Microsoft Project 1.0 for Windows (my very first InfoWorld review assignment, by the way) didn't score high. In fact, during the late 1980's Scitor's Project Scheduler – with its speed, usability, and accurate scheduling – consistently won our project management shootouts. Fast forward 20 years. Like other Microsoft Office applications that underwent extensive rework, Project is now a desktop fixture. Plus, it connects to the formidable Microsoft Project Server 2007. As a result, many early desktop project managers have disappeared.
Well, not entirely. Key Scitor staff moved on to form Projity, keeping alive their scheduling engine in the form of Project-ON-Demand (a $19.99 per month SaaS application that also integrates with Salesforce.com) and the open source OpenProj application. It's particularly timely, with more enterprises considering open source, to see how OpenProj compares to commercial offerings.
I tested OpenProj Beta 4 (a Java application) under Windows XP and found generally stable software with extensive project scheduling and resource management capabilities. Compared to Microsoft Project, OpenProj is miniscule (less than 10MB to download, not counting the Java runtime software) and it runs fast. Without errors, I opened a 500-task Microsoft Project file in OpenProj, which then recalculated the schedule in less than one second on my aging single-core-processor laptop.
OpenProj's user interface provides easy access to a full complement of scheduling, charting, and resource functions. As expected, the default Gantt (timeline) let me enter tasks – and then link them, adjust duration, and indicate percent complete by merely dragging around in the charting pane. Clicking icons immediately switched the display to any of a dozen other views, which include a network diagram, Work Breakdown Structure, and task usage reports.
Like high-end project management applications, OpenProj doesn't hold back on the type of data you can enter. Besides handling standard budget information, I customized OpenProj to compare up to ten variations of my plan and compute many important metrics, such as remaining cost and project duration.