Based on your generous feedback, we have developed new Prime Timetable 6.0 with lots of features, improvements and latest fixes. Whether you are looking for automated or manual timetabling or both we've got something for you, not to mention special discounts for multi-year purchase up to 50%. But before we dive into any details, first and foremost
Thank you for promoting Prime Timetable!
We can't express enough gratitude to all of you who are promoting Prime Timetable to other principals and schools around. That really means the world to us. BIG HOOT and BIG THANK YOU! Ow(l)ing to your devotion and continuous support we bring you:
The new automatic timetable generator
Our unique automatic timetable generator (the only one in the market that works in your browser of choice on both Mac and PC since 2009) has been rewritten from scratch to serve you better. It has been specially optimized for complex timetables and in some cases we have seen the increase in performance up to 5-10 times than before. In other words, it means that if you have waited for a couple of minutes for automatic generation to finish, you will wait in a matter of seconds, now. Well, just click and let us know how it works for you.
Scheduling multiple rooms
Simply add more than one desired rooms using More... button in Manage > Lessons > Add and that lesson will be displayed with equal number of cards in the room view. When dragging a card with several scheduled rooms, all related cards are automatically moved horizontally to a new position. However, only the card being dragged can be moved vertically so you can change its room without affecting other related room cards. You can manually choose any room, even if it is not in the desired or alternative room list.
Draw constraints using markers
You don't want to get bored with your timetabling work, do you? The new markers will prove that previously slow and tedious task of defining constraints can be fun, game-like and yet more productive. Red , yellow and blue markers and eraser will let you easily draw or erase forbidden, unwanted or mandatory marks directly into any master, individual or extra timetable view. For instance, using red marker you can mark the 6th period as forbidden for a specific resource (class, teacher, room or subject) and the automatic timetable generator will respect your input and try to solve all the constraints for you.
Improvements for custom periods
Based on your feedback we have improved custom periods and now you can define more than one custom periods during the default period. For instance, during the default period of 45 minutes you can add 3 shorter lessons of 15 minutes each. When adding new custom period(s), you will be asked if appropriate cards on default periods should be moved and resized accordingly, so you don't have to do that manually. Positioning and resizing of custom cards is also improved to better support gaps between default periods and different period intervals. As always, when dragging a card, the card shadow indicates where the card will be dropped.
Timetabling history and unlimited undo/redo
Click to undo and to redo any view changes. Apart from that, a new history icon lets you see all previous changes, so 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. Both multiple undo and redo 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.
Other changes and improvements
There are lots of other subtle changes and improvements, here is just a short list:
- Adding a lesson without teacher or class is improved.
- Days and periods can be repositioned just like other data.
- Teacher's statistics will take custom periods duration into account.
- Black and white (monochrome) printing mode added.
- New "Use 12-hour clock" option added in Help > Options.
- When editing a lesson, previous card positions are remembered.
- Better detection and user experience for iPad and iPhone users.
- Use markers, but if you miss old Marks button we can enabled it for you.
- Old generator is still there just in case, and can be enabled for you.
- Subscription expire date is displayed in Help > About.
Is there anything you would like to have included and it's not there yet? Share your idea in our online user voice. Once again we would like to thank you for your continuous support and we wish you enjoyable timetabling.
Prime Timetable team
For the last 4 years our unique automatic school timetable generator has been the only one in the market that works in your browser of choice on both Mac OS and Windows, and all that without sacrificing its performance. Isn't that great? We've had great feedback from you, but we didn't stop there, because there is always room for improvement. We have done a lot of research in the field of automatic timetabling algorithms in order to further improve our generator's performances. Today, we are very pleased to announce the results of this multi-year work:
Generating complex timetables 5-10 times faster
Automatic timetable generator has been rewritten from scratch to serve you better. The main focus was resolving requirements of complex timetables faster. For instance, if you used to wait a couple of minutes for automatic timetable generation to finish, you will be pleasantly surprised to see that now the timetable will be generated in the matter of seconds and you will get the job done with a single click of . Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.
