Light Blue 2021.2.1 release notes

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We’ve just released Light Blue 2021.2.1, which is a minor update that adds new features and fixes bugs reported since we launched Light Blue 2021.2. It includes the following changes:

  • Added “Reload Base URL” and “Open in Default Web Browser” commands to web viewer widget options menu.
  • Changed the name of the “Default” Home screen layout to “General Overview”.
  • When creating enquiry from email, if From address belongs to a member of staff or is in the “Other Email Addresses To Filter” list, the app now uses the first recipient as the “sender”. This improves the way that the app works with emails where you reply to an enquiry and CC or BCC it to your unique email address so that it’s available to import as a new enquiry.
  • Added a “Reset Window Size & Position” command to the Window menu.
  • Made using one-time passwords in the “account” section of Preferences more obvious.
  • Added a link to a help article to the Query dialog.
  • On Windows, the Activity panel is no longer loaded asynchronously because slow redraw could make this appear to load more slowly than using synchronous loading.
  • Fixed missing year labels from profit series in charts.
  • Fixed a bug where the “promote attachment to Activity panel” button was visible for emails viewed from the Inbox: it should only be visible for emails opened from an Activity panel.
  • Fixed a bug where the “Query Totals” widget “Quote/Sale Net Total” option shows the undiscounted net total of the sale, rather than the discounted net total.
  • Fixed a bug that could cause the “Add Link” button in our HTML editor to open two copies of the link editing dialog.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented the “Import Shoots & Contacts From CSV” command from importing contact full names.
  • Fixed a bug where importing incoming data via the “Preview” function in the Inbox didn’t take you to the imported record upon completion.
  • Fixed a rare bug that could cause the app to hang after the initial data download.
  • Fixed a crash that could occur when loading the details of a sale item on Windows.
  • Fixed a bug that could make a form template item look like it’s set to be required when it isn’t.

New features for emails sent to your Light Blue account

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Light Blue subscribers are given a unique email address, and any emails sent to your unique email address are automatically imported into your Light Blue account. They appear in the Inbox, and from there you can use them to create a new enquiry or link them to an exist shoot or client. This makes it easy to keep all of your correspondence in one place, so that you can see the full history of your dealings with your clients.

We’re constantly updating Light Blue’s email import features to add new features and support changes in the way that major email clients format their emails, but we wanted to highlight a couple of big changes that have gone live recently.

Attachments are now automatically imported

When an email containing attachments is sent to your Light Blue email address, we now automatically import them for you. Emails up to 10MB in size are supported, and attachments with the following extensions will be imported:

  • .pdf
  • .txt
  • .rtf
  • .docx
  • .doc
  • .xlsx
  • .xls
  • .csv
  • .jpg
  • .jpeg
  • .heic
  • .png

Once you’ve created an enquiry from an incoming email, or linked it to an existing record, you can “promote” any particularly important attachments so that they show up on the Activity panel instead of only being displayed when you view the email. To do that, open the email from the linked record’s Activity panel, select the attachment, and click the “promote” button that appears next to it.

Improved formatting for emails forwarded from macOS or iOS Mail

To get that initial email enquiry into Light Blue, forwarding the email to your Light Blue email address is usually the quickest way to get it into your Inbox so that you can create an enquiry from it. We’ve recently improved the formatting of emails forwarded from the macOS or iOS Mail app, removing the first level of quote marks and making them easier to read.

Light Blue 2021.2 release notes

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Welcome to your new Home screen

Light Blue’s new Home screen lets you see your business in a completely new way. You can now customise the Home screen by choosing a selection of widgets that give you unique and powerful ways of looking at your business as well as customising the look of Light Blue.

Widgets include the classic “Current Events”, “Enquiries”, and “Task Manager” widgets from previous versions of Light Blue, plus exciting new options including customisable charts, inbox, lists, stats, or embedded web pages.

Sets of widgets are grouped together as Home screen layouts and you can customise their appearance with colour themes. We’ve provided a set of example layouts and colour themes that you can choose from by clicking the options button in the top right corner of the Home screen, and you can use any of these samples as a starting point to create your own!

Continue reading “Light Blue 2021.2 release notes”

Light Blue 2021.1 release notes

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Light Blue 2021.1 is a major update that improves lots of the features that you use every day, including:

  • Adding a new shoot has been streamlined, with the “New Shoot” window efficiently guiding you through the process.
  • Dealing with contact form and API submissions has been made simpler, and it’s also much easier to use them to work with existing clients.
  • Mail-merge tags are easier to find and use in all of the places that they can be used from, making it even easier to personalise your messages to clients.
  • It’s easier than ever to compose emails and text messages, and use helpful new tools that make communicating with your clients faster.
  • Workflows are easier to set up and understand, which helps you to use this powerful tool to convert enquiries into bookings and deliver an excellent service to your clients.
  • We’ve made some of the most important parts of Preferences window easier to understand, to help you make the most of Light Blue’s powerful customisation options.
  • The Home screen now includes housekeeping tools that help you to manage a busy database by keeping on top of stale enquiries and overdue tasks.

