Online project management tools

I’ve just been looking at a couple of online project management systems for use within the company. Basecamp offers a free, single project plan, without storage. TeamWorkPM offers a free 2 project and limited storage option. I’ve looked at both and their APIs and subsidiary third party applications.

The main problems that I found with Basecamp is that there are no hierarchical groups, little privacy anywhere if clients are allowed to join the system and no dependencies or sub tasks to organize projects and milestones. The API looks great; there is a lot of support for the site from third parties and so the information can be accessed from most device types – machines and mobiles etc. The limitations are how the todo lists are structured and the grouping available. Its strengths are its popularity and the growth of third party applications; there’s one for most situations.

We have an internal Laconica (now StatusNet) set up which is accesible through an API similar to twitter, but most people outside of the department wanted to access the system via the web. This led us to try the Yammer system. It has a free version and has document uploads, but being a simple messaging tool, I again wanted to combine this software with more of a blog/wiki system. We need some sort of mashup, hence the interest in APIs. Ultimately we mightbe looking at a development based around a few different web services, some of which may be written by ourselves. Django might be an option on the Google App Engine or to-do lists such as RememberTheMilk have excellent APIs if you just need simple lists such as the one in Basecamp. I suppose we want something between the simplicity of Basecamp and the complexity of Trac/Jura bug management.RTM has priorities and tags to sort and split their tasks and notes which contain more detail. I’d like to add estimated times, manpower and percent complte to these aspects. If a task is too large or complex, I’d like to break it down to more into sub tasks for one or more people, each of which could itself have a time estimate, a priority and a worker. These sub tasks might be invisible if the task was one given to an outside team or to a private group.

Once the tasks were in Basecamp, I read them into an account that I set up with teamworkpm.net, another task management system. This will import the data through the Basecamp API and create the equivalent in their system. It took a couple of goes to get the system to read the data (it is a Beta facility) but then took the main task lists over, with comments. It did miss the second part of two part comments, but I wasn’t too worried about that. Having got the project in there, I found it had more options and because of this it didn’t have quite the ease of use of the Basecamp system. Their API is not released yet either, so I shall await that before moving too far. Their iPhone app is almost ready and will be free. One quick benefit seems to be the ability to attach a task list to a milestone. If all the tasks are done, the milestone is presumably met. Looks good. I shall test it out.

[Edit]
Later I looked at Fogbugz, because I saw them on the Carsonified day. Again, quite useful but a little detailed for me. They did have sub lists and I was getting into the system quite well, but eventually found there were a few too many keypresses for me. I should spell it out a bit more; maybe I will after a bit more use. I’m trying it in parallel with teamworkPM now.

Others that I looked at briefly but don’t have too much knowledge of…

freshlog.com
unfuddle
lighthouseapp.com
trailguide – carrytheday.com
avalanche-widget.org

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