However, if there is no improvement for a couple of minutes, you should stop the generator and check if your data is properly entered or try to remove some constraints and then try again. The owl will hoot helpful advice along the way.
Also, while improving, automatic timetable generator will try to move only a limited number of cards. In some cases, you can spot the "problematic card(s)", manually move them to another position, fix them using and then click once again.
New generator => new features
The new generator is much more flexible than the old one. It allows us to easily introduce new features such as multiple rooms and lessons without teacher or class, and this is only the beginning. You can expect much more in the future.
New automatic timetable generator in action
Single play icon which improves timetable
In the old version, whenever was clicked, the timetable was generated from the beginning (all cards were first removed), while when was clicked, the current timetable state and its imperfections were improved. We have decided to remove and use instead.
If for some reason you still want to generate a timetable from the beginning click with Shift key pressed or just click to remove parts of the timetable you are not satisfied with.
What happened with the old generator?
It's still there just in case. If you need it let us know, and we will enable it for you. Bare in mind that the old generator can't be used for the new features, such as multiple rooms and lessons without a teacher or class.
Some lessons require more than one room, e.g. physical education might require gymnastic hall and some other sports hall as well. When adding a lesson via Manage > Lessons > Add you can add more than one desired room using More… button, and the lesson will be displayed with equal number of cards in the room view.
Adding more desired rooms using More button
Automatic timetabling of rooms
Automatic timetable generator will attempt to schedule all desired rooms without causing any conflicts with other lessons. In case it can’t find a solution using only desired room(s), it will use alternative room(s) as a replacement.
Dragging a card with 3 rooms assigned
Manual timetabling of rooms
The room view is the only master view where you can drag cards vertically, so as to change where the lesson is taught. When dragging a card with several desired rooms, all related cards will be automatically moved horizontally to a new position. However, only the card being dragged can be moved vertically so you can change its room without affecting other related room cards. As always, the card shadow indicates where the card will be dropped. You can manually choose any room you want, even if it is not in the desired or alternative room list.
Based on your feedback custom periods are much more improved and now you can define more than one custom period during the one default period. For instance, during the default period of 45 minutes you can add 3 shorter lessons of 15 minutes each. When adding new custom period(s), you will be asked if appropriate cards on default periods should be moved and resized accordingly so you don’t have to do it manually.
Example of individual class view using custom periods
Positioning and resizing of custom cards is also improved to better supports gaps between default periods and different period intervals. When dragging a card, the card shadow will cycle through all default and custom periods beneath so you know exactly where dragged card will be dropped.
While dragging a card, the card shadow shows exact position where card will be dropped
Got problem with Prime Timetable? Well, don’t worry and don’t panic, it’s pretty easy to get it fixed. Prime Timetable requires only Microsoft Silverlight plugin which is already installed on 75% of computers world-wide. Even if you don’t have it, installing Silverlight plugin usually takes only 30 seconds, so for vast majority everything works fine. However, in some rare situations it is not the case.
How do I know that I have a problem?
Go to http://primetimetable.com/demo page. If you don’t see master timetable view with lots of cards that you can drag & drop, it’s quite likely that you have a problem with Microsoft Silverlight installation.
Install Microsoft Silverlight
In order to start Prime Timetable, Microsoft Silverlight installation is needed. You can install it from here. Just follow on-screen instructions.
99% of all issues are solved by restarting or changing your browser
After Microsoft Silverlight installation is finished, sometimes it’s necessary to just restart your browser. Microsoft Silverlight works on both Mac and Windows in your (properly configured) browser of choice. Our customers are using Prime Timetable on Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, and also in Chrome, Firefox, Safari on both Mac and Windows.
Silverlight installation is corrupted on Mac OS > uninstall and install it again
In some rare cases on Mac OS, Prime Timetable won’t work because Microsoft Silverlight installation is corrupted. To resolve the issue just uninstall and install Microsoft Silverlight again. Here is a video on how to uninstall Silverlight on Mac.