Read on to find out more about the new features that we’ve added in Light Blue 2021.1!

Shoots

When you add a shoot to Light Blue, the “New Shoot” window efficiently guides you through the process. You can also add an enquiry workflow that helps you to convert a new enquiry into a booking. If you prefer the old process for adding a shoot, you can turn the “New Shoot” window off via the Preferences window.

We’ve also made the following changes to shoots:

  • The date field is now positioned above type and status fields in the Shoots section.
  • When Light Blue automatically sets a shoot title for you, it now includes the shoot type in the name for all shoot types (e.g. “Jack & Jill’s portrait” for a shoot type called “Portraits”). You can customise the phrase that it uses for each shoot type in the Preferences window, or turn this option off for individual shoot types if you prefer to not include its name in your shoot titles.
  • Added hint text to the “Role” column in the “Linked Records” panel.
  • The + menu in the “Schedule” and “Requests” tabs on a shoot now include options to use a template.

Workflows

Light Blue’s workflows are a powerful tool that help you to convert enquiries into bookings and deliver an excellent service to your clients. Light Blue 2021.1 makes them easier to set up and understand:

  • The new workflow visualiser shows how your default workflows will create tasks, appointments, emails, and text messages based on the key milestones for your shoots. You’ll find the workflow visualiser in the “Shoots” section of “General Preferences”, and in the “Shoot Types” section of the Preferences window you can set up different workflows for any types of job that need to be handled in their own unique way.
  • Workflows can now have a type assigned to them. If you use a lot of workflows, this makes it easier to apply them because only workflows of the appropriate type are shown.
  • When you’re in the “Workflows” section of the Preferences window, you can see where each workflow is being used and set it as a default without leaving the “Workflows” section.

Emails

  • We’ve added buttons that make it easier to create emails and text messages from a shoot or contact.
  • You can now create emails and text messages from the “Activity” panel as well as the “Linked Records” panel on shoots and contacts.
  • When you’re composing an email or template, a button in the toolbar makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.
  • You can now insert an email template into an email that you’re composing. This allows you to set up templates that you can use as snippets and drop into emails as you’re composing them.
  • When you realise that you’re composing the perfect response to a client’s query, you can now save that email as a template. This makes it easy to reuse whenever you find yourself dealing with a similar query or situation.
  • You can now set your own default text size and line spacing for your emails.
  • Each member of staff can now be assigned their own default email signature that will be applied when they create a new email.
  • We’ve added a “Resend” button to emails that have been sent from Light Blue, which allows you to quickly create a copy of that email to send to the same or a different recipient.
  • We’ve made the “Insert Image” command in the email editor easier to understand.
  • When you insert an image into an email but don’t supply an alt tag, we now give it a blank alt tag to give your emails better compatibility with screen readers.
  • When you’re switching between different email signatures or saving an email as a template, the logic that removes the current signature from the email is now more tolerant of invisible characters that could make it harder to compare the HTML.
  • We’ve added a contextual menu to the Outbox to change the status of the selected messages to “draft”.

Text Messages

  • You can now create emails and text messages from the “Activity” panel as well as the “Linked Records” panel on shoots and contacts.
  • When you’re composing an email or template, a new button makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.
  • You can now insert a text message template into a message that you’re composing. This allows you to set up templates that you can use as snippets and drop into messages as you’re composing them.

Mail-merge

  • When you’re composing an email or template, a new button makes it quick and easy to insert one of Light Blue’s powerful mail-merge tags. Mail-merge tags are a fantastic time-saver because they pull information into your emails from the record that you’re sending a message from, and having them available within the app saves you from having to look up the available tags from our knowledgebase.
  • When you’re doing a mail-merge from a shoot, you can now pick out a contact with a specific role in a tag by using the format %ContactRole:RoleGoesHere:ContactTagName%. e.g. %ContactRole:Mother:ContactFirstName% would give you the first name of the first contact labelled as “Mother” on that shoot.
  • Added new mail-merge format options for date tags: you can append “Day”, “Month”, or “Year” to a tag to get the day of the month, month name, or year. e.g. %ShootStartDateMonth% would return “January” for a shoot that starts on 01/01/2021.
  • Added whole address versions of the “next appointment” mail-merge tags. e.g. %ShootNextAppointmentAddress%.
  • Added a %SaleNextPaymentDueAmount% mail-merge tag.

Appointments

  • We’ve reorganised the appointment dialog to make it easier to understand.
  • Added phone number and URL fields to appointments, to make them easier to use for phone or online meetings.
  • Added a “Duplicate Appointment” command to the “Activity” panel contextual menu.
  • Double-clicking an appointment from the Home or Calendar screens now opens the appointment editing dialog, as well as taking you to the record the appointment is linked to.
  • When you delete an appointment, any tasks linked to it are now deleted as well.

