Free Project Management Software
There are two free project management software packages that are worth looking in to. The first, Open Workbench is open source and is intended to replace Microsoft Project. At first blush, this software looks like it covers the project management ground fairly well although it's not as pretty as Microsoft Project. A review for the PMI includes this comment: “At first glance, OpenWorkbench looks like just another dumb utility to build and print out schedules, but you soon realize it has some of the analytical ability of more costly software.” That's a pretty good endorsement. However, some comments from others who have used it longer than I have instilled some doubts. One reviewer over at LifeHacker writes that it is lacking in several crucial areas. He isn't specific, but the rest of his comments make me think he knows what he's talking about. He does say that OpenWorkbench handles sub-projects well. I'll have to keep poking around this one to see if I can find the deficiencies.
The second program, GanttProject, is also open source, but it wasn't created or supported by a “real” company like Open Workbench. It seems, for that reason, that the marketing materials for GanttProject are lacking. The site project's home page doesn't list and reviews or press releases. Still, that's not necessarily a bad sign. So far it seems to me that this package handles Gantt charts well. Tasks are entered in to the chart via a pop-up which is the same as Microsoft Project. GanttProject also has the ability to show percentage complete as an embedded smaller bar within the task bar. GanttProject allows you to manage not only projects and tasks, but also workloads and schedule conflicts. Project files are saved as XML which in theory means they can be imported in Microsoft Project, but I haven't tried this yet. More importantly, these files can be deployed to a web server for shared viewing.
Given that both of these project management software packages are free, I'd say both are worth a try for the budget conscious. Neither outdo Microsoft Project so if cost is not an issue, there's little reason to switch.