Articles from archive, Page 3

Ignoring cards to use automatic timetable generator

One of the main purposes of school scheduling/timetabling software is to help schools with automatic timetable generation and validation. In order to use automatic generator and validator you should follow the basic timetabling rule which says:

One school resource during one school period can be scheduled in only one lesson. Otherwise, there is a conflict.

In the Prime Timetable, the conflicted cards are rotated so you can easily spot and fix them. There are two common approaches to fixing conflicts:

  1. Add more than one teacher or class/group in the lesson or remove redundant lessons/cards.
  2. Just ignore conflicted cards.

Add more than one teacher or class/group

If there is more than one teacher or more than one class/group attending a lesson, you should not create more than one lesson for it. The example is in the screenshot below. Teachers John and Jim are giving lectures for two classes/grades 7A and 7B at the same time.

Screenshot with two conflicted cards instead of one. The owl gives a helpful hint how to resolve the issue.

When adding a new lesson (Manage > Lessons > Add) just add another teacher or class/group to it. Thus, you’ve created only 1 lesson/card and therefore there are no conflicts/rotation and automatic timetable generation and validation will work as expected.

Ignore cards

If for some reason you want to keep the position of conflicted cards and still take advantage of automatic timetable generation and validation, you might want to ignore them.

When there are lots of conflicted cards, it might be easier to just ignore them

In this screenshot there are lots of classes/grades using the Fellowship Hall/Gym at the same time, which creates many conflicts in the room view. Nevertheless, you can create only one lesson and include all those classes or just ignore the Gym.

In order to ignore cards, do the following:

  • Set “-” (without quotes) as a short name for any school resource which is part of the lesson/card you want to ignore. For instance, you can set short name to “-” for subject Lunch or for Gym room.
  • Check Help > Options > Exclude fake lessons while generating timetable.
  • Click Ok.

And that’s all you need to do. Automatic timetable generator will just ignore those cards and treat them as if they are not part of the timetable.

Prime Timetable 5.0 + summer discount

Dear timetablers,
In just 1 year we have released 3.0, 4.0, and now 5.0 release. We would like to thank you all for your support, and especially for spreading the word. Ever since the beginning of our journey, we’ve been promoting the concept of “enjoyable timetabling” and today Prime Timetable is used in more than 110 countries around the world! Here is what’s new in the latest 5.0 release:

Custom period intervals

The most requested feature is here. You can enter any period interval for any day/period (and class/teacher/room/subject), and appropriate cards will be resized and repositioned accordingly. Custom periods are logically and smartly grouped in the grid and can be easily filtered. Furthermore, you can add custom intervals inside the card by checking Help > Options > Show period intervals instead of numbers.

Special summer offer, up to 50% discount

It’s prime time to buy Prime Timetable for as low as $14/month in US and €14/month in Europe (prices are based on 5 years plan). Are we serious? You bet! Many have already taken advantage of this offer, so hurry up! Until August 1st, we are offering up to 50% discount for 2 or more years purchase. Use the slider on the plans and pricing page to choose your billing term and special discount. If you are an existing user and looking for upgrade, just choose Help > Purchase/Update.

New web server

Having an ever increasing number of schools using our services, we had to make sure that all teachers and students get their timetables timely and efficiently. The new web server means faster, more reliable, secure and efficient timetabling and so much more. And yes, you can download and start Prime Timetable in just 1 second now.

Desktop application

Desktop application is now available for both Basic and Premium plans. Choose Help > Options > Install Prime Timetable and the software will be installed on your computer, so when you start the application by clicking desktop icon it will automatically do the log in for you. Desktop version is available for both Mac OS X and Windows and we especially recommend using it on school computers with a slower Internet connection.

Web site redesign and other improvements

More than 20 new timetable examples are added from various countries around the world. There are lots of minor improvements and fixes that you have suggested, such as: setting 1 minute interval on the period form, the ability to print conflicts, the new context menu (use right mouse click on the card to edit lesson, access card designer, pin/unpin and clear), etc. Our help and manual has been updated to reflect the latest changes.

