Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project.
We might have seen many people using Microsoft Excel for tracking tasks just because they are easy to use, understand and manage. Are spread sheets really meant for this? I would say no, they are not.
One major problem of planning a project using spread sheet is that you never know when a task owner is overloaded or not available (leave/vacation). Planning project without considering the holidays and vacation of individual task owners leads to trouble and the project cannot be delivered on time.
Proper planning is the first step towards the successful project execution. Planning should consider all the constraints. Project Manager plays a key role in planning phase by asking the right questions on the effort it takes to complete a tasks, the dependency the task has with other team members/others, the risks involved.
1) Gantt Project
Gantt Project is an open source task and project management tool that can display Gantt charts and PERT which is available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS and is written in Java and in the sourceforge.net repository.
GanttProject is available at http://www.ganttproject.biz and also in sourceforge.net. Go to wizard, accept the terms and then continue till you end up with Finish button.
This is also an open source tool developed in java, available from sourceforge.net. It has much higher capabilities such as filtering based on task status, sorting and grouping. It has also multiple views such as the work breakdown structure, resource break down structure, network view etc.
3) Open Workbench
Open Workbench is a freeware alternative to MS project. Open workbench is suitable for seasoned project and program managers , who need to manage complex or multiple interrelated projects .
In short, if a tool is evaluated according to individual requirements and introduces carefully, a particular project or a project-oriented organization can be influenced in a positive way. A project manager with the help of an appropriate tool can prepare a project strategy more deliberately and can carry out the project more efficiently and with higher quality.