“…Spring 2014. I’m sitting and gazing attentively at the little Lync window icons on my big screen. The craze of mobile technologies cut down the market of desktop applications. Nevertheless, personal computers still dominate in our everyday work, and monitors are becoming bigger. There are even desktops in the offices of IT-leaders: Google, Apple and Facebook, which I visited during my recent trip to Silicon Valley. My company develops software solutions, and I am suffering! We need to come up with an add-on to use the Lync key functions, often buried in the contextual menu. In one click. The task is to think a bit more and arrange an appointment with developers...”
This is how it all began. We developed the Lync Lite app, which eased interactions between contacts. Our add-on for Lync unfolded in full screen as a separate ‘Favorites’ panel. You could add contacts/groups of contacts, which would look like tiles, and move them around the screen as you want. Chat, call, start a video conference with one click. Essentially, Lync Lite was a window with tabs and links, which could launch necessary Lync functions.
Now, all the necessary contacts are unfolded on a full screen showing their status. It’s clear who you can contact right away. You don’t need to scroll down to find the desired contact. If you direct your cursor (thanks to the integration with Microsoft Exchange), you’ll see your colleague’s calendar. The bell button will notify when the contact comes back online. The preset short messages temples greatly accelerate communication.
While improving the system we came up with a name Easy Lync, which emphasized the simplicity of the program and the concept one-click actions.
In the beginning of 2015 we decided to upload Easy Lync to the Windows Store. According to the specifications, you cannot use Microsoft brand names in the name of an app so Easy Lync turned into EasyLy.
Ideas to improve EasyLy would not stop coming. The program developed. Bugs were fixed. We wanted to implement a bunch of functions, ‘to scratch’ chats in Lync and do them differently: better and more convenient. However, we were limited by Lync’s technical capabilities and its architecture. We had to think of something to break away from Lync, having it based on Lync, but with our own interface and functionality. We began to look for it. We studied a lot of articles and examples on MSDN. We found out that it could be done in Suppressed Mode, which allows you to ‘suppress’ Lync and make your own User Interface based on it. And we did it!
The best part had begun. This was new technology for us, so we had to learn fast from materials that were available online.
Frankly speaking, it was difficult. It was a turning point, a landmark even. We got to the point when Lync as it was didn’t exist anymore, and, thereafter, its capabilities. We had to catch up with Lync’s functionality. Quickly. Work was in full swing.
The first small victory was the implementation of a chat to EasyLy, when we overcame the whole UI of Microsoft Lync.
After that, we managed to implement calls. Then we added screen sharing. It was quite rough, but still, it was sharing! Video calls came next. EasyLy started to get new features. We made something out of nothing. It seemed like some kind of magic to the non-technical part of our team.
The first beta-version was released in summer 2015. We called it EasyLy Corp, whilst our previous development, which was implemented as a separate Lync contacts’ panel, we renamed into EasyLy Lite.
EasyLy Corp was installed on all of our employees’ computers. EasyLy testing revealed narrow spots and bugs, our colleagues shared some new ideas, and we finally received feedback from users. First thing that they found impressive was that the whole chat history could be stored right in EasyLy. This may seem like a standard for messengers, but not so for Lync (Skype for Business).
Users started to like specific things about EasyLy: some liked multichats, while others notes to calls or pinned messages. A little more detail on the last one. Pinned messages are used to pin a message in a conversation as a topic for the further discussion in a dialogue or as a proof in case someone claims they ‘didn’t say that’. Just search inside the conversation (Ctrl+F, another little innovation from us, which Skype for Business lacks) and pin the contact’s quote so that they can’t wriggle out of it :)
We keep on ‘polishing up’ EasyLy Corp for business tasks, so it would be easier to do them. The simplicity and brightness of EasyLy are reflected in its interface, the logical interactions with the program, as well as its set of functions. We have created new use cases, which were lacking in Lync.
By the way, here is what our latest version looks like: