On March 5, 2013 I published the new beta release of Visual SEO Studio.
As a complement to the full release notes, I want to get into the habit of writing blog posts highlighting the major improvements of the new releases.

Start Page revisited

First thing one can notice, I reorganized the Start Page to include also the Crawl Sessions list:

Visual SEO Studio Start Page revised to also show Crawl Sessions
Start Page revised to also show Crawl Sessions

The page now gives you a better overview, and attempts to give more focus to the Crawl Sessions within the currently loaded project.

Users launching the program for the first time will see the Crawl Sessions pane empty, and will hopefully understand the first task to perform is normally crawling a site.
An explicit "Crawl a Site..." button gives a better hint.

I'm still not fully satisfied about the Start Page: it looks crowded, the new pane - button apart - does not permit performing actions and partly duplicates the function of Sessions Management windows, but I find it an improvement to be refined.

Summary Tabs

Users fond of HTML and URL Suggestions will appreciate the new Summary tabs.

The new Summary tab in HTML Suggestions
The new Summary tab in HTML Suggestions

The number of available reports has increased over time and is on the rise, one risked loosing the big picture. The new Summaries make the features more usable.

There's room for improvement: plenty of space is unused in the new tabs, so expect to see some graphs, explanation and visual rating to appear in the future.

Screenshots Management

I am the one to blame. I discovered the menu options "Copy Image to Clipboard" and "Save image" did not produce any result. I simply forgot to implement them!

Now not any more, they are there for you to use them.

Save and Copy screenshot miniature
Save and Copy screenshot miniature implemented

The exported image will be the largest visualizable miniature: 400px wide, full page. The overlayed folds and rulers will be included; to exclude them, simply un-select them from the upper options.

More powerful Search Pages feature

There's one missing bit I felt so guilty I had to implement it: now you can search in the pages HTML as well:

Find Pages dialog enriched with Search in HTML option
Find Pages dialog enriched with Search in HTML option

Visual SEO Studio stores the HTML compressed to save memory, and has to decompress it as it needs it. It's a trade-off to permit working with large sites. In the case of search, inflating is an overhead you don't really notice for small sites. I tested it with a 27.000 pages site on my development laptop (not the top: Intel i5, 4GB ram, 2.5 GHerz) and it took about 15 seconds to complete, freezing the user interface during the task. I hate when a synchronous task freezes the UI, so expect it to change.

As you can see from the screenshot, another feature will come: the ability to search within the page text. Only the actual page content will be considered: menus, footers and side content will be skipped, and HTML entities will be converted in text first. This is even more CPU consuming, that's why the two options are not selected by default.

I'm aware users need even more search power, so expect in the future to see a fully fledged inquiry engine able to use advanced operator such as "not contains".

Improvement in XML Sitemap Editor

Suggested by a user (thank you J!), here is a simple yet useful option: you can specify whether to include or not pages having a canonical tag differing from they actual URL. The option is selected by default.

Skip non-canonical URLs option
Skip non-canonical URLs option

Normally you don't want such pages being crawled, as only the canonical version would be indexed.

When would you want to have them included in the XML Sitemap?
Suppose the canonical tag were added to remove a duplication issue, after the pages had already been crawled and indexed; you'd want the crawler to re-visit the pages and learn from the tag they are actually aliases of the canonical version (remember to temporarily allow the crawler to the paths also with the robots.txt).

In case the two path differ in case only, pages are not skipped, as the most probable reason is a badly written internal link on a case-insensitive web server like IIS.

User feedback made easier

I especially like when users make me detailed requests and they make so much sense I cannot say no. 

This happened for example in the case of the above mentioned feature; there are a lot of suggested ideas waiting for prime time.

I like it so much I decided to ease and encourage a more direct contact users-developer, enabling to send feedback messages directly from within the program (from the Help menu, "Send some feedback" menu entry):

The new Give Feedback dialog window
The new Give Feedback dialog window

It's you who use the program daily, and know needs I might not be aware of.

So you notice a bug? Have a feature request? A suggestion? Don't hesitate to use the window to tell me. If you specify an e-mail address (it's optional, of course), I will also reply you as soon as possible to thank you and may be ask for further details.

Bug fixes

As usual every release also fixes some bugs. This one fixed three crash conditions; one was reported by a tester (thank you), the other two I reproduced in development and never actually occurred on a user installation.

Other then the crashes, which I always am aware of as I receive the automated crash reports, other minor issues were fixed. If you find one, please don't hesitate to tell me using the "Send some feedback" menu option, chances are I might not be aware of it and you'd have the fix queued for a future release, prioritized based on its urgency.

Usability improvements

I strongly believe little details can make working life a lot better, and every time I as a user stumble into an annoying issue, I force myself to take note and fix it when I can.
One example is the case I launched Visual SEO Studio with a brand new project - no crawl session done yet - and tried one of the many inspection option, e.g. "Html Suggestions"...
No way! Something had to be done for all new users feeling confused:

When there are no Crawl Sessions to pick, before and after
When there are no Crawl Sessions to pick, before and after

It might not be optimal, but it's much better than before.

Conclusions

Every new release brings more features, stability and improvements.
Releasing a new version is a delicate task, I have to perform many non-regression tests and follow a long check list. It partly is automated and I plan automating it even more, but many steps involve manual action by nature - e.g. writing a human readable release note. It takes time.

Besides, while I wish to release more often to spread fixes and improvements, for the users updating the software too often can be an annoyance, especially until auto-update is not in place (today Visual SEO Studio detects the presence of updates, and launches the web page from where to download the updated software, but it's up to the user to click on the MSI file).

Furthermore, many people download the software from third party download sites, which might take some time to catch up with the latest version.

Again, balancing the release schedule is a trade-off.
At the moment, unless in case of urgent fixes (happened in the past with the very first beta releases, sounds an era ago now!), I plan to release a new update once a month.

Are you a Visual SEO Studio?
I'd love hearing from you!

Comments are open on linked Google+ page.