PerlDesk 1.6, by John Bennett

Reviewed by: Wayne Bridges, send e-mail
Published by: John Bennett, go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: Free (must keep links to PerlDesk intact)

I'm an open-source maniac. I love coding PHP and I love exploring the endless number of scripts available as open-source online. One area in which PHP is lacking is in the availability of an all-inclusive, easily managed help desk application. To find such an application, however, all we have to do is look to PerlDesk.

Although it is written in Perl, which has a reputation of being a cryptic language and more complicated than PHP, PerlDesk handles the task of support ticket management simply and intuitively.

The install of PerlDesk is fairly simple, with only the same setup issues which accompany any Perl script. Be sure that permissions are set correctly (755 for all .cgi files) and that the path to Perl in the shebang line is correct on all scripts (for me, that line would read #!/usr/bin/perl -w). Also ensure that your MySQL database has been set up correctly and that you have the login information (username, password and hostname) in the file. After these tasks are complete, you'll be able to run the install.cgi file with no issue.

PerlDesk is a complete support management tool, which is divided into 4 sections: User area, Staff area, Administration area and a Knowledge base area. The first of these areas that we'll look at is the admin area.

Once you have installed PerlDesk, you'll be able to login to the admin area using the default username and password (admin/demo). Here, you'll find quick stats on tickets, staff and users, as well as links to perform any of the administration tasks you find necessary, including users, staff, requests and settings. Each of these sections is further divided into more specific admin tasks. The admin section is useful for adding departments, adding staff, viewing support tickets and contacting users or staff via e-mail or announcements. A new feature in the 1.6 release of PerlDesk is the search capability, which allows the administrator to search the support database by username, name, e-mail, URL, or company.

The staff area of PerlDesk gives staff members a quick look at unresolved tickets within their assigned departments, allows them to respond or to change the status of a ticket or to assign that ticket to another internal department and provides for easily adding common questions to the knowledge base. Staff members can also research problems using the knowledge base or resolved support requests. This section is also graced with a search box similar to the one newly added in the admin section, allowing the staff member to search requests by priority, username, subject, call id, or text.

PerlDesk's user area is a simple, but quite functional, interface. The options in this section allow for opening a support ticket, viewing all open tickets, viewing closed tickets (and re-opening them if necessary), searching open and closed support requests, editing the user profile and viewing the knowledge base.

The final area of PerlDesk, the knowledge base area, is an excellent tool which allows the user to see all categories, list knowledge base articles within a particular category and view specific articles. This is an excellent way to deal with commonly asked questions, installation information and current issues affecting multiple users.

Cons: There are a few things I'd like to see in PerlDesk's future releases. The ability to work with tickets directly from the admin area would greatly ease its use for managers. Removing the requirement that the user enter his name, company and e-mail address when submitting each new support ticket would make the process a bit simpler for end-users. Allowing staff to set priority on tickets instead of placing this responsibility on users would make it easier for the staff to prioritize their work based on the business's definition of those priorities.

Pros: PerlDesk provides all the tools necessary for a company to run a professional support system. It does this with a compact package, fast scripts, a database backend and an intuitive interface. It is truly the best application of its kind. I would highly recommend PerlDesk to any company in need of such an application.

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