Inbox

  • When you’re dealing with form or API submissions, we’ve simplified the old “Import as a New Record” and “Update an Existing Record” buttons to a simple “Import” button that works out what you probably want to do with that incoming data.
  • We’ve made it much easier to use contact form and API submissions from existing clients. When you click the “Import” button, Light Blue shows you a list of existing contacts that match the details you’ve received and makes it easy for you to use or update an existing client’s details.
  • You can use a contact form or API submission that contains only contact parameters to create just a contact record, rather than a contact and a linked shoot.
  • Added an “Import” button to the incoming data preview dialog.
  • Added a contextual menu command to incoming data entries in the Inbox that allows you to unlink them from a record you’ve already linked them to, so that you can reimport them and link them to a different record.
  • The Inbox search field now includes the email “From” field in its searches.
  • When you accept an incoming payment, you’re now taken to the relevant sale.
  • Fixed a bug where the current value of the mailing list opt-in field was shown as 1/0 instead of yes/no when importing incoming data.
  • Fixed a bug that could cause the linked record description in the Inbox to include duplicates.

Home Screen

  • The Home screen now includes housekeeping tools that help you to manage a busy database by keeping on top of stale enquiries and overdue tasks.
  • You can now adjust the range of dates covered by the “Current Events” list directly from the Home screen.

Contacts

  • The “Websites” group of contact methods is now called “Links” and the list of default labels has been updated.
  • The contact “Status” field is now hidden by default, but can be shown again in the Preferences window.
  • Changed the “Maiden Name” field on contacts to “Previous Last Name”.
  • Added a confirmation dialog when you convert a contact to a company.
  • You can now import a full Name when you’re importing contacts from a CSV file, and Light Blue will automatically split it into the first name and last name fields.

Financial

  • Added a contextual menu command that allows you to save a payment schedule from a sale as a new payment schedule template, which allows you to reuse that schedule on more sales in future.
  • Added a button to make it easier to reload a contact’s current details into a Sale, Quote, Purchase, or Payment record.
  • Added a “Cancel Sale” button to uninvoiced sales. Cancelling an uninvoiced sale gives you a choice between deleting it, or invoicing it and automatically creating a credit note that offsets it. The “invoice & credit” option means that you keep a paper trail that shows that you were going to charge your client but decided to write it off.
  • Added a shoot type override for the online invoice published and payment email templates.
  • When duplicating a purchase, you’re asked whether you’d like to use the current date or the original purchase’s invoice date.
  • Added a “Payment Method” field when importing purchases from a CSV file.
  • The “Please pay X on or before Y” text that appears on invoices now uses the unpaid amount of the invoice, rather than the gross total.

Preferences

  • Added a “Preferences” button to the main window’s toolbar, to make it easier to find the Preferences window.
  • Renamed and reorganised various preferences, to make them easier to understand.
  • We’ve made the margin settings for printing and creating PDFs using Light Blue’s built-in templates easier to understand and customise.
  • Added separate top and bottom margin preferences for unbranded templates.
  • Added a search box to the “Template Translations” preferences section.
  • Any custom translations that you’ve set up are now more obviously highlighted in the “Template Translations” section.
  • Email and text message templates now list the places that they’re used (i.e. where they’re set as defaults) to make it easier for you to see how changes you make will affect the workflows, payment schedules, etc, that you’ve already set up.
  • When you’re composing a text message template, if it contains any Unicode characters we’re now listing those characters to make it easier for you to remove them from your template. Using Unicode characters in a text message reduces the number of characters that you get for each credit, so avoiding them helps you to send longer messages without spending more credits.
  • Changed the label of custom amount fields to “Custom Currency Amount”, to make their purpose clearer.
  • Document templates now display a warning if they’re larger than Light Blue’s 50MB document syncing limit.
  • Updated the list of Price List fields that can be imported or exported.
  • Reinstated the “Website URL” field in the Preferences window.
  • Contract and form template export and import features now include the “send email” checkboxes, so your decision about whether to send a notification email at each stage can be exported with the template content.
  • Fixed a bug where changing the colour of a shoot type, tag, etc, wouldn’t update the colour displayed in the Preferences window until you force a reload.

Querying & Reporting

  • The quick search field in the main window’s toolbar now includes the contents of “Notes” field from all of the main sections.
  • Added contextual menu commands for hiding or deleting a quick query.
  • Added a new quick query for sales that don’t have a linked shoot.
  • Added “Shoot Day” and “Date Completed” fields to the shoots section, for use in the list view, queries, and data exports.
  • Added primary contact role, age, and date of birth fields to the shoots section, for use in the list view, queries, and data exports.
  • The “Stale Enquiries” quick query in the shoots section now includes any enquiries that have a shoot date before today.
  • Added a “Next Payment Amount” field to the sales section.
  • Reinstated the “Is Group Head” and “Group Head X” fields in the shoots section, for use in the list view, queries, and data exports.
  • Fixed a bug that hid the brackets in the advanced mode of the query dialog.

