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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gantter – The Ultimate Free Creative Project Management Tool

For the most part, I'm a very task oriented and "to-do list" sort of guy. At work I'm able to manage the many projects and even small tasks that I'm responsible for through Microsoft Project - which is, in my humble opinion, one of the most powerful project and task management applications available for desktop PCs.

The problem is that most home users of moderate means can't usually afford the Office package that includes Microsoft Project. The majority of home computer users will have the standard office package, such as the 2007 Home and Student edition which has Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote.

However, at home I also have a number of involved and complicated projects that I'm trying to manage, as does my wife and if you have any teenage kids at home - project management software could help them tremendously with managing their time between homework, school projects, sport events and everything else life dishes out upon a vibrant and busy family. I am very pleased to present a shockingly free and very creative online project management tool called Gantter.

Free Creative Project Management Software Just By Typing a URL

Here's what blew me away. I'm accustomed to testing dozens of free applications every month, and most of the time you need to at least provide an email address or some other way to identify yourself. Surprisingly, when you first visit the Gantter website, you'll see yourself instantly staring at what looks like Microsoft Project. The website itself is the application, and once you visit it, you can instantly start creating your own project management file.

For me, such a creative way to use a project management application is like a dream come true. You can create a Microsoft Project compatible file for any project that you've got going on. This application lets you save those files (or even PDF exports) onto your USB flash drive. Later, when you want to make changes to your project, just go to any computer, pop in your USB drive and visit Gantter, where you can open that file and modify it however you wish.

It doesn't matter whether the computer you're using has MS Project or not. And if you already use MS Project at work? Even better - now you can take your work anywhere with you and edit those MS Project files remotely, whether you're working on a computer at an Internet Cafe, a library or anywhere else.

I decided that I would finally start writing that novel that I've always wanted to get started on but couldn't because these MakeUseOf article deadlines keep getting in the way - so why not work on my novel while I'm working on a MakeUseOf article?  My first step was to create my task list for the novel project.

Creating the task list is fast and easy, but the real power of this online application is where you set the predecessors (the work you need to get done before you can start on that task). Just like in MS Project, Gantter automatically schedules out all of your work based on what you need to do and when you need to do it. All you need to think about is one task at a time.

For example, here I've clicked on setting up the predecessor for writing the second chapter, which I can start doing the moment the first chapter is done (I don't need to finish revising the first before I get started on the second.)

Also, on this screen you can add additional notes for this task, as well as assign resources that you've configured in the "resources" section of the application. Gantter takes all of this information that you feed it and generates a nice, clear schedule (Gantt chart) for you off to the right side of the screen.

Exploring the software a bit, it's apparent that this isn't some cheap, fly-by-night web app - this is a well thought out and very well programmed online application that works fast and efficiently throughout my testing on Firefox and Internet Explorer. The features are many, as you can see from my drilling through the menus.

Saving and Accessing Your Projects

So, what do you do when you're done planning out your project and you want to save the file? Obviously, you can't store the data in your account, because you don't have an account. If you pretend that this application is just like any other desktop application you use, then the answer is simple - just click save!

That's the beauty of Gantter - it's like you're using a desktop application even though you're using your Internet browser. You can either save the file or export it to MS Project. Saving downloads your file as a "project.xml" file, which you can access later from this same website.

Copy the XML file to your USB drive, and later when you come back to the website (no matter where you are in the world), just click File -> Open and you'll be able to browse to your USB drive and open up your saved XML file.

Simple. Easy. Convenient. Those are the three words I think about when I use this awesome online application. No sign-up required, no download required and no money required. The application was written by Volodymyr Mazepa, a Ukraine-based IT project manager - one IT manager who clearly knows his stuff. I encourage anyone who uses this application to click on Help -> About and send Volodymyr a hearty thank-you for his excellent work and for offering us this high-quality online application at no cost, a very rare act of kindness these days.

Do you have any online project management apps that you prefer? What do you think of Gantter? Share your opinions in the comments section below.

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