Posts tagged tips & tricks

How to create a two-week timetable with slight variations

There are two ways to create a two-week timetable using Prime Timetable. One obvious way is to create one timetable and set 10 days. But that is not what you want to do if you need to make a two-week timetable with almost identical lessons. For example, let’s assume that 4 days in a week have exactly the same timetable and there are some differences only on Friday. In this scenario we have two types of lessons:

  • (A) Lessons that are held the same number of times in both weeks
  • (B) Lessons that are held over one week but not the other.

All other variations boil down to these (A) and (B) types. For instance, there could be a lesson occurring 1.5 times per week, which means there are two lessons in the first week and one in the second. In that case one lesson is type (A) and the other (0.5) is type (B).

Here is the procedure of scheduling such two-week timetables using Prime Timetable:

  1. Create a new timetable with 5 days.
  2. Add all type (A) lessons using Manage > Lessons > Add.
  3. Forbid Friday using the red marker (just pick the red marker and click on Friday in the timetable view)
  4. Generate the timetable using play icon.
  5. Fix all cards using the pin (just pick the pin and click in the top right corner of the timetable)
  6. Pick the red marker and click once again on Friday to remove the forbidden positions. Click all other days to forbid lessons on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  7. Save two copies of this timetable: Week 1 and Week 2 using Save As > Copy of Timetable.
  8. For each timetable add type (B) lessons and generate the timetable again.
  9. Of course, there are many more variations but the procedure is similar.

    02/06/2014 two week, tips & tricks

Timetabling history + multiple undo

Creating a school timetable requires a lot of work. Sometimes, you want to see whether the automatic generator can generate an even better timetable, at other times you want to manually change card positions using drag & drop and sometimes it’s just an accidental mistake. It’s very important that you can undo or redo changes whenever you want.

From the very first version of Prime Timetable it was possible to undo/redo any view changes by clicking undo Undo tool and redo Redo tool. Recently, we have added a new history icon which lets you see all previous changes. You can undo all or some of them with just one mouse click. History list is also helpful because every action has its description, for instance: 1 card dragged, 2 marks erased, 240 cards changed by generator, 1 card cleared, 2 positions marked as mandatory… so you get a clear picture of all previous changes.

Undo 6 actions at once using timetabling history

Although history is very similar to what you are already using in Microsoft Excel, Word or Adobe Photoshop, there is a fine catch in the Prime Timetable. Both undo/redo and multiple undo are animated (!), so you can see the cards moving from one position to another. Also, all changes are tracked in the instant validation window, which helps you decide which position better suits you.

Quick timetabling guide

So, you have been tasked to create a timetable for your school and are looking for a timetabling guide, manual or something that can assist you on the way. Well, we have created just that: a quick guide for easier introduction to Prime Timetable. It might take you 10-15 minutes, but it’s still far less than reading online help or manual. Without further ado, let’s start with timetabling terms.

Timetabling terms

There are many different educational institutions which use different terms. In short:

  • timetable = schedule
  • class = grade
  • subject = course or activity, and
  • lessons = sections.

Feeling confused? Check basic timetabling terms.

Creating a free account

If you haven’t created a free account so far, go to our plans page and choose a free plan. Registration is easy and it only takes a minute. After the registration, Prime Timetable will be loaded and an empty timetable will show up:

Empty school timetable

We suggest that you get familiar with the interface by clicking Quick Guide or clicking Open icon Open timetable to browse through other timetable examples, which can be a great resource for learning and understanding. Obviously, there is no data so you need to enter some to enable timetabling tools.

Days and periods

In order to manage days and periods, mouse-over the owl and choose Manage > Days and Periods from the menu.

First you need to decide how many (working) days there will be in the cycle. For a 2-week timetable it may be 10, and for a 1-week timetable it may be 5.

Next, you need to decide how many periods are there in a day. This might be tricky, because one day there might be 8 periods and other days up to 10 periods. The general rule of the thumb is to choose the maximum period number; in this case that would be 10.

The number of periods is directly related to the number of lessons/activities per day, so you might optionally add lunch, break and similar activities and count them as a period. Many schools have different period intervals on different days and in that case you can add custom periods.

Manage days and periods

Subjects, rooms, teachers and classes

Before entering data, you should know that there are various importing options. For instance you can import data from Microsoft Office (Word, Excel) or from Google Docs simply by using copy/paste. Otherwise, you can enter data manually:

Choose Manage > Subjects to add subjects/courses, e.g. Math, History, etc. Lunch, break and other school activities can also be subjects.

Choose Manage > Room to add rooms/cabinets, e.g. Biology room, History room, Gym, dining room, reception hall, etc.

Choose Manage > Teachers to add teachers.