Other changes

  • Updated macOS system requirements to macOS 10.12 Sierra.
  • On upgrading, Light Blue checks whether its window size can be optimised for your main screen.
  • If a custom text field contains a URL, an “Open” button is shown next to the field so that you can easily open it in your browser.
  • Added an option to the record linking dialog that allows you to include cancelled shoots when you’re searching for a shoot.
  • The “Submit Button Text” option for form templates is now applied to forms that you publish from a shoot or include in a contract, as well as contact forms.
  • The “Thank You Page URL” option for form templates is now applied to forms that you publish from a shoot, as well as contact forms.
  • The autocomplete menu for link fields now shows more information about matching records.
  • Text labels throughout Light Blue are now selectable, so they can be copied and pasted into other apps.
  • Added an optional field that shows which member of staff created a task.
  • You can now reschedule a selection of tasks at once from the “Activity” panel.
  • Renamed the “Add Document From Disk” command to “Add Document From Your Computer”.
  • Fixed a bug that caused spellchecking to not be enabled for some fields.
  • Fixed a bug where the “Add Task To Found Set” command could fail to link the tasks to a record.
  • Fixed a bug where a shoot in the “Unconfirmed Events” section of the Home screen could have its clash status overridden by the out of hours status.
  • Fixed a bug where marking an email or text message as read in the Inbox could immediately remove it if you’re using the “unread messages” filter.

Light Blue 2020.1.4

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We’ve just released Light Blue 2020.1.4, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 2020.1.4 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

Here’s a list of the changes that we’ve made in this update:

  • The macOS auto-updater no longer includes an “automatically download and install updates” option and will always display the release notes. This applies to checking for updates from this version onwards: you need to install this update before you’ll see the change.
  • Removed currency symbols from CSV exports for our predefined reports.
  • The “Export Email Addreses” command now includes the contact’s company name in the export.
  • Shoot session descriptions that contain ampersands now display properly in their collapsed state.
  • Fixed a bug where using the “Export Email Addresses” command from the Shoots section could fail to use the shoot’s primary contact and instead use a different contact from the same shoot.
  • Fixed a database error that could occur when using “shoot next appointment X” fields for linked shoots in the query dialog.
  • Fixed a crash that could occur on Macs running versions of macOS older than macOS 10.12 Sierra.

Light Blue 2020.1.3

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We’ve just released Light Blue 2020.1.3, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 2020.1.3 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

Here’s a list of the changes that we’ve made in this update:

  • Fixed a runtime error that could occur on Windows when opening a window containing an HTML editor.
  • On Windows, reports are now opened in Light Blue’s reports viewer instead of in your default web browser.
  • Viewing an invoice that was created in a version of Light Blue before 2020.1 in the desktop app will make that invoice available online if it has an unpaid amount greater than zero and has payment reminders set up.
  • A warning is now displayed when you’re composing or viewing an email sent via your own SMTP server when you have Light Blue’s email tracking features enabled, because our email tracking features only apply to emails sent via our own email servers.
  • Added SaleNextPaymentDueDate and SaleFinalPaymentDueDate mail-merge tags, and made the old SalePaymentDueDate tag work as SaleNextPaymentDueDate.
  • Added support for ‘NextAppointment’ and ‘NextConfirmedAppointment’ address mail-merge tags in workflow emails.
  • Changed localisation of form address headings so that the notification email you receive when a client fills in a form will use your localised headings.
  • Wedding roles are now translated in the shoot linked contacts role menu.
  • Translated the “Are you sure you want to sign this contract?” confirmation dialog into French and German
  • Improved the automatic linking of Contact records by company name when importing Purchase records from a CSV file.
  • The “Ask Every Time” print branding option is now only applied for “real” printing: PDFs will always include branding.
  • The “Received Today” filter in the Inbox no longer shows items received yesterday and today if your current timezone is UTC+something.
  • When adding new contacts to a shoot on Windows, the Role field for additional linked contacts now includes a popup menu.
  • Fixed a bug where the bounding box for a selected image in an HTML editor wouldn’t move if you use the mouse wheel or trackpad to scroll the HTML editor.
  • Fixed a bug where a payment reminder email that crosses the daylight savings time boundary would be scheduled an hour earlier or later than intended.
  • Fixed a bug where the HTML editor text size menu would always show “12”, even when you’ve selected text that’s a different size.
  • Fixed a problem on Windows where changes made in an HTML editor could be lost if you click into it after making changes in a different control.
  • Fixed a bug where the “Mark As Paid” button was shown on instalments that have been overpaid.
  • Fixed a problem where Google Calendar publishing could stop working after several months.
  • Fixed an obscure bug where editing a record and saving it by clicking a quick query that the edit moves it into selects that record in the records list but not in the detail panel.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented contact photos from being included on the shoot detail printout.
  • Fixed a bug where loading a long list of items, scrolling to the bottom of the list and selecting an item would scroll the list back to the top.

