Manage Your Complex Projects--Simply

SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - With any complicated project, you need to design, organize, and schedule. Three newly updated software packages can give you exactly the help that you need.

We looked at a beta version of Project KickStart 3, US$130 from Experience In Software Inc. This is a great tool for novices to use to get a project off the ground. Think of it as a brainstorming wizard that asks for project details--phases, goals, resources, obstacles, and tasks. You provide answers step-by-step, or if stymied, you can choose from a predefined list. If your project is similar to one you've already set up or to a Project KickStart sample, you can save time by dragging and dropping components.

Project KickStart lays out project tasks only in simple Gantt bar charts. For more-intensive project tracking and scheduling, transfer Project KickStart's data into a beefier product, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Project or Primavera Systems Inc.'s SureTrak Project Manager.

Plenty Of Options

For sophisticated drawing tools for creating Gantt charts, try KIDASA Software's $259 Milestones Professional 2000. Enter your tasks (usually using the mouse); quickly schedule tasks; create interrelationships and constraints; keep track of start, finish, and duration times; and indicate task progress.

Task length can be shown in units that range from minutes to weeks, and all dates may be shifted by mouse or by entering a specified number of days. You can also add hyperlinks between schedules or to documents or URLs.

With the software's extensive options, you'll find something to like. Shade weekends or date ranges; draw shapes, paste clip art, or add text anywhere; and associate lengthy notes with any symbol.

Scheduling columns allow you to enter custom information (and perform calculations on numeric data). You can import from Microsoft Project 2000 (but not export to it), and an Internet Publishing Wizard helps you create schedules as HTML pages. Generally, however, the improvements in this shipping upgrade appear to be minor.

For full capabilities rivaling those of Microsoft Project, IMSI's $350 TurboProject Professional 4 is perfect for careful creation and control of projects and progress communication (we saw a beta version).

While suitable for simple projects, TurboProject really shines at scheduling (you can create recurring activities), handling task and resource relationships (Task 2 starts when Task 1 completes), and tracking costs. Set up your scheduling so you can see when more resources may be needed, or select Activity-Driven. This option could let you see, for example, that management approval of drawings would take time, regardless of additional resources assigned to complete the drawings.

Power Project Needs

TurboProject uses spreadsheets to display both resources by activity, and activity by resources--a particularly versatile strength. You can opt to view the resources in a collapsible hierarchy (by department, for example).

The Resource Profile pane shows when you are over-allocated. Import and export to Microsoft Project, including Project 2000. There also is an HTML output option. TurboProject Pro can't, however, schedule in time blocks as small as hours.

To build a simple task list, Project KickStart is all you need. If communicating project status is critical, check out the extensive illustrative possibilities that come with Milestones Professional. But if your needs extend beyond illustration, TurboProject is the software to consider.

--Joel T. Patz

Milestones Professional 2000

PRO: This software has extensive graphical capabilities.

CON: User interface is not intuitive.

VALUE: Best for communicating project scope and status in a graphical manner.

List price: $350

KIDASA Software

800/765-0167

www.kidasa.com

Project KickStart 3

PRO: Easy-to-use tool to get your projects started; predefined lists make data entry simple.

CON: No illustration tools; beefier programs better for intensive work.

VALUE: Excellent choice for novices to use for clarifying ideas.

List price: $130

Experience in Software

800/678-7008

www.projectkickstart.com

TurboProject Professional 4

PRO: Has comprehensive project planning and tracking.

CON: Can't schedule in units as small as hours.

VALUE: A good alternative to Microsoft Project.

List price: $350

IMSI

415/878-4000

www.imsisoft.com.

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