Choose Manage > Classes to add classes/grades. Choose a class from the grid and click Divisions to manage class divisions and groups, e.g. you can create English and French groups.

Manage classes/grades in the timetable

Manage lessons

Choose Manage > Lessons to add lessons/sections. Select teacher(s), subject, classes (and/or its groups). Select how many lessons there are in a week and whether the lesson is single, double, triple… Lastly, you can select desired room(s) where a lesson can occur and/or alternative room(s).

When lessons are entered, related cards are added in the awaiting panel of the timetable view in adequate row.

Add lesson dialog

Saving changes and history

Click save icon Save timetable changes to save changes. Use undo Undo tool and redo Redo tool to undo/redo latest changes.

Master view

Click view indicator Validate current timetable to change the current master timetable view, so you can see classes, teachers, rooms or subjects master view.

Extra view

Instead of switching views it might be useful to see more than one view on the screen, in which case you should use extra views.

Fully interactive class and teacher view on one screen

Individual view

To choose individual class, teacher, room or subject view click on the desired first column in the timetable.

Individual class/grade view

Automatic generation

If you have finished entering your school data it’s time to start automatic timetable generation by clicking play icon Generate a new timetable. The owl will warn you if there is a problem with your data, e.g. you can add 50 lessons for one teacher by mistake, where there is only 5 days with 8 periods, 5 * 8 = maximum 40 lessons, so you should consider removing some lessons, organizing lessons differently or just ignore some cards.

If everything is ok, the automatic timetable generator will generate the timetable.

Automatic timetable generation process

Instant validation

You want to make sure your timetable is valid upon any change you make. Click validation icon Validate timetable to turn on instant validation. The timetable is valid if there are no validation errors and warnings. Otherwise, the validation window displays all timetable imperfections grouped and sorted logically. If you click the validation warning or error, a specific timetable position where the problem is will be highlighted as red blinking rectangle, so that you can easily spot and fix it.

Instant validation upon any timetable change

Adding constraints

The generator will position the cards in the timetable considering only default constraints, e.g. the generator will try to avoid gaps/windows for all classes or lots of difficult lessons in one day. You can change these constraints as you wish by editing the entered data, or you can specify additional constraints using markers. Marker draws or erases forbidden Forbidden position marker, unwanted Unwanted position markeror mandatory Mandatory position markercard positions for classes, teachers, rooms and subjects.

Timetable marks

Forbidden (red minus), unwanted (yellow exclamation mark) and mandatory (blue plus) marks in the master teacher view

Improving timetable

Click on Improve existing timetable tool to improve timetable imperfections. Before you do that, you may use the pin Pin/unpin timetable tool to fix the cards which are already on desired positions, so that they won’t be moved during the generation process.

Pinned cards have bolder borders

Pinned cards (8E, 8D and 7B) have bold unrounded borders

Manual timetabling

Cards can be manually dragged using the mouse or you can use sponge Sponge timetable tool to remove them from the timetable.

Customize cards

Choose Print > Card Designer or use right mouse click on any card to customize text, text positions, colors and borders in both master and individual timetable views as best suits your school needs. The configured template will be used in the newly created timetable and published timetable as well.

Card designer for individual view

Share with colleagues

Need help? Choose Share > Share with Others to share the school account with other teachers and colleagues and assign them privileges. The “owner” can manage other users, the “creator” can create and modify timetables and the “viewer” can only view timetables.

Share school account

Share school account with colleagues

Publish to the web

With one click you can publish a timetable, so it is visible on the web and students can see it. Just choose Share > Publish to the Web. The published timetable is accessible by any smartphone or tablet and is automatically updated when the timetable is modified.

Published timetable

Published timetable is accessible via smartphone, tablet or any mobile

Print

When you are done with customization, what you see on the screen is what is going to be printed. You can print both master and individual timetable views and Prime Timetable will automatically do the paging. Choose Print > Print Timetable View or Print > Print All Individual Timetables.

The conclusion

This is just a quick timetabling guide to get you started. If you think something is missing, please contact us or leave a comment. Feel free to use our online user voice to add your ideas and suggestions on how we can improve Prime Timetable. Happy scheduling and let us know how you are doing.

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.

Exchange school data with Microsoft Office and Google Docs

Prime Timetable makes it easy to exchange school data with other software, whether you need to import or export. In both cases exchanging data reduces needless retyping.

Microsoft Word logoMicrosoft Excel logo

How to import school data from Microsoft Office and Google Docs?

Whenever you open an empty timetable the owl will remind you about all importing options, so you don’t have to remember them.

