The Dovetail Blog

Food Safety Authority launches Allergens on Menus tool

Last week saw the launch of a new Dovetail-developed Allergens on Menus tool for the Food Safety Authority for use by the food industry.

Leo Varadkar at the launch of the MenuCal Allergen Tool

Launching the app, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said, "Many people with allergies have to be extra careful when they eat out. Last year, I made it compulsory for food businesses to label allergens on non-prepacked food products.

"This new MenuCal facility is a really useful online tool that reminds businesses about allergens when they're calculating the calorie content of their menus. I'm delighted that other countries are now looking to adopt it. I hope it makes life easier and safer for both customers and food providers."

The system, developed by Dovetail and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), has been licensed by FSAI to the Food Safety Agency Northern Ireland and has also attracted interest from agencies in Scotland, Wales and England.

The MenuCal system was developed by Dovetail and FSAI and a case study can be found here.

Mossy and Martin attended the press conference which received national coverage (see The Irish Times and The Independent).




Previously launched in Northern Ireland:

Install sassy studio and ruby to compile your sass files quicker

Until yesterday I was using a free version of Mindscape Web Workbench to handle my SASS files and compile them into CSS. Over time, however, as the CSS in projects became more complicated and the files became larger, Mindscape just wasn't quick enough. Upon the guidance of Kit, I decided to switch tools and move to Sassy studio.

Sassy Studio relies on Ruby (Sassy uses a Ruby library to compile the SASS), so you'll need to install that too. The order in which you install these tools does not matter. You might already have Ruby available on your machine depending on your skillset. My current Visual studio version is 2012, you might need to check your versions to find a compatible extension.

Install sassy studio

You can install it from

Install ruby

You can install that from


Once you have both installed, boot up Visual studio and check your settings (The ruby path is important, the rest is up to you). Here are mine:

Sassy Studio Settings

That's it, done. My SASS is compliling much quicker, and I don't need to wait as long to refresh the page when I'm "Making the logo bigger". Kit tells me about faster tool using C, which uses time travel to compile your CSS, but for now I'm happy with Sassy Studio.

Should you use Angular2 in production?

Recently we had a small debate about Angular2 and what the benefits and pitfalls of using it for a project right now would be. In the end Fabrizio and I came up with a short list of pros and cons.


  • Typescript will force developers to write better code.
  • Angular2 should be faster than the Angular1.
  • It is best not to invest in a framework if it is to be shortly discontinued.
  • You will be one of the Angular2 pioneers.
  • The development process will be very strict and it will require a good knowledge of the project.
  • Localization of application will be easier with the implementation of the shadowDom.
  • Debugging templates will be easier because they will raise runtime exceptions.
  • The code needs to be built before deployment. This will slow down the process but will spot code errors and typos.
  • Gaps between browsers implementations of new standards will be handled by specific libraries (Angular2 will emulate the shadowDom).


  • It is in an Alpha version. It means that the inner structure could (and it will) be subject of big breaking changes.
  • The API is not stable yet (breaking changes will be introduced).
  • Not all features are implemented yet (you will have to reinvent the missing parts and then once they get officially implemented, your custom workarounds will be obsolete and probably not as optimized and not as good as Angular2).
  • Not enough documentation. Also not enough code examples on the web, so much work will be pioneering.
  • Ecosystem is not there yet (not all libraries and tools are ported yet). For example: there is an alpha of Bootstrap; Foundation isn’t there yet; the router is not ready yet. The lack of availability of convenient libraries may mean more development.
  • Both versions will remain on the market and both of them will be actively developed.
  • The team is still thinking about "how to do things for Angular2".

So that's what we came up with. Of course there is no ultimate answer and surely Angular2 will be a good tool once it's ready. But before that happens, we think it's probably best not to use it for serious projects that need to go into production.

Speaking of framework readiness here is an appropriate comic from Commitstrip that hits the spot.


Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland launches MenuCal food analysis system

Mossy took a trip to Belfast this week to attend the launch of MenuCal by the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland.


Julie McKinstry-Harvey, Senior Dietary Health Advisor at the Food Standards Agency, commented on the launch: “We have developed MenuCal to support NI food businesses to be compliant with current legislation on allergens, and also help them influence consumers on making smarter, healthier choices when it comes to eating out or buying food to take away.  

Read more about the launch here.

Mossy has been the lead developer and Greg, Tomás and Martin have all worked on the system which is built on ASP.Net, MVC and SQL Server.

See the case study on MenuCal's launch by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Register of Lobbying and Irish Rail Fixed Penalties

We had a busy start to September with two new systems going live.

