access to xTuple (say a shop floor worker... or a CEO? ;)  ).  Problem is now solved.
Make the job costing report work for any work order
It used to be that the Job Costing report only worked for work orders that were for job costed items.  xTuple Partner lcarteeat Magical Custom Programming asked, "Why can't we see that job data for ANY work order regardless of cost method?"  The answer is, there's no good reason not to allow that, so he submitted a change to remove that restriction.
Increase the price precision for purchased items
This is a prime example of something that dogged us for a long time but always seemed to sit on the back burner.  To be honest most of our development is driven by users who sponsor it, or architectural changes we think will increase use and/or sales of our product.  Increasing the precision of P/O price handling was one of those things that people often complained about, but just wasn't getting bumped up in priority.  Power user and winner of the 2009 xTuple bug derbyjstandring finally took it upon himself to address this one.  This is the kind of contribution that reminds me why I first fell in love with the concept of open source in the first place.
API view for Accounts Payable Memos
This one from our Canadian partner asplus is a great example of the kind of thing that can help with 3rd party integration, and can also make life much easier for someone going live.  Instead of keying in 1,500 open payables two days before you go live, why not just import them?
Special Mention:
I can't build a list like this without mentioning our power user and partner in Mexico malfredo32, the runner up contentestant in haxTuple 2010.  Not only has he contributed about a dozen patch features and fixes, he resolved many more dozens of outstanding issues in the haxTuple competition.  He also was the first one to reach 100% on the translation portal.  Finally,  we also jokingly call him our Mexican QA department as he is always the first to jump in and thoroughly test beta and release candidate versions of our software.  His bug finds are typically the best in our community, and I guarantee result in better software releases for everybody.
There are so many more people who have made great patch contributions.  At some point I'd like to have a "Hall of Fame" page so they can all be listed and get credit.  In the mean time I just want offer this public "Thank You" to everyone in the community who has submitted code, a bug or even a forum posting.  All these activities are contributing to making xTuple the best open source business system available.
 
Project Time & Expense Lite
This was an enormous contribution from our partner szuke at Core Services Group who was incidentally the winner of the 2010 haxTuple bug derby (final results here). He submitted the extension package for a Time & Expense tracking system for CRM Project that is now part of the xTuple core project on Source Forge (no pun intended).  Core Services also offers a premium version that can used for billing purposes.  Both the free and commercial versions are available for download from our xChange app. store.
Support for Electronic Banking in Australia
We have had support for generating electronic checks for some time... but only for North America (NACHA format).  Thanks to this contribution from dataforge we now support the ABA electronic check format for Australia.  Implementing this one also forced our hand a bit to find a way to implement hooks to allow for users to create and implement functions to support any local banking format.  Now those hooks are in the system as a configuration option.  We're hoping more people will submit functions to support additional formats in the future.
Saving Files to the Database
Power user and xTuple partner benson liked our ability to link documents to each other using our Documents widget, but didn't like so much that we only supported URL linking for external documents.  So he submitted code to enable saving external files directly in the database.  That way users don't have to worry about links getting broken because of inaccessible file server paths (especially a problem in a mixed OS environment) or users moving a file and therefore breaking the link.  We got so excited about this one that we even enhanced it ourselves a little further by adding a file watcher to the file when it's opened. When you open a file from the database the file is exported to a temporary directory; if you make changes to the file and click save, the file watcher sees the changes and quietly imports the new version of the file back into the database. That keeps the copy of the file in the database current.
G/L Mapping support for user defined cost elements
This is another contribution by benson.  We have supported user defined costing elements almost from the beginning, but one big shortcoming is they didn't really have any impact on the General Ledger.  This got kind of ugly when they were used on a manufactured item because any cost attributed to one of these elements had no place to go so always ended up being recorded as a variance.  Now you can specify a G/L account mapping on the cost element so costs associated with that automatically get expensed to the proper account when production is posted.  Hooray!
Ability to print an Incident report
U-Haul power user pallavi noticed a functional hole in that there was no way to physically print an Incident.  That's kind of a problem if you've got a red hot one that you want to get on a piece of paper to show someone who may not have quick access to xTuple (say a shop floor worker... or a CEO? ;)  ).  Problem is now solved.
Make the job costing report work for any work order
It used to be that the Job Costing report only worked for work orders that were for job costed items.  xTuple Partner lcarteeat Magical Custom Programming asked, "Why can't we see that job data for ANY work order regardless of cost method?"  The answer is, there's no good reason not to allow that, so he submitted a change to remove that restriction.
Increase the price precision for purchased items
This is a prime example of something that dogged us for a long time but always seemed to sit on the back burner.  To be honest most of our development is driven by users who sponsor it, or architectural changes we think will increase use and/or sales of our product.  Increasing the precision of P/O price handling was one of those things that people often complained about, but just wasn't getting bumped up in priority.  Power user and winner of the 2009 xTuple bug derbyjstandring finally took it upon himself to address this one.  This is the kind of contribution that reminds me why I first fell in love with the concept of open source in the first place.
API view for Accounts Payable Memos
This one from our Canadian partner asplus is a great example of the kind of thing that can help with 3rd party integration, and can also make life much easier for someone going live.  Instead of keying in 1,500 open payables two days before you go live, why not just import them?
Special Mention:
I can't build a list like this without mentioning our power user and partner in Mexico malfredo32, the runner up contentestant in haxTuple 2010.  Not only has he contributed about a dozen patch features and fixes, he resolved many more dozens of outstanding issues in the haxTuple competition.  He also was the first one to reach 100% on the translation portal.  Finally,  we also jokingly call him our Mexican QA department as he is always the first to jump in and thoroughly test beta and release candidate versions of our software.  His bug finds are typically the best in our community, and I guarantee result in better software releases for everybody.
There are so many more people who have made great patch contributions.  At some point I'd like to have a "Hall of Fame" page so they can all be listed and get credit.  In the mean time I just want offer this public "Thank You" to everyone in the community who has submitted code, a bug or even a forum posting.  All these activities are contributing to making xTuple the best open source business system available.
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Ta Da! xTuple 3.5.1 Beta with Desktop is here.

