Two Hours with ProjectLibre

This morning, The Liberator (having been horrified at the price tag for installing MS Project) decided to give an Open Source alternative * ProjectLibre - a try.

The Good

  • Basic layout very similar to MS Project, for users already familiar with that software
  • Critical path calculated and displayed by default
  • Nice, simple, clear context-sensitive right-click menus
  • PDF export and Print look good, with easier options than MS Project
  • Rollup tasks, work-driven durations, task dependencies, constraint types all work properly
  • Huge selection of Task information and columns
  • Plenty of detail in the Resource Sheet for adjusting allocations
  • Only Resources in the Resource Sheet may be entered as Task Resources (avoids typos and duplication!)
  • Project completion chart as a pane below the Gantt chart is a good presentation tool
  • No messing about with Fonts, Colours or Formatting

The Excellent

  • Resource Usage histogram as a pane below the Gantt chart is a fabulous management tool
  • Free Software, and Java cross-platform ability
  • Purportedly imports all MS Project files, and saves as Project 2003 if desired
  • Various Gantt flavours built-in: EVR, Tracking, Work, Cost, etc
  • Project Report and Resource Breakdown Structure give great overviews

The Bad

  • Olde-Worlde amateur Java Look&Feel trying to ape the MS Ribbon
  • US-style month-day-year numerical dates with no apparent way to change format
  • No Resource Levelling ability (many people hate this anyway, but The Liberator loves its capricious power)
  • Gantt view does not have a timescale Zoom function
  • Default duration of new tasks defaults to 1 day, just like nasty MS Project
  • Work Breakdown Structure view is by rollup task, not by WBS numbering scheme - maybe MS Project does this, too

The Awful

  • Changes to Resource calendars do not create changes in the schedule, even though the % utilization reflects the changes

Unknown

  • probably no database/accounting centralization / portfolio management integration abilities?
  • actual experience of import/export of MS Project files

Summary

This Free Software is very capable and has more features than most PMs actually use * there's no reason this couldn't be MYRA Systems' standard project scheduling /budgetting tool. The Java doesn't seem inefficient - unlike some LibreOffice apps. The advertised Import/Export features are very appealling - particularly while we're all suffering from the MS Project 2007 - 2010 backward-compatibility schism.

If you're an MS Project aficionado, there's going to be plenty of little differences here to niggle at you, whereas if you've never used any PM software before, you'll be just as overwhelmed. But if you only touch Project occasionally, this could be just the thing. It's certainly great for The Liberator to be able to show a respectable Gantt chart off his RHEL laptop without having to resort to a Citrix session. Head over to the Project Libre project page and give this Free Software a try for yourself!