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Improved Visual Studio Developer Tools – Available Now!

By Steve Ives, Posted on April 29, 2020 at 5:29 pm

Steve Ives

We are delighted to announce the immediate availability of a new Synergy DBL Integration for Visual Studio Developer Build and to recommend it for use by all Synergy developers. This new release is versioned 11.1.1c-2714, and it can be downloaded from the Synergy Resource Center now.

For the last few development sprints, we decided to focus on addressing quality issues, some reported by customers, and this new release represents the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of our dedicated developers, testers, and many others.

There are many improvements and enhancements included in this release, but for now, I’ll highlight just two that are of particular importance to customers, and will significantly enhance developer experience and satisfaction overall:

  • We resolved an issue with deep dependency checking that would cause files from built dependencies to not get correctly copied to referencing projects. This mostly impacted .NET.
  • We resolved an issue that was causing debugger “DataTips” for class fields and properties to not show up.

The release includes many more improvements and enhancements, both in the Visual Studio Integration product, as well as both the Traditional Synergy and Synergy .NET compilers that ship with SDI. For complete information I will refer you to the release notes, you will find a link right next to the download link in the resource center.

If you are already using Visual Studio for your Synergy development then upgrade today, and if not, it’s time to give it a try. The developer experience and productivity in the Visual Studio environment really is second-to-none, and remember, you can always use the runtime version targeting features if you need to produce software that will run with older versions of the Synergy runtime on your customer sites.


7 UI Design Trends to Make Your Software Stand Out

By Kristen Vogler, Posted on April 16, 2020 at 5:48 am

Kristen Vogler

Create a useful, beautiful, and easy-to-use system

What approach did you take when creating your application? Did you focus solely on functionality and figure you’d worry about the user interface and experience later? Did later never come? Because developers often need to develop or add additional functionality to products quickly, the role design plays in the creation of applications is often forgotten. Don’t make the same mistake. The visual appeal of your application is your first opportunity to make a lasting impact on your users. Let’s take a look at some of the user interface design trends that will allow you to make the most of that first impression and stand out from other applications.

1. Microinteractions

While overlooked by many, microinteractions play an essential role in a user’s experience and are the perfect proof that details really do make the design. You’ll notice these interactions in almost every major app and website you visit. Facebook’s “Like” feature is a great example. Hovering over the Like button will display animated versions of the different types of a “like” a user can give. Microinteractions are subtle and you may not notice them, but if they’re removed, you’ll feel like something important is missing.

Tab bar active animation — Aaron Iker

2. Skeuomorphic Design

Skeuomorphic design refers to the creation of elements in a realistic style. While this type of design was put to rest years ago, the popularity of VR/AR technology is welcoming it back, albeit with a modern twist. When done correctly, the results are absolutely stunning, but you should consider the time, effort, and incredible focus on details needed before diving head first into this trend. The excessive amount of work can make the style not worth it for an application that is constantly changing and evolving.

Skeuomorph investing app dashboard — Jordan Hughes

3. Asymmetrical Layouts

It’s time to release your grip on those perfectly tidy and traditional grid layouts and say hello to overlapping elements. Asymmetrical doesn’t mean random; rather it means you’ve placed your elements in an unusual way that is still aesthetically pleasing. Choose images, text, and other elements that your users will respond to and place them in a way that guides users through your design. You’ll also want to include a generous amount of white space to be successful.

Chef – Asymmetrical Card — Oxygenna

4. Simplicity

Minimalism comes and goes in the design world, but right now it’s in. While not exactly a trend and more of a group of principles to follow, the focus of a simple design is functionality. In this style, you’ll notice bold typography, minimal color palettes, and plenty of white space. Simplicity requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach. Because of the style, there won’t be many, if any, places to hide a design mistake. However, the results are worth it, offering an elegant and high-quality feeling that can be hard to match.

Travel App Home Screen UI Design — Gleb Kuznetsov

5. Responsive Colors

Your branding is important. I’m sure you have a list of fonts, sizes, colors, and ways to handle your logo and other image assets. This isn’t a new trend, but brands are now adopting it more and more. Instead of owning a single color for your brand, allow the color to change in the context of what part of your brand it represents. Try putting together a number of predefined colors that can be assigned to different parts of your environment.

Handoff from marvelapp.com
Prototyping from marvelapp.com

6. Typography

Large text makes a statement. And an interesting change in user interface design is the gradual return of serif fonts. Previously, screen resolution was so low that a font with serifs was considered too difficult to read. With screen resolution improving year after year, that excuse is out the window, opening the door to use thousands of beautiful new typefaces.

Design & Life – Oprah House — Daniel Mcleay

7. Dark Themes

No, not ominous undertones—we’re talking color palette. These themes have been around for years, but when Apple recently added one in their Mojave update, the style took off. The key to designing a successful dark theme? Don’t start with a full black background and white text. Begin with darker grays in the background and lighter grays for text, saving white for something that really needs to pop. A side bonus for this style is that with less bright white to stare at, a dark theme can lessen eye strain for your users. 

Sales Manager Dashboard — Fireart Studio

The best UI trends are not only fun to look at, they also improve the overall experience and usefulness of a product. As more and more brands adopt these trends, they shift from being a trend to a design standard. Take a look at your applications today to see which of these trends you can apply—and then take your interfaces to the next level.

