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Posts tagged ‘Project Management’

Solo: Visually Simple Project Management

We’ve seen an awful lot of really good, comprehensive project management web apps launch over the past year. But, we can’t help from writing about them. Any time someone takes a new POV, we feel compelled to share it.

Solo is a new project management app built with freelancers in mind. The service handles both project management and invoicing, which makes it capable of tackling the more sophisticated offerings on the market.

Logging into the service brings you to your dashboard. At first glance, users realize they’re staring at a service unlike anything they’ve seen before. The creators at Solo approached their web app beginning with a blank page, and you’ll notice a few surprising design decisions. The visual hierarchy for graphical elements is a bit different from other project management apps available today. For example, the main page highlights the earnings to date with text, and charts and pushed down lower on the page. Sidebars don’t exist at all. Even the website’s terms and conditions are only viewable as a PDF, and they’re probably the most pleasing terms we’ve seen in a while.

The service is still young with a few necessary features on the way, such as QuickBooks integration, client login areas and an internal messaging system. Before jumping over entirely, try out the service and see if it’s something you’d want to integrate into your workflow. Fortunately, signing up comes with a 14-day free trial, and a paid account is available for a limited time at $10 per month.

Freedcamp: Totally Free Project Manager

Freedcamp is yet another project management Basecamp competitor. Why do we need another Basecamp competitor? Because Freedcamp is completely free.

The app is divided into a few pages. To-Dos can be added and sorted with AJAX bliss. If you have multiple users signed-up, Discussions act like a private forum. The Milestones tab lets people create to-dos with deadlines. The Time tab tracks hours for billable professions, and it comes with a web-based stopwatch to keep you focused on your work, not on the clock. There’s also a tab for files, because every Freedcamp account comes with 20MB of storage space.

So what’s missing from Freedcamp that we would see from other competitors? Things like a calendar, gigabytes of storage and API interaction that help magnify any app’s abilities were all left out of the launch. But it’s difficult for us to find fault with a free app. In fact, Freedcamp currently doesn’t even offer tiered paid plans at all. The free plan is the only plan.

Freedcamp is capable of satisfying the needs of almost all Basecamp users. Plus, the FAQ section is surprisingly well fleshed out to help you get started quickly.

Apollo: Simplified Project Management

We have calendar web apps, to-do lists, address books and project management web apps. Apollo is a new web app that crosses borders and pulls these services together. It features a to-do list, calendar, sophisticated project management app and address book all on the same page.

Apollo was crafted as a modern web app. We see a high level of attention to detail both with the design and the development. New windows slide down like sheets or panels, which will make Mac users feel right at home. Double-clicking on a particular spot on your calendar springs open a window to create a meeting beginning at that time. Tasks with approaching deadlines dispatch an email reminder to your inbox, giving peace of mind knowing you’re staying on top of your priorities. As a new app, we were blown away to see the features we demand in a calendar app or to-do list app are available.

Each of the individual modules seem to be aware of one another. Your projects can be assigned to multiple people, which also appear in your Tasks, and your Tasks also appear on your calendar. Apollo helps eliminate a lot of individual web apps you may already use in order to create one, single web app to handle it all.

It’s new, but missing a few features. We didn’t see an Import function to get your data out of your existing programs and into Apollo. That means manual transcription for your contacts and calendar items, which may be too high of a barrier for users at this point. Also, features like data export and an API are in the works but not available to users. Apollo likely scaled back a few features in order to launch. We’re looking forward to seeing them added.

These objections don’t really represent a cause of concern. Apollo is refined and polished, so create a free account to see how a modern web app should behave. The service is in a private beta at the moment. Email them for an invite code, and be sure to mention Mini Sprout.

Hardtree: Online Business Management

Business owners have quite the toolbox for managing their businesses. They have their email, but they may also use services that cover CRM, billing, accounting, calendar management and group discussions. New startups are taking a stab at pulling all resources together, giving owners one dashboard and an instant snapshot of their business.

Hardtree is an online business management service. The web app is set up like an online collaboration tool with additional enhancements to make it a true holistic service. Logging in to the service reveals your dashboard, which spotlights new messages or support tickets. Move around Hardtree by clicking on one of its fifteen tabs on your dashboard. Tools are organized by task, which means project management falls under “Projects,” leads are housed in “Sales & Stock,” and your accounting ledger appears under “Finance.”