Light Blue 2020.1.2

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We’ve just released Light Blue 2020.1.2, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 2020.1.2 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

Here’s a list of the changes that we’ve made in this update:

  • The Outbox search now includes linked shoot titles and contact names in its search criteria.
  • Changed knowledgebase links to point to our new knowledgebase.
  • Added an option to display VAT-exclusive unit prices on a VAT-inclusive invoice.
  • Our tax report now includes tax-exempt items from invoices.
  • Added extra logging to help track down a problem that could prevent a few users from being able to set up Google Calendar publishing.
  • Fixed a problem where using the “Create Enquiry” button from an email or text message in the Inbox wouldn’t automatically set the enquiry date for the shoot that’s created.
  • Fixed a glitch where using the date picker popup in the query dialog would not position the date picker correctly, and cancelling the query dialog while the date picker was open wouldn’t automatically close it.
  • Fixed a problem where using the “Next” and “Previous” buttons in the task dialog wouldn’t load the completed status of the task.
  • Fixed a problem where custom fields that are no longer used could show up as blank items in the export records dialog.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented the status of online bookings from being displayed in the Inbox.
  • Fixed rare crashes that could occur when updating quick query result counts, selecting a custom colour, accepting a payment, or editing automated payment reminders.

Light Blue 2020.1 release notes

Reading Time: 18 minutes

Light Blue 2020.1 is a major update that includes big new features and a whole host of other improvements, including:

  • Payment schedules that allow you to easily break an invoice down into several smaller payments, helping you to make larger sales and get bookings more easily.
  • Automated payment reminders help you to get paid on time.
  • Email tracking features that help you to gauge your clients’ engagement.

Read on to find out more about the new features that we’ve added in Light Blue 2020.1!

Invoicing, quoting, and payment improvements

Payment schedules

We’ve added a new payment schedule feature that makes it a lot easier for you to ask your client to pay an invoice in instalments.

A payment schedule can include as many instalments as you want. Each instalment can be for a fixed amount (e.g. £100.00) or for a percentage (e.g. 50% of the invoice total). The due date for each instalment is a number of days, weeks, or months after the invoice date, or before or after the shoot date.

When you apply a payment schedule to a sale, Light Blue automatically calculates the due dates and amounts for each instalment. The due dates and amounts appear on both the printed and online versions of the invoice.

We’ve supplied a few example payment schedules, and you can customise them or create your own in the “Payment Schedules” section of the Preferences window. We recommend having a “100% of the remaining balance” step at the end of all of your payment schedules in case anything changes on the invoice or your client makes some unscheduled payments along the way.

Your existing data works seamlessly with the new payment schedules feature. Old Sale records will display a single “100% of the remaining balance” payment step with the same due date and amount that you had in previous versions of Light Blue.

For online invoices, your clients have simple options to pay each instalment when it’s due, or to pay the full unpaid amount if they want to do it in one go. You can choose which online payment options are available for each instalment, so you could ask them to pay part of the invoice by card and another part by bank transfer.

For online payments, payment records are now created automatically in Light Blue. The payment will still appear in the Inbox so that you can see it’s arrived, and accepting the payment via the Inbox will offer to create a Purchase record for the transaction fee.

All of Light Blue’s built-in quick queries and reports have been updated to work with payment schedules. The “Overdue Payments” quick query in the Sales section now shows you any Sale records that have any overdue instalments. Reports such as “Contact Statement” now use the next payment due date to sort invoices, and for your old invoices this date will be the same as the old “payment due date” field. “Next Payment Due Date” and “Final Payment Due Date” fields are available to use in your own queries and reports.

If you don’t want to ask your clients to pay you in instalments, you can ignore payment schedules. The main change that you’ll notice is the new “Payments” tab on Sale records.

Examples:

  • Using a payment schedule with a single instalment of “100% of the remaining balance” is much the same as the old way of doing things. You have options to set the payment due date relative to the date of the invoice, the date of the linked shoot, or manually select a date.
  • A portrait photographer can ask a client to pay for a large order in any number of monthly instalments.
  • An event photographer can ask for part of the balance before the shoot and a final payment on completion.
  • A photographer who runs their business on a cash basis (i.e. using the payment date rather than invoice date to record their income) could use a payment schedule to set up instalments for a booking fee and as many balance payment instalments as they like. If you run your business on an accrual basis, you might still prefer to raise a separate invoice for the booking fee and balance if the tax points are months apart.

Automated payment reminders

Our new payment schedules feature has given us an opportunity to build another popular feature request: you can now have Light Blue send automatic email payment reminders to your clients. You can set up simple rules for your reminders and your personalised messages will help you to get paid on time.

Payment reminders are set up in your payment schedules. Even if you don’t want to ask your clients to pay your invoices in instalments, you can still use a payment schedule: you can have a payment schedule with a single “100% of the remaining balance” instalment.

You can send a payment reminder before the due date, on the due date, and every X days after the due date if it hasn’t been paid yet.

