I manage my projects using my own ElephantPM project management methodology. This is a similar in many ways to PRINCE2 but is greatly simplified so that it is suitable for use by smaller organisations.
ElephantPM divides the Start-up stage into an analysis step and a planning step. During the analysis step it is necessary to create several diagrams,
- A mind map showing the output of the Discovery Workshop
- An “org chart” showing the breakdown of the project into Business Deliverables
- A flow chart showing the order in which Business Deliverables should be made
- A diagram showing the relationship between stages and the production of Business Deliverables
During the planning step it is necessary to produce
- Gantt Charts showing the Project Schedule and Stage Schedules
Over the years I have used various tools to produce these charts but I have now settled on Freemind and Microsoft Project 2010.
Freemind is my preferred mind mapping tool. It is free, very powerful and runs locally in Java. It has far more features than I ever use.
I have spent many hours creating custom templates for Microsoft Project so that making the diagrams is reasonably efficient but there are still some hassles and at over £ 500 a copy it is very expensive drawing package. I use custom views to produce,
- Network diagrams
- Business Deliverable Breakdown
- Business Deliverable Work Flow
- Stage Contribution to Business Deliverables
- Gantt charts
- Project Schedule
- Stage Schedule
- HerdPM (programme view)
- NurseryPM (programme view)
- A useful review (lots of problems but no solutions)
- Mindmeister online service. Simple, ugly and popular. It would probably be relatively easy to copy.
- http://drichard.org/mindmaps/. He has done a nice job but does not use the keyboard well. (GPL)
- https://github.com/mindmup This is a beautiful application. It is open source and it used to be MIT licensed but is now custom. I have corresponded with the author and he has confirmed that the license change is only to discourage abuse not impede commercial reuse.
Timelines (none are Microsoft Project 2013 like)
“Propublica Timeline Setter
- HTML + JS
- But Requires a build step (using ruby)
- Very simple and compact design (nice!)
Very elegant frontend design
2 bands in timeline segment and tight integration of item display
Includes much more than Timeline (e.g. sourcing data from google docs etc)
Mozilla Public License (was GPL)
The original open-source JS timeline but less regularly update and maintained today: “As of Spring 2012, Exhibit is the only Simile widget seeing active development.” and the timeline control has not been updated since 2009 (see this stackoverflow question for more
Recently developed and updated
Looks pretty nice though CSS is not quite as elegant (probably fixable!)
Not clear whether it supports multiple bands”
The Gantt chart implementation in Microsoft Project 2010 is very sophisticated features include,
- It is editable,
- editing the start date and duration by dragging
- edit dependencies by dragging
- show one or more columns of data to left
- editing columnar data changes the chart
- time scale management
Possible solutions include;
- an online service http://www.smartsheet.com (sign up to see pricing)
and from this review
- http://www.bryntum.com/products/gantt/(OEM Price on application, need Ext js licence).
- Very beautiful and fully featured
- jsGantt (BSD)
- Read-only but very clean. could possibly be extended. No checkins for 2 years
- gantter - free cloud based scheduling
- they don’t sell their component
- TreeGrid Gantt (about 900 USD)
- Completely awesome chart. “TreeGrid Gantt chart is an application core for building online (web based) project management software like MS Project or Primavera. Is also used to display and control any data in row and bar based chart.It is the most complex web Gantt chart on the Internet.”
General purpose libraries
MIT or LGPL licences
- jsPlumb (GPL, MIT)
- jsPlumb provides a way to “plumb” elements of a UI together using connectors. It is a really fully featured and the author is an active committer to GitHub
- Joint (MIT)
- beautiful renders
- http://diagramo.com/ GPL
- WireIt (MIT)
- Demos only show simple features not complete drawing applications
- Raphael (MIT)
- MindFusion ($300)
- .Draw2D touch (499 EUR)
- GoJS HTML5 Canvas (from $2795)
- yworks ($5000)
- Files for HTML brings the proven power and ease of yFiles diagramming to your cutting-edge HTML5 applications.
- jGraph Mx graph ($5,500)
The starting point is a mind map application. There are no suitable open source or commercial applications and there are very few features that have to be implemented to make a usable tool. The two most suitable free libraries seem to be jsPlumb and Joint, jit is very pretty but orientated towards visualisation rather than editing. I think that either of these free libraries would be suitable to build a simple mind map application.
Moving on to the need for flowchart software, this is somewhat more complex and I think that the only way to find out which of the free or commercial packages best meet my needs would be to build a reference application. This will flush out how easy they are to use in practise.
Now we get to the timeline software. None of these look much like a Microsoft Project 2010 timeline because they are much more sophisticated. The simile widget is perhaps the most suitable but it might be sensible to keep it simple and start from scratch.
Finally I consider Gantt charts. These range from the simple jsGantt to the very complex TreeGrid Gantt. I think that investing time and effort in TreeGrid Gantt would be worthwhile because (hopefully) one could start with simple read-only renders of tabular data and Gantt bars and then move on to more complex interactive charts.
I hope that you have found the review useful. If you have used any of these products or have anything to add please make a comment.