Activities

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The Activities pane follows the Resources pane and is the third pane of data entry.

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It is the most important pane because activities are the objects which are being scheduled (as opposed to discrete resources) and as such they are the building blocks of a timetable. They must be entered accurately in order to be able to construct an accommodating timetable. Simply put, the process of timetabling is the process of assignment of activities to days and times.

The list of activities is basically a spreadsheet of rows and columns. Each column contains a different type of resource and each row represents an activity uniting all these resources. When an activity is scheduled, it appears in the timetables of all the resources that it unites. You can't "break apart" an activity – if you delete the activity from one of the resources' timetables, it will be deleted from all its resources' timetables.

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All the resources taking part in an activity are optional. For example, an activity can have a subject, a room and students, but it does not necessarily need to have a teacher, group or equipment. Any combination is acceptable. Also, each type of resource may enumerate multiple items. For example, an activity can have 2 subjects, 3 teachers and 4 students.

Three of the activity's resources are unusual in the sense that they can be left empty during the activity entry phase, and filled later on, after the activity has already been scheduled. These are the two human resources – students and teachers, and also the room resource. As an example, suppose you have an activity which may be scheduled in room "A" on Monday and in room "B" on Tuesday. There is no need to create two separate activities for this case (even though the two occurrences involve two different room resources). You will have the option to select a different room for each scheduled cell of the same activity.

Each activity has two additional important fields: length and weekly quantity. The length is the duration (number of consecutive periods) of one occurrence of an activity. The weekly quantity is the planned total duration of all the activity's occurrences for one week. The length of an activity can be, for instance, "2" and the quantity "4". This means that the activity should always occupy two consecutive periods and should be scheduled on a total of 4 periods during the week (i.e. 2 occurrences of 2 periods each).

By default, the list of activities does not display any additional administrative fields such as an ID or a number. Since in some institutions there may be a need to attach such extra details to activities, we would like to remind you that just like any resource, an activity too can have custom properties. The properties page in the Institution tab has an activity icon, below which are listed all the properties of an activity. By adding a custom property there and assigning a column width to it, you can have it displayed next to each activity in the list.

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On a similar note, you can equivalently remove unnecessary properties of an activity in case not all the types of resources are relevant to your institution. After expanding the activity item, select the irrelevant resource and in the Properties pane change its "Enabled" property from "Yes" to "No". From that point on, neither the property nor the property's column will be displayed anywhere in the program.


Contents

Sets

Sometimes a single activity does not stand on its own. In such cases, an activity is coupled with other activities to form what is called a Set. All the activities which belong to a simultaneous set are scheduled at the same time. Even if these activities involve the same resources, a situation which would normally cause a conflict if they were to be scheduled at overlapping times, bundling them into a simultaneous set dismisses that conflict.

Sets are embedded into the list of activities. They stand out a little bit because they can be assigned a color (as opposed to regular activities which appear as white rows) and have a title. A set's title and type appear in the set's first row, followed by all the activities that belong to the set, each on a separate row. The title of a set will appear at the center of all its scheduled cells.

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Entering Activities

The Activities page at the right side of the workspace is where the entry of activities and sets takes place. The list of activities is built like a spreadsheet, where each row is a separate activity and the columns are the activity's resources. Since the spreadsheet is empty at the beginning, you can start by adding a few rows. To do this, click on the green plus button at the right toolbar and select the second option: "Activities (5)". This will add 5 rows to the list. If you would like to add a single row you can click on the first option ("Activity").

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Like in the resources' entry, there are two ways to fill in the values of an activity: using the Properties pane or by enabling the Editing mode (using the pencil button at the right toolbar). Since we are dealing with a spreadsheet here, it is more comfortable and faster to enter the majority of the activities in the editing mode. When will the Properties pane be useful? It will be useful when you start scheduling activities. That's because activities are scheduled with drag and drop, and drag and drop is possible only when the editing mode is turned off. When you start scheduling it might become annoying to toggle the editing mode on and off all the time, so it would be better to leave it off and make the small adjustments using the Properties pane. Of course, if you ever need to make mass changes, you can always enable the editing mode.

Now that we have a few empty rows in the list and we have enabled the editing mode, we can start filling in the first activity's resources. The process is simple. First click inside the cell that you are going to fill, then click on the button with the arrow to display a popup list of resources. Next to each resource in the popup list there is a check box. By clicking inside that check box you select the resource. If you click inside the check box again, you deselect the resource. When finished, click anywhere outside the popup list. You will see the resources that you have selected appear inside the cell.

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One tip before we continue. If you are planning to select a single resource inside a popup list, you can simply click on the resource's name instead of in the check box. If you do this, only that resource will be selected and the popup list will immediately close. This speeds up the process because in many cases all you need to select is a single resource. This trick works in all popup lists throughout the program.

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One more tip. If you are filling in the equipment of an activity, it is possible to select more than 1 item of a certain type of equipment. Remember that each type of equipment defines a number of items of that equipment available in stock. Although usually a single activity would require a single item of some equipment, the program does support the rare cases in which more than 1 item of the same equipment is needed by an activity. To accommodate for this need, the drop down list of equipment has a "Quantity" column. You can click inside that column next to the relevant equipment and use the spin-up button to increase the number of items.

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The Length and the Quantity fields of an activity are numeric fields which are entered using the keyboard. Click inside one of these fields and then type a value such as "2" (i.e. 2 periods). If the quantity is not important or unlimited you can type "0" in the Quantity field (and the zero will turn into the infinity symbol). If the length is equal to 1 period, you can leave the length field empty because 1 period is the default. In any other case, you should fill in the length.

