Best Free Project Manager

 
Introduction

Project Management software can be a minefield; every user has a different view of what makes a program “project management” material rather than a good organizing tool or time manager.

While Microsoft lead the way in desktop project management tools with MS Project, not everyone wanted the complexity that came with all of its capabilities.

For our review, we have concentrated on those programs which offer standard project management features such as task and resource scheduling and tracking, charting, project and task breakdown into sub-projects, sub-tasks and dependencies.

 
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Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

Open WorkbenchTopping our list here is the Open Source project management tool Open Workbench, which is a free tool so feature-rich and powerful that it should at least be considered before any decision is made to purchase a commercial project management package. Like the commercial products of the same ilk, it takes time to get your head around and if you have been using Microsoft Project or another task-based manager you'll have to re-orient your thinking because Open Workbench is resource-driven not task-driven.

According to the developers, "an Open Workbench plan is built up from estimates for the tasks of work. Estimates are tied to the resource assigned to the tasks. Duration is then driven by the number of hours each resource will work per week to cover the total number of hours required for the tasks. Open Workbench is best suited to groups that estimate total work effort based on the estimates for all the tasks associated with a project and then create a staffing plan and schedule for those estimates."

The key features of the application include project planning, scheduling, resource management, project review and more.

The program can also read Microsoft project files and this possibly makes Open Workbench the most appealing. Many products–even the commercial offerings–are great project management tools but sooner or later someone is going to want to view or edit your plan with the ubiquitous MS Project and without compatibility, the best you are going to be able to offer is an exported spreadsheet or graphical equivalent.

Open Workbench is the real thing, not some amateurish, half baked effort. Like Microsoft Project, it is best suited to large scale projects that can justify the considerable time it takes to learn the product.

Users with smaller projects or more simple needs might want to consider some of the less feature-rich project managers, such as GanttProject or ToDoList.

 

GanttPVGanttProject is a very good project management tool, with a surprisingly good depth of features and accessories for a free product. It is distributed under a GNU General Public License, which means you can download it for free.

There is also a java based version of the program, which means that you don't even have to download the software to use it. As its name suggest, GanttProject is excellent for making Gantt charts, which are great  for making logical and easy to understand development plans.

On of the features I particularly liked was the ability to put in a percentage complete bar inside the timeline of that particular stage. This makes it easy to see how far along everything is without a lot of hassle. The program, if you use the downloadable version is very simple and easy to use. You can add as many tasks as you need, as well as then being able to assign personnel and resources to each task.  In particular the features for the personnel section are very good. You can add team members for a project and assign them to tasks when you set them up, you can also input e-mail addresses as well as phone numbers for each person and assign them a role in the group. GanttProject also includes a Milestone feature which is very useful, giving an end goal to aim for with a fixed time. Many other project management tools do not support these.

On the technical side, GanttProject can save files as .xml files, which means that they are viewable over the internet as well as transferable to other programs, such as Microsoft Project. The installation is very quick and the program is actually very small, being under 10mb. There are very few problems with this tool, my only criticism is that you can't associate files with particular tasks, allowing other team members to get the files they need.

Overall GanttProject is a very good project management tool, perhaps not suitable for very large projects, but very usable for small to medium size projects.

 

ToDoListWhile not a traditional Project Management tool in that it does not come with the mandatory Gantt charting, ToDoList is a sound choice for those wanting to get started straight away in managing a simple project.

 

dotProject is a robust Web-based project management framework written in PHP that allows users to schedule, plan, and staff projects. It's not a perfect application, but its extensive functionality and ease of use make its shortcomings easy to overlook.

The dotProject application is an open source GNU GPL-licensed project management application that was started in December 2000 and is actively developed and maintained. By way of an intuitive browser-based interface, dotProject offers project task management (task description, duration, scheduling, and assignment), multi-user support, granular user permissions, Gantt charts, discussion forums, file checkout, contact list, trouble tickets, reporting, calendar, and user-based to-do capabilities. If that's not enough built-in functionality, you can extend dotProject from a well-trafficked SourceForge project full of additional add-on modules.

A simple tabbed user menu drives the application. The fundamental units of the dotProject system are companies, projects, tasks, and users. The first step in using dotProject is to create companies for which projects are to be completed. Users, projects, and tasks are all related to a company. The next step should be to add users to both your client company listings and to your own resource allocation. You need users so that you have someone to assign tasks to; otherwise the administrator gets to do all the work! You can assign users varying degrees of permissions that can be matched to specific companies and/or projects.