The web site has been redesigned in order to present our services more clearly and user friendly. If you are satisfied with our product, please share http://primetimetable.com link with other teachers, principals, principal assistants, and others. You can also use the new “Spread the word” section in the footer of every web page to like us on Facebook, share a link on Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn. Your help is much appreciated!

Enjoy the new release and use online user voice to suggest a feature or add new ideas that you would like to see in the Prime Timetable. Happy summer timetabling!

Special summer offer, up to 50% discount

When is the perfect time to purchase a school scheduling software? When there is a discount, of course :) . So you might want to check our special summer offer. Until August 1st, we are offering special discounts for long term service. For some countries special discounts are up to 50%, so hurry up!

If you already have an account, choose Help > Purchase and if you are new to Prime Timetable just click here. Once on Plans and Pricing page, choose Basic or Premium plan based on the size of your school and drag the year slider to choose the billing term and special discounts.

For example, in the US and Canada, the price for Basic plan is $25/month for 1 year billing period, but if you choose 5 years the price is down to only $14/month which is 47% discount!

Discounts are offered for 2 or more billing years, but we are also offering special discounts for periods less than a year, e.g. 6 months, and if that’s what you need just contact us.

This offer is valid until August October 1st. We hope you will make the best of it, and wish you enjoyable timetabling!

28/06/2012 purchase, discount

New Prime Timetable web site

A brand new web site is here with a much needed refresh. Apart from the new design, here is what we’ve improved.

Your testimonials speak for themselves

Since we have received really awesome testimonials from timetablers around the world, we wanted them to be seen on our home page. Overall, timetablers who had previously used different school scheduling software for years were pleasantly surprised by our solution and sent emails to express their positive impressions. As it turned out, they managed to leave behind more well known scheduling software in favour of Prime Timetable. We would like to thank all of you who supported our software. That means the world to us.

Timetabling features explained

Some of the best and most used timetabling features are presented on the home page. In order to show better what’s in the Prime Timetable box we have added a couple of new features pages where timetablers can easily understand the possibilities of our software explained in no more than a few sentences.

Plans and pricing simplified

We are trying to keep our offering as simple as possible, so our plans and pricing page follows that model. All bullet points for every plan are now more clearly explained with a tooltip next to each one. If your organization is specific and doesn’t fit into basic or premium plan, then contact us about special pricing and offers for you.

Spread the word!

A new “Spread the word” section is added in the footer of every web page, where you can like us on Facebook, share a link on Twitter, Google Plus or LinkedIn.

The main reason why we did a makeover is to present our timetabling services more clearly and user friendly and we hope that you will share http://primetimetable.com link with other teachers, principals, colleagues, and others. Your help will be much appreciated! Enjoy the new web site and let us know if you like this version better than the previous one.

Screenshot of new Prime Timeble web site redesign

24/06/2012 general, redesign

New Prime Timetable web server

Having an ever increasing number of schools using our services, we had to make sure that all teachers and students get their timetables timely and efficiently. Therefore, we are very pleased to announce that the new Prime Timetable web server is at your service! In a nutshell, the new web server means a faster, more reliable, secure and efficient scheduling/timetabling, and so much more.

Download Prime Timetable in 1 second!

The new server is able to fully utilize fast Internet connection. In a number of cases, we have detected Prime Timetable being downloaded in just 1 second on the very first visit! With an average Internet connection, Prime Timetable starts in just a couple of seconds. Of course, every subsequent opening of Prime Timetable is immediate (the browser caches the application)! The new web server is physically located in Toronto, Canada, so Canadian and US schools may even notice slightly faster responses.

Reliable timetabling

With 99,99% guaranteed uptime by our hosting partner you can rest assured that your timetables are accessible everywhere and whenever students or teachers need them on Mac & PC, tablets, smartphones and mobiles. With our improved and automated daily backup system your data is safe, e.g. we can fully recover your timetable even if you delete it.

