Organize your company, finally!
December 17, 2008
Dear Ernie,Help! Our business needs to get organized! Weve been told to get Microsoft Project, but its overwhelming, expensive, and I dont have the time to learn it. We need to schedule projects and track progress, and it would be nice to have Gantt charts, multiple seats and Mac compatibility. Do you have any recommendations on other programs that offer these features? Signed, A Local EngineerDear Local Engineer,An organized company is a happy company, and your computer can come to the rescue! First, for those who arent familiar with it, Microsoft Project is a project management program that assists project managers in developing plans, assigning tasks, tracking progress, managing budgets and analyzing workloads. Gantt charts are a type of bar chart that illustrate the start and finish dates of a project and the relationships between activities (see below for a sample chart). Microsoft Project many be the benchmark in project management software, but you can find effective open source and shareware alternatives. Here are two that I can recommend.Basecamp: http://www.basecamphq.comI have used this, and it worked very well for me. It is web-based, and therefore Mac and PC compatible. It is very simple; in fact, anyone with a passing familiarity with the web can quickly catch on. Basecamp gives users the basic tools needed to post messages, tasks, and schedules. You can quickly add and remove users. You can customize the colors and basic layout of your site. You can even adorn each page with a small company logo. One interesting feature power users will like: Basecamp lets you export items to an XML file, which can then be used with other sites and applications. It also has great client interaction features. However, it does not offer the capability to create charts, stats, or number-laden reports (for some this is a pro, for others it is a con). Check it outthey offer a free trial, and it is fairly inexpensive for the license. Open Workbench: http://www.openworkbench.orgOpen Workbench offers an attractive and relatively powerful alternative to Microsoft Project. It offers a robust project planning and management package based on Gantt chartinga type of bar chart that illustrates start and finish dates and relationships between activities. Currently, Open Workbench only runs under Microsoft Windows , so it might not be right for every project manager, but this free program will agree with your pocketbook. Kings Beach resident Ernie Dambach is a self-admitted computer geek who enjoys helping others navigate their way through the digital world. His computer and networking company Tahoe Tech Group serves small and medium businesses, as well as the home computer users throughout the Tahoe Truckee region.Log onto or call (530) 550-0999.