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Zippy Communications, Incorporated

Integrated Messaging, Collaboration and Personal Information Management Application

Zippy was creating a secure business-class, integrated messaging, collaboration and personal information management service. The service uses a fat client written in Visual Basic 6, with a backend coded in Perl running on Linux, and three databases: MySQL, Postgres, and Oracle.

The Zippy client application has modules for activities (calendar, tasks, meetings), groups management (members, meetings, shared files, shared bookmarks and Web tours), library management (checkin, checkout, add, delete, edit), contacts management, email, chat, instant messaging, and some utilities for defect tracking, customer support tracking, user signup, reporting, and importing from other applications.

Client and Launcher Development

My work on this product included work on existing code modules for activities, groups, library, contacts, email, chat, user signup, reporting, error handling, option settings, help integration, intellisense (e.g. type a few letters of a name in the name field in the address book and a name list appears, with the closest match selected), and the import wizard. I was responsible for creating from scratch modules for reporting, intellisense, customer support tracking, and the import wizard.

In addition to work on the client, I created a launcher application in Visual Basic 6.0 for running the client on a removable USB solidstate drive. The launcher installs the components on the client machine following Microsoft's recommendations for installations. Later, the need to install components was circumvented by wrapping the client and all required files with Thinstall. Thinstall did not support out-of-process servers, which the Zippy client uses. I worked with Thinstall creator Jonathan Clark to help diagnose problems and memory leaks, resulting in an improved Thinstall product.


When Zippy bought a copy of InstallShield Developer 7, I took responsibility to learn the product. I created installation packages for Windows 98 and Windows 2000/XP, including merge modules and patches for existing installations.

Help File

When I began working at Zippy the product did not have a help file, and there wasn't room in the budget for a product like RoboHelp. I used Microsoft's free HTML Help Workshop in the past, and so began the help project, demonstrating and teaching use of the product and passing off the writing and image creation. This allowed Zippy to provide a fine help file for users.

Login for Secure USB Partition

One of the USB drives Zippy resold was the Trek Thumbdrive Secure, which has an API for accessing features including login, device initialization, and partitioning. This api is not accessible from Visual Basic, and Zippy needed to provide a login application for users, and an internal tool to configure new drives (e.g. require the user to create a password the first time). I created these tools with VC++ 6.0.

Group Library

Group Library


Meeting Attendees



Support Tracker

Support Tracker - note that the grid column headers are not formatted in this image because the service was unavailable at the time.

Support Case

Support Case - Non-Zippy employees see this form.

Support Case

Support Case - as above; this is the form Zippy employees see.



Import Wizard

Import Wizard - locates existing email clients, finds existing contact folders in Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora. Select contacts to import. The wizard extracts all available contact information, including alternate phone numbers and communication types and imports into Zippy. The Wizard scans Zippy service to see if any of the selected contacts are already members, in which case the user is presented with additional screens to select those members and send them a notification that the user has signed up.

Import Wizard

Import Wizard - finds existing contact folders in Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora.

Import Wizard

Import Wizard - selecting contacts to import.

SMS Messages

SMS Messages - allows the user to setup alerts for a mobile phone using simple message service. Alerts can be sent to multiple users.

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