We shipped broken software
In early development of Beyond Typicals- and even up to 6 weeks after launch-this all-new visualization application had a fundamental flaw- the initial drag and drop system was fast and efficient but contained issues that made it buggy and unstable. Dragging a section at the wrong time could cause a crash, and if you had your striping all configured correctly, dragging a new section would reset every stripe back to default. There would also occasionally be bugs where the section zoomed in and out of the camera before placing.
We have been aware of these issues for quite some time and for a while we tried to patch on top of the initial drag and drop system one problem at a time with little success. The striping methodology was also confusing and buggy in itself. You could either select the stripe itself or select the section adjacent to this section, but it wasn’t clear which section controlled which stripe, and results weren’t consistent.
Eventually it was clear we needed to re-write the drag and drop system.
These sorts of development decisions aren’t easy. Not only do you need to factor the time and costs associated, but also the need to chase any other issues or changes that happen to other parts of the application. How can you redo an underlying system of an application without breaking other parts or, at the very least, make changes so considerable that existing users become lost with the new change?
Not just a fix but an incredible improvement (Section HIerarchy)
Thanks to the brilliance of our developers (shoutout to John and Ben) we were able to have the system re-written in less than a month with minimal adverse effects to other features along with a host of advancements to boot. Not only did we fix the main bugs and achieve enhanced stability, but we also developed an entirely new system of controlling and organizing the sections and striping. We now call this the Section Hierarchy and this system of organizing and editing sections and striping doesn’t just fix the problems we set out to solve, it makes the entire application incredibly more powerful and efficient.
Developing a system for handling striping was surprisingly difficult, only complicated by making the system easy to use and understand through the UI. Through many conversations, UI mockups, development hours and feedback from users we landed on a solution that seems to be robust and easy to understand. The biggest issue is that striping needs to be attached to a section, but it isn’t always clear which of the adjacent sections that should be. We handled this by making it free-floating by default but with an option to ‘link’ the striping to either adjacent section in the Section Hierarchy. Once linked the striping will move with the section including elevation changes.
Folders were also fundamental in making this system robust and powerful, giving users the ability to keep projects organized with the option to drag entire corridors together. The section and folder renaming system is now also tied to labels for more efficient and consistent organizing and label management.
With this update- and related to the Section Hierarchy- we’ve also added a variety of keyboard shortcuts and a right click on section dialogue box that enhance ease of use and efficiency. ‘Tab’ will cycle through placed sections in 3D space and holding down ‘ctrl’ will select multiple sections in the Section Hierarchy. Delete will remove sections and ‘F’ will flip sections including the direction of traffic, pavement markings and more.
You can watch the tutorial videos below to see the Section Hierarchy in action or, even better yet, you can download the free trial for yourself (including a link-based cloud version) by clicking here.
Potential Save File Issues
With these fundamental changes to the underlying systems of Beyond Typicals, we’ve been doing our best to keep up with older saved files. Still, current users may have issues when opening older saved files with the latest patch. Future updates may break old save files (especially those created in Jan-Feb 2022) even more, but rest assured that we are making sure that, from now on, future patches won’t break the saved files you are working on today. Additionally, if you do have issues with saved files, contact support and we can give you access to older versions of Beyond Typicals so that you can still open them.
Looking back at the previous version of Beyond Typicals with the older drag and drop system, it did offer some efficiency and an early look at what Beyond Typicals could be. That said, the current system and Section Hierarchy are clearly superior to what it replaces. In full transparency, this current version (1.0.18) probably should have been the 1.0 version available at launch. That said, we are still growing in users and probably would not have been able to develop this system without the feedback from the early users we have.