There’s enough room for everyone on your team too. Add users and create groups for multiple users. You can also specify which users or groups access which tasks pretty simply.

Perhaps what makes Hardtree remarkable is yet to be seen by the public. Business management services like these thrive on creating a singular destination to manage activities. Hardtree will have plenty of data about your organization. Their next step is launching a new module called Intelligence. This feature will be able to make recommendations for your business based on your data. Therefore, it will be able to make data-driven business improvements. We have yet to see how and to what extent this new feature will play a role in Hardtree, but it has the potential to become a business owner’s most trusted advisor.

The service is available in paid tiers starting at £9.99 per month. A free trial is also available.

There’s a lot to explore in Hardtree. Owners may not use each component, but they’ll see a benefit when they tailor the space to their demands. In fact, Hardtree is the type of tool that may make its way into your web browser and remain open all day.

Springpad: Fun & Intelligent Notes

Springpad is a free web and mobile app that serves as a destination for all thoughts, tasks and things. It’s available anywhere through the web and is as refined as a Mac desktop app. Add notes, tasks or items, such as products, places, movies, restaurants, recipes and wines. Springpad supports plenty of different items, giving depth to their service.

Type in tasks to have them appear, or look up items across external services like Amazon and IMDB. You’re not limited to a text field either; if you want to save a book while browsing in a bookstore, just snap the ISBN barcode using your phone’s camera. You can also attach notes and files to anything you save.

Items that you save are already grouped by type, so things like recipes, movies and events stay separate. But if you tag your posts, Springpad will group items into specific projects. This way, you can group albums, recipes and gifts together when planning a holiday party, or wines, locations and to-dos when planning a trip. Each notebook includes a board, which works like a light board or scrapbook and lets you arrange items on your screen.

Springpad works in web browsers, and they built sophisticated iPhone, iPad and Android apps to complement. A web browser extension drops Springpad into your toolbar, allowing you to save items on your current webpage without interrupting your browsing session.

Alerts show your tasks and also recommend deals based on your saved items. Springpad likely earns a commission off these sales, but they appear unobtrusive and targeted, so we have no concerns.

Invoice Bubble: Send Invoices For Free

There is no shortage of online invoicing tools, so it takes a lot for any newcomer to stand out from the competition. Invoice Bubble allows freelancers to create and send online invoices and collect payments from their clients. What helps set them apart is their price: it’s free. It’s great, too.

After creating an account, punch in the name of a client and begin adding line items to your invoice. The form is setup as your final document, so you’re able to make adjustments directly to the preview. You can edit the description and footer to add any additional details your clients may require. Once you’re ready, you have the choice to either email the invoice directly to the client or export as a PDF.

The invoice pops up in your client’s inbox, both with a link and a PDF version for their records. They’re able to make a payment directly from viewing the invoice via PayPal. Users are able to schedule recurring invoices as well.

Your account dashboard gives a quick snapshot of your business, which shows accounts receivable and the amount your clients have paid. But you won’t see phrases like “accounts receivable” anywhere on this app. The creators kept it simple for you to focus on what’s really important; managing your business.

All invoices have a little link in the footer that reads, “Powered by Invoice Bubble.” If you want to remove the link on your invoice, it comes at the low cost of $5 per month. Compare that cost to any other online invoice service available, and you’ll realize Invoice Bubble is an affordable option that doesn’t make sacrifices.

Boarrd: Everyone’s Personal Dashboard

Who doesn’t want their own personal executive dashboard? It could contain anything; your inbox, to-do list, favorite RSS feeds, Twitter status updates, data feeds piping in to charts, upcoming meeting info, basic weather, anything.

Boarrd is a free web app that allows us to demand our own dashboard. Using a very slick interface, users grab different widgets and shuffle them around the screen. At the moment, the service is limited to RSS feeds, weather, calendar events, clock, weather, and Flickr photos. Considering the potential, we wouldn’t call those options limiting at all. Each dashboard will be completely different by user. And users can alter components as their needs change.

What’s most impressive about Boarrd is that it was thrown together in 48-hours as part of Rails Rumble MMX. It’s very well polished and just about ready for primetime.

