Helpdesk User Guide

This is a brief user guide for the new Kyndal Helpdesk (version 1.4.2). It describes how to use the helpdesk system to raise requests based on helpdesk calls and keep track of the requests assigned to you or others.

There is a separate Administrator's Guide describing how to set up the helpdesk and maintain the data.


Some Definitions

For the purposes of this guide, a request is the record of a unit of work needing to be done, or a problem needing to be solved. I use the words task and request interchangeably for this purpose. Many requests result from a helpdesk call, defined as a phonecall, e-mail or other communication asking for something to be done. Other requests may be just reminders for use within a team or personal "to-do" items.

Every request has a category, which identifies what kind of request it is. The categories can be very detailed and specific, or very vague and general.

Every request also has a priority which defines how urgent it is, and may have a due date, the meaning of which depends on the priority. For example, if the priority is "Critical", then there is no due date since it must be resolved immediately. If the priority is "Deadline" then the due date is the deadline. If the priority is "Objective" then the due date is the date when the objective is to be reviewed.

Certain categories of request might have specific pieces of information that it is usually useful to gather. These properties are attached to a request when it is created, and may be filled in for future reference and reporting.

I am calling the person who is using the helpdesk system the user. A person asking for something to be done is the originator of the request. To avoid confusion, I am not calling them a user although they are probably requesting support as the user of some other system.

A request can be assigned to one user. The owner of a request is the person it is assigned to at the moment, meaning they are the one responsible for its resolution. Users can be grouped into teams for the purposes of grouping users who share one or more skills. Teams can overlap and don't necessarily relate to the departmental structure. The skills that a team has are defined in terms of the categories of request that members of the team can be expected to handle. Each request may also be assigned to a team, but it needn't and it's only used for reporting purposes or to hint at who else should pick up the request if the current owner is unable to continue.

In general, the owners, originators and other people are listed in the database as contacts, associated with a full name, phone number etc. Each has a unique contact ID. It is probably a good idea for this to follow some established convention so that it can be guessed from the name.

About the Examples

The helpdesk system is web-based, so the user interface is the browser window. The actual appearance will depend on what browser is used, the window size, the user's preferred stylesheet, what screen fonts are available and so on. Therefore the examples in this user guide won't necessarily look exactly like the real pages, although in many cases the HTML for an example was based on the corresponding page of the helpdesk.
Examples will usually be shown like this, with links like this and

Individuals whose names appear in the examples are fictional, although there are probably many thousands of real people with the same name.

The Welcome Page

The welcome page just displays links to various sections of the helpdesk application, and to some system documentation (since it's still in development). The welcome page is publicly available, although you have to log in to access everything apart from the documentation and the reports.

The sections are:

The operator page. Main entry point for helpdesk operators
The administration pages. These are not covered in this user guide.
Various reports.
Your Tasks
List of tasks assigned to you (once you log in it knows who you are).
Most pages in the helpdesk have a set of links at the top and bottom which can be used to navigate to different parts of the system.

The Operator Page

From the operator page you can search the database for the name of a contact, look in the knowledge base to diagnose a problem, change your password, or set your preferences.

Take a call from...

Name (or part of name):

Knowledge Base

Category code:

Your Login

Change your own password   Your preferences

Taking a Call

Entering part of a name (even a single initial) on the operator page and pressing the "search contacts" button takes you to the contact search screen. You can also get there from a "Take Call" link that is present on most pages.

The contact search pages matches what you enter against the last name, first name or location (in that order). So typing "S" would match a "John Smith" a "Steve Jones" and everyone in the "Sales" location, but hopefully the one you want is near the top of the list. The search is not case sensitive.

The "search contacts" page also has a row of letter buttons, which are effectively equivalent to entering a single letter as the search string.

Search Contacts

Search contact database the person making the request. Preference order is Last Name, First Name, Location.

Name (or part of name):

ContactNameExtE-mailPhoneLocation CommentFaxWeb
petha Peter 6374
IT Glasgow Take Call
Someone else, maybe not listed in the contact table. Take Call

Following the "Take Call" link from one of the search results identifies that contact as the originator of the request, which is yet to be created. You can also continue with the originator unspecified, if they aren't in the contact table yet.

The next stage is diagnosing the request to see what category it should be.

Finding the Request Category

The category can be found by choosing answers to questions which are designed to narrow down the possibilities until it is clear what is being requested or what is causing the reported problem.

Categorise Request


1) What kind of request is this?

Back to Start

Initially the request would be "Uncategorised". Answering a question provides information that either identifies the request category or leads to a further set of questions (or both).

It is not necessary to ask the caller every question, just use what information you can get from them to determine the nature of the request, using the questions as a guide. The questions are configurable from the "Admin" section of the helpdesk system. They can be tailored carefully to act as an "expert system" to troubleshoot common problems.

When it is possible to create a request, there is a "Raise Request" button at the top of the page, and if there is advice in the knowledge base (e.g. "logging out and back in should fix it") for that category of request, it will be displayed.

Otherwise, there is not enough information to categorise it yet, although you can start again at any time and just raise the request as "Uncategorised" if you have to.