Payment reminders include a link to view the invoice online, so Light Blue 2020.1 automatically makes invoices available online when you click the “create invoice” button. You no longer need to specifically publish an invoice to make it available online. Online invoices use a randomly generated ID number in their URL so clients will only be able to see an invoice if you send the link to them or set up payment reminders. The online version of the invoice is automatically updated as soon as you make any changes to it in Light Blue 2020.1 and it syncs to your account.

Percentage booking fees

Quotes can still be split into separate invoices for the booking fee and the balance. This is especially useful if you want to have separate tax points for the booking fee and balance.

Booking fees can now be a fixed amount or a percentage of the quote. You can set up a default booking fee for each of your price lists, and when you raise a quote from a shoot Light Blue automatically fill in any booking fee you’ve set up for the price list you’ve chosen for that shoot.

Other financial changes

Online invoices now have a handy “Print This Invoice” button to make it really easy for your clients to print or save a PDF copy of your invoice for their records.

Clicking the “Mark As Paid” button on a sale now displays the payment in a dialog, rather than taking you to the Payments section.

You no longer need to specifically publish an invoice to make it available online. Online invoices use a randomly generated ID number in their URL so clients will only be able to see an invoice if you send the link to them or set up payment reminders. The online version of the invoice is automatically updated as soon as you make any changes to it in Light Blue 2020.1 and it syncs to your account.

The “payment received with thanks” page for online invoices now displays the full invoice details.

The online payment receipt email now includes a link to the online invoice instead of including all of the invoice details in the receipt email. This helps to protect your clients’ privacy against email services that scrape the contents of incoming emails, and also avoids problems with displaying the invoice in some email clients. If your client wants to view or print the invoice, they can click that link.

The old “online invoice publication email” and “online invoice payment receipt” templates have been replaced by email templates. Your old templates are automatically converted on upgrading. You can choose a different publication email template for each payment schedule and different receipt templates for each instalment (e.g. so that you could use a different receipt template for the final instalment).

Email improvements

Email event tracking

When you send emails from Light Blue’s email servers, you can now track whether those emails have been opened or if the links in them have been clicked. This is optional, and you can turn the feature on from the “Email” section of the Preferences window.

To see whether an email has been opened or a link clicked, open it up from the Outbox or the relevant Activity panel. You’ll see a summary of the tracked email’s status that you can expand to see more details, including when the event happened and the IP address that triggered it.

It’s important to note that email open tracking might not be 100% effective, for a variety of reasons. For example, some email providers and email apps can block email open events from being reported back to us. We’ve also heard of email open events being triggered by some automated content filters. If you CC or BCC yourself into emails, be careful not to trigger open or click events yourself!

We’ve also been working hard to make sure that the deliverability of emails that are sent from our own servers is high, and this includes providing personalisation of the address from which these emails are sent. If you’re sending emails using our servers then we’ll use your unique @lightbluecustomermail.com email address, which you can personalise via your account page (e.g. myphotostudio@lightbluecustomermail.com).

Behind the scenes, we’ve created an email suppression list to avoid sending emails to recipients that either don’t exist or have told you that they don’t want to receive emails from you. We’re automatically adding a recipient to your email suppression list if they (or their email provider) send a complaint to us or we receive a permanent bounce notification. Just like opens and clicks, bounces and complaints can only be tracked for emails sent via our servers. If you try to send an email to an address that’s on your suppression list, you’ll be warned and the email address will automatically be removed if you ignore the warning. You can remove an email address from your suppression list by going go the relevant contact record and using the cog menu that appears when you hover your mouse cursor over the email address.

Storing copies of client portal emails

Copies of emails that are sent for Light Blue’s contact forms, questionnaires, contracts, and online invoices are now recorded in Light Blue’s Outbox and the Activity panel for the relevant records. We’re still CCing a copy of these emails to you so that you get an instant notification when your client has done something, but this gives you a clearer record of all of your communications with your client.

If you no longer want to have a copy of these emails CCed to you, there’s now an option to switch that off in the Email section of the Preferences window.

No more “add email template to found set”

Light Blue is designed to send “everyday” emails to your clients and is very good at doing so: dealing with new enquiries, responding to your clients’ messages, automated appointment reminders, and so on.

However, when you’re interested in sending a message to a large group of contacts at once (we’re defining ‘large’ as anything more than about 20 contacts in this context) then specialist marketing tools are a better fit for making sure that those messages reach your audience. Sending lots of marketing emails from your own email address risks damaging the reputation of your email account, making it substantially less likely that your prospects (or paying clients) will receive your messages, that’s why it’s best to use a tool that’s designed for the job.

It’s easy to export email addresses from Light Blue to use with a dedicated email marketing tool.

We’ve removed the “Add email template to found set” command to make it less likely that someone could get themselves into trouble by trying to send lots of emails from Light Blue.

Other changes

As always, we’ve included as many new features, customer requests, and bug fixes in this release. Here’s a list of the biggest changes.

