Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 20 – Planning and Project Management (I)

I have been involved in project management since the early days of my working career. I love the project management method and the way it helps me to organize complex tasks. All of the projects I have been involved in were of a non-technical, non-linear and -let’s say- chaotic nature. Deadlines? Yes. Milestone? Sure. Logical breakdown of work? Not really. Careful planning of resources? Well, the paper the planning was written on was more endurable than the actual execution of the plan. The way the projects could progress was highly influenced by outside and unstable factors. Over the years I have looked at more that one program to ease project planning, but all of them were way too rigid to be of use.

Basically, I was curious as to the current set of programs for project management for the open source desktop and since I am working with DesktopBSD it fits nicely in this series of articles. I will look into four programs. Planner (GNOME), KPlato (KDE) , TaskJuggler (KDE) and GanttProject (Java).

GanttProject: an enormous surprise

I started with GanttProject, but -in all honesty- I didn’t expect much from it. I don’t really like Java-based applications. Too often I find them slow, sluggish, eating too many system resources, lacking functionalities and plain ugly with horrible font-rendering. GanttProject is none of that.

GanttProject is a free and easy to use Gantt chart based project scheduling and management tool.

desktopbsd-day20-ganttproject-1.png

This program doesn´t try to be the software to beat all other project management software. There are two main views: your resources and the tasks in the project as a Gantt Chart. You can download GanttProject in various formats. One package has various launchers for UNIX/Linux, Windows and MacOSX with which you can run without installing it. The main requirement is JRE. I downloaded the package, unzipped it, cd-ed into the ganttproject directory and launched the application with #sh ganttproject.sh . It takes a while for the program to be ready for use.

You can then create a new project (Project -> New) via a simple wizard. First you give the project a name and some additional information. Then you select the roleset and the calendar. You don’t have a lot of options here, but that’s just fine with me.

desktopbsd-day20-ganttproject-2.png

Adding resources should be the next logical step. Again, this reveal a simple screen where you can add some general information about the resource like name, the e-mail adress, the phone-number and the default role the person has. The default role is that of project manager. You can change that by going to Edit -> Preferences -> Resource role. There you can add the roles you have in your project. All resources can be seen in the resource tab.

desktopbsd-day20-ganttproject-11.png

From here it is a matter of adding the tasks. When you click on the icon New Task you enter the basic information on the first line in the Gantt chart: name, starting and finishing date. After that you double-click on the bar in the chart and a new window pops up. This window has an easily understandable layout (though -of course – you need to have some background knowledge in project management). There are five tabs. The first one holds the task specific information. You can’t enter a lot of information (name, priority, progress, milestone yes/no, starting and finishing dates and duration), with the benefit of not being overly complicated.

desktopbsd-day20-ganttproject-6.png

In the second tab you determine whether it is a isolated task or one that is related to a previous task. The tab Resources gives you the possibility to add one or more persons to that task. The fourth tab is meant for some notes and with the fourth tab you can set the columns for the Gantt chart, allowing some customization of each task line.

With this basic set I could design a first project within minutes without being stonewalled. When looking a bit further I noticed that GanttProject also create Pertt charts for you project and that you can import and export Microsoft Project XML files. The program is responsive and attractive to look at. Really, it was fun to work with it and for that reason GanttProject also found it’s way to my Portable Applications collection on the mobile hard drive.

]project-open[

One final element to add to the appeal of GanttProject is the integration with an open source webbased ERP/Project Management package, ]project-open[ . You can create, change and upload GanttProject files to ]project-open[. That alone would be interesting, but the online demo revealed a rounded out online hub for CRM, Finance, project management, some HRM. Add a wiki, forum and some document management to the mix and you could have a small organization migration to a complete open source solution for project management. I absolutely love the dashboard and the indicators tabs that give graphical representations. ]project-open[ wasn’t part of today’s plan, but it will be on the list soon.

Conclusions

GanttProject got me sidetracked today and I love it when open source software does that to me. It did leave me with insufficient time for the other three programs, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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