Sunday, April 8, 2012

IBM ED Search for Android - Part 1

I've decided to write a series of blog posts about my Android App "IBM ED Search" to explain basic usage and some more advanced topics.

The series will use version 2.0 that will be released real soon now.

In this first post I will focus on the very basics of the application.

Let's begin...

Initial Steps and the Search UI

Version 2 makes use of the excellent Actionbar Sherlock library that makes the Android Ice Cream Sandwich Action Bar available on earlier Android versions. The UI looks and feels very similar on devices running Android 2.2 up to the latest version 4.0.

After starting the app for the first time the home screen is shown. The action bar is located at the top and includes a small magnifying glass icon on the right hand side.
A short introduction is shown below the action bar when the app is started for the first time and as long as no searches have been "starred".

In order to search the directory an https connection to the IBM Intranet must be available. Lacking a VPN connection you will need to be on the Intranet WLAN to conduct any searches.

Tapping the icon on the right hand side of the action bar will reveal the search field directly in the action bar. You can now enter the search term you want to search for.

When the search field is shown another icon is appears  to the right of the search field. Tap it to choose the search category/type. A menu will open up to let you choose among different search types like searching for people's name, serial number, bluegroup by names and some more. Pick the search type from the menu and the search field will display a hint in grey on how the search value must be formatted.

The keyboard will show a search button instead of the "Enter" key. Tap it to begin the search.

When all is well and the directory server can be reached the search result will be displayed on a new screen. All matching persons or bluegroups (depending on what type of search was chosen) will be displayed in a list.

The People Search Result Screen

The action bar now shows the search type (e.g. Name) and the search term (e.g. Hofmann, Thomas) and the number of results in brackets.

The list on this screen will include important information about the persons that match the search term, like name, email address, telephone number and job role. In addition, the bluepages person image is displayed on the left hand side.
Person pictures are not loaded along with the search result. Depending on the preferences the application will either load some, all or none of the person pictures belonging to the persons in the result after the result is already displayed.

Tap the "Load Pictures" icon in the action bar on the bottom of the search results screen to trigger the loading of missing pictures (tap and hold the action icons to see a tooltip about what they do). A progress bar at the top of the screen will report download progress.

Use the "Star" icon to "star" a search result. What this means is that you want to keep the search result's content for offline usage. Once starred, it will appear in the list on the home screen and can be recalled even without a connection to the directory server.

Touching and holding an entry in the search result will open a context menu where you can choose different actions in the context of the entry like, dialing the phone number of the person, sending an email or conducting a search for e.g. the management chain of the person in that entry. The menu is rather long. Make sure you scroll down to see every possible action.

Tap the back key to return to the home screen. As an alternative you can also tap the application icon on the top left hand side of the action bar. This will always bring you back to the home screen no matter how deep inside the application you were navigating.

Back on the home screen the introduction text is now replaced by the list of starred search results. Tap it to return to the list of persons that were included in the search result.

The context menu of an person entry in a search result also allows you to star persons. All persons starred will appear on the home screen under the "Starred Persons" list entry (which will always be the first entry). This way you can pick the ones you want to have available for offline usage and quick access.

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