Open Source Project Management

I noted last week that Projity – the SaaS Project Management supplier – have released an Open Source desktop version of their product called OpenProj.

There are few Open Source applications in this space that have any serious user-base and the de facto standard to compare with is Microsoft’s Project application.

As I know next to nothing about project management software I asked a good friend of mine (David Catchpole) who does PM stuff for a living to take a look. I sent him a link to their download page and asked him if he’d try it out and give me some words. Here they are:

OpenProj from Projity

Before we start lets make it clear that OpenProj is a cracking piece of software given that it is free and Open Source. OpenProj doesn’t even bother to try and hide its inspiration and is such a close replica of Microsoft Project that it’s going to take you more than a few minutes to notice the differences. To cut a, possibly, very long review short, if you haven’t used MS Project or other scheduling package before and fancy having a shot at some basic project planning then download this and go for it. If you have used MS Project before here is a, not exhaustive, list of some of the more advanced stuff that you might miss:

  • Printing control
  • Formatting – of pretty much anything, text, timescale, Gantt, gridlines… (think default MS Project)
  • File security
  • Resource levelling
  • Resource sharing
  • Multiple projects (as we know them)
  • Custom field names
  • Formulas & automation
  • Graphical indicators
  • Custom tables
  • Custom views
  • Forms
  • Custom default settings & behaviours
  • Automatic outline level view
  • Recurring tasks
  • Custom Sorts, Filters & Grouping
  • Collaboration
  • Custom toolbars
  • Spell checker
  • Hyperlinks
  • Inserted objects
  • Integration & add-ons

Now that may sound like quite a long list but given the complexity (much of it hidden) of both MS Project and OpenProj it is quite some feat that the list is so short. Most professional planners would not be able to live with many of the omissions but for the more casual user it ticks most boxes. My feeling is that this is very much a first stab and we will see OpenProj picking up on some of the above gaps before long – printing possibly being its biggest weakness. There are also some minor user interface inconsistencies and quirks that reduce the feeling of quality but are not serious. Taking on MS Project in such an overt, and possibly lawyer friendly way, may be a little foolhardy but at least we now have an open alternative to a very pricey MS product.

Ironically one thing OpenProj does give us is a free MS Project viewer, something we previously had to pay for, as it happily opens .mpp files.

Keep a very close eye on OpenProj – to achieve what it has is staggering and with a bit of TLC it may yet take over the world…

Contributor: D.J.Catchpole BSc, MBCS, CITP, CEng – Director, NETquest Ltd and user of MS Project since 1990.

There is one other thing to mention that is certainly important for many. As OpenProj is written in Java, it will run on any mainstream operating system: Linux, Windows, Apple Macs, and probably anything else that you can get a fairly recent JRE installed on. MS Project I assume is Windows only.

I just checked on Sourceforge – since it became available for download (just 14 days ago) it has been downloaded approximately 30,000 times and is currently ranked #6 out of ~160,000 project for daily activity!

Thanks Dave, in the world of Open Source, an individuals’ comments, ideas and opinions can really make a difference. If you feel inclined to, why not jump on their mailing lists and help them to improve it. I’m sure your contribution(s) would be warmly received…