After you've set up your company and initial users it's time to create project details that need to be managed and input tasks. Tasks can be linked and labeled as predecessor tasks and/or milestones and assigned to user resources. Users are notified of their task assignments by email, which is a neat feature. Users can also simply log in to the system and examine their own task lists.

Task management is the critical component of any project management application, and it's something that dotProject does reasonably well. Users can log time against a task directly in the system, giving a project manager a good synopsis of progress to date. From a scheduling point of view, dotProject helps users to calculate when tasks should start and when they should be completed based on time duration allocated and start task dependencies.

DotProject also allows users to create something called dynamic tasks, which takes their start, completion, and duration from the child tasks that are related to them. The newly updated and thorough dotProject documentation has some excellent explanation of how dotProject handles tasks, dynamic tasks, and dependencies.

Love them or hate them, Gantt charts are a mainstay of many project management packages. DotProject, rather than making the Gantt chart the focus of project management as they are in GanttProject, simply includes the chart as one of its tabs. DotProject offers no default export or print functionality for Gantt charts.

Project managers tend to love their reports. DotProject can generate a number of project reports, including task log, user performance, allocated user hours, tasks sorted by user, tasks overdue, completed, upcoming, overall report, and project statistics.

Overall, dotProject offers a staggering amount of useful functionality. By virtue of it being a Web-based multi-user application, you can quickly put it to work for either individual or distributed team project development. Its online documentation and support forums help when you need to figure something out or have hit a snag. Certainly dotProject is not without issues; the developers maintain a list of documented bugs that need to be dealt with in upcoming releases. Items like the Gantt project bug are annoying but are easily fixed with a small code tweak.

On the whole, dotProject is a solid multi-user project management tool that stands on its own merits.

 
Quick Selection Guide

Open Workbench
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Feature-rich and powerful, best suited to groups that estimate total work effort.
Resource-driven and not task-driven.
1.1.6
9.03 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 2000, XP or 2003 Server Edition.

Additional software required: Version 1.3.1 or later of Sun's Java Runtime Engine

GanttProject
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.
Lacks the looks and some of the functionality of Open Workbench.
http://www.ganttproject.biz/
2.6..1.1499
13.2 MB
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

v2.6.1.1499 released December, 2012

ToDoList
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Get started straight away in managing a simple project.
Does not come with the mandatory Gantt charting.
6.7
778 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 98 to Vista

A range of plugins is freely available, including a PocketPC viewer and an MS Project 2002 converter.

dotProject
4
 
Is a web service or web application
Web based tool
Lacks the look and feel of other web based tools
http://www.dotproject.net/
2.1.7
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Web based.

 
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Tags

project manager, gantt chart, work bench, to do list, free software, freeware

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Comments

by Gil Mensch on 30. April 2013 - 13:55  (107397)

ReqMan appears no longer to be freeware. It just has a 14-day free trial with pricing thereafter starting at $9/month.

by MidnightCowboy on 2. June 2013 - 8:08  (108212)

Thank you for letting us know. It is now removed from the review. MC - Site manager.

by Gil Mensch on 30. April 2013 - 13:32  (107395)

Does anyone have experience with Asana? ( http://asana.com/ ) I was searching for a web-based app of this type. Asana came up early in Google search results, and it looks interesting, but I see no mention of it here either in the article or in the comments section. Just wondering. Asana says it is free for up to 30 users/project participants.

by SJB (not verified) on 23. November 2012 - 23:55  (102820)

I teach upper level college students and we do a fair number of group projects. Which of these applications would be best for students--some use Macs, some use PCs, some are on tablets, all have access to desktop labs with both Mac and PC computers. This is a large commuter school, so I'm constantly looking for tools they can use to avoid driving all over the place.

by ogian on 24. November 2012 - 0:42  (102821)

Let me say up front that it is difficult to find a "free" web based project management tool that is actually free. Most that were initially free are now commercial tools. Having said that, I would recommend PHProjekt (http://www.phprojekt.com/), which is an open source web application. I haven't written a review about it yet but based on initial research and your requirements, this is my recommendation.

by ilana (not verified) on 16. October 2012 - 7:12  (100823)

I've started trying out GanttProject, which seems to have all the functionality we need. I am a first time user of any project management tool, and I can't figure out whether it is possible to input and view multiple projects concurrently, allowing you to view a resource's capacity across various projects they may be involved in. Thanks.

by ogian on 17. October 2012 - 15:29  (100914)

You might want to check out the GanttProject forum at the following link: http://forum.ganttproject.biz/view/20120822202531_-4b9mzmf95256sv91k1d7v...

by yuyu (not verified) on 16. July 2012 - 1:23  (96234)

I would like to try this product and i think it is useful for me.

by CHRIS4567 (not verified) on 17. June 2012 - 16:46  (95008)

The problem with online project mgmt tools, is that someone out there, can see all your plans, and details.
No confidentiality , especially crucial in these days of business spying, and hackers.

