5 free project management applications you must try

Putting together a project plan can sometimes seem more daunting than completing the project itself. When you need to track each step of a project, along with your costs, staff, and other factors, you probably need a project management application.

jxProject

JxProject is another Java application. According to its creator, Peter Hawkins, it was borne from his frustration with other software that he felt was difficult to use when dealing with resources that were part-time or located in different time zones. Thus, although many project management applications don't support time intervals of less than an hour, jxProject lets you plan projects with tasks that run for just a few minutes.

jxProject has an interesting "resource optimizer" tool that can analyze your project; figure out which parts, for example, have unusually long periods of time devoted to certain tasks; and estimate which tasks can have their priority adjusted to be scheduled earlier. As a result, this tool can help to compress/shorten the overall life cycle of your project. Practically speaking, the optimizer works best if you're intentionally including plenty of time for your project but would like to see how much sooner tasks could possibly be completed if you take a "crunch time" route.

While Gantter.com features beginner levels of charting that may not show enough information at once for some people's tastes, jxProject's Gantt charts may come off as overwhelming. The default page layout is a grid with alternating shaded rows, and columns corresponding to the days of the week and month. The resulting look brings to mind engineering graphing paper. It's a blessing that there is minimal use of colors and that you're not allowed to change the color of the black-and-white task bars -- it makes it possible to read the graph without the additional distraction that color would bring.

jxProject is free to use, but an ad banner appears at the upper-right of the program window. It's not directly obtrusive to the user experience, but the movement of the ads can be distracting. You can get rid of the ads by buying a user license for $20 (which is good for up to 5 users).

jxProject is probably not the ideal tool to create Gantt charts expressly for presentation to others, or to use with fellow project collaborators who are unfamiliar with project management applications. jxProject appears to be specially tailored for use and to be read by lead project managers who are in charge of keeping track of the minutia of every task and resource in a project.

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