To be a serious contender in this space, we’d like to see the dashboard’s layout change when viewed in a mobile browser. We also can’t help wonder what would happen if developers were able to deploy their own widgets to the community. Either way, we love this app.

Microtask: Crowdsource Business Tasks

Let’s say you’re running a business and decide to outsource a tedious, time consuming task. One way to tackle the problem would be to visit any of the many outsourcing job websites, type up the project details, collect bids and choose a winning party.

There’s a bit of risk involved. Usually companies outsource tasks because they don’t have the resources to complete them themselves. If the third-party misses a deadline or completes the work incorrectly, the company is placed in a difficult position. There’s also the concern with trust. People submitting bids may only be able to judge an applicant based on a star rating or a portfolio of work. What if your task contains confidential data?

Microtask offers the alternative. Instead of assigning your project to one party, Microtask breaks tasks into multiple little pieces and distributes them across their network. If someone doesn’t finish a task completely, the task can be easily reassigned to someone else without impacting the deadline. It’s like having a group of people try to solve a jigsaw puzzle (and each person being paid less) versus leaving it to one person (and being paid more).

The service also alleviates one of the primary concerns for businesses:  distributing proprietary data to anonymous parties. Since the work is broken into many pieces before hitting any workers, people only see a fraction of the project, and none of the workers have access to the entire set of data. They also don’t see the project’s brief. Once work is submitted, Microtask is able to begin stitching everything together automatically.

Other popular outsource marketplaces show their rates upfront and allow people to dictate budgets behind a web form. Microtask requires people to reach out for a quote, which is understandable because each project’s scope is different. At the moment, it seems the service is set up best to handle form processing, transcriptions and digitalizing archives. Projects like programming or writing may be best left to the other guys.

Micromobs: Fun, Modern Group Messaging

micromobs allows anyone to instantly create an online group discussion for your friends. The service creates an environment where everyone feels free to join the conversation.

When someone uses micromobs to create a new group, or “mob”, they choose the topic, who to invite and whether or not to make the mob public to outside viewers. Then, people are able to post in the mob in a format similar to tweets or Facebook’s wall. In fact, you can reference people using the @ symbol, and each mob begins showing its own trending topics.

The site’s branding nailed the idea that everyone who creates a mob has different needs and uses. As a result, mobs are applicable to any group: foodies can create a mob dedicated to sharing their favorite recipes, students can create mobs dedicated to particular classes, organizations can create mobs and sub-mobs to handle different department needs, and friends can post travel itinerary and flight details for group vacations. The applications are endless. As long as friends are looking for a way to communicate online easily, micromobs will be able to foster the conversation.

micromobs seems to form an interesting balance. By design, mobs are supposed to be small, almost tribe-like, where everyone has a voice and every opinion is respected. But, mobs can also be public, viewable by the entire web where anyone can participate. Rarely do we see the private and public spheres intersect so well.

Projecturf: Project Management Done Well

For years, we’ve watched attentively as companies like 37signals developed apps that serve as no fuss, no flare project management tools. After all, project management is not about tools and charts; it’s about communicating with your team to accomplish your objective. In fact, 37signals’ manifesto and books have helped launch an industry of stripped-down web apps that excel at accomplishing one thing well.

Projecturf is a web-based project management tool that includes the extras. Whereas simple, GTD apps like Basecamp eliminate many features, Projecturf has the potential to serve as a comprehensive tool for project managers. They identified a niche many web app developers have avoided—feature-heavy solutions—and created an app that is surprisingly easy and intuitive to use. For as many features and screens the developers managed to squeeze in, Projecturf’s interface is clean and very well organized.

Getting started comes in the form of importing your contacts from your email service or desktop address book. Manually adding contacts is also available, but Projecturf allows teams to begin using their service as soon as possible.

All of the options you would expect are included: projects, tasks, deadlines, calendars, user access permissions and email notifications. We also found a few surprises that project managers absolutely require: file version tracking, a timer for tracking your work, tracking tickets, and outstanding print support allowing anyone to put together a status sheet in one click.

Projecturf has the potential to become a cornerstone app for any business or project manager. People interested in getting started should be prepared to set Projecturf as their browser’s homepage; it’s that significant. Plans start as $34.99 per month, available as a free trial. If your team is able to benefit from Projecturf’s features, that price is a bargain.