Project planning Penguinistas should take a look at GanttProject.
Around a hundred years ago, a man named Henry Gantt developed a new tool for project management. Named eponymously, the Gantt chart has become an essential tool in the project manager’s toolkit, used even on enormous undertakings like the Hoover Dam and the United States Interstate Highway System. (For more informarion about Mr. Gantt, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gantt.)
Today, the world’s most popular project management software, Microsoft Project, incorporates Gantt charts as a matter of course. Linux users, being the hearty breed they are, have developed several good software packages for project management, too, with Planner (http://developer.imendio.com/wiki/Planner) being the most well-known. But another interesting up-and-comer is GanttProject, which, to no surprise, makes Gantt charts. Although GanttProject is still a little rough in places, it bears a look by any project planning Penguinista.
GanttProject depends on Java, so make sure you have a JRE installed on your system before continuing (and since it’s Java-based, it runs on Windows and Mac OS X, as well as Linux). Once you’re sure that a JRE is available and in your PATH, download GanttProject from the project’s web site at http://ganttproject.sourceforge.net. Do the usual SourceForge dance of choosing a download location, and soon after (depending on how long it takes your connection to download a 13 MB file) you’ll have a zipped file on your machine. But don’t unzip the file just yet, lest you puke puke files all over the directory in which you downloaded the file. Create a folder titled something clever like ganttproject, move the zip file there, and then unzip it.
(Two notes to GanttProject’s developers: This is Linux, so use a standard format, such as a tarball. Second, zip the containing folder, not the files themselves!)
Once you’ve unzipped the contents, you need to twiddle with ganttproject.sh, the main script that starts the program, and make it executable. Enter chmod 755 ganttproject.sh.
You now have a choice. If you’re the only user of your Linux box, or if you’re the only user who will run GanttProject, move the ganttproject folder somewhere in your home directory. If that’s your preference, you should probably use your ~/bin directory, as that’s probably already in your PATH.
If you want to allow anyone to run GanttProject, or if you like doing things the correct *nix way, move the ganttproject directory into a more central location on your machine. For example, run mv ganttproject /opt as root.
Now it’s time to run the program. If you put ganttproject in /opt, just run the following: /opt/ganttproject/ganttproject.sh, or cd into /opt/ganttproject and run ./ganttproject.sh. If you don’t want to use the command line, create a link to the ganttproject.sh file in KDE, GNOME, or whatever window manager you use. In KDE, for instance, you can easily add a link on the Desktop, on the” K” menu, or in any folder you wish.

When GanttProject opens, it looks pretty much like you’d expect. You can add and edit tasks and human resources, indicate the milestones, link to web sites, add notes, and insert custom columns. In true open source fashion, the program doesn’t try to lock up your data: you can import data from text files, or even Microsoft Project, and can export your project as an image, HTML, or Microsoft Project file. The program is generally pretty easy to use, so beginners to project management will find GanttProject a good tool for education, while more experienced managers will be able to jump in and get started right away. The one negative? Editing tasks can sometimes prove counter-intuitive, and should be made simpler in future versions.
GanttProject is a simple program, but don’t let that put you off. Its name is entirely accurate: the program makes Gantt charts, and that’s about it. However, as Google has proven, sometimes a single-minded, even simplistic focus can really pay off. GanttProject may not be ready to plan the next Three Gorges Dam, but it is ready for lots of smaller projects at your home and business.
Give GanttProject a try, and keep an eye on it as it continues to mature.

R. Scott Granneman teaches at Washington University in St. Louis, consults for WebSanity, and writes for SecurityFocus and Linux Magazine. His latest book, Don’t Click on the Blue E!:Switching to Firefox, has just been published. You can reach Scott at class="emailaddress">scott@granneman.com.

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