I prefer something that can be run on my desktop only.

by Oz (not verified) on 11. June 2012 - 22:04  (94706)

Have you tried Birdview Projects Ogian? (www.birdviewprojects.com)

I'm curious about your opinion. It is a fully featured product that is also completely free, and has a very easy to use interface. Let me know what you think, and how it compares to your top choices!

by ogian on 11. June 2012 - 23:47  (94712)

I have not tried Birdview Projects yet. My question would be just how human centric it really is? In my experience team collaboration falls apart the more complex a project is. It does look interesting enough for me to take a look at. I can't promise anything though.

by Babynus (not verified) on 31. May 2012 - 14:12  (94243)

List could be completed with Project'Or RIA (http://projectorria.toolware.fr).
This simple to use tool gets a growing community, mostly thanks to its ergponomy and variety of functionalities.
Most of here above tools only focus on one task : Gantt planning, or tasks list, or resource management.
Project'Or RIA does all of this, and much more.

by ogian on 11. June 2012 - 23:39  (94711)

I haven't taken a look at this yet but you are correct in that most of the tools reviewed here do focus on one of the three tasks that you mentioned.

by Sergii (not verified) on 4. September 2011 - 10:23  (78987)

GanttPV = portable = good!

by ogian on 14. December 2011 - 16:49  (85019)

GanttPV is good and the most important feature for me is that it is supported on multiple platforms.

-- Ogian

by mouse user (not verified) on 25. July 2011 - 14:00  (76212)

I use a easy and free http://projects-manager.com/en/

by ogian on 26. July 2011 - 16:21  (76262)

Thank you.

by matandi (not verified) on 14. June 2011 - 13:16  (73786)

Hi,

I am using OpenProj 1.4.

I would like to add a sub-project to my existing project.

Apparently, I cannot find the Project button in the insert menu, as described in the Sub-projects documentation.

http://openproj.org/wiki/index.php?ti...

I will be grateful for any help on the subject.

All the best,

by ogian on 15. June 2011 - 16:50  (73847)

Hello, I just installed OpenProj 1.4 for windows and I couldn't find a project button on the insert menu either. I would suggest contact serena.com. Contact information for OpenProj is at http://www.serena.com/products/openproj/index.html. Good luck.

by pierrecogitae (not verified) on 25. May 2011 - 9:52  (72656)

Hi there.
Ganttproject is free, opensource, simple and pretty good.
http://www.ganttproject.biz/

CHeers

by marcogon (not verified) on 17. May 2011 - 11:42  (72082)

Here`s a huge list of such software as well: http://www.vivalogo.com/vl-resources/free-project-management-software-systems.htm

by ogian on 17. May 2011 - 17:43  (72113)

Thank you for the information.

by Mandeep Mehta (not verified) on 31. March 2011 - 11:18  (68904)

I am unable to access web site of open work bench.

by ogian on 4. May 2011 - 16:22  (71411)

It appears that as of this moment, Open Workbench does not have a home page. You can still download it at open-workbench.en.softonic.com. An open workbench start video is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Luip3tPbThY/.

by Mikki White (not verified) on 16. February 2012 - 18:35  (88932)

Thank you... couldn't find it either and it seems its the one most recommended.

by ogian on 2. May 2011 - 13:37  (71285)

I was also unable to access the open work bench website. I will look into this and send a reply once I have more information.

by Anupam on 31. March 2011 - 12:59  (68972)

Yes, it seems to be down at the moment

by Anonymrezaei-mehdious (not verified) on 4. January 2011 - 9:40  (63769)

check out openproj,it is similar to ms project

by Lars (not verified) on 27. October 2010 - 9:05  (60266)

We use a great free web based tool from http://www.requirementone.com called ReqMan. It is all free and it has a vast functionality that we can use for project management, requirement management, questionnaires for our users, claims system, RFQs and RFPs for our suppliers and much more. I would like to recommend it to anybody.

by Anonymousca (not verified) on 31. March 2011 - 6:07  (68863)

reqman seems good.but it can't be downloaded and installed locally?this is required since we work in intranet,and not internet access.

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