If you want to modernize your UI, Synergex has tools and other resources to help you get there. Learn more about our open-source Harmony Core solution, or contact an account executive to find out how our software development consultants with our Professional Services Group can assist you.


Who Invited the Dog? Tips for Business Meetings While Sheltering in Place

By Jacklin Garcia, Posted on April 7, 2020 at 10:19 am

Jacklin Garcia

Many of us now find ourselves unexpectedly working from home. Maybe you’ve always worked remotely, like my spouse who has recently lost 50% of his home office space to me. We’re all living in a state of some uncertainty, with conferences postponed and opportunities to connect fewer and farther between—yet work still needs to get done. Are you, like us, now attending or hosting more video calls and webinars? It’s wonderful that we have the technology to help bridge the distance between ourselves and our coworkers or customers while we are all remote. In fact, we’ve found that our meetings start and end on time more often now that they’re all remote! But this new normal comes with its own set of challenges and different etiquette than face-to-face meetings, so here are a few tips to make you a virtual-meeting pro!

Embrace your new co-workers.

What (equipment)

There are so many different brands of virtual-meeting software. In fact, Synergex uses more than one to meet our needs as a company. Most have generally the same features, but if you aren’t familiar with what your company uses, you should take the application(s) for a test drive. At the very least, learn how to properly adjust your webcam and microphone settings and use the mute and screen share options (more on all these later). Pro tip for working from home: Depending on how your network is set up, you will likely want to use this software outside of your company’s VPN!

If you can, make sure you have a decent camera and microphone. A good headset seems to be the preferred way for many webinar pros to mic up, but a lot of us are just making do with what’s built into our loaner laptops for now, and that’s OK too! Pro tip for working from home: Sometimes using a phone line or the software’s mobile app to dial into the meeting might be a better option for your audio.

Where (setting up the meeting space)

In an office setting, you might have a choice of meeting rooms that are already equipped with the technology you’ll need. At home, you may not have that luxury. Find a space with the fewest distractions for you and in your background. I think we are all getting used to seeing a cat or dog (or even a small toddler in my case) walk by in the background of a meeting by now, but to whatever extent possible, try to minimize this for the duration of your meeting. This may be tough if your workspace is in a common area. Pro tip for working from home: Try setting expectations with your partners, kids, or roommates about when you will be in meetings so they know to make themselves scarce during those times.

Steve Ives shows off his setup.
Oliver Chu uses a simple setup

How 

Share your camera. Communication is more than 50% non-verbal, so being able to see those you are meeting with or enabling them to see you while you’re making a point is hugely important. Try to check out what your camera will pick up before sharing with the audience. You can usually do this through the meeting software itself, but some computers also have a built-in camera app that you can use to do the same. If possible, make sure your camera is at about eye level. Pro tip for working from home: It’s ok if you don’t have a pretty way to raise your laptop to get the camera to eye level. We won’t see the pile of books propping it up. Another working from home pro tip: Network issues seem to come up more at home where we don’t have an IT department to manage them. Go ahead and turn off the cameras if anyone in the meeting is experiencing audio/video delays or choppiness. We’ve found that seems to stop most issues.

Not all of us have ideal backdrops in our makeshift home offices. I know I can’t be the only one with a pile of clean laundry lurking just out of view, but these things can be distracting to our audience. If you can’t physically hide the distractions, try changing the angle of the camera slightly. Pro tip for working from home: It’s totally acceptable to use the blur or background image options to hide distractions digitally.

If you want to go above and beyond, you can set up a greenscreen like Marty and pretend you are back at the office. 

While meeting from your computer can have its perks, it can also be fraught with distractions. Close any email, chat, or other unnecessary applications that have notifications. Many of these applications have both auditory and visual cues that can be disruptive to the meeting, especially if you’re sharing your screen. Pro tip for working from home: Many of us are using personal computers, so be even more vigilant about tidying your desktop so nothing shows that you may not want to share with others if you need to share your screen.

Use the mute button when appropriate. I was in a meeting a few days ago, and I could clearly hear a lawn mower in the background. Life happens and we can’t control everything around us, but if you have ambient noise and you aren’t currently leading the meeting, it’s OK to use mute until your turn to speak.

Have an agenda. This should be true for all meetings, but it’s especially important for remote ones.

Bonus tips: Remote presentations

If you were planning on making a presentation in person but are now trying to translate it to the digital realm, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

You need to engage with your audience in a different way than if you were meeting in person. Experts suggest that you engage the audience every four minutes! That’s at least seven times in a 30-minute presentation. How do you fit all of that in such a short time period? Throw out calls to action for the audience and use whatever tools are available to you, such as polls, hand raising, chat, or a question box.

Use more slides with fewer words than you would for an in-person presentation. The audience can read what is on the screen quickly. They don’t want you to read it to them. If you do, they will likely put your presentation in the background and start to browse email. So, keep the slides light on content and keep them moving to ensure your audience stays attentive. 

Staying connected

While many in-person gatherings have been cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, Synergex is still here for you! We’re offering several webinars throughout this year on topics ranging from web services to unit testing to debugging. We’ll also continue to host our regular OpenVMS remote customer meetup and our Harmony Core office hours.  Keep an eye on your inbox for upcoming invitations.

We invite you to comment on this post to share any additional tips you may have for remote meetings and presentations. You can also join in on the conversation about general working from home tips in Community.

We hope to see many of you in person in Sacramento in May 2021 for the DevPartner conference, but in the meantime stay home and stay healthy!


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