Inbox, Outbox, and Activity

  • The speed of loading or searching the Inbox has been massively improved for customers with large numbers of incoming emails, text messages, and forms.
  • Client portal emails sent on your behalf (e.g. when publishing a contract, or when an enquiry fills in one of your contact forms) are now recorded in the Outbox and linked to the Activity panel of any related records.
  • If an error occurs when sending an email or text message, you’re now notified by a dialog rather than have to spot the error badge appear on the Outbox. Email and text message sending errors are highlighted in red on their parent record’s Activity panel, as well as in the Outbox.
  • Added a button to the Outbox and email dialogs that allows you to dismiss email and text message sending errors. This will remove them from “Errors” category in the Outbox and also stop them from counting towards the count that appears on the Outbox’s badge, but leaves them in your database so that you can refer back to them in future. e.g. if you receive a hard bounce from an email that you send, you might want to have a record of that but not have that bounced email count as an error once you’ve dealt with it.
  • Added an “Automatically CC Client Portal Emails To Yourself” preference.
  • Added French and German translations of Light Blue’s contract signing service terms & conditions.
  • Light Blue’s contract signing service terms & conditions now refer to the text of the “submit” and “save” buttons, if you’ve customised or translated them.
  • Added an option to display your booking fee description on the “pay booking fee” step of online contracts.
  • Removed the indent and outdent buttons from the email editor toolbar. This is because the HTML and CSS used to implement this feature is not supported by some popular email clients (e.g. Gmail’s web interface) and we don’t want to encourage you to use formatting that might not appear correctly in all email clients.
  • When you create an email from a template, we’ve reduced the amount of vertical space between email template body and your default email signature.
  • Fixed a bug that could leave the old signature in place when you select a different email signature while composing an email.
  • Draft emails now appear in the “To Do” section of the “Activity” panel instead of the “History” section.
  • Clarified the warning that’s displayed when you delete an item from the Inbox or Outbox to make it clear that it will also be removed from any linked records too.
  • Contracts and forms can now be sent to contacts that don’t have an email address of their own, but belong to a group of contacts whose head has an email address.
  • You can now include VAT number in the list of contact fields that you can include in online forms.
  • Light Blue can now split name & email address combos of the form “Your Name >”
  • You can no longer include the “confirm email” field in a form that does not include the “email” field.
  • Fixed a bug where the “Accept Contract” dialog could open behind the contract dialog when you try to accept the signed contract from the contract dialog.
  • Checking and unchecking the “preview mail-merge tags” checkbox when editing one of the emails in the contract setup dialog now reloads the dialog much faster.

Finances

  • Added a “print this invoice” button to online invoices, so that clients can more easily print or save a PDF copy for their records.
  • The sale “payment due” field has been replaced by the payment schedule features.
  • Added more fields that can be used in queries, lists, and custom reports: “Shoot Start Date” has been added to the Quotes section; “Shoot Enquiry Source” has been added to the Sales section; “Most Recent Payment Date” and “Most Recent Payment Method” fields have been added to the Purchases section.
  • Added new mail-merge tags: %SaleBillingTitle%, %SaleShippingTitle%
  • Added a “Copy Link for Online Payment” option to the “Create Invoice” dialog.
  • The “Export Financial Information” export now includes the purchase invoice number field.
  • QuickBooks invoice exports now show “None” for items that have no tax applied to them, instead of a blank value.
  • The “Mark Purchases As Paid” housekeeping command now offers you a choice of using today’s date or the purchase records’ invoice date.
  • Online invoices now display the linked shoot’s reference number, if you’ve turned the shoot reference option on in Light Blue.
  • The “Contact Financial History” report no longer shows a value in the “Days Overdue” column for invoices or purchases that have been marked as paid.
  • Removed the “Financial Details” heading and “Included in the items above at the rate shown” text from quotes and invoices.
  • Added a preference to include the purchase reference field in linked records and record selection lists that include purchases.

Shoots

  • Shoots now display payments for their linked sales in their “Linked Records” panel.
  • The printed version of a shoot now includes linked resources’ full names, rather than their abbreviation.
  • When you confirm a shoot that has a single linked quoted, Light Blue can now automatically change the quote’s status to “Accepted”.
  • When you change a confirmed shoot’s status to “cancelled” or “enquiry”, the dialog that offers to tidy outstanding items now includes a clearer “Don’t Tidy” option.
  • The various tools in the Housekeeping section of the Records menu for changing the status of batches of shoots have had their names tidied up, and we’ve added a new “Change Status of Found Shoots to Enquiry” tool.
  • Fixed a bug where an enquiry with multiple sessions might not have its default workflow applied when a single session is confirmed.
  • You can now save a shoot schedule step that doesn’t have a description. A schedule step requires either a description, time, or linked address to be saved.
  • Fixed a bug where changing a shoot’s type from one that has a different default price list to a shoot type that uses the global default price list did not automatically change the price list.

