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True Confessions of a ToolBook Developer :-o

I am what Marketing folks call an early adopter. That means that I love being on the bleeding edge of technology. I am always the first on the block to have the latest electronic gizmo.  Software upgrades are no exception. So, when I hear that there is an upgrade for ToolBook, my first inclination is to get it installed as soon as possible and start using it right away. Ouch!  I have learned the hard way that can be a very dangerous move.

Does that mean that you shouldn’t upgrade right away? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that your upgrade needs to be very deliberate and well planned. Peter has helped my company develop an upgrade process that assures we always have working product while moving forward with ToolBook upgrades.  That way we can take advantage of improvements in the product without bringing our business to its knees. What follows are Peter’s recommendations for upgrading to a new version of ToolBook.  

-Robin McDermott, Resource Engineering, Inc.

12 Tips to Keep You Sane During a ToolBook Upgrade

  1. Never install upgrades on your development machine until you have thoroughly tested (see point 8 for tips on how to thoroughly test) the upgrade with your existing projects and are happy that they are functioning.  That means you should install the upgrade on a "test" machine first.

  2. Always get your projects completely up-to-date in the old version of the program before upgrading. That way, if you need to revert back to them, you can be sure that all content changes are in the earlier version of the project.

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  1. Always archive a copy of your completely updated projects in the old version before upgrading them. For extra safety, keep a copy on a CD.

  2. To upgrade your existing projects always use the scriptwalking tool (aka the version updater) if it is available.  Typically, to upgrade to minor version changes (TBK 8.1 to 8.2, TBK 8.5 to 8.6 or TBK 2004 to 2004 SP1 or SP2) you will not need the scriptwalker.  For example, just open your TB 8.5 project in TB 8.6 and you are upgraded!

  3. Do not author any new programs using the upgraded version until you are satisfied that it is functioning properly.  “Functioning properly” means that the upgrade is fully tested with all of your special code, toolbook add-ons, etc.). If you need to author a new project before you make your complete cutover to the new version, use the old version of ToolBook - you can always scriptwalk it later.

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  1. Before you upgrade, if you depend on third party products, make sure you check with the developers of those products on upgrades to their products. Keep in mind that the add-on developer may not have gotten the upgrade any sooner than you did and is going through the same upgrade testing process. Allow adequate time for the developer to upgrade the products.

ToolBook Developer Add-On Products and Decaf

Two of my products, the Quiz Randomizer and the Taquin Question Object, will require updated versions for ToolBook Decaf.  Updated versions of these tools will be available by June 30 at the latest.

  1. Tips for testing - Always test in instructor/authoring, reader, AND runtime (make sure you are running the runtime version of ToolBook and not just running in reader mode). If you are exporting, test locally and through your LMS/off of your server after exported.  Run these tests with one "typical" book and assure that you are completely satisfied with the results before you take time upgrading other books.

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  1. The more code/specialized functionality in your project, the more you will need to test. Chances are most of the kinks in standard functionality have been worked out in beta testing. It helps to keep a list of specialized functionality so you know exactly what and where you need to test. 

  2. If you have released versions of your programs that work fine, why upgrade the newly released version of ToolBook if you don't have to?  Robin's company, Resource Engineering, is still using courses developed in ToolBook 8.6 on their QualityTrainingPortal site.  The benefits of upgrading to TBK 2004 were not compelling enough to go through the hassles associated with the upgrade (they have well over 10,000 content pages that would need to be thoroughly tested.  However, Decaf is definitely worthy of the upgrade so for the past several months they have been preparing for the transition once decaf is released and tested.  They are taking this opportunity to also update the look of their programs with a new interface.  The logic is that if you have to go through a complete test of all pages, you might as well do the upgrade now. 

  3. If you don't have a compelling reason to upgrade immediately, why not wait a month or two to give the update some time in the field.  Keep in touch with the listserve as that is where you will hear about any  little quirks with the new version that might help you avoid the same issues.

  4. Read the release notes - so much information is provided in those notes yet I am sure only about 20% of ToolBook Developers read.  What you learn from those notes could save you hours of aggravation. 

  5. If you discover something that is odd, new, different about the upgrade version, let others know.  Share your discoveries with your fellow developers on the ToolBook listserve

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