OmniPlan 1.0

It often feels as though the Mac is off limits to some professions simply because specialized kinds of software aren’t available for it. For example, some people assume there is little place for the Mac when it comes to project-management software, mainly because Microsoft Project is available only for Windows. The Omni Group, a Mac-only software-development company that leverages everything good about the Mac user interface to make intuitive software that is easy to learn and use, is now taking on project management by offering a Mac alternative to Microsoft Project called OmniPlan 1.0.

OmniPlan has a clean, smooth interface, and all of its controls are available from easily accessible control panels. You can control and tweak almost every aspect of the design; this makes for a superior on-screen experience. The program offers the core, basic feature you’d expect to see in project-management software: the ability to easily create project schedule outlines in Gantt format, with activities and milestones indicated. You can also add and track resources (both people and things) and view a workweek calendar. The application’s set-up and tracking functionality is solid and straightforward, allowing you to quickly and accurately schedule an entire project. In these regards, OmniPlan does not let down. However, the initial release of the software offers little beyond these basic tools.

OmniPlan includes standard printing capabilities, but reports are not customizable beyond adding titles. Also, when printed, the Gantt timeline is split horizontally across multiple pages if a project becomes longer than a few weeks, so it’s difficult to visually follow schedules. OmniPlan does include some features for outputting to the Web, and it even lets you choose a customizable Web template. But this process is far from automated, and you must use third-party Web design software to create your own templates (only one is provided) and manually upload the Web pages to your site.

The most noticeable feature absent from OmniPlan, though, is the ability to associate data or files to a particular activity or milestone. For example, a project activity might have several tasks associated with it. Rather than creating a separate sub-activity for each of these tasks, it would be a lot easier to create a to-do list for the activity. Likewise, if an activity involves a particular computer file, it would be helpful to create a link between the activity in OmniPlan and the file, so the file can be quickly accessed and tracked.

Macworld’s buying advice

If you need a bare-bones program for managing a schedule and resources for a single project, OmniPlan 1.0’s easy-to-use interface will please you. However, project managers with multiple, complex projects should look elsewhere for software that will help shoulder their burden. Despite its lack of advanced features, what OmniPlan does, it does extremely well, and this initial release should provide a solid base for future versions.

[ Jason Cranford Teague is the Creative Director for AOL RED and has written several books about Web design. ]

OmniPlan allows you to quickly assemble projects, using the standard Gantt format, and then assign resources.

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