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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 3:52 am   

Project Management Software...NOT!
 
I think it's time for a new rant... Twisted Evil

I've been trying to improve my planning, especially of software projects. My method of planning in the past has involved lots of to-do lists in spiral bound notebook, along with lots of sticky notes. Not the greatest system for using my time efficiently.

I'm also a perfectionist. Yes, I admit it. In fact, I've got a really bad case of it because I'm still not convinced that being a perfectionist is really a bad thing Wink . But what I *have* admitted is that this tends to make it difficult for me to complete tasks and projects. I just love starting new stuff, but then it takes forever to release anything because I always want it to be perfect. The "perfectionist" tag also probably explains a lot of my other behavior that people around here have seen for years.

But anyway, back to the topic...ok, so to improve my ability to complete projects, I need to spend more time breaking big tasks down into smaller pieces that I can complete more easily. Then by focusing on a list of daily small tasks, I make good progress towards the overall project. As I said, in the past I've done this by making to-do lists and sticky notes.

I decided that there *must* be some cool software out there to help with this. Well, I was right...and I was wrong.

Apparently, someone out there (probably Microsoft) decided that Project Management was a BIG and COMPLICATED problem, and they therefore decreed that all project managment software should also be BIG, COMPLICATED, and also EXPENSIVE. Microsoft Project is a wonderful example of this. I am *NOT* going to pay $500 for that! I mean, give me a break...maybe it's the greatest software ever invented for huge multi-million dollar construction projects. But what about us small developers? It would take me longer to figure out how to use it than all of the time it might potentially save me on better project management.

While I was looking around, I came across some really COOL software called Mind Manager. It's one of these "mind mapping" tools for brainstorming. It has a *GREAT* interface, and I was up and running with a basic project diagram in just minutes. And it was so cool it actually made it FUN. It's really just a new graphical way to display a tree-hierarchy.

The problem is that I was really having fun playing with it until I realized that they wanted $200 for just the basic version. And all the basic version does is draw the pretty picture and then let you import into (guess what...that's right...) Microsoft Project Evil or Very Mad

You can add icons to the tasks in your project view, but there is no way to ask it to show you the next tasks the need to be done, or anyway to calculate a schedule, or to see progress on anything. Everything has to be done manually with your own colors or icons, which is a pain. It's just a pretty picture!

There is an addon for Mind Manager called Results Manager that helps with this. It goes through all of your project maps and finds all of the tasks that are incomplete or due soon and gives them to you in a nice to-do list structure. It almost adds enough functionality to make the project map a useful tool. Of course, they want another $200 for the addon!!! Just because someone wrote some book called "Getting Things Done" which is apparently one of the latest and greatest time management hypes, they think they can charge big money for their plugin and sell it to all of those companies looking for the next greatest management tool!

Sigh. It's *SO* disappointing. Once again, part of me wants to just go out and write my own! But I know I can't right now. That path leads to more uncompleted projects (but a Mind Map is just a fancy graphical display of a tree-hierarchy...couldn't I just write a zApp component that displays trees like this...it wouldn't be that hard, would it...SLAP!!!) OK, where was I...oh yeah....Sigh.

I checked out a few Shareware Project Management systems. Namely PlanBee and MinuteMan. Wow, people complained about the archaic user interface in zMUD? Take a look at those two gems! Looks like they still develop in Delphi 3 on Windows 95. I've never seen so many ugly small fonts, colors, and buttons in my life. Maybe the software actually works, but I couldn't even bear to download it. You'd think that members of the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals) would have learned more about having a decent web site and how to better present your software products.

I then found an Open Source product called Open Workbench, or something like that. Bah...it uses Java...I hate Java. Downloaded it anyway and ran it. Couldn't even figure out how to start adding tasks to a project. The documentation was horrible. Stuff like "Opening a Project: to open a project, select File|Open". Totally obvious dumb stuff, but nowhere did it say how to start defining the structure of a project. Well, as with a lot of Open Source, you get what you pay for.

Found an Open Source Mind Mapping program called FreeMind. It also uses Java (Bah!). And while crude, at least it worked fairly easily. Not nearly as fancy or easy-to-use as Mind Manager. And again, all it does it make a pretty (or not-so-pretty) picture. No way to actually track tasks or make a list of which items need to be worked on next.

