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Freeware of the Week! [OpenProj]

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Yes, I know it’s late. I had to schlep down to London on Friday and spent Saturday in recovery (work is hard!), so I am only getting round to things now. Usually I am quite good and write the blog post the night before if I know I’m going to be out all day, but I overlooked it this time because it’s been a bit of a hectic week. Sorry.

So, anyway. Project management. Not the sexiest thing that comes to mind when you think of free software is it? But still, from the lowliest freelancer to the mightiest conglomerate, it can be useful to have around. The Microsoft offering, Project, retails at something close to $1000, which is stupefying. Luckily, there is an open-source alternative that is just as good and won’t cost you a penny.

OpenProj unashamedly pitches itself as a free alternative to the Microsoft offering, to the point that it has full integration with existing Project files. If you want features, it is packed with them; a couple of hours after playing around with it, I was convinced that I could probably run most of the FTSE 100 from my couch. Maybe I’m a bit of a business nerd, but I find it very easy to fall in love with a program that will give me PERT and Gantt charts in one package. True, the UI isn’t the prettiest I’ve ever seen, but again, when was project management ever sexy? The fact that all the features and functions that you would expect from a commercial product are available for free makes the lack of whizz-bang graphics easy to overlook.

Anyone who has used Microsoft Project – or any other project management software – will find OpenProj a breeze to use. While I don’t make a habit of dreaming up imaginary projects that need to be brought to fruition, I still found the process of beginning and managing a new project easy to navigate, though I wouldn’t say it was intuitive. There’s a bit of jargon in the menus and functions, but nothing that you wouldn’t get from somebody who has spent too long as a management consultant. It’s all quite easy to pick up as you go along and, as with all OS software, there is a wealth of information on the web if you do get stuck.

From working out a timeline to allocating resources to particular functions, OpenProj handles all aspects of project management with ease. Were it not for the need for human input, I’d say that we will be welcoming our robot overlords shortly. As it is, the ease with which OpenProj handles fairly complex projects (I pretended I was managing four different teams in different countries) makes whoever uses it feel immensely clever, and has also convinced me that management consultants might be paid a little too much money.

Adding to its credentials as one of my new favourites, OpenProj is also cross-platform. So after a couple of weeks in which my offerings for this slot have been Windows-only, I am exceedingly pleased to be able to point out a program that everyone can use. You will need a Java platform to run OpenProj, but that seems a smalll price to pay for the goodies on offer. You may think of project management as something only large businesses need, but the program is adaptable to any situation. If you’ve ever felt that you are doing the equivalent of herding cats and need something (anything!) to help you marshall all the distinct priorities you need to address, OpenProj is for you. Download it today, Gantt geek or not, and take control.

[Image by RNHV]

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