Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ProjectLibre Review - An Open Source Replacement of MS Project?

Project Libre is being positioned as an open source replacement of MS Project, as the website says. As it has a number of downloads - over a million and a good amount reviews, it stoked my curiosity. Here, the review of ProjectLibre tool will be in comparison with MS Project 2013. 

I downloaded the latest version 1.5.9 and worked in Windows-7 environment with Java 7 running in the background. Installation was smooth and it started up without any issues. Uninstallation is to be done from the Control Panel: Control Panel – Programs - Programs and Features.

On launch, you get the “Tip of the Day … Did you know” thing. Next you get “Create Project” or “Open Project option” and when selected former, the screen is as shown below. I liked the way, it asks the creator to fill in the initial information of Project Name, Manager, Start Date and Forward scheduling as noted here

Creating a New Project in ProjectLibre

The tabs shown are – "File", "Task", "Resource" and "View". When compared with MS Project, the “Project” tab has been merged with “File” and there are no “Format” or “Report" tab as in MS Project 2013.

File Tab and Its Groups/Commands
Task Tab Its Groups/Commands
Resource Tab Its Groups/Commands
View Tab Its Groups/Commands

What is Working:

  • Project Creation,  Project information details fill up
  • Save, Save As, Undo, Redo, Open, Close 
  • Task Creation, Deletion, Indentation, Outdentation, Linking, Unlinking
  • Resource addition, assignment
  • Forward scheduling. Backward scheduling is with a Check box enablement/disablement, which is decent, but not very user friendly. 
  • Calendar – Standard, Working, Non-working time (briefly checked)
  • Baseline – Save Baseline and Clear Baseline
  • Basic reporting – checked on a few reports
  • Integration with Microsoft Project (couple of times it threw error though) and Integration with Oracle Primavera 

What I Liked:

An impressive amount of functionality has been made in this free software. A number of features are available and it is a good start. Graphical Reporting is not this software's strong suite, but some of the reports are new - graphical views of Resource Breakdown Structure and Work Breakdown Structure.

What is Missing:

  • Manual scheduling of tasks
  • Resource Overloading indication is not there.
  • No way to know which baseline is saved on which day. While clearing the baselines While you have multiple baselines, it becomes a problem.
  • Export to Image for the Project Plan (PDF can be replacement)
  • Currency option cannot be set
  • Variance tracking – Variance values for time and cost (alternative is to check via reports)

Issues Noticed:

  • Importing a MPP file (have an option to import): Got an Out of Memory Error
  • When I linked a Task to a Summary, it correctly threw an error message and in the console threw an exception. 
  • When linking with a FS dependency with a lead of 2 days, gave a space FS + “space” – 2, it threw an error in the window (does not take any space) and in the console an InvocationTargetException.
  • Memory Tuning - I had created two projects and by that time, the runtime memory was shooting up to 100 MB whereas the MS Project was in the range of 40MB. 
  • Responsiveness is slow when the number of tasks increases
  • Not all window commands are enabled - Like Ctrl + F4 does not work. I would love to have that as I use key shortcuts frequently. 

This can be a good tool:

  • For small projects with relatively less number of tasks and resources
  • Projects where visual reporting is not of high importance
  • If you are familiar with MS Project, it will help as the look and feel is quite like the MS Project
  • You do not need customization functionality for your Baseline, Tasks, Indicators, Milestone etc.
  • You do not need resource pooling and/or multi-project management

Of course, the appeal is there because it is free. It needs few Java exception management, in its code, to make you feel that the software is very healthy.