Axosoft Upgrade Taps AJAX

Axosoft LLC's OnTime 2007 brings better requirements management, rebuilds Web App.

Development teams that rely on Excel spreadsheets or reams of e-mail to track projects may find that collaboration is easier with a team workflow tool. Microsoft Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) users already have this type of functionality. Other .NET tools, however, offer workflow tracking for a fraction of the complexity and the cost.

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based .NET tools provider Axosoft LLC is shipping version 7.0 of its flagship requirements and debugging software, OnTime 2007. The tool is designed to help dev managers figure out who's working on what, so that projects can get done on time, says Hamid Shojaee, Axosoft CEO. Shojaee says he got the idea for the product from his own dev days, when he used Microsoft Project to identify tasks and constantly held meetings to determine the status of different work items.

OnTime uses a hierarchy tree to help dev teams track their projects, from features and requirements to bugs and incident reports. The software features a work items window that lets users attach notes and screenshots, and a miniature dashboard that shows the status of work items. The company touts the product's ease of use: "Within four hours the entire team can be up and running, including an introductory lesson, so they know how to get about the product," asserts Shojaee. "Don't try that with VSTS."

OnTime is available as a hosted service or local application and offers a choice of Visual Studio, Windows or Web clients. The VS.NET client is targeted specifically at developers. As such, it doesn't offer administrative capabilities, such as workflow templates. The Windows and Web versions offer project management functionality -- once the templates have been created, they can be used in the VS plug-in.

New Web Experience
OnTime 2007 brings the functionality of the Web client in line with the Windows version for .NET 2.0 environments. The Web UI, rebuilt for this release using ASP.NET AJAX, brings Asynchronous JavaScript and XML techniques to the cross-platform browser (IE, Firefox) in the form of drop-down menus, multi-select and edit capabilities, and data-only page refreshes, among other features. It also lets users customize their interfaces; they can resize and reordering columns and use these settings wherever they log on.

"The Web product has now caught up with the Windows installation and in some ways, even surpasses it," says Shojaee. "We've invested heavily in our hosting infrastructure. You have the exact same functionality that you would if you did the installation yourself, except we manage it for you and make sure that you have the latest release."

Hosted environments make sense for smaller companies that don't have comparable IT infrastructure. Axosoft uses Dell servers in its own data center environment run by network service provider Limelight Networks LLC, which also hosts services for Microsoft Xbox Live and divisions of Inc. "The hosted version is approximately one-tenth the cost [per user]," says Shojaee.

Other new features in Version 7.0 include incident tracking, which lets users track support calls and e-mails; a startup Wizard to help customize the tool's UI for different dev methodologies; a Customer Portal plug-in for issue tracking; and enhanced security features.

OnTime integrates with Microsoft SQL Server and includes a Crystal Reports engine. The VS.NET and Windows versions integrate with several source-code control systems including CVS -- added in this release -- Visual SourceSafe, SourceGear's Vault, Perforce Software's SCM and Subversion. The OnTime 2007 SDK, which lets developers extend the product, is expected this month.

OnTime 2007 is designed to work with .NET 2.0. "We typically standardize on new technologies, such as new versions of .NET, within eight to 16 months after they hit the market," says Shojaee.

The company's in a crowded market (with 100-plus competitors) and fields a lot of questions about Team System. But the Microsoft product, which provides team workflow tracking, among a wide range of functionality, has not affected sales, according to Shojaee "Our sales have grown [more than] 400 percent since the release of VSTS," he says.

A single-use OnTime 2007 license is free to all users. Team editions start at $495 for five licenses -- this can include a mix of client types. After five users, the hosted version costs $49 per user, compared to $199 per user for installed versions.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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