Review – ApolloHQ

ApolloHQ


ApolloHQ is an “integrated project and contact management” program for multiple users.  It is web-based and works on newer versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.  I tried the program for several days and concluded that once little glitches are fixed it will be a good tool for freelancers working in teams and small business owners who want to have a fully hosted, online-based program (note that a single user version is in the works too).  That Apollo is online is great for those of us with good, high speed internet connections, which includes a wide range of users – unfortunately for this traveling freelancer it became a challenge to use the program when I found myself using a 2G connection with speeds still measured in KB.

At first I was a bit skeptical because of the computerized voice I heard in the instructional video but that turned out to be just a quirk.  Overall the program was designed to be rather easy to figure out so there is not much need for instruction.  The layout is user-friendly: on the left-hand side a permanent bar displays links to each section and at the bottom of the bar the user may find buttons to add tasks, calendar items and timers.  Once a user goes into a section he finds tabs that help organize the system further.

Upon logging into ApolloHQ.com the user goes straight into the overview pane, where he can also select an ongoing project or task from the Jumpstart list – like a list of shortcuts.

The calendar, tasks and projects are all integrated:

  • When a user goes into the calendar he can see what tasks are due by looking at the top of each date
  • When a user wants to track his projects he also can see a timeline of the activities related to a given project
  • When looking at his tasks the user may see them listed by date and user

In the calendar an owner may add users and choose what kind of access to give each: read only; read and add events; or read, add, edit and delete events.  Tasks are divided into one’s own tasks, project tasks and customer tasks.  The timer feature is great.  It offers a user the option to create various timers quickly from the sidebar as well as from within a project.

The contacts feature in ApolloHQ has functions other than just listing contact details, which isn’t a bad thing but it takes a little getting used to since it’s different from other project management programs.  There are, for example, tabs for deals and cases.  Under deals users can keep track of bids they have placed for jobs and later mark each deal as “won” or “lost.”  Under cases users can start tracking an issue, making notes on its progress.  The activity tab, as elsewhere in the application, works a bit like a social media update page and shows recent and upcoming activity such as tasks and notes that users decide to share.  At the moment there’s no option to import contacts but the developers tell me they are working on this feature.

At the moment there are no working language options but the help desk guys tell me that they are working on translations to make the program available in German, Spanish, French and Italian.  In the meantime there are three versions of English: American, British and Australian!  International users will appreciate this attention to detail – dingo lingo does come in handy at times.

The email reminder for my tasks due worked well but the site just wouldn’t display a calendar item I added the same day.  There were errors here and there, such as when I tried to add a task to a project without a task list but the program wouldn’t let me add the task without selecting a task list – end result was that I could not add my task.

In an email the team from ApolloHQ described the technical aspect of the application: “Apollo is a bit of a revolution in this field – it’s some 45000 lines of code of Javascript, to create something that basically hasn’t been done before.  It’s definitely the most challenging Ajax application out there.”  For now the whole program is free but in a separate email customer support stated that the ApolloHQ team plans to start charging during the first quarter of 2011.  The email also stated that there are plans for a “solo” (single user) version of the program.

For those interested in the program, it might be worth it to sign up now while it’s still free and wait to use it full-time once the glitches are all ironed out. Maybe there will be a discount for existing users when the program becomes a paid service.  There’s definitely potential in ApolloHQ and I think its developers will be working hard to get everything running smoothly soon.


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Freelance writer, translator and copyeditor currently living in Amsterdam. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Contact through GreenRabbitTranslations.com.
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Discussion

  1. Rares on the 21st December

    Thanks for the detailed write-up. Will give Apollo HQ a try when/if I get the chance.

  2. Andrea Di Clemente on the 21st December

    Hi Ana,

    Thank you for your review!

    First of all, let me clarify that that’s not a computerised voice in the screencasts. It’s Tony Mobily’s voice! He did a great job with the screencasts and put a lot of efforts into it (partially to avoid background noises): I hope he doesn’t sound too much like a computer…

    About 2G, Apollo _should_ be better than other “page reloads” applications when used on a slow network: it uses AJAX a lot, and only small fragments are loaded (and most of the time it’s just bare data). Obviously, here “should” doesn’t mean “is”: it depends on lost packets, network status, etc. On the other hand, Apollo does require a start-up load of 85000 lines of Javascript, which — after the first load — will be cached in the browser. I guess it’s a matter of balancing trade-offs!

    About using Apollo “on the go” and slow 2G connections, there is a mobile version of Apollo, that has a few weeks’ worth of testing by our users — you have to explicitely request it for now, but it will be available to all shortly).

    I think the problem with adding tasks was that each task has to belong to a task list in Apollo. This is important: at the moment, we don’t allow tasks that don’t belong to a list. We are working on this too, but we would like to keep our API 100% compatible with Basecamp so that migration is as smooth as it can be (this is another widely requested feature we are working on).

    Note that in contacts, you don’t just have a list of them: you can open one up, see his/her details, and comment on them! You can also create a task attached to a note or to a contact, which is handy in a lot of cases. Basically, Apollo allows you to use CRM-like functionalities (especially with cases & deals, that you mentioned in the article!).

    About internationalization: we are working both on the infrastructure and the web application for translators these days: a lot of users offered their invaluable help to translate Apollo in other languages as well (e.g. Russian, Swedish, Portuguese, Czech, Slovak, Arabic, Brazilian, Romanian, Dutch).

    We do work hard on improving Apollo trying to always keep it bug-free. The feedback we receive every day is an incredible resource, although sometimes it’s tricky to distinguish a proper bug from an unexpected behaviour.

    Thank you for your great review — I hope this message will help you clarify some of the issues you had (feel free to update the article if you think it’s a good idea!). We promise we won’t disappoint your readers with Apollo :D

    Cheers,
    Andrea Di Clemente

  3. demogar on the 21st December

    Apollo is really great. I prefer it over ActiveCollab or BaseCamp. I think it is improving a lot in so little time.

    I’ve been using it for a couple of months, but I haven’t changed my projects to Apollo because I don’t want to be paying a lot for this in a couple of months, so I won’t use it at 100% until they become a paid service.

    I think one thing is missing in Apollo (correct me if wrong) is that there is no place to post full messages (with text formating), like the “Writeboard” in BaseCamp or the “Docs” in ActiveCollab. I mean the “messages” exist, but it’s not the same.

    • Tony Mobily on the 21st December

      Thank you for your kind comments!

      You are right — we haven’t implemented whiteboards yet. However, it’s up there in our development roadmap!

  4. Tony Mobily on the 22nd November

    Hi,

    A couple of notes since this review was made:

    * We changed data server, and Apollo is now very fast from most location on this planet.

    * It’s now possible to create tasks that don’t belong to any task list — it’s called “The inbox”

    * It’s now possible to import contacts

    * Apollo is available is several languages. Some of them were ready just *days* after releasing our great internationalisation interface.

    * Apollo is no longer free, but — as promised — we have a cheap solo plan

    And… well, there are no “errors here and there” — and in fact, there have never been, really. I think they were due to a poor Internet connection.

    Since the review, we added tons of features to Apollo (Writeboards, referral program, strong email integration, and so on).

    Thanks for listening!

    Merc.

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