I don't have Microsoft Project on my PC; however, every now and then I'm called upon to manage a project of sufficient scope to require an actual project plan. (Shock! Horror!)
As I work for a non-profit organization, I'm always looking to cut costs (but not corners), and so rather than pony up for a MS Project license I prefer to turn to my trusty copy of Excel to keep things organized.
After all, how many people really need all the features and functions of proper project management software anyway. All I typically need to be able to do is to break down a project into a list of tasks, add some dates, assign some resources and present it visually in the form of a Gantt chart.
Rather than create such a document myself, I turned to Google to see what Excel project management templates were available on the web.
Frankly, there are a lot, some of which cost more than a copy of MS Project itself (not sure how these vendors came up with those price points). However, when I added in my next criteria - free templates - my options dwindled immediately... to 2; one a .xls template and the other an Excel add-in.
Jim Chapman's Gantt Chart in Excel is a great template for knocking up a simple project plan. You can't indicate dependencies on the Gantt chart and it doesn't tackle milestones in any special way, but it's easy enough to set up and customize.
I hid a few columns and made a few visual changes to make the information easier to read when printed (the original red and blue look very similar in black and white and it was hard to tell the weeks and months apart), but that was about it.
I have to admit that I haven't tried WAA Inc's ProjX Gantt chart tool (for Windows and Mac OSX); because the above template has met my needs so far. However, for someone wanting more functionality and a more menu-driven approach, this Excel add-in is worth a look.
I should note that the freeware version has some functional limitations, so if you like it you may need to upgrade to the full version which costs $20-$30 depending on the version you choose.
If you're looking for something more akin to MS Project, then you should certainly check out GanttProject - a full-featured Project clone with a nice price tag; free.
Posted on: March 14, 2005 | 5 Comments