5 free project management applications you must try

Putting together a project plan can sometimes seem more daunting than completing the project itself. When you need to track each step of a project, along with your costs, staff, and other factors, you probably need a project management application.

OpenProj

Like GanttProject, OpenProj is an open-source project, and has the potential to be the most popular among the project management software on this list, mainly because of its compatibility with Microsoft Office Project files. (According to the Web site, OpenProj has been downloaded over 1,250,000 times.) It comes as a desktop program in versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

OpenProj works well on its own for building project plans. Serena Software can offer this application free of charge because makes its money by selling back-end, server-side features to go with OpenProj for business clientele needing multi-projecting, reporting, time sheets, notifications and other enterprise-level apps.

The first thing you'll notice is its extensive charting features. OpenProj features Gantt and PERT charts, and also incorporates WBS, RBS, Earned Value costing, and a few other charting methods. Like GanttProject's PERT charting interface, the tasks and resources in the PERT, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) or Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS) charts of OpenProj are manipulated by simply dragging and dropping boxes; the pathways among them then reroute automatically.

The way which OpenProj shows you Gantt charts falls somewhere between Gantter.com's clean, simple look and jxProject's layered, visual complexity. OpenProj aims for a visual balance between these two. In its default settings, it labels its task bars with the name of the corresponding resource, and does so with an overall look that isn't as busy or overwhelming as jxProject's. You can also click on a bar and drag it side-to-side along the time line to place it earlier or later in the schedule, as well as adjust the sides of the bar to shrink or stretch the time duration of the task.

Like jxProject, OpenProj lets you assign tasks with work times that run for less than one hour -- down to one minute.

But OpenProj is missing the one user interface feature that I really like in GanttProject, in which clicking a task bar highlights the corresponding name in the task list. (jxProject lacks this feature as well.) I hadn't realized how truly helpful this was until I went over the details of my project as rendered in OpenProj to mentally check off and review the task steps in my project, from start to finish.

A last big plus for OpenProj is that it successfully opened every plan file saved in the Microsoft Office Project format that I used in these tests. The other project management applications on this list usually had problems importing Office Project files, if they had the ability to do so directly at all (without the need to first export the file to XML).

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags project management

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Howard Wen

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?