Miscellaneous

  • The ‘Finances’, ‘Printing’, and ‘Shoot Types’ sections of the Preferences window have been redesigned to make the options easier to find and understand.
  • It’s now possible to export and import saved queries and custom reports. If you’re sending a saved query or custom report to someone else, please bear in mind that the way Light Blue handles links to related records means that you should design your query to work based on the name of the related record rather than selecting it from a popup menu.
  • Improved the workflow and messages displayed when you’re going through the process of resetting a member of staff’s password from the staff login dialog.
  • Improved the warnings that are displayed when you turn on the “require password” option.
  • Our old static web gallery generator was deprecated more than two years ago and has now been removed from the app.
  • The record selection dialog now defaults its height to just a tad less than that of Light Blue’s main window when you open it.
  • When you go to related record, the first tab of that record’s tab panel is now always selected.
  • The workflow export and import features now include the member of staff assigned to a task.
  • The quick search feature now includes addresses in the list fields it searches.
  • The bulk text message setup dialog now includes an estimate of the number of credits that will be used.
  • Added the contact VAT number field to the contact import dialog.
  • Changed references to “setup code” to refer to “one-time password” instead.
  • Using the %BusinessAddressCommas% version of the %BusinessAddress% mail-merge tag now converts any paragraphs in the address into a single, comma-delimited line.
  • Company contacts are now displayed in lists using their company name, rather than the value from the “company” field of their address.
  • The list of localisations in the “Template Translations” section of the Preferences window is now in alphabetical order.
  • Fixed a crash that could occur when typing a reply to an email that contains emoji. Also fixed an error that could change the font settings back to default after typing an apostrophe in the email editor.
  • Fixed a bug that could cause the Inbox unread badge count to include text messages that don’t appear in the Inbox.
  • Fixed an obscure bug that could cause a product workflow to be added twice when that product was added to a sale.
  • Fixed a bug where duplicating an appointment with an appointment type adds the appointment type’s resources again.
  • Fixed a bug where going to list view, then double-clicking on the same record to go back to detail view, would display a blank detail panel.
  • Fixed a bug where clicking or tabbing into the “schedule step” field when adding a schedule step to a form would lose focus when there are unsaved changes in other fields.
  • Fixed a bug that could prevent the invoice date in the detail view list from being updated when it’s edited.
  • Fixed a bug where duplicating a shoot and using the “don’t group” option could still group the new shoot with the original.
  • Fixed a bug that could result in upgrading from versions of Light Blue older than version 7 from upgrading workflows properly.
  • Fixed a bug where adding an appointment via the calendar failed to display the full set of workflow options when you close it.
  • Fixed a bug where the “you need to link some contacts to this shoot” warning was displayed in a form setup dialog when it shouldn’t have been.

New online invoice and email features

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We’ve made some small changes to the way that Light Blue’s online invoices and emails work. We’ll be announcing some big new features in the coming weeks but these changes have been made now so that we can start beta testing those other new features.

Online invoices

Our online invoice receipt emails now include a link to view the paid invoice online, rather than including a copy of the invoice in the email itself. There are two main reasons for this change: it works better with a wider range of email clients; and it also protects your clients’ privacy if they’re using an email provider that scrapes the contents of their emails for information.

We’ve also changed the information that’s displayed when your client views a paid invoice. Instead of just displaying your “thanks for paying this invoice” message, we’re displaying all of the details of the invoice so that your client can refer back to it or print it for their records.

Client portal emails

The other new feature that you’ll notice is that copies of emails that are sent for Light Blue’s contact forms, questionnaires, contracts, and online invoices are now recorded in Light Blue’s Outbox and the Activity panel for the relevant records. We’re still CCing a copy of these emails to you so that you get an instant notification when your client has done something, but this gives you a clearer record of all of your communications with your client.

Feedback

As always, we’d love to hear from you if you’ve got any feedback about our new features. And if you’re on our list of beta testers, expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks 🙂

Light Blue 8.2.7

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We’ve just released Light Blue 8.2.7, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 8.2.7 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

Here’s a list of the changes that we’ve made in this update:

  • Removed warnings about sending emails via Light Blue’s own email servers, because the Gmail now respects the “Reply To” header in emails. Previously, we encouraged you to use your own email account because Gmail sometimes didn’t respect the “Reply To” header and that could cause client’s replies to your emails to not be sent to you.
  • Google account authentication for our Google Calendar publishing feature is now handled in your default web browser, instead of a browser embedded in Light Blue. This is because Google no longer allow embedded browsers to be used as part of their authentication process. If you’re already using our Google Calendar publishing feature then you won’t notice any difference with this change, but if you’re setting up Google Calendar publishing then you should make sure that all of your computers are using Light Blue 8.2.7 or newer.
  • When printing a contact or shoot record, line breaks are preserved in any notes that you include.
  • Added a UK flat-rate VAT scheme version of our accrual basis tax report.
  • Importing an order from theimagefile no longer creates an unnecessary Purchase record.
  • Fixed a problem on macOS where adding or deleting branding files could fail to “stick” after reloading the preferences window.
  • Fixed a problem where an email template with unusual formatting could sometimes fail to be displayed properly.
  • Fixed a couple of rare crashes that have been reported.