Posts tagged school timetabling software
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 teachers or classes, 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.
Adding more desired rooms using More button
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.
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.
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.
- timetable = schedule
- class = grade
- subject = course or activity, and
- lessons = sections.
Feeling confused? Check basic timetabling terms.
Creating a free account
Days and periods
Subjects, rooms, teachers and classes
Saving changes and history
Share with colleagues
Publish to the web
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.
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.
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:
- Add more than one teacher or class/group in the lesson or remove redundant lessons/cards.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!