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Welcome to the f2w Helpdesk Project

Thanks to sourceforge for hosting this, and for being excellent in other ways too.

What is f2w Helpdesk?

It's a helpdesk support system based on requests (some people call them tickets), with a simple web interface. Requests can be classified into categories and assigned a priority. Categories are associated with specific well-defined problem areas, and f2w helpdesk provides a way to maintain an expert knowledge base of problems and solutions based on request categories.

This is not the place to look for a system that will help you track every minute of your support technician's time. The emphasis is on quickly identifying problems, assigning them to the best person for the job, and helping that person keep track of what needs to be done.

Features

The latest release is 1.6 It includes many things that seemed like a good idea:

Features currently supported:

  • Zope front-end (for rapid development, easy maintenance)
  • Your choice of relational DB back-end (whatever Zope supports).
  • Semi-intelligent search of contacts from a partial name.
  • Expert-system-like question/answer to categorise requests.
  • Flexible priority scheme.
  • Assignment of requests to individuals or teams.
  • E-mail notification sent to person to whom request is assigned.
  • Keep working notes on each request, can delete empty notes now.
  • Maintain knowledge base about each kind of problem.
  • Attach properties (named general-purpose data fields) to categories, so fields for entering them will appear on requests of that category. These can now be checkboxes or selection lists as well as plain text fields.
  • Reporting by category, assignee, team, originator, property etc.
  • E-mail notification to originator of request.
  • User preference for stylesheet.
  • User can set an "away until" date, so an operator assigning the requests can know who is available.
  • Limited localisation of strings (using a folder of translations for each language - "de", "en", "es", "fr", "hu", "it" and "pl" written so far)
  • Request search by various criteria.
  • Extract of requests in CSV format, for spreadsheet use.
  • Restricted access for non-team members.

Features still to be added:

As testing progresses, further improvements will be released. I expect to play around with the reporting and the user interface as we settle into using the system for everyday work. Everyone's needs are different, so it is expected that people will add their own enhancements and maybe detail them on the mailing list or the discussion forums. Some improvements have already been made that way.

Screen shots

Everyone likes screen shots! Although these aren't all that interesting, they show some features of the help desk. I updated them since 1.4.1 came out.

Documentation

A User Guide is available, which covers how the helpdesk can be used. The Administrator Guide is also worth reading, because the power of this application is that it is so flexible in the ways it can be configured. The User Guide doesn't go into that much detail. I am working on a Programmer Guide to help with installation and modifying it for your own purposes. It's in three sections, the last of which is far from complete.

Downloads

The software can be downloaded from Sourceforge. See the project summary page http://sourceforge.net/projects/f2w

You only need the zope-folder and sql-schema for most purposes. I added an extras package for any miscellaneous scripts that seemed useful but don't belong anywhere else. For example, inserting requests automatically in response to e-mail.

All the translations are in the translations package, so they can be kept together, and unmaintained translations from earlier versions don't fall out of sight. Mostly they work OK with more recent versions, but just need a few additions.

It runs on...

At the moment I use PostgreSQL for the back end. If you have a different favourite SQL database it should be possible to adapt my simple-minded SQL to work on it. Some work has been done, mostly by contributors, to get the application working with an Oracle database. However, I don't have access to Oracle myself.

I am currently developing on Debian GNU/Linux, using the Zope 2.6.x and PostgreSQL 7.3.x packages from the "testing" distribution, which I can recommend as a fairly hassle-free way of setting up a Zope box.

Of course you could run it on NT or a proprietary UNIX if that's what you have.

Getting Help with the Helpdesk

If you might like to try out f2w helpdesk but aren't sure where to start, remember sourceforge provides discussion forums, and I'm vain enough to keep checking them. A few people have noticed that there's not a lot of documentation on how to actually install it. Some of what you need to know is in the Programmer Guide, but most of the tricky stuff is setting up Zope, and zope.org has good on-line documentation.

If you want to use the sourceforge bug tracker, assign Oracle bugs to Todd Graham or Thomas Goetz. Assign problems with the German translation to Thomas Goetz.

Future plans

If you want to maintain a translation for your language, mail me and I'll put you on the project. It's not tricky, you just need to be able to translate a few dozen strings from English.

scav 17 June 2004

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