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July 1, 2015

Meet the developer behind IO3: Automatic Replies

Homemaker and first-time Windows Phone app developer Sadiya explains how she got into app development and where she got the idea for IO3: Automatic Replies, an appointment-management app.

sadiya with kids

Stay-at-home mother Sadiya faced a tough time dealing with her husband’s erratic travel schedule.

She often found him glued to his laptop at home, composing replies and tweaking his calendar manually. He couldn’t find an automatic-reply app for Windows Phone that would manage his calendar and cancel meetings automatically while he was out of the office.

So Sadiya created her own–IO3: Automatic Replies.

The free app leverages the default Microsoft Exchange client found on Windows Phone to let you set specific out-of-office replies. It also reminds you to reschedule meetings when you’re back in the office.

“When I started developing, Windows Phone 8.1 was the only operating system with an out-of-office feature”, said Sadiya, who lives in Pune, India. “Initially, I faced a lot of issues and went back to the drawing board to learn Exchange functionality in detail”.

When not reading about app development and managing her family, the 32-year old engineer enjoys cooking, playing with her kids, and shopping (while using her husband’s credit card, she joked).

We recently caught up with Sadiya to learn about her app-development experience.

Q: Why did you become a developer?   

A: I have never worked [for a company] before, even though I am an electronics and telecommunication engineer. I got intrigued about mobile apps and Windows Phone, and it seemed a natural progression. I made a profile on MSDN, posted my queries, and got motivated.

sadiya working

Q: Why did you decide to make an app that sends automatic replies? Why the name “IO3: Automatic Replies”?

A: The idea for making this app came from my husband as he spends a considerable amount of time tweaking his out-of-office responses. I noticed it usually took him about 15 minutes to check his calendar, reply to emails, and set his vacation responses before his journey.

Thus, I thought about doing all this on our phones in a few taps.

IO3 means “I am out of office,” hence these automatic replies.

Q: How is it different from automatic replies in the existing mail client?

A: My app provides additional features that maps to real scenarios. For instance, it allows you to define the period you will be out of the office and automatically cancels your scheduled meetings while you are on leave. It also lets you organize your pending work and meetings by sending you timely reminders when your out-of-office period ends.

Q: What did you learn from creating the app?

A: Since this is my first app, I learned a lot about the Windows Phone app eco-system, planning, development, and monetization.

saidya kids

Q: How long did it take to create IO3: Automatic Replies?

A: During the last two years, I could devote only a few hours out of my daily chores [to IO3’s development]. It was only in the last six months of development that I gave 40 hours every week.

Q: What future improvements do you plan to bring to IO3 and what are you working on next? 

A: I would like to tweak some mailing features, such as having your contacts be notified about your absence in advance. For example, a mail is sent to HR or your manager when you set your out-of-office replies.

I am also thinking of developing something along the lines of an organized shopping cart [app.]

Q: What do you think of Windows as a platform for developing apps?   

A: I believe Windows as a platform is easy and simple to master. There are more Windows-based computers and laptops than other operating system for designing and developing apps.

Q: What’s the most fun part of app development?

A: The real fun is when you are able to resolve issues and move on to the next step towards app completion, and finally, publishing the app.

Q: Do you have any advice for fellow developers?  

A: I would advise everyone do detailed storyboarding using PowerPoint and the TFS Storyboarding add-in. This helps you brainstorm the idea before starting on development. I created the entire prototype [for IO3] and was able to show everyone my idea visually.

Thanks for speaking to us, Sadiya.

If you have a vacation coming up, check out IO3: Automatic Replies for yourself. Use the time you save on something fun!

What do you have planned for vacation this year? Let us know in the comments below.