2nd February 2007
In my previous post on project management tools I stated that will try dotProject out. So I did, and here are my first impressions (mostly – what I dislike; the likes will come after some period of usage).
First of all – I’d like to express gratitude to the dotProject developers for the good software tool. Despite anything written below, it’s a great tool!
The drawback which annoys me the most in dotProject is the absence of DHTML calendar. In dotProject, as well as many other project management tools, you need to enter some dates – when task starts/ends, etc. dotProject uses a small pop-up window to show you the calendar (i.e., uses extra HTTP requests). To move to a different month/year you have to click-and-wait (another request) until data loads from the server. I’m absolutely sure that a DHTML calendar would be much more efficient, fast and even pleasant to work with. Use of JS doesn’t seem to be the reason for omitting DHTML calendar: there’s JS in switching tabs when creating new task.
Except for that single (but IMHO large) drawback, the rest seems fine to me. There are lesser features I’d be glad to see, but their absence doesn’t yet drive me crazy.
I’d say that the Gantt chart functionality behaves rather strange: from the Projects page it works fine, but from the personal Todo page it shows some error about the missing or unreadable font:
is not readable or does not exist.
I’m unsure, but this could have been somehow included into the distro of dotProject, to ensure functioning on more systems. I’ll look into this problem, it might have a solution already.
This seems a pretty common problem, based on some searching. The reason not to include fonts is in licensing restrictions, so one has to find and upload all the necessary fonts. It’s also possible to edit the lib/jpgraph/src/jpg-config.inc file to set the path where you put all the necessary fonts – this way your “enhanced” dotProject will run even if there are no fonts installed :). I downloaded the fonts from here, and also updated to jpgraph2. However, I also had to copy arial.ttf and arialbd.ttf to manually configured fonts folder (and also two more arial*.ttf fonts), and now everything is just perfect :). This page might be useful as well.
Calendar is fine. Well, it might include some kind of nice tooltip on hovering task lines, but this is essentially from the “bells and whistles” features. Calendar does what I’d expect from it, and that is fine.
I like the project “complete percentile” calculation, which appears close to what I’d expect intuitively – despite the fact that new tasks are being added.
Task logs are also pleasant to work with: when starting work on a task, I just “start” time counter in the new log entry, then stop it when done – and voila, correct time spent working is there! Both for me and clients to see :). Though more AJAX elements wouldn’t harm – e.g., adding the ability to switch to the previous task logs to find where you finished last time.
I still have lots to discover and try in dotProject, but so far I see no reasons why I should switch to something different: dotProject is good, and does what I need from this kind of software.
I tried out BaseCamp project management from 37signals, and now realize that dotProject might be missing a very simple yet useful feature: ability to add and edit texts (please comment if you know I’m wrong). For example, for one of my projects I had to attach two documents – main idea and the envisaged business model. I could only do that with files uploaded, though a more natural way would be to have a tab with the list of text titles and with ability to edit those texts in a usual textarea. Still, basecamp seems too simple for me. It’s evidently easier to add the “text doc” module to dotProject, than to extend basecamp (which would also be against the ideology behind it).
Keith Casey, dotProject core developer, commented below on how he uses both dotProject and BaseCamp.
as it appears, one of the add-on modules to dP would be simple text messages journal/editor. Another useful pass-through add-on module would convert HTTP text links into hyperlinks automatically: filling in task log, I just had to paste in a number of reference URLs into the task log comments field, and found out that it would be convenient if they were auto-converted into clickable hyperkinks (at least for displaying). Meanwhile, I’m still discovering dP, and still didn’t use all the features it has.