Raising a Request

When the category is known and the "Raise:" button is clicked, the request details can be entered on the "Raise a request" form.

Raise a request (Change to a system)

Priority: Due date:
Assign to: Send e-mail:

Back to questions

Here the priority and due date (if any) can be selected, and some descriptive text can be typed or pasted in. The originator of the request (the contact ID anyway) will be filled in already if you got to this page via the contact search page. If the contact ID is not known, or there is no contact record for that person, the name can be entered instead.

Some categories of request can expect additional information that is useful in resolving requests of that type. If so, fields will also be provided where that information can be entered.

The appropriate team and specialist to be assigned to the request can be chosen from drop-down lists. By default the person assigned to the request is whoever is logged in. If any of the specialists have set an "away until" date, for example if they have gone on holiday, this will be visible.

If the "send e-mail" box is ticked, then the helpdesk system will attempt to send e-mail to the owner of the request, notifying them that the request has been created and is assigned to them. Whether this works or not depends on them having an e-mail address set up in the contact table, and on whether the e-mail system is working.

Your Tasks

To see what tasks are assigned to you, you can go to the "Your Tasks" page, which shows them sorted by priority, due date and request number. At the end of each row is a little "magnifying glass" icon which can be used to expand that one row and highlight it. Expanded rows show more detail about the request (if there is any), including any notes entered by yourself or others.

Your Tasks

Deadline Request
RequestCategoryDescription Deadline Originator
141 Change to Helpdesk user interface improvements for 1.2 beta 08-01-2001 Peter

No Deadline Request
RequestCategoryDescription Originator
129 Change to Helpdesk Add reporting of requests created and closed, by category, team, owner or originator, between 2 dates. Option ... The Boss
156 Write Documentation Write helpdesk user guide 1.2 Peter

The link in the first column (the request number) leads to a page where the request can be updated.

Updating a Request

The request is updated on a page very similar to the one used to create it. The main additions are a button to close the request (marks it as completed), and a section at the bottom where notes can be added by those working on the request. Each user can add notes and edit their own notes, but the notes added by other people are read-only.

If the "Send e-mail" box is ticked, the system will notify the person assigned to the request that it has been updated. By defualt, this box is not ticked when you are looking at your own requests.

If the "Notify originator" box is ticked, the system will notify the originator of the request (assuming their e-mail address is set up in the contact table). By default this box is not ticked.

Request 141

Change to Helpdesk
Priority: Due date:
Which screen?:
Advice:This has to be done through zope. You need Admin permissions.
See also:http://dhlinux2/f2w/manage
Assign to: Send e-mail: Notify Originator:
06-12-00 10:41CREATEpetha,
06-12-00 10:41ASSIGNpetha, prog
11-12-00 11:59Peter

Quick Requests

At the bottom of the "your tasks" page, there is a quick way to enter requests (for example, as "to-do" items for your own use).
Quick Request


The reports page lists the reports that might be used to keep track of how many requests are being raised, how many of each kind are still outstanding etc. Most of these reports link to corresponding lists of requests, which in turn link to a detail page.

There is also a report by property. If a category has a property associated with it (e.g. printer name for category "printer problem") the report "Count requests by property" can give a breakdown of requests by the values entered for that property (e.g. printer problems by printer name). This is designed to be useful in identifying problem areas in more detail than just by category.

To use it, first select a category of requests which has properties associated with it:

Requests by Property

Choose category
Then choose which property of the request you are interested in:

Requests by Property

Category "XPT"

The report is then similar to the others, showing a count of open requests and a count of all requests which are of the selected category, for each value of the selected property:

Requests by Property

Category "XPT"


Property OpenAll
H&S 1 2
Helpdesk 1 2
Inbound 0 1

The request search allows you to find requests by more complex criteria, including due date, category, priority and so on.

If you choose "Exact Match" beside the category, then only requests of exactly that category are found. If you choose "Match similar", it matches categories whose codes begin with the chosen code. If your category codes are organised into a hierarchy it may be useful. Any category is "similar" to the "Uncategorised" category by this rule.

If you tick one or more priorities, only requests of those priorities will be found. If you leave them all unticked then any priority is included.

The "originator" and "assign to" should be the unique contact ID, not necessarily the same as the person's name.

Request search

Status: Due date: -
Raised: -
Critical Deadline Request
No Deadline Request Objective
Professional Development Suspended
Originator: Description:
Assign to: Team:

The request extract is like the request search, but it produces a CSV (comma-separated-values) file which your browser will probably download, and may load into whatever spreadsheet program you use, depending on settings on your computer.

Setting Your Preferences

It is now possible to change the appearance of the helpdesk using stylesheets. The stylesheets have to be created and set up in the helpdesk software, but once that is done each user can choose one of them as their preferred theme.

Users can also specify a date until which they are away from work, or at least unavailable for taking helpdesk requests. This makes it easier to avoid people assigning requests to you while you are on holiday!

Both of these are done in the "Your Preferences" screen, which you get to from the "Operator" screen.

Your Preferences

Away until: Leave blank if you are available now.

Still to Do

There is still room for improvement, but no specific plans for changes yet.
Last changed 17 April 2002