Thank you for your support

Thanks to your continuous support and promoting, we have been able to improve our services to a great extent. The new server is far more superior to the previous one in so many ways: it is faster, more reliable, has better uptime and download time and overall we hope it will serve you well. So, enjoy an even faster timetabling.

Custom periods for classes, subjects, teachers and rooms

By a very popular demand, the ability to add different period intervals on specific day(s) and period(s) for specific class(es)/subject(s)/room(s) and teacher(s) is now available in the Prime Timetable. This unique timetabling feature will show up in all timetable views, both master and individual, and in extra views, too. Appropriate cards will be repositioned and resized according to specified intervals, so you can print highly flexible timetables. Before getting down to details, we would like to thank all of you who requested or voted for this feature in our online user voice (idea 1, idea 2, idea 3), and all of you who have sent us your timetables created in Microsoft Excel or similar software. Guess what? Your Excel timetabling days might be over… Read on.

Example 3 shows custom period intervals, e.g. 09:02 – 09:35, 09:40 – 10:18 on Monday and Tuesday

Adding custom periods

In order to enter custom period interval(s) for specific day(s)/class(es)/subject(s)/room(s)/teacher(s) do the following:

  • Click on a period you wish to modify and then click Add.
  • Change period interval: start time and end time.
  • Choose class, subject, room, or teacher custom period.
  • Choose day(s)/class(es)/subject(s)/room(s)/teacher(s) where the new interval applies.
  • Click Ok.

When you enter new custom period(s), appropriate cards will be resized and repositioned based on specified custom interval.

While adding and editing custom period intervals all timetable views will be updated accordingly

Editing and filtering custom periods

If a timetable has custom periods, the filters will appear above the periods grid where you can choose whether to show custom periods or not. If you check “Show custom periods”, all custom periods will be listed in the grid logically and smartly grouped, e.g. all periods with the same name and intervals will be grouped in a single row. You can filter custom periods by choosing specific day and/or class/subject/room/teacher. To edit (grouped) custom periods, select period row and click Edit.

Custom period intervals displayed on the cards

If you want to display custom intervals on the cards, do the following:

  • Choose Help > Options > Show period intervals instead of numbers.
  • Click Ok.

Start time will be displayed in the upper left corner and end time will be in the bottom left corner of the custom cards.

Dragging custom cards

When you drag a card, the card’s shadow changes its size and position according to default or custom periods below. Thus, you will know the size and the position of dragged card before it is even dropped. In case there is more than one custom period defined for a single card, the subject custom period will have the highest priority, followed by room, teacher and class custom period.

Printing timetable with custom periods

In the Prime Timetable what you see on the screen is what is going to be printed. So, when you are finished with custom periods and optionally card designer settings, just choose: Print > Print timetable view or Print > Print all individual timetables.

Automatic timetable generator and other recommendations

Although custom periods give you the ability to create extremely flexible timetables, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. We recommend that you create a valid timetable first, and then adjust custom period intervals. Currently, custom periods are not supported in your published timetables. Using custom periods you can put 2 or more cards on the same position. At the moment, these cards are considered as conflicts by automatic timetable generator. To overcome this limitation:

  • Change one of the resource’s short name to “-”.
  • Check Help > Options > Exclude fake lessons while generating timetable.
  • Click Ok.

Conflicted cards are rotated by default, so you might want to disable rotating conflicts:

  • Uncheck Help > Options > Rotate conflicts.
  • Click Ok.

Give us feedback

Wow! We didn’t even get a chance to update our Help or write this blog post and custom periods are already heavily used by many timetablers. We are excited more than ever to see what you are going to create. As always, your feedback is very much appreciated. Online user voice is open for anyone who want to participate in shaping our software. All in all, we hope you will use this feature wisely and wish you a very happy timetable customization!

How to set mandatory or unwanted lessons

UPDATE:

There is a new way of defining constraints using a marker. Below method is deprecated.