Browser on Mac OS doesn’t let me type text -> change the browser
In some rare cases on Mac OS X, the application won’t let you type text, meaning you can’t enter any data. The problem is solved by starting Prime Timetable in any other browser on Mac (Chrome, Safari, Firefox) which will sort of “unlock text boxes”. After “unlocking” you can revert back to your browser of choice and it will work as expected.
Browser doesn’t allow plugins ->change the browser
In some rare cases your browser can be configured so that running plugins like Microsoft Silverlight is forbidden. Just try to use any other browser like Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and you are good to go.
I have tried everything, Prime Timetable still doesn’t work -> contact us
Give us a feedback, leave a comment and let us know. As a last resort, you can try starting Prime Timetable on any other school or home computer.
In the new Prime Timetable 6.0 it is possible to enter lessons without teacher and/or class. For instance, now you can add “Teachers’ meeting” as a lesson without specifying the class, or you can add “Break” for a specific class without setting the teacher.
Lesson without specified teacher or class
A lesson without a teacher will not be visible in the master teacher view, whereas a lesson without a class will not be visible in the class view. If there is a card which should display the class and there is no specified class, that card will have no text and will be in gray.
The only requirement for adding a lesson is to set its subject (activity). Teacher(s), class(es) and room(s) are optional.
In the previous version when a lesson is created without specifying the teacher or class, the application added what we called “fake” teacher or “fake” class. Since this was confusing it is now completely removed and automatic timetable generator has been updated to “understand” these types of lessons.
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 and redo . 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.
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.
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 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
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 to save changes. Use undo and redo to undo/redo latest changes.
Click view indicator to change the current master timetable view, so you can see classes, teachers, rooms or subjects master 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
To choose individual class, teacher, room or subject view click on the desired first column in the timetable.
Individual class/grade view
If you have finished entering your school data it’s time to start automatic timetable generation by clicking play icon . 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
You want to make sure your timetable is valid upon any change you make. Click validation icon 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
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 , unwanted or mandatory card positions for classes, teachers, rooms and subjects.
Forbidden (red minus), unwanted (yellow exclamation mark) and mandatory (blue plus) marks in the master teacher view
Click on to improve timetable imperfections. Before you do that, you may use the pin to fix the cards which are already on desired positions, so that they won’t be moved during the generation process.
Pinned cards (8E, 8D and 7B) have bold unrounded borders
Cards can be manually dragged using the mouse or you can use sponge to remove them from the timetable.
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 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 is accessible via smartphone, tablet or any mobile
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.
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.
Automatic school scheduling is all about solving constraints. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handy tool that lets you define constraints simply by drawing marks in the timetable? That’s what we are proudly introducing as of today: red , yellow and blue markers and eraser – the new intuitive and game-like scheduling tools that will let you easily draw or erase forbidden, unwanted or mandatory marks directly into any timetable view and much more than that:
- When a marker is selected, all cards fade away and all previously drawn marks are filled with color making them prominent. Thus you can see already scheduled cards, verify marks (even the ones below scheduled cards) and draw/erase new marks for any resource by clicking any position in the timetable view.
- Holding the left mouse button down and moving the marker using the mouse will draw or erase multiple marks all at once, similar to using pin and sponge . With just one click on a period/day, you can mark it as forbidden for all resources in the current timetable view. Click again and drawn marks will be erased. Use right mouse click to switch to the next marker and press Esc key to drop the marker when finished.
- Instant validation shows instant feedback on any change you make using the marker.
- You can use markers in any master, individual or extra view and all other views will be updated accordingly. You can even choose different views to mark resources there without dropping the marker.
- Whatever you do, don’t worry because unlimited undo/redo works for any mark changes.
- Mouse over the first column to copy marks to other resources, or define number of unwanted or missed mandatory lessons per week and per day.
- As always the owl will help you while using markers by providing marker tips and other helpful information.
