A few days ago, I got an invite to review EasyProjects.NET from Logic Software Inc. As you would have guessed it by now, EasyProjects.NET is an online project management software and also based on Microsoft.NET technology.
It falls in the league of Basecamp, Huddle, Zoho Projects and Liquid Planner. Of these Zoho Projects is the only online tool which I have used for personal project tracking. Let us not bring Microsoft Project into this discussion since it is not available online but the de-facto standard on the desktop.
Registration was a snap and I was logged in within five minutes. On logging in, I got a friendly pop up with useful information on how to rename the Admin user, how to create projects, how to view charts and how I can get a printed copy of the project. Basically, I got all the information required to create and manage a Project using EasyProjects.NET
Once I logged in, I was shown some a dashboard with links to Summary, Schedule/Gantt chart, Project List, Add New Request and custom reports. This layout can be customized using the drop down at the top which has four levels of authorizations by default, namely, Executive, Employee, Customer and Project Manager. There is also a nifty little quick panel to the left with links to commonly used tasks. However, this requires an additional click to open which dilutes its purpose to a certain degree. A list of icons with tool tips would have been better.
The interface is menu driven and quite similar to desktop software. Menus are available for Projects, Time logs, Reports, Options, Administration and Help. This menu is available right through all the pages and makes life easier to jump to any particular part of the project.
Creating a new Project
Creating a new project was simple. Click on the Create a new Project button and up comes a pop up where all the basic project information starting from project information and billing type can be entered. If you want to upload files that have to be shared with your team, that can be done as well. A printer friendly version of the project details is available just in case you need a printed copy.
There are a few minor quirks that I noticed. I logged in a couple of hours back, but created the project only now. I was told that the user has changed, but the project was still created. Also, when I tried to add a new user to the project the first time I encountered an error. I had to logout and login again. Another thing which I did not like, nor think many users would like is the number of pop up windows that open for simple tasks. The number of pop ups could have been kept down.
Clicking on the Activities button opens in a new tab below the current pop up. This is not exactly a great UI design. I was expecting a new popup when I clicked the button but I had a new tab open below the pop up window. Of course, I used Firefox 3.0 for testing. The other features include Notifications, Message Board, Workflow, Activities and a very handy Export to MS Project functionality. A built in calendar helps in scheduling tasks
Next I proceeded to create a couple of activities for my project. Again, clicking on Create New Activity opened a pop up window which was at the least what I expected. Activities can be created with Parent Activities which is nothing but Predecessors in Microsoft Project parlance. The status of an activity, its priority, category can all be set in addition to the time taken to complete the activity. An activity can also be marked as a Milestone.
Time logs helps team members record the amount of time they have spent on the project. Time tracking is an added advantage in a Project Management software.
Issue and Request Tracking
EasyProjects.NET also provides Issue and Request Tracking which adds strong value to the product.
EasyProjects.NET offers a variety of reports ranging from Summary, Billing, Resources, Milestones and Gantt charts. Custom reports can be created for Issues, Projects etc.
The options page provides a way to setup user options, photo, change password, enable email notifications and setup the options for email notifications
The administration panel helps setup users for the project, define roles, make customer lists and define custom fields. Interestingly custom fields can be defined for projects, tasks, requests, issues, customers and users which I assume would prevent me from using the same field for tasks and requests. However, I have not checked this out.
After working with the product for a couple of days, here is my conclusion. The product is perfectly usable. But there are a few things which I had mentioned above, if corrected could make the product a joy to use. There are a lot of competing products competing in this space offering about 3 free projects to individuals. So if a person has to pay $15/month, the product has to be top notch in every count.
2. Create new Project
3. Time Logs
5. Gantt Chart