The most common use of timetabling software is to mark certain periods as forbidden for teachers, rooms, classes or subjects and let automatic timetable generator schedule lessons properly. In other cases when you want to mark certain periods as unwanted or mandatory for teacher, room, class or subject, just follow the below procedure, e.g. for setting mandatory or unwanted subject position:

  • Check Help > Options > Show Marks button in manage grids.
  • Choose Manage > Subjects > Select specific subject in grid > Marks.
  • Set allowed number of unwanted or mandatory lessons per week and per day.

By setting allowed number of unwanted or mandatory lessons you are sending a directive to automatic timetable generator when to consider a timetable correct. If those numbers are set to “Arbitrary” (which is a default value), unwanted and mandatory settings will be ignored by automatic timetable generator.

Screenshot of setting mandatory (blue plus sign) and unwanted (yellow exclamation sign) lessons for Physics in Example 3

Automatic timetable generation - solving the unsolvable?

If you’ve searched the web for “school scheduling/timetabling software”, “automatic timetable generator”, “school timetable generation”, etc. you probably noticed that there are none of the “big names”, such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc. in the search results. Furthermore, school scheduling software cannot be found as part of any larger software package for schools. Neither does it exist in various schedulers, calendars, spreadsheets, etc. Why?

Automatic timetable generation is complicated!

It is complicated to make a machine allocate lessons that certain lecturers are to teach to certain groups of students in certain rooms and certain periods of time… and that all works out well in the end. It is that complicated that, generally, there is no solution. It is that complicated that only enthusiasts working in the field of artificial intelligence have been trying to find a solution to this problem.

PATAT conference to the rescue?

In 1995, the 1st International Conference for the Practice and Theory of Automated Timetabling (PATAT) was held in Napier University, Edinburgh, UK. It was the founding conference with a new one being held every third year and later every other year. So far there has been eight conferences and the ninth one will be held at Son, Norway, from 28th to 31st August, 2012. In order to better understand the complexity of the problem of “computer-aided timetable generation”, you may take a look at the official website of the ninth conference at www.patat2012.com. However, not even a series of conferences presenting the highest academic names from all over the world was enough to cope with such a difficult problem.

International Timetabling Competition

In order to intensify research in this field an “International Timetabling Competition” was organized in 2002 and held in 2003. The competition was sponsored by PATAT who offered prizes for the winners. From that year on, the competition is traditionally organized every four years. Currently, ITC2011 is being held, and since it is open for all, anyone can submit their work. In the meantime, the prizes have become even more appealing ;) .

Euclid’s Fifth Postulate of Discrete Mathematics

Even though thousands of different experts have been dealing with the problem of automatic timetabling generation for 17 years, the problem remains unsolved. The only mathematically proven thing is the proof that the problem is unsolvable! Over the past couple of decades, the writer of this blog post has witnessed numerous unsuccessful attempts of creating an exact algorithm for school timetable generation. There are also anecdotes in which a programming teachers would give their ambitious students this problem as homework offering the highest grade as a prize until the end of their schooling. On various forums people desperately search for ”logical model for timetable generation”, “Help! I have to write a timetabling program for tomorrow”… This much resembles an unsuccessful 2000-year-old attempt to prove the parallel postulate using Euclid’s first four postulates which was “proven” by proving it can’t be proven.
The question is why organize all the conferences and competitions if the problem is unsolvable? What are we at Prime Timetable actually doing? Are we trying to solve the unsolvable? Have we succeeded? More about that and the parallels with “parallel postulate” in the future posts…

Brand new Prime Timetable 4.0

“Dear timetablers,
Hoot, hoot, a brand new Prime Timetable 4.0 is here! A unique school timetable software for Mac and Windows just got better with over 100 new features that you have requested! We hope you will enjoy using it as much as we enjoy making it. There are some really awesome and exciting features that we are eager to share.”

Print what you see

What you see on the screen is what is going to be printed. It’s simple as that. You can easily print and customize both master and individual timetable view(s). The software will automatically do the paging when printing master timetable, and print timetable on a separate page when printing individual timetables.