I guess I'm just going to keep using my old to-do lists and sticky notes. Unless someone out there knows about a good system that is EASY TO USE for creating project tasks and to-lists and scheduling critical tasks that is INEXPENSIVE! I don't need it to support multiple users, and I don't care about resource allocation (except my own time). I just need an easy way to break a project into hundreds of small sub-tasks in an organized way and then track the completion status and decide which tasks should be worked on first and next.

And I've got to add...and I don't mean to self-promote myself here...but all of this searching for software and looking at what's out there these days really make it sink in as to how great of a deal zMUD users have gotten over the years. A high-quality piece of software at a really low price. That kind of software is REALLY hard to find these days.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:11 am   
 
Well, my wish might have come true!

Determined not to give up my search, I finally started going though the list of Project Management software on Tucows. Starting with the 5-cow rated stuff. I might have found just what I was looking for: in-Step. It's a project management software for IT projects, and it has a FREE personal version. After being impressed by their online tutorials, I downloaded the personal version and it actually works.

It still has a *lot* more stuff than I need, and is set up for "traditional" IT project management with requirements planning, etc, etc. But I was able to easily create a set of subtasks for a project, assign timelines, and see the critical tasks and schedules.

In fact, it even has a version control system built-in, although I'll have to play with it to see if it's worth using for Delphi source code. It seems to have integration with Visual Studio stuff, although that might only be in the Pro version. But it works well as a single-user system without needing any fancy database servers or anything.

It's interesting that I seem to be using more and more software from outside the U.S. I've always been impressed with the software developers in Germany, and this is just another example. So far this works well enough that I would have even been willing to pay a small price for it. But this company seems to realize that us poor single-developers need as much help as we can get. They still make their money with the Pro version with all of the multi-user support that I don't need.

Thank goodness someone out there is paying attention to the small developer needs. I'll let you know how this tool works out in the long run.
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bortaS
Magician


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 320
Location: Springville, UT

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 2:56 pm   
 
That in-Step is impressive!

When I don't need something as complicated as that, I use ToDoList from Abstract Spoon. The URL is http://www.abstractspoon.com/tdl_resources.html

I'm going to give in-Step a spin tonight. Wink
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Rainchild
Wizard


Joined: 10 Oct 2000
Posts: 1551
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Tue Aug 30, 2005 11:52 pm   
 
Looks pretty useful, they charge a mint for their commercial version tho! You think 500 for MS Project is bad, phwoah!

Still, I haven't been able to find anything useful for project management yet so perhaps this in-Step will be the answer. Dunno if the boss is going to want to cough up for it tho!
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2005 3:10 am   
 
Yeah, that's probably how they can afford to give away the Personal version for free. Get people hooked and then get the company budget to pay for the real thing. After all, *most* companies are going to need the multi-user capabilities of the full version. But it was perfect for just my own use.

I'm still really liking the Mind Manager mind mapping software though. I might have to shell out real money for it. It just makes brainstorming new ideas fun. And since in-Step uses an XML format and interfaces to MS Project (as does Mind Manager), it's possible that it's easy to export the mind map from Mind Manager into in-Step.

Don't really have time to mess with all of that right now though. At least I have something that works.
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Molson_Ice
Newbie


Joined: 14 Sep 2006
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2006 9:41 pm   
 
Hey, I've just answered to your other blog entry, but I guess I should write something here to. Check out www.xperttimer.com
It's also an inexpensive project timing software with a to-do-list and reporting. The documentation is awesome too. The release date is 15th of September and the best....it's programmed in DELPHI :o)
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Ziah
Novice


Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 40

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 3:37 pm   
 
You should like, plan up some steps to create a better planning software. Initially it might take a while, but then once it starts having basic functionality, it'll be easy sailing from there!
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Fang Xianfu
GURU


Joined: 26 Jan 2004
Posts: 5155
Location: United Kingdom

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 3:55 pm   
 
No, that way lies madness! It's only viable if the time you spend writing and fixing the software is less than the time it will save you. Not very likely really.
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Zugg
MASTER


Joined: 25 Sep 2000
Posts: 23377
Location: Colorado, USA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 4:31 pm   
 
Hmm, I guess I never mentioned in this thread what I finally choose to use for Project Planning. I've been using it for many many months now and it's working really great for me. It's something called MyLife Organized. It's isn't a format Project Management tool, but it works well for Task Manager and planning. It doesn't really let me do any time or schedule estimates, but it's good for prioritizing tasks and keeping all of my to-do lists organized. Since I started using it I haven't needed to make a paper list (which I used to make lots of).