Copy teachers from Microsoft Excel

Empty timetable on the left and copying teachers from Microsoft Excel on the right

Typically, you would want to import, e.g. list of teachers already entered in Microsoft Excel or Word or Google Docs. Make a selection, copy (Ctrl + C) and paste it (Ctrl + V) into the proper (teacher’s) data grid in the Prime Timetable. Our software will smartly recognize the format and do the parsing and importing for you.

Paste teachers to Prime Timetable

Teachers pasted into Prime Timetable via Ctrl + V keyboard shortcut

If your data is stored in CSV (comma separated value) file, just drag that file from your desktop directly into the data grid and that’s it. Again, the software will recognize the format and import all data.

Copy and paste works across all data grids in our software, which means you can copy rows from one timetable and paste them into another one.

How to export school data to Microsoft Office and Google Docs?

You can export any data from Prime Timetable into Microsoft Office and Google Docs. Just select the desired data grid rows, copy (Ctrl + C) and paste them (Ctrl + V) into e.g. Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word. Data grid header will also be included as displayed in the screenshot below.

Paste teachers from Prime Timetable into Microsoft Excel

Teachers exported from Prime Timetable into Microsoft Excel using copy and paste

We believe that exchanging data with widely used software (Microsoft Office, Google Docs and others) will significantly improve your efficiency. Happy data exchanging!

Browsing timetables using back and forward

Prime Timetable is an online school timetable service that works in your browser of choice. It is quite common that you will want to use the browser’s back and forward button to browse through previously opened timetables. This has been possible since the beginning, but we have made some improvements that we would like to share with you:

  • Clicking back or forward button will not refresh the web page, meaning previous or next timetable will be opened and its cards will immediately fly into existing timetable view.
  • If current view is single entity view, then default timetable view (specified in options) will show up instead.
  • You can click on back or forward button while timetable setup window is open and all grids and view will be refreshed as well. The browser’s URL will be changed and you can copy/paste timetable link.
  • Browsing through previously opened timetables is a lot faster now, almost instant, because we are caching opened timetables on your computer. However, in the background we will check if some other user has made changes in the meantime and load them.

Clicking back button in browser will show previously open timetable

These are all small improvements, but we think that it will make browsing timetables a lot faster and better. Happy timetable browsing!

20/04/2011 browser, tips & tricks

Keyboard shortcuts in Prime Timetable

If you use some repetitive operations you will find that using the keyboard is often faster than using the mouse. For the most effective timetabling, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:

General keyboard shortcuts

  • Online Help – F1
  • Save timetable changes - F2 or [Ctrl + S]
  • Full screen mode - F11
  • Open timetables - [Ctrl + Alt + 0] or [Ctrl + 0]
  • Create new timetable – [Ctrl + Alt + N]
  • Undo - [Ctrl + Z]
  • Redo - [Ctrl + Y]
  • Generate new timetable - [Ctrl + G]
  • Improve existing timetable - [Ctrl + I]
  • Validate timetable - [Ctrl + V]
  • Close window - Esc

Timetable setup

  • Manage classes - [Ctrl + Alt + C]
  • Manage teachers - [Ctrl + Alt + T]
  • Manage rooms - [Ctrl + Alt + R]
  • Manage subjects - [Ctrl + Alt + S]
  • Manage lessons - [Ctrl + Alt + L]

Use Left and Right arrow keys to navigate between tabs.

Timetable views

  • Switch to class view - [Ctrl + Alt + 1]
  • Switch to teacher view - [Ctrl + Alt + 2]
  • Switch to room view - [Ctrl + Alt + 3]
  • Switch to subject view - [Ctrl + Alt + 4]
  • Switch to previous/next entire or single view - [Ctrl + Alt + Up/Down arrow]
  • Switch to first/last entire or single view – [Ctrl + Alt + Home/End]
  • Revert from single to entire timetable view - Esc

Board tools

  • Select/deselect sponge tool - [Ctrl + Backspace]
  • Select/deselect pin tool - [Ctrl + (.)]
  • Zoom in - [Ctrl + (+)]
  • Zoom out - [Ctrl + (-)]
  • Drop selected tool - Esc

When using pin or sponge, [Ctrl + mouse click] affects current row, [Alt + mouse click] affects current column and [Shift + mouse click] affects whole timetable.

Data grid

  • Add new item - A or Space or Insert or (+)
  • Edit selected item - E or Enter or [Mouse left double click]
  • Remove selected item(s) – Backspace or Delete
  • Copy selected item - C or (*)
  • Time request - T
  • Multi-selection - [Ctrl + click]
  • Range-selection - [Shift + click]
  • Select all items - [Ctrl + A]
  • Switch to previous/next tab – Left/Right arrow

* On Mac OS X, use Cmd instead of Ctrl key.

We hope you will find these keyboard shortcuts useful and that they will improve your timetabling work.