Methods & Tools Software Development Magazine

Software Development Magazine - Project Management, Programming, Software Testing

 

2-plan Desktop Free Project Management Software

Franco Martinig, Martinig & Associates, http://www.martinig.ch/

2-plan Desktop is a free standalone and portable project management tool for project managers that works on all systems where you can find Java (Windows, MacOS, Linux). This app provides its own unique graphical project breakdown structure tool that covers the people, process and product components of a project. It offers a large feature that includes Gantt chart, textual and graphical work breakdown structure (WBS), resource allocation graphs, mind maps and risk management. 2-plan Desktop is part of an eco-system that includes the 2-plan Team is an open source project software and the Work 2-gether Scrum task board online tool.

Website: http://2-plan.com/free-project-management-software-2-plan-desktop.html
Version tested: 2-plan 2.6.0 in November - December 2019 on a Window 8 platform.
System requirements: Windows, Mac OS X or Linux with Java Runtime Environment (JRE)
License & Pricing: Free software.
Support: http://forum.2-plan.com/ or through e-mail
Documentation: http://2-plan.com/help/2-plan-desktop-manuals.html

Documentation

All the documentation for 2-plan is available from the website. It is clearly written and provides enough information to use the tool. There is a “search” function that allows you to find information. During my evaluation, it seemed to me that it might be not completely up to date and that some (minor) information is missing. The documentation is completed by white papers that explain the concepts of the tool.

Installation

The installation consists only in expanding the compressed files in a local directory. As 2-plan Desktop is designed to be portable, you can just transfer it to another flash device to work on a different computer.

The installed tool has the good idea to provide an evaluation project that allows you to have a convenient view of many of the 2-plan Desktop features without having to type all the information needed to reach this perspective.

Some extensions (or add-ons) are not installed with the default version. You can do this from the tool “Help” menu with the “Install 2-plan Desktop Features”. A window will open where you can select additional features like baselining, mindmapping or import/export for MS project. If you have installed some of these additional features, they will not be visible in this window unless you specifically ask for it. These extensions integrate seamlessly in the tool interface and you have sometimes to explore a little bit to see where you can actually use them.

Configuration

The configuration options of 2-plan Desktop are minimal. You can influence a little bit the user interface. You can also decide to encrypt your data.

2-plan Desktop Free Project Management Software

(click on figure to enlarge)

Using 2-plan

2-plan Desktop is a feature-rich free project management tool. Its long term usage is made easier by the concepts like project types and template. However, it is a good idea to understand those a little bit before creating your first project, this is why the documentation recommends to start with a practice project and provide a step-by-step process to do so.

The tool provides two basic approaches to create your project plan. You can use a Gantt or an effort-driven approach. 2-plan Desktop provides templates to create both of them. The Gantt option is the simplest one and allows starting quickly with a WBS approach and a simplified interface, without taking into the plan the value for efforts. With the effort-driven option, you get access to more powerful features to define your tasks hierarchy (called “work package”), their staff and their duration. In this case, you have more features for resource allocation. You can also choose a fixed-duration project after installing a special add-on to manage them.

Even in the simple manual / Gantt mode, the amount of information you can manage on your tasks, persons, roles and milestones is rather impressive. You can define templates for items that could be used in multiple projects, for instance a tester role or a risk analysis activity. You can then simply drag these templated items in your current project, without having to fill again the basic information. You can also just simply cut/past people and tasks between projects in the same workspace for a quicker project set-up or planning.

The user interface is pretty intuitive and I liked very much the fact that it adjust automatically to what you are doing. You can easily jump between the windows (views) and the changes made in one part, for instance the name of a task, is immediately reported to the other windows like the WBS and the Gantt chart. Also in the “Project Explorer” window, you can jump from one project to the other.

All the projects are grouped in workspaces that you can clone if need to duplicate some situation. This feature is useful if you want to present multiple plans with different budgets and schedules.

2-plan Desktop uses the concept of “view” that is the equivalent of a window containing specific information. You can assemble these windows in a “perspective” that are predefined arrangement of views. There are several predefined perspectives that are available in the default configuration of the tool: work breakdown structure, setup, planning, controlling, reporting and welcome. This allows you to have only the required windows open for your specific task. You can also create your own perspectives or change the available perspectives by including or excluding views.

2-plan Desktop Free Project Management Software

(click on figure to enlarge)

There are however some minor things that I would like to see like a more easily accessible “save” function and the possibility to manage fonts definition on the graphical WBS window. Some views are also not easy to find in the menu systems as they are hidden away under the “other...” menu sections like the “Resource Planner View” for instance.

2-plan Desktop offers good scheduling features. You can create an inventory of project staff (Persons), Teams and Roles. You can assign work packages to your staff, team leaders or subcontractors and view the utilization assigned to each human resource type. You can also assign specific people to your work packages or you can delegate your resource allocation tasks to your team leaders by assigning a work package to an entire team. Role-based planning offers even more freedom because it allows you to describe the type of resource you need without labeling a specific person or team. The Role resource type works best for subcontractors, external project teams or consultants.

Conclusion

2-plan Desktop is a powerful free project management tool that provides many of the features needed for managing projects in a traditional (Waterfall) way, either with a simplified Gantt approach or using the more feature-rich effort-driven project type. However, this power requires a learning curve to understand fully how to do certain things and all the consequences of your actions or to locate the right features in 2-plan Desktop menu hierarchy. One of the feature that might set it apart from other similar tools is the fact that you can work from a USB flash drive and thus easily travel with your project software and encrypted data to different places.


Related Project Management Resources


Click here to view the complete list of tools reviews

This article was originally published in December 2019

Software Testing
Magazine


The Scrum Expert