My brief experiments with time estimates turned out to be pretty bad. Even with the best tool it's nearly impossible to accurately estimate new projects without a lot more formal design than I'm willing to do. And bug fixing is really hard to predict (since, by definition, I don't usually know the source of the bug, so I can't estimate how long it will take to fix).

Once I focused more on the GTD approach and worried more about priortizing important tasks, then the MyLife Organized tool really started working well for me. So I have no plans of getting distracted and writing my own. I went down that path already with email, and Fang is correct: "that way lies madness!"
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Tech
GURU


Joined: 18 Oct 2000
Posts: 2733
Location: Atlanta, USA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 6:41 pm   
 
RAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!! Beware the zombie thread. It rises once again. Smile

One I first saw it, I wondered why you were having PM software issues again. You may not have mentioned it here, but in some other thread you did mention you were going with MyLife Organized. Glad to hear it's still working great for you. Plus it's one more reason not to give timelines for CMUD releases, you don't know because you PM software doesn't track it. Laughing

Say hi to Chiara. I hope her speedy recovery continues to be exactly that.
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sed
Beginner


Joined: 28 Oct 2005
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2007 3:46 am   
 
I'll have to check out 'MyLife Organized' If anyone knows of a product that fits the below criteria, please message me!.
I was sort of hopeing that Zugg would create his own, and release it, I'm sure it would be good.

Hi, can I suggest an application which I havent found anywhere yet.

Todo's come via various medium's: telephone, emails, fax's, snailmail, annual tasks. Even a home user would have regular and intermitent todo's.
I've tried many reminder programs including the 'alarm notes', none have met my requirements.

I'm looking for a very simple program to organize and present tasks/todo's which I have allocated to me via other interfaces such as emails, phone calls, incident/change/configuration managment tools and hard copy client requests.

Main priority for me is a gantt chart, so I can see which tasks I am currently working on, tasks complete but require a 'monitoring' duration and future tasks.
The other priority is that it sits in the tray and pops up when theres an event trigger or/and an alarm.
Alarms/reminder should be able to be set via the gantt chart view if possible - like right click on the bar associated with a task and select set alarm here.
Alarms/reminder should be able to be set for a task outside of the tasks 'time' so an alarm can be set for 1 hour before the task has been scheduled.
Gantt chart would have to zoom in some way.
Tasks may be tasks which only take a minute or 2 years.

Task information entry could contain, but should only require title:start:finish
Main Task:
Title:Description:Referance:Starttimedate:Finishtimedate:Monitortimedate
Title=Title of task, eg. Complete 'PBC' forms.
Description/Notes=Long description/cumulative notes, eg. Complete the online form at http://intranet/hr for 'Personal Business Commitments'
Referance=Origin of request, eg. Refer to email from Boss on 01/01/2007
Starttimedate=When to start
Finishtimedate=when it should be completed by
Monitortimedate=how long to monitor for
No. of hours budgeted/committed.
No. of hours required.
No. of hours completed.

Subtasks:
PresentationIndented:Description:Starttimedate:Finishtimedate:Monitortimedate
Description/notes=Long description/cumulative notes, eg. Discuss with manager what his commitment priorities are, emailed boss to arrange meeting to discuss, received email from boss.....
Starttimedate=When to start
Finishtimedate=when it should be completed by
Monitortimedate=how long to monitor for (should be optional)

when presenting the tasks,columns should be configurable and mouseovers used where columns are not displayed.
for example: if the referance field is not displayed, mouse'ing over title could display that information if available.

I know this theme can be taken much further BUT, this is for people who already know what they have to do and already have the time allocated.
Its for people who already have the tasks assigned but the tasks are scattered amongst other applications like emails/problem or incident management programs.
Task and workflow managment with alarms/reminders is what this addresses.


Anyhow, thanks for your time, if its not something your interested in developing, or you know it already exists, could you give me a hint.
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chosig
Novice


Joined: 20 Apr 2008
Posts: 39
Location: Sweden

PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 4:27 pm   
 
Can this http://tiktrac.com/ be something?
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demoneyoungblood
Apprentice


Joined: 16 Dec 2002
Posts: 114
Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 4:52 pm   
 
If you guys are still looking for a good/decent planner, look into "Planner", its an open source project that is originally for the Gnome Desktop, but it has been ported to windows.

http://winplanner.sourceforge.net/

:)
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