Try to track the details of a complex project on a whiteboard, and you may quickly run out of white space. Here are five project-tracking software tools that can come to the rescue:
1. MindManager 7 ($350; www.mindjet.com) allows you to create visual “maps,” so you can see the big picture, as well as each task (and their deadlines). Since the software integrates with Microsoft, you can turn mapped items into Outlook Tasks, calendar reminders or e-mail messages.
2. Project 2007 (free trial on www.office.microsoft.com) comes with a learning curve but is worth the time it takes to add this skill to your tool kit. As one admin told us, “In addition to displays at the ground and 80,000-feet level, it can also demonstrate effects of constrained resources. For example, what if we lose a project member? What if the budget gets cut? Project works well with Outlook, too, so you don’t need separate calendar entries.”
3. Visio 2007 (free trial on www.office.microsoft.com) does a beautiful job of turning complex information into simple visuals. It can do many things, including track projects. Some admins report that Visio is easy to use on the fly. It comes with chart and graph templates, timeline layouts and milestone markings to drop and drag.
4. Excel Gantt chart (free download on www.davidseah.com, search “Gantt charting”) allows you to use a spreadsheet like graph paper. It’s a basic form with no automatic calculations, but it looks nice and couldn’t be easier to update.
5. GanttProject (free on http://ganttproject.biz) is an easy-to-use and robust project scheduling and tool.