10th January 2011
on the 5th of March, 2010 (added flowdock and pivotal tracker, and also personal experience using a few of the previously described tools).
Back in 2007 I wrote a brief review of web-based project management tools. After that, I started using dotProject for personal projects management. I’m still using it, but for collaborative project management, communication, and tasks/milestones tracking dotProject isn’t perfect.
I need a tool, which is
- web-based (to allow effective collaboration)
- preferably free
- has concise per-project activity log
- minimal required functionality: tasks, milestones, files, and status updates.
After trying a few things, our small team settled for now on using github +
pivotaltracker jira + confluence + flowdock.
Here’s a full list of tools briefly reviewed. I’ve been already using ProjectPier, so I’ll start with this software.
ProjectPier (used myself)
- dashboard: all events log
- interface similar to Basecamp; themable/skinnable
- all the basic features are there (milestones, tasks, task lists, messages, files)
- modular (functionality is in plugins)
- easy to install (requires PHP and MySQL)
- is being maintained/developed (maybe slowly, but that doesn’t mean much)
Not much to add. Simple, functional, worked good for a 1-person “team” (that is, for personal projects management). Have no idea how it scales to more people.
- desktop: just an overview, no log of events; project view has ‘activities’ log
- [too much?] eye-candy, JS-reach default interface (themable/skinnable)
- projects, tasks, milestones, messages, files
- calendar, time tracking
- is being maintained/developed
- Drupal-based, thus probably the most flexible (but requires time investments to change functionality)
- 6 features: blog, wiki, calendar, to-do list, shoutbox, and a dashboard to manage it all
- has “recent activity” log
- issues tracking
- I guess it is heavier than others in use patterns: requires more clicking and typing (as it has more features), and there seem to be no concepts of milestones and projects – just tasks
- possibly Joomla-based
- free, with commercial add-ons, themes, and maybe support
- projects, milestones, tasks with priorities, files
- calendar, discussion board, time tracking
- activity stream (premium add-on)
- hosted, commercial
- free community version is available for download
- projects, tasks, sub-tasks, files
- address book, calendar, chat, issue tracking system, time tracking
- knowledge base, wiki
- news, polls
- interface seems very responsive (JS-reach)
- large, feature-reach: might be an overkill where basecamp would do just fine
- actively developed
- not reviewed: seems even more feature-reach (complicated) than EGroupware
- doesn’t seem to use “milestone” and “task” concepts
- issue tracking, gantt charts, calendar, time tracking
- wiki, files, forums, roadmap (similar to trac)
- repository browser (among others, git and svn are supported)
- is maintained/developed
- issue tracker for git/mercurial/others with project management features
- wiki, time tracking, milestones, files
- paid hosted version (free up to 5 projects), free version available for download
- contacts, time tracking, invoices
- projects, tasks, documents, files
- tight email integration (e.g. continue discussions by email, with replies logged to Ofuz)
- activecollab-inspired, ProjectPier-based Ruby software
- interface (and features) very similar to ProjectPier
- tasks and task lists, milestones, files, messages
- development/maintenance stalled in Feb 2010
Teambox (used myself)
- hosted service (free up to 3 projects), community edition available for download; RoR-based
- free plan has search disabled
- projects, tasks, task lists, files
- pages/wiki/writeboard, discussions
- gantt charts, calendar, twitter-like status updates, time-tracking
- light interface
- clients for mobile devices
- email notifications and email-to-web functionality
Seems best for conversations-oriented projects. A few times posted updates took lots of time to become visible to other team members (far not immediate, so comparison to twitter does not give the right idea), and page refreshes (even forced) didn’t help. Tasks system is basically an extension of conversations: once you created a task, you can only “extend” it with comments, but not edit. Personally, I found the tasks implementation too awkward to use – it might be different for writing-related projects. I liked the Pages functionality: it provides a good (easy and quick) way of organizing information accumulated by the project. Basically, we ended up using Teambox as a repository for external and internal documentation – but not for status updates, chats or planning.
As free time permits, I would love to compile a feature table, comparing all these tools, together with subjective “easy-of-use” scores (maybe collected with a poll of some kind). Any contributions towards this simple goal are welcome. If comments fail to work for you – use the contact page.
A few more related web-tools follow.
Pivotal Tracker (currently using)
- agile projects management
- concepts: icebox, backlog, current, done
- has: features, bugs, chores, releases; each of these can have description, comments and short tasks (all very easy to add and organize)
- features can have their complexity estimated in points, which are then used to calculate weekly team velocity, and also to move tasks from the backlog panel into current panel
I’m new to agile development tools, and after getting used to it – Pivotal Tracker is good. It is also useful as a place to keep the things you would like to eventually implement – just append these to the end of the icebox, and then start-move to backlog/current when determined to implement.
Flowdock (currently using)
- web-chat with history saved as an infinite scrollable page
- has a concept of “flows” (similar to chat rooms in campfire)
- tags (tab-autocomplete possible when writing messages); can be added/removed to/from existing entries
- files can be inserted directly into chat stream
- separate views for posted URLs and files
- full-text search (a recent feature), and search by tags
- mobile device support (haven’t tried)
- various desktop notification tools for all platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows); has minimally-configurable sound notifications
- tracks online/idle/offline statuses (e.g. idle for X hours or offline for Y hours)
- mails can be sent to a flow, and they can have tags
- Influx: an aggregator of external events (github, twitter, RSS, mails, PivotalTracker, Confluence and others)
Flowdock is just… convenient. After trying teambox, present.ly and campfire, we seem to have settled on this one for in-project communication (our team currently has only 3 people, though). The most convenient feature is probably the built-in aggregator.
- collaborative to-do lists
- tasks (maybe also sub-tasks), status updates, group chat
- hosted solution
- 1-person projects, tasks, sub-tasks
- hosted solution
- opera widget at http://widgets.opera.com/widget/15372/
SlimTimer (using this one)
- simple (perfect? ) tasks-based timetracker with nice reports feature
- hosted solution, has free plan
Present.ly (used myself, would use again)
- “corporate twitter”
- hash-tags autocompletion
- files can be attached
- “attach text” – when 140 symbols is not enough
- direct messaging and replies; replies can be viewed in threaded mode
- mobile devices support (haven’t tried)
- configurable email alerts
- concepts helping organize data: topics, feeds, tags
- separate views for files and links to find them faster
Overall, present.ly is very cool for within-team status updates – that is, to keep track of what anybody’s doing.
Campfire (used myself)
- web-chat with “rooms” (e.g. by topic, by department etc)
- each day is saved as a transcript of chats
- files can be attached directly within the chat flow
- full-text searchable
- free use tier implies chat-stream embedded ads (can be removed with adblock+ and element hiding helper)
- can be configured to track external resources (e.g. github commits), though those do not look as good as in flowdock
Overall, campfire is a nice chat. The best thing they have is the event sound – probably the best I’ve heard.
Finally, nice mantra (except for the very last phrase) from ToDoist – “The Zen of Todoist”:
Now is better than later.
Later is better than never.
Organized is better than messy.
Big things are composed by smaller things.
Smaller things are done by action.
Think like a person of action.
Act like a person of thought.
The beginning is half of every action.
The longest journey starts with the first step.
Everything should be made as simple as possible.
But not simpler.
Celebrate any progress.
Don’t wait to get perfect.
Deadlines and stress are a part of life.