Forbidden (red minus), unwanted (yellow exclamation mark) and mandatory (blue plus) marks drawn using markers
For more information refer to using markers to set time request in our help or read the blog post on how we got the idea to build a better time request based on application usage. The old and deprecated way of defining time request is still available, just check Help > Options > Show Marks button in manage grids.
The new markers will prove that previously slow and tedious task of defining constraints can be fun, game-like and still more productive. Keep in mind though, that it is always a good practice to generate a valid timetable first and then add additional constraints step by step. Hope you will enjoy the prime experience you’ve already grown accustomed to and let us know how it works for you.
If we were to point out only one scheduling/timetabling tool, it would certainly be the ability to mark specific periods as forbidden, unwanted or mandatory for school resources and let the automatic generator do the magic and create a timetable that solves all constraints. In the screenshot below teacher is not allowed to have lessons on Day 1, Day 3 and Day 5.
Old way of defining time request for teacher, marking day 1, 3 and 5 as forbidden
However, there are problems here. We have collected and analyzed data from our application log and were surprised to find out that the time request is not widely used. Here is what we have also found out.
Drawbacks of time request implementation
Many of our users and even some of our customers are simply not aware that defining time request exists. The Time request button is buried bellow Add, Edit, Remove and Copy grid buttons and users somehow seem to overlook it. Furthermore, here are some additional drawbacks:
- Time request can only be defined in the individual timetable view and only for one resource at a time.
- No undo/redo is available when marking periods.
- To change period constraints one more click on the same position is needed and it sort of complicates the workflow.
- To specify a time request, the timetabler has to leave the main master timetable view and go to modal pop-up window.
- Time request doesn’t play nice with our unique instant validation.
- Already scheduled cards are not displayed while defining time requests.
- It’s hard to see defined time request below the card in the timetable view, e.g. timetabler has to pick and drag a card to see the defined time request below (if any).
- Less productive, e.g. you can’t easily mark a period for all resources as forbidden.
Well, you get it. We felt like we could do a much better job here and hopefully introduce a new timetabling/scheduling tool that would be a pleasure to use and understandable to all.
A better approach using interactive markers
All these drawbacks have inspired us to think about better approaches that would resolve listed issues. We thought that we should add a new interactive timetabling tool (similar to pin and sponge) that will allow marking positions directly in the master timetable view, but also in the individual and extra views. First we came up with a chalk or pen in different colors, but we also needed the ability to remove marks and for that we could reuse the sponge. But the sponge is already used for removing cards and we didn’t want to mix it and create confusion.
We ended up using markers in different colors (red , yellow and blue ) and the eraser which is a white marker . We have put markers on the school board so it is always at hand. Once a marker is selected, all timetable cards fade out and marks are filled with color (red, yellow and blue) making them prominent.
Although markers are fun and intuitive there are still benefits in the old way of defining time request. For instance, you can easily copy marks to other resources or you can define allowed number of unwanted or missed mandatory lessons. To resolve this, we have added a marker settings when you mouse over the first column with the marker selected.
Benefits of using markers for setting time request
Here are some of the benefits of using markers:
- It’s much more fun to use the new interactive game-like tool providing overall better user experience.
- More productive, e.g. with just one click on the period you can mark it as forbidden for all resources in the current timetable view.
- Better discoverability – it’s on the school board.
- Easy learning curve, as it’s working similar to other timetabling tools, such as pin and sponge . No more multiple clicks.
- No need to leave the master timetable view.
- Unlimited undo/redo works as expected.
- It works great with instant validation as you get instant feedback on any change you make using the marker.
- You can easily see and verify marks below the cards, because cards are becoming more transparent once the marker is selected.
- You can see already scheduled cards while using the marker.
- You can use markers in any view: master, individual or extra views. You can even switch views while using the marker to mark resources in other views.
For more information about markers refer to using markers to set time request in our help or read follow-up blog post introducing a new scheduling tool – the marker.