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ThinkAutomation Dev Update - April 2019

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parkersoft-nick View Drop Down
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Lead Developer - ThinkAutomation

Joined: 28 Dec 2015
Location: UK
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    Posted: 12 Apr 2019 at 5:16am
Hi everyone.

It's been a while since I posted in these forums. A couple of years I believe! The last time I showed my face here I was in the trenches of the support help desk, supporting ThinkAutomation users with their various enquiries. 

A lot has changed since then and I have for some time now found myself in the role of lead developer for the product. 

I felt it was time to show my face again here to shed some light on some of things we have been developing in ThinkAutomation; to help highlight some of the many features and improvements I personally have had the privilege of working on as we strive to make the product better with each release. 

In the past few months, TA has seen a wide range of new features and improvements. 

Making FTP more secure. 
One of the things I remember users asking about frequently was support for SFTP. This has recently been added to TA and as of this post users can upload files to their SFTP servers within the app. Soon, we should have support for SFTP downloads to, allowing our user base to fully automate their FTP securely. 

Streaming Support
For a long time the only files that have been possible to save to a database (without scripting) have been email attachments. I accept that the majority of our users are parsing emails but why stop at attachments? Users can now natively stream files in binary format not only to a database, but up to a web service that accepts octet streams. You are no longer confined to sending base64 up to your web services or REST API's. Instead, you can now opt to stream the data direct with the 'binary stream' option. 

When it comes to encoding data and saving files, streaming isn't everybody's first choice. That's why we have now added the ability to use TA's file operations to convert a file from disk to base64. Once it is in this format, you can store it pretty much wherever you like. 

Simple Quality of Life Improvements
I personally used to hate scrolling up and down to find the required trigger action.

'Where's the Read/Write Text File' action again!?

I knew this pain only too well, and so I added a search box to the trigger action list. It's a really simple addition to the product but it has made a huge difference to my workflow

I've also added some other simple quality of life adjustments to make things a little smoother for users. 

You can now enable or disable all triggers at the same time as well as hide any disabled triggers and control the level of detail shown in the trigger list. This is useful if you want to 'shelve' some triggers that you don't use but may come back to without having them clutter your screen. 

In addition, The new 'basic trigger view' option shrinks the triggers down so that accounts with a large amount of triggers can be managed more effectively. 

Don't be a Stranger! 
Most of the recent changes to the product have been suggested by our users and as the development lead for TA, I'm so grateful for the continued communication from the people who depend on the application. Please feel free to add your suggestions for features to this or any other thread. I value feedback and look forward to engaging more with you.

The Road Ahead
One of the things I feel we need to minimise is the need to script particular processes. As processes become more bespoke and complex, the probability that scripting is required in place of UI-based trigger actions increases. To a certain extent, it is accepted that this will always be the case. 

However, I recognise that when we require scripting, we alienate non-developers to a certain extent. That's why when we are road-mapping, when it comes to improvements, I am committed to finding ways that we can make actions that historically required scripting, more easy to implement via the UI. The above new features and improvements have come out of this approach.  

We have several exciting new projects on the road map for TA which I won't speak about just yet but rest assured I will be more present here to talk about developments in the near future. 

Edited by parkersoft-nick - 12 Apr 2019 at 5:32am
Nick Proud - Parker Software
Software Architect ThinkAutomation
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