An integral part of work is project management. Whether big or small, a project cannot be successful if it isn’t well-managed. Every work has its own set of requirements, priorities, deadlines and more. Managing a project becomes a mammoth task, especially when we do not take proper steps to make sure it is managed effectively. Today, when many of us spend a good part of our lives in front of a computer screen, a good way to manage projects is through software.
Software like Microsoft Project can do the job, but then there are people like me who don’t like spending a small fortune on buying software. ApolloHQ (see earlier review) is a great option, but the limiting factor is the online access required. Without the cloud, ApolloHQ cannot take flight.
Another viable option is Collabtive, which is free and open source project management software. It has a very elegant and easy-to-use interface. The user (once logged in) can add projects, which she can then manage. Project management with Collabtive is easy. You can have as many users as you want. The users can also send messages to each other, that may (or may not) contain information on projects. The only disadvantage for some people may be that it does not provide the ability to create Gantt charts.
Collabtive needs PHP in order to work. I installed XAMPP in order to get PHP support (Note: You can also use other softwares like WAMP, etc.). The installation is simple. Just download Collabtive and extract the files into a folder. Place the folder in the XAMPP (or WAMP) directory. In the Collabtive folder, you will find a file named ‘install.php’. Open the file in your browser and fill in the details. Now open ‘index.php’ and you shall see this screen.
Once logged in, you’ll go to your Desktop. Here you can see your projects and a calendar. Simply add a project and enter a few basic details. You can then click the project name to go to the Project Dashboard. You find the Calendar and the Timetracker here. Through the Timetracker, you can specify how much time you took to complete/perform a specific task, and add comments specific to the task. Activity in the bottom of the screen shows any updates made to your work.
In a project, you can also enter Milestones, see Tasklists, send Messages and also upload files up to a maximum of 8 MB. You can also control which group of users see the files and which users are to be notified.
There are four icons in the top right of the screen. They are the backbone of the UI. You can toggle between Desktop, My Account, Settings and the Logout button. On the right pane, you can see how many users are using Collabtive at the moment, and the lifeline is the Search option, which comes to the rescue when there are a lot of things going on Collabtive.
Lets look at a few features in detail.
1. Tasks and Milestones
Tasks and Milestones are the basic building block of project management. You can add a task or a milestone by simply clicking on the date (in the calendar) in which it is to be assigned. You can maintain a Tasklist that can come in handy while categorizing tasks. Milestones measure what has to be achieved. Milestones make the progress of the project tangible.
The most important of all the features I’ve used is the Tasklist. Collabtive lets you create many essential tasks and assign them to users (depending on your choice) under a single Tasklist. The Tasklist also shows how many days are left to complete a certain task. A tick on the left means you are done with the task.
Users can send messages to other users and any recieved messages are also shown here. They can specify tags as well, which are associated with messages containing them. This can come in handy should you have a lot of messages and need to find ones relating to a particular project or task.
As I mentioned earlier, Timetracker tracks the time used to complete a task Enter the name, the time it started and the time it ended, and comments regarding the task. Messages and Timetracker reports can also be exported as a PDF or RSS feed.
In a nutshell, Collabtive is a project management software that is not only free, but is one you can use when you want to spend more time working on the project and less time on managing it. Give it a try if you’ve yet to find a project management solution that works for you, or you need one that doesn’t break your bank and still gets the job done.
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