What's Next? An "Idea Rant" (Yeah, I parked IdeaRant.com too)

Snip-It Pro 2.0 has been released for a few weeks now and I am already looking for a new "side project" to work on. Although I have a few ideas for improvements to Snip-It Pro (Adding Back/Next Buttons to the Snippet Explorer, Supporting Drag Drop from the Explorer window), I am going to put a hold on them to see if the improvements I made so far result in more sales.

Anyway, I have a plethora of ideas for utilities and applications that I have had on hold, many of which I have parked domains for. One of them is to fork the Snip-It Pro code base and create a similar tool for saving other types of copy and cut items such as rich text, images, files and other things that more traditional non technical users would like to manage libraries of. I already snagged a domain for this one: "SideShelf.com"

After spending so much time refactoring, I think I need a break from the code base, so although I will eventually tackle this one, I want to work on a different project in the short term.

I've been sitting on ideas for a couple of ideas for SharePoint extensions, but they would probably make better articles or blog post than full blown products. One is to create a web based utility for editing appsettings and connection strings that is accessed from "SharePoint Central Administration." I've wanted to build this since I first encountered the painful SPWebConfigModification.

The other tool, which I probably need to think through a bit more, is another set of admin pages, and probably some framework libraries, to supplement SharePoint Timer Jobs. I always loved the idea of them, but thought the admin pages for them sucked. Unless I get staffed on another SharePoint project, or have a lot of free time on my hands (not likely), I can't foresee implementing these any time soon.

Other ideas that have been floating around my head include creating a couple of utilities. One, that was particularly interesting is to create a utility that adds buttons to the title bar of every window next to the minimize/maximize window that allows you to turn that window into a dockable application desktop toolbar. I'm not 100% sure it can be done, but if it could, it would be a tool I'd love to use. I frequently want to view two windows at once, and a quick button that could dock them would come in handy.

Another idea for a utility was to create a tool that could start multiple applications at once. I frequently need to open multiple applications to perform a particular task, and thought creating a simple app that would create a shortcut for opening multiple apps would be useful. I also thought it could have another feature that would remember all the running application before a shut down occurred and restart them when the system came up.

Another idea I have is to create a research tool for tracking searches. I find myself searching for the same things from time to time, and also as I search, I end up clicking links from the results to other sites. It's hard to figure out how I got to a particular site days, weeks and months later. So the idea is to create a tool to help track where you go when you search. Maybe implemented as a browser toolbar that sends information to a web service. Then you can log on to a site and view your past searches, and sites you have flagged during those searches. I've got two domains for this idea: "OnceFound.com" and "SearchCrumbs.com".

This is probably the best idea of the bunch, but in the short term I need a diversion, a new, exciting technology to work on.

Silverlight is that technology. I haven't really played with Silverlight since it was in beta (and was called Silverlight 1.1). Back then the tooling support sucked, it had very few controls but I still managed to put together an entry for an internal Silverlight contest that Avanade had hosted internally. I didn't win, but that coupled with a simple WPF app I created for another internal tool has given me an appreciation for Xaml if anything.

So, with the platform a bit more mature, 3.0 in beta with support for an "Out of Browser Experience," my next side project needs to be a Silverlight one. I intend to use Patterns and Practices PRISM, composite guidance for WPF and Silverlight. Having built a few applications with CAB and SCSF, I definitely want to leverage a composite architecture, and after watching some of the quick start demo videos, I definitely think this is the way to go.

As far as ideas for a Silverlight app go, I have two. One is to create a screen mock up app, a la Balsamiq Mockups. I thought it was interesting, but time consuming and not that original. The other idea, and the one that I plan on starting next weekend is for a Architecture Diagramming Tool. Having just rolled off a project, I find myself doing business development work, responding to RFP's, creating slide deck and similar activities. I find myself creating high level architecture diagrams that are pretty similar, but customized to the particular application we are proposing. Normally I do this in Visio, and I think I've gotten quite good at it. But my general idea is to build a Silverlight based tool for quickly creating Physical and Logical Application and Infrastructure Architecture diagrams.

These are actually just some of the better ideas that I am sitting on. I enjoy consulting full time, but sometimes I wish I had the money saved to pursue some of these full time. If anyone feels strongly about any of these ideas, or wishes to collobarate on any of them with me, leave a comment on this post, or click here to contact me.

Planning "Architecty" - A tool for creating architecure diagrams

Why you need a Snippet Management Tool