This is Part III in my lightweight overview of free project management tools. Part I covered some basic topics and Part II took a closer look at Basecamp, the first of the two tools I am covering. The third “installment” will look at a tool called Zoho Projects

First to the company, Zoho. In part two I spent less time talking about the makers of Basecamp 37Signals because most blog readers have heard of them either from their tools or as the creators of Ruby On Rails. Well, Zoho is quite an impressive company and although I had not heard of them until I ran across Zoho Projects, maybe some of the readers have. If you want an overview check out their website and read their blogs. They have an amazing set of tools available. Zoho Show which is an online presentation application, Zoho Writer (word processor), Zoho Sheet (spreadsheet), Zoho Virtual Office (collaboration tool), Zoho CRM, etc. I have looked at a few, seenonline presentation from Zoho Show and they are all incredible tools with free versions usually with limited users. All I can say is go to the site and have a look. It is amazing what is available.

OK, now to Zoho Project the actual subject for this blog. (As I mentioned in Part I this is a Beta version as of now, but you would never know).

Zoho Projects provides many of the features such as Time tracking for team members that are in paid versions of Basecamp. Zoho allows a more traditional view of your project with tasks having date assignments, due dates and able to track percentage of completion.

The reports in Zoho allow a task calendar view as well as a milestone delivery date. Zoho, being very Web 2.0 provides visual feedback at the mouse cursor almost every where you go. Putting the mouse over the calendar on the right side where a mile stone will cause a small bubble window to appear with Milestone information. Also, in the Calendar view you can simply put the mouse over a particular date and three icons appear for create a task, milestone or meeting.

When you go to the website you sign up by providing a email address which is for th administrator, base name for the URL like in Basecamp and password. Your project URL will then be <basename>.zohoprojects.com. When you name your project, you are ready to start defining it. Currently one project is allowed per admin email address.

You can add users that will either be employees, managers or contractors. Below is an empty dashboard view of the project.
Empty Zoho Project
Some really cool features are the Latest Activity section in the Dashboard so you can see what exactly was done to the Project Plan you are making, including deletions.

As in Basecamp you can enter tasks but as I mentioned there is more information that can be entered. I think the biggest difference (didn’t I say I would not compare them, oh well) is Basecamp is the minimalistic view (this is actual a theme of the company 37Signals, only do what is needed and nothing more) and Zoho gives you more choice to add more information. I like this approach too, you don’t have to do it, but if you want the opportunity is there.
Here is a view of the tasks and milestone page with a couple of tasks and milestones defined.

Task and Milestone View in Zoho
Milestones are similar to tasks only have the same start and end date. When milestones are created you can also add tasks under them that need to be completed for the milestone to be completed. This is shown below:
Milestone with two associated tasks

Another nifty feature is the ability to track time working on a task. If you enter the Timesheet Calendar view you can select a date and log time for that day to specific tasks. This is also a feature in Basecamp, but again in the paid versions.

I hope this quick overview of Zoho Projects may have wet your appetite for trying out the extensive feature set. Zoho is really impressive and I am sure it will be getting a lot of press in the coming weeks/months.

I am looking forward to presenting Zoho as well as Basecamp to my students as I believe they both provide an excellent method to manage your projects.

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