We hear you! part 8: Managing users and workgroups - Extensis.com


We hear you! part 8: Managing users and workgroups

Hi, I’m Loren Barr, the lead engineer for the type server application. Over the past few months, an Extensis engineer and I wrote the Users and Workgroups Administration interface for the forthcoming type server. I’ve been asked to say a few words about this tool, and why you’ll love using it.

While in development, we called the Users and Workgroups Administration interface “Uma” (short for User Management Application). Basically, this is the interface that admins use to manage users, workgroups, and roles and permissions. Administrators use this application to do things like add or import users to the system, move users into and out of workgroups, and assign users roles and permissions.

Extensis type server - users and workgroups administration interface - small

We brought the Font Reserve concept of workgroups, and introduced the concept of roles which makes assigning user permissions a snap. We ship with a couple default roles that we think will be useful, and also give you the ability to create your own. Once you have your roles set up, you can give users complex permissions by simply assigning a role to a user in the context of a workgroup. Of course you can still drill down into the details of individual permissions for users if you want that level of specific control. Either way, Uma makes it easy.

Another great convenience of Uma is that it is a web application. Specifically, its a Flex app, which means that it runs in your web browser using the Flash plug-in. What this means for you font admins is that you can administer your system from any modern web browser on almost any operating system. No need to install the full native font client on your machine if you just want to do user management. In fact, you probably don’t need to install anything at all to run Uma, just point your browser at your font server’s IP address and you’re good to go.

Even though Uma is a web app, you might never know it if you don’t stop to think about it. When we started building this app, we knew we had to give users a rich experience, including things like drag and drop, keyboard usage, and a beautiful look and feel all without clunky page reloads. We think we’ve hit this one out of the park. Every time we show this app to developers and customers, they do a little double take when they see some of the nice things like animated transitions we’ve built in.

Uma is our first Flex application at Extensis, and we really enjoyed learning and using the framework. We were able to rapidly develop without writing a lot of code. Fewer lines of code means fewer bugs and less maintenance overhead. It also means we can quickly add new features in the future without breaking existing functionality. For any developers out there, do yourself a favor and check out how easy it is to use Flex to bind to existing web services.

Also, if you’re planning to be at the Macworld Expo next week, be sure to stop by the Extensis booth and ask to see the type server administration web interfaces. I think that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.