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Time-saving quick tips: Don't underestimate their value

Sometimes the simplest tip or keyboard command can shed hours off a day's work. Resident expert Brian Mahoney offers some advice on creating what he calls "super savers."

Not everything has to be complicated and detailed to be effective. Sometimes the simplest process, code, tip or keyboard command can shed hours off a day's work. expert Brian Mahoney offers some advice on creating what he calls "super savers."

I've noticed over the years that it isn't always the bigger, more detailed systems being developed that get the biggest buy-in and usage from the client base. Often, it is the simplest things that provide the end user with enough reward that they use it over and over again.

When meeting with people on projects, I often end up imparting some small tip on Notes/Domino that can save that user a good bit of time. It can be as simple as a explaining to a manager that pressing CTRL+M anywhere in the Notes client launches a new memo -- this can save someone a little bit of time, but many times a day. It seems that making a repetitive task quicker has the highest adoption rate.

For example, a marketing group must update 40 Acrobat PDF files every month to reflect changes in the underlying product. They notified the Web content group that the new files were ready. The marketing group stored the files in a tree structure related to the year and month in which the file was created and the file names also contained the year and month. On the Web, each products' file name remained the same from month to month because only the current information was available. Each month the Web team would spend a few hours copying the files to a staging area and renaming them to the name used on the Web site. This was the ideal spot for a "QuickTip," or what I call a super saver script.

Spending about as much time as it took to copy the files each month, I wrote a small script to take care of the process. The user inputs the year and month of the requested file, and the script copies the files from their current locations to the staging location, renaming them in the process. The user now enters two pieces of information, clicks a button and the files are moved. Three hours cut down to just a few minutes -- a real super savings.

On the home front, our development group on-call person would check a number of things each morning to see if there were any issues that needed to be addressed each morning. It would take a little time, but it would give us some lead time on issues that may not have been reported. After working the process for a while, we decided to automate this and expand this process.

Our new on-call report determines the starting time based on the day it is run. If it is Monday, the starting point is the 6:00 a.m. of the previous Friday. Otherwise, the starting point is 6:00 a.m. the previous day. The script will search for any information from the starting point to the current time. First the script scans an error database looking for any errors that were mailed in during the period. If it finds any, it creates an entry in an e-mail indicating the error message and a link to the error document (which contains more information and a link back to the source database and records). The report script then scans server logs for the period and reports any application errors that show up.

Before the process was automated, it took a while to open the error database and scan for pertinent records. Now the script runs a while, since it is checking multiple server logs and databases; but once it's kicked off, all the information that may need to be investigated is included in the report. It makes the process easier and less likely to miss something.

Another super saver that I created is a small bit of formula language in a smart icon that assists a user in producing an ad-hoc report. A part of this report reviewed recent changes in information architecture-related items, the user includes a list of items that have been reviewed by a technical review committee, the status of that review and a link to the full document in the review database. Originally, this all was done manually. Now, when in the review database, the user selects the document to include in the report and then the code gathers the information from the review database, writes it to an environment variable and copies the doclink information to the clipboard. When not in the review database, the smart icon code inserts the doclink in the current document and appends a formatted version of the review information on the same line. This cuts the process of adding an item to the report to just two clicks, and it's another great time saver that is now used over and over again.

Do you have a bit of code or have you reworked a process that has saved your users so much time and effort that it was quickly and wholeheartedly adopted by your clients? Share your story with us. Send your SuperSaver story to

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