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Inclusion Type

In you haven't noticed already, try this: select several rooms for an activity by placing a check mark near each possible room. You will see that the bottom row of the drop down list in which you are selecting the rooms will change to the phrase "All the selected resources" and the word "All" will appear inside a rectangle. If you click inside that rectangle, the word "All" will change to "Any" and the phrase will read "Any of the selected resources". What does this mean?

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Well, the rectangle with the words "All" and "Any" stands for the rooms' "inclusion type". Let's start with the "All" inclusion type. If you select several rooms in the popup list and the bottom line says "All the selected resources" it means what it says – whenever the activity is scheduled, all the selected rooms are booked. For instance, if you select 3 rooms for an activity and you schedule the activity on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, all the 3 rooms will be booked at the same time on each of these days.

The "Any" inclusion type is different. When you change the inclusion type from "All" to "Any", it means that each occurrence of the activity can have any of the rooms scheduled. For example, assuming an activity is scheduled as before on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and 3 rooms were selected with the "Any" inclusion type, the Monday occurrence could have the first room and the Tuesday occurrence could have the second room. In the Interactive mode, the decision of which room is chosen for a specific cell (occurrence) is made in the Properties pane after selecting the activity's cell. During Automation, the program selects a room automatically for each cell.

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Note that if you leave the room field empty for an activity, the inclusion type automatically becomes "Any", and you will be able to manually select a room on a per-cell basis (but no room will be selected during Automation). In such case, the popup list (in the Properties pane) in which you will be able to choose a room will include all the rooms in the database. The difference between this case and the case in which you do select several possible rooms in advance and explicitly set the inclusion type to "Any" is that in the latter case the program will offer you a selection of only those possible rooms that you have selected (and not the whole database). So using the "Any" inclusion type explicitly becomes an advantage in case there are only a few relevant possible rooms to choose from for that specific activity.

Copy/Paste

Just like in a spreadsheet application, you can copy/paste cells and rows in the list of activities. This can be done only when the editing mode is turned on, so make sure the pencil button at the top right corner is pressed. Now, you can copy a single cell, a range of cells or a range of full rows. It all depends on your selection. You can select a single cell simply by clicking on it. You can select a range of cells by clicking on the top-left cell and while holding down the mouse button pressed, drag the mouse to the bottom-right cell (or vice versa). To select a range of full rows click on the first fixed column (the blue one) of the first row and while holding down the mouse button drag the mouse to the last row. Then release the mouse button.

Once you have the source range selected, press Ctrl+C on the keyboard or click on the copy button at the right toolbar. This copies your selection to the computer's memory. Before you paste what you have copied you need to select the target range of cells. The target range can be a range of newly added empty rows or it can be a range of existing filled rows. In any case, the target range of rows has to exist. If it does not exist, add some new rows using the green plus button. Now, select the target range in the same manner that you have selected the source range and then press Ctrl+V on the keyboard or click on the paste button at the right toolbar. If the target range is longer than the source range, the source information will be duplicated multiple times until the entire target range is covered. Remember that if you made a mistake, you can always use the Undo button at the leftmost toolbar.

Entering Sets

As we have explained before, a Set is a way to unite several activities which should be scheduled simultaneously. To create a new set, click on the green plus button at the right toolbar and select "Set". The new set will be inserted after the currently selected row.

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By default, the set will be added with 3 empty activities. If you need the set to have more than 3 activities, make sure the set is selected and click on the green plus button. Select the "Activity" item and a new activity will be added to the set. If you need the set to have less than 3 activities, you can delete the unnecessary activities by selecting them and then clicking on the red minus button. Note that you must have the editing mode enabled (the pencil button at the top right corner) in order to be able to select discrete activities inside a set. If the editing mode is toggled off, clicking on any of the set's activities will automatically select the entire set (which is necessary for drag and drop scheduling; we'll get to that later on in the user's guide).

It is also possible to insert existing activities into the newly added set. If you have already entered an activity somewhere else in the spreadsheet and you would like to add it to the set, here is how. First click on some cell of that activity. The activity's properties will then be displayed in the Properties pane at the bottom right corner. Notice the property "Set". If you click where it says "Click to choose…" near that property, you will see a popup list of all the sets in your database. Select the newly added set (unless you have already had a chance to modify the set, its default color is blue and it does not have a title so it just appears as "Set"). Once you do that, the activity will be appended to the set.

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If you need to move an activity out of a set, you can use the same property. Deselect the set in the popup list by clicking in the small check box near the set's name to remove the check mark. The activity will be removed from the set and will become a standalone activity.

A set has a title. All the cells in the schedule in which the set is scheduled can display the title of the set (if that option is enabled in the View Settings as explained later). If you click in the first column of the first row of the set you will be able to type the set's title (assuming you are in the editing mode). You can also type the set's title in the Properties pane, by filling in the set's Name property.

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A set has a color assigned to it. That color has precedence over the colors assigned to the distinct resources participating in the set's activities. As a result, the cells in which the set's activities are scheduled will have the set's background color and not the resources' colors. The set's color can only be chosen using the Properties pane. Click on the set and then choose the color using the "Color" property. By the way, just like in the resources entry phase, you can assign colors automatically to all the sets in your database using the paintbrush button at the right toolbar.

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