Card designer

Use right mouse click on a timetable card to access card designer and customize style and appearance in any master or individual timetable view. You can customize background color, displayed text and border style and it will affect what is displayed on the screen, published web page, and how the timetable is going to be printed. All settings are saved inside a timetable document so you don’t have to tweak it anymore.

Sharing timetable with others

Use Owl > Share > Share with others to share school account with other teachers, colleagues, etc. You can specify any of the following privileges for newly created users: owner, creator and viewer. The owner can manage other users, the creator can create and modify timetables and the viewer can only view timetables.

Instant validation & validation markers

Click on validate icon Validate timetable to turn on instant validation which provides immediate feedback upon any timetable change! Validation results window lists all timetable imperfections grouped and sorted logically. By selecting a timetable imperfection, adequate markers are displayed in the view. Validation markers are represented by red blinking rectangles appearing in any problematic period or card in the timetable view. Markers are transparent so you can easily spot and drag problematic cards to a better position and get instant validation feedback.

Timetable collaboration in the real time

Ever wondered if it’s possible for two or more users to work on the same timetable at the same time? Well, yes it is! Welcome to the timetabling collaboration platform where you can collaborate both online and offline and let Prime Timetable do all synchronization for you.

Exchange school data with Microsoft Office and Google Docs

Do you already have school data in a Microsoft Office document? Maybe in Google Docs? No problem! Now you can easily exchange school data with Microsoft Office, Google Docs and similar software which will significantly reduce endless typing. Prime Timetable will smartly recognize the format and do the parsing for you.

Custom period labels

In the new version we have enabled adding custom period labels, e.g. “Break”, “Lunch” etc. Also, it is possible to select more working days in a week and more lessons per day, so that you can set up to e.g. 10 days with 25 lessons, or 25 days with 10 lessons each day.

Download performances

In some countries/regions there are still schools which use slower Internet connections. That’s why we have put a lot of effort into optimizing the time needed to download and view timetables. As a result, downloading and viewing timetables is 10x faster than before and is only a fraction of what it takes to open Facebook, Gmail or Hotmail. Wow. Lightning fast!

Merge timetables

If you’re a timetabler working on a campus school, you may face some extraordinary timetabling challenges, e.g. the need to create a timetable for elementary and middle schools with a possibility of some teachers and classrooms being shared in both schools at the same time! In such a case, you can work on two or more separate timetables and then merge them in order to find out if there are any conflicts with shared teachers or classrooms.

What’s on the horizon?

These are just some of the highlighted features and we are already working on some exciting new ones. Since its launch 2.5 years ago, Prime Timetable has been updated on weekly basis (!), so you can expect more goodies very soon! Thank you all for your support and great new ideas. Oh, and if you are satisfied with Prime Timetable and would like others to know about it, please spread the word. Until the next time, we wish you and yours a happy holiday season and happy timetabling!

Print timetable - print what you see

In Prime Timetable what you see on the screen is what is going to be printed. It’s simple as that. You can easily print and customize both master and individual timetables.

How to print master timetable

Choose Owl > Print to print currently open timetable view (master or individual). Use Owl > Setup > Timetable info to change school name and academic year. Use mouse right click to access card designer to adjust how a timetable card is displayed in any given view. E.g. you can customize whether you want round or square corners or no border at all, choose background color and displayed text. Our software will automatically stretch timetable width to fit paper size and do paging when necessary. It is recommended to choose landscape paper orientation while printing master timetable. Use zoom to adjust timetable card height.

Printing master timetable

How to print individual timetables

If you want to print individual timetables (class, teacher, room or subject) use Owl > Print > Print all individual timetables. The software will go through all individual timetables and print them on separate pages. It is recommended to choose portrait paper orientation while printing. Use zoom to adjust timetable card height.

Reuse print settings with timetable templates

All adjustments made by card designer are saved into a timetable document, so you don’t have to tweak them again. Furthermore, creating a new timetable document will copy timetable templates from a previously opened timetable. For instance, you may want to customize a timetable template to display short names in the master timetable view(s) and full names in individual view(s).