UPDATE: The final version of xTuple Desktop is available for download. Remember that the Desktop requires xTuple 3.5.1 or higher. You'll need the Udpater to install the Desktop. Read more »

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Coming Soon: xTuple Smart Desktop

Are you an xTuple user who ever thought it would make sense to put something in that huge blank space below the toolbar?  Yeah, I know you can put wall paper in there, but surely we can do better than that.  Well, we've been thinking about it too.  Read on to learn what's coming in the new "xTuple Desktop." Read more »

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Taking on The Big Cluster

For several years now we've had a very large widget called the "Contact Cluster" that is used as the common interface to edit and search for contacts. 

This device was implemented when CRM was introduced into xTuple in version 2.0.  The idea was to preserve the previous look and feel of contact information which had been stored locally on each table but, with the introduction of CRM, was being normalized into a single CRM contacts table.  It made sense in theory because people say they don't like jumping around to a new screen every time they need to enter new information and we try when we can to reduce upgrade surprises by maintaining some consistency in the interface.  

In practice however, this strategy has been less than optimal.  Read more »

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haxTuple (bug derby) details

We are proud to announce haxTuple - our second annual "bug derby," now underway.  Check out the leaderboard in the left-hand navigation of this page.

From February 15th to March 8th, we will be obsessively fixated on resolving as many bugs as possible for the 3.5 release and we are inviting the greater xTuple community to join in. 

There will be prizes for participating contributors - including an Apple iPad, free seats of xTuple training, T-shirts, and some great geek toys (read on)...  Read more »

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Step on the Accelerator

It's clear from the responses to my U and I Need to Talk post a couple months ago that the number one complaint of the community is keyboard navigation issues.  This is actually a surprising revelation because having started out on character based systems myself I understand the benefits of keyboard navigation and spent years trying to convince windows users to work that way.  All those efforts were for naught.  No one ever took that advice and a couple years ago I threw my hands up on that cause. Now here I am getting an avalanche of feedback that users want better keyboard navigation on our application!

I'd like to make some progress on this issue, but we need your help.  Here's how: Read more »

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Drop Ship Purchasing specification underway

As many of you know, we take great pride in the transparency of our development process.  In the spirit of that approach, I'd like to draw your attention to the Drop Ship Purchasing specification currently being written for development in the 3.5 release of xTuple.  This fairly large feature is sponsored by a sole user, but we are confident that it will bring significant value to the broader user base.   The main goal is to help automate the Purchase Order creation process for businesses that Purchase to Order.  Though the sponsor is a Manufacturing Edition user, it is being designed so that a fair proportion of the functionality will make its way into the PostBooks edition. Read more »