Dev Diary 12 (2016-05-23)

by | May 23, 2016 | Dev Diary | 3 comments

Hi hacknplanners!

This new update comes with a pair of interesting features many of you were waiting for: the backlog panel and the email notifications. We had another cool feature we couldn’t finally deliver this iteration, task dependencies (blocking tasks until others are completed) but we underestimated some of the backend work that was required to make the two others work, specially making the milestone optional for tasks. The application was designed with the milestone being one of the key elements of the system, and making it optional required us making lots of tiny changes that affected almost everything. This required a deep regression test that forced us to push some tasks out of this milestone. We also added a few small improvements and fixed some bugs.

Let’s go!

Features and improvements

  • Backlog: As you probably know, a backlog is a tool to keep track of the future work that does not belong to any milestone yet. You are not forced to assign a task to a milestone on creation anymore, you can just send them to the backlog and redistribute them afterwards. Our first idea was to create an independent page for the backlog, but after some prototyping we realized it works better integrated into the board page. You’ve got an entry to select the backlog in the milestone selector at the top right part of the board, which will be automatically selected when you don’t have an active milestone yet. The main difference with the board is it doesn’t contain status columns, so the tasks are displayed as a list. You can sort and filter them exactly as in the milestone boards, and also select the different categories from the left panel and use the right click context menu.
  • Email notifications: This feature has been actively requested by many of you as a way of being informed about what’s going on in your project. Before, notifications were displayed in the application UI onlybut now you will also receive emails with a description of the activity and a link to quickly go to the right place on the application. In case you’re afraid of your inbox being collapsed with unwanted notification emails, we have provided a settings page where you can decide how each one of your notifications are delivered. You can decide if you want them to be sent to the UI, to your email, both places or none of them. We included a link to this page both at the footer of the notification emails and the UI notification panel. More notification types will come during the next iterations.


  • Input field auto-selection: This is a little but useful improvement in order to maximize your productivity. The content of the input fields in the task and game model element editors is now selected automatically. This will make the edition of several elements/tasks in a row a bit more direct, as you won’t have to delete the existing value before adding the new one.
  • Board cache: You probably remember that several milestones ago we introduced this little trick in order to improve the loading times of the boards. Well, we found some small issues shortly after and we decided to turn it off, but we have finally fixed them and the feature is activated again. What this trick does is keeping the board data in memory in the server while you or someone in your team is working on it, so it doesn’t need to go to the SQL database each time you need to retrieve them. The cache is freed after 10 minutes.

Bug fixes

  • The counts displayed next to the categories at the left of the board were not being refreshed after switching the milestone using the new dropdown. This one was solved and hotfixed a day after last update.
  • The link on the task creation confirmation popup was not working properly. This was hotfixed too.
  • The milestone due date was sometimes showing a day less than the one introduced on milestone creation or edition. This was related to the timezone of the date input.
  • Small visual bug: the cost metric (hours, days or points) was not displayed next to the cost values in the task editor.
  • The caret of the milestone dropdown was being moved to the next line in some browsers.
  • We removed the footer last milestone, but the notification panel was still taking into account the footer space. We hotfixed this right after the update.

What’s next?

We will implement the feature we couldn’t address this iteration, task dependencies. We’ll also work on a task search system, game model improvements and, if we have enough time, a small surprise I think you will love. And remember, follow us on FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn and spread the word about us, the more hacknplanners we are, the better this tool will become.

Happy planning!


  1. Dave Coleman

    Re: email notifications… perhaps an aggregator function? Email notifications once a day or something?

    • Chris Estevez

      Thanks for the suggestion Dave, sounds like a good next iteration for this feature, although if you don’t really need to get them when they happen, checking them in the application would be probably enough and less invasive than an email. But it’s a good idea to think about.

      • Dave Coleman

        The idea came from using JIRA at my day job. I generally end up ignoring email notifications during the day unless they’re critical, but I also dedicate time at the beginning of each day to reading through all outstanding notification emails to get caught up on the day. I’ve often wished for an aggregate daily issue summary when traveling and trying to stay up to date.

        I see your point, and I agree it’s better to drive people to the site to view them whenever possible. It was more of a brainstorm than a feature request. The site is already quite excellent.


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