All-In-1 Scheduling

    The task of scheduling resources is usually a difficult endeavor due to an overwhelming multitude of details, requirements and considerations. To effectively govern this universe of micro-demands you need meticulous order. You need an environment in which nothing goes under the radar, in which every detail is visually in front of you, and in which every resource's angle is covered. At its nature, scheduling is really an art, and just like a professional artist, you need a studio to create a masterpiece.

    The Scheduling Studio is a versatile tool which supports any kind of scheduling scenario. It allows you to schedule on generic days or on calendar dates; at flexible times/timescales, periods, shifts or a mixture of them all; it allows scheduling individuals and/or groups; it allows scheduling rooms, buildings and equipment; it allows assigning themes/subjects to activities and displaying the schedules of these themes; it allows multiple choices of resources per activity; it allows predefined simultaneous activities and consecutive activities; and much more.

    The program can be used in educational institutions such as schools, colleges and universities. It can be used for scheduling employees. It can be used for scheduling nurses and doctors in a hospital. It can be used for scheduling buses, trains, airplanes or other types of transportation. It can be used for scheduling hotel staff. It can be used for scheduling conference speakers and lectures. Any scenario in which people and resources are involved is supported.

    The program is equally suitable for small and large institutions. Even if you have 100,000 people to schedule, you will instantly see all of them in any popup list throughout the software. The program also supports keyboard search - you can start typing a resource's name in any list and the list will immediately be scrolled down to highlight the matching resource.

    Integrated Scheduling Environment

    The workspace which is unveiled to you when you open a schedule's file is comprised of several work areas called panes. The panes are: the main schedule's pane, resources & activities pane, properties pane and bottom rooms & combinations pane. Most of the panes have a header at the top which contains buttons, popup lists and tabs. Their roles are different for each type of pane, as explained below. Note that most of the functionality of the software is embedded in the interaction with these panes (rather than inside menus or dialogs). If the program's menus seem bare to you at first glance, that is understandable and expected.

    The main schedule pane contains the schedule grid. This pane can actually be split to sub-panes either vertically or horizontally and each sub-pane will contain a separate grid. You can continue splitting the sub-panes as well until you reach the desired layout. The schedule grid allows selecting, dragging & dropping, copying, cutting, pasting and deleting cells. At the top of the schedule pane appears the navigation header in which the days/dates and resources whose schedule is shown are selected. It is possible to display the schedule of multiple resources in the same table by selecting them all in the navigation header.

    The resources & activities pane is where you enter the initial database. Resources are the building blocks of activities, and activities are the building blocks of the schedule.

    There are four types of resources. The first type is human resources, which is divided to two sub-types: supervisors (aka instructors, teachers, nurses, doctors, drivers, speakers, lecturers, etc.) and participants (aka students, passengers, guests etc.). The second type is groups. Groups unite several people (human resources) which have something in common into a single entity. Any person can participate in multiple groups. A group may also be created without actually specifying or entering its participants. Groups may have sub-groups, and sub-groups may also have their own sub-groups (and so on). Sub groups' cells appear in the schedules of all their parent (and predecessor) groups. The third type of resources is thematic resources (aka subjects, themes, descriptions etc.). These are used to categorize activities by concepts and areas of interest. Themes can also be organized in a hierarchy: sub-themes, sub-sub-themes and so on. The fourth and final type of resources is physical resources which are venues (aka rooms, buildings) which and equipment.

    What's important to understand is that resources are never scheduled by themselves. Activities must be created, and they are the ones that are actually scheduled. Basically, an activity is a union of one or more resources. For example, an activity could unite a supervisor, several participants, a theme and a room. Once an activity is scheduled (on some day and time) all the involved resources are scheduled, and that activity will appear in their schedules. Activities are entered in the resources & activities pane at the right side of the workspace.

    At the bottom right corner of the workspace appears the Properties pane. Whenever you select a resource, an activity or a cell, the properties pane displays all the editable attributes of what you have selected. For example, when you select a resource in the resources & activities pane, the properties pane will display the resource's name, associated color, ID and other elements which describe the resource or provide information relevant to it. The properties pane is where most of the data entry takes place.

    Conflict Prediction and Resolution

    The most common type of a conflict is when the same resource is being scheduled to two different activities at an overlapping segment of time. Naturally, this is impossible when dealing with human resources. For the physical resources it is possible to define if and how they can be shared. For a room it is possible to define its capacity, i.e. the amount of activities, people and/or groups which the room can contain. For equipment it is possible to define the number of items in stock of that type of equipment.

    Another cause for a conflict may be the traveling distance between buildings. For each two buildings it is possible to define the amount of time it takes to travel from one to the other. When a person has two consecutive activities in his/her schedule scheduled in two different buildings, the program will raise a conflict if the gap of time between these two activities is less than the time it would take the person to reach the second building from the first.

    Blocked out cells are cells in which a resource is unavailable. It is possible to block out any time range for any resource. Scheduling an activity when any of the participating resources is blocked is also considered as a conflict.

    When an activity is either being scheduled or moved from one timeslot to another, the program helps you detect viable target timeslots by highlighting the times in which none of the involved resources is conflicted. It also highlights with a special color the timeslots in which the activity conflicts only with some activity that you currently see on screen. In such case it means that if you move away that single conflicting activity, you will be able to schedule your original activity without causing any further conflicts.

    If you do try to schedule an activity in a "non-green" timeslot, the Conflicts window will pop up. It will list all the conflicts and explain in detail the cause of each conflict. It will tell you which resources are double booked, blocked, too far away or insufficient in stock. Also, next to each conflicting activity in that window appears a small check box. It allows you to delete one of the conflicting activities directly from the Conflicts window by placing an "x" in the check box and clicking on "Continue". You may also choose to ignore the conflicts and schedule the activity anyway. In that case, the conflicts will appear in the Conflicts pane, at the right side of the workspace. You can always return to resolve any conflict by double clicking on it in the Conflicts pane.

    Printing and Reporting

    There are two types of "handouts" which can be created. The first type is a schedule printout which looks exactly like the schedule layout you see on the screen: a grid of cells organized by days and times. Needless to say, there are many printing related options which can be customized to tweak the appearance of the printed schedule, but the basic idea is that you print a grid. The second type is a report. A report, on the other hand, is a table of columns and rows containing strictly textual information. Reports have their own dedicated module which is accessible by switching to the reports view at the bottom of the workspace.

    There are several types of reports which can be generated: a report of resources or activities; a report of scheduled activities (basically the schedule in a form of a table); a report of free, blocked or scheduled resources at certain day and time; and a report of changes. All the reports can be categorized by resources (e.g. a report of a certain person or a group of people) as well as by day and time (e.g. all the scheduled activities on Monday 8:00-12:00).

    All the reports can be customized in terms of how they look and which information they display. As you have already learned, each resource has properties (like name, ID and many others). The reports' view settings allow you to choose which properties are displayed for any type of resource. Each property will be displayed in a separate column in the report. The view settings also allow you to set the fonts, sizes, word wrapping style, alignment, sorting and other attributes of each column in the report. A report contains a summary at the end of it summing up all sorts of quantities, hours, minutes and periods. It's possible to manually exclude specific rows from showing up in the report and the summary, if that is required.

    In addition to generating an actual printout, you can easily create a PDF file, you can export the printout/report to a web-site and you can even create an animated slide show to display on a monitor in a hallway in your institution.