The first was the new Register of Lobbying ( which opened for registration on September 1.

This system was built to implement details of the 2015 Regulation of Lobbying Act. It allows people and organisations who engage in lobbying to register and publish details of their lobbying activities.



Mossy, Rafal, Kit and Martin have been involved in this project, working with a great team from the Standards in Public Office Commission. We developed it using using ASP.Net, Angular 1, SQL Server and Lucene.Net.



The second system to go live last week was the new Fixed Penalty Notice System for Irish Rail. This is an internal system which Irish Rail use to manage Fixed Penalty Notices.  John and Martin worked on this system and it will shortly be extended to allow online payments. 

This solution was based upon similar systems which Dovetail developed for LUAS and Dublin Bus. It is written in ASP.Net and uses SQL Server.

Flexing our CSS muscles


I just recently started working on a small pet-project to keep sharpening my skills on the whole stack in my free time. One of the things I decided to go with is angular-material. It's an official Angular implementation of Google material design and it uses flexbox layout instead of the grid layout we're used to seeing in frameworks such as Bootstrap or Foundation. We talked a bit over it and since we will most probably use angular on most of our future projects, we decided to keep an eye on the whole thing so we could start using it when it feels production-ready.

We've outgrown our office, so we've taken a second room in GEC

Dovetail has grown in employee numbers quite quickly over the past 2 years. As a result we've run out of desk space in our GEC based office, so we've rented a second room, right next door. Four of the Dovetail team (myself included) have now moved into the new room.

We discussed different names for the new room, initially landing on dovetail 2. This name was not satisfactory as it inferred that we were a lesser side of Dovetail (not even remotely true!!), so we looked to geography and our two rooms are now called "Dovetail east" and "Dovetail west". 

We've been settling in nicely over the past few weeks, the east is a little quieter as there is less equipment and phones ringing, but we do miss out on a bit of the usual Dovetail banter. It's okay though, the Nespresso coffee machine is still in the west, so we visit regularly to catch up on the daily gossip. 

Dovetail offices, dovetail values

Having 2 rooms has taken a little getting used to, but it's a part of growth and a sign of exciting times ahead for Dovetail as we adjust to a bigger team.

IKEA customers are Swiping across the UK

One month has passed since the launch of the new Swipe A Surprise mechanic in 16 Ikea stores (UK and IE), and there are only two weeks left until the end of this phase. If you want to get your hands on a free gift from IKEA just join IKEA FAMILY and make any purchase in your local IKEA store!


This update arrives late on the blog because we have been busy actively tuning the system to improve the customer experience every day.

This new version of Swipe A Surprise works in a very different and more user friendly way. The interaction required by the user has been reduced to 2 simple actions: Scan and Print.

Every IKEA FAMILY Kiosk has been upgraded with a 2D barcode scanner, allowing customers to scan the barcode printed on their till receipts. The kiosk then shows the prize and allows the customer to print a voucher. So simple and so quick - over 122,000 prizes have been activated so far!

Mossy kindly showing a tasty voucher!

Here's Mossy holding a tasty voucher!

Olá Dovetail

Hello, my name is Murilo André da Silva and the I'm the newest international addition to Dovetail. I've been working here part-time since May while I was finishing my English studies and also bringing Coxinhas to the big bosses. In the end they liked the "Brazilian fried chicken things" so much that they decided to hire me.

I'm from a small (by Brazilian standards) city in the south of Brazil called Foz do Iguaçu. It is famous for the Iguazu Falls:


Before coming to Dublin I was working for SOFT-TI Informática as a Web Developer. Most of my experience comes from working with the .NET Framework, specially with ASP NET MVC applications. 

I'm really enjoying my time here at the company and I feel that the future here for me is very promising.



Changeover day in the fishtank

We've had a lot of fun with Pinchy the crayfish over the years. He amazed us with his prehistoric anatomy and we were fascinated by his molt. We laughed at his antics as he clambered around the tank. And he really challenged us when he laid eggs (though even that event failed to correct our casual use of masculine pronouns).

Look how big he got:

Pinchy in his travelling clothes

Unfortunately Pinchy's leading attributes were his appetite and his hunting. He ate all our fish bar two insomniac zebra danios. Since the loss of our pleco the tank became a quiet, overgrown, sad looking place - one into which we were unwilling to condemn any more fish.

Well that all changed this week. Goodbye Pinchy, hello bala sharks!

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Thanks to Shauna's Pet Shop for helping find a home for him.

p.s. I see he's on Shauna's Facebook page currently and somebody is talking about gumbo...Pinchy about to leave