So maybe you’re a small or a medium scale enterprise that you want to keep everything in check and organized but is not willing to spend large sums just for a system that will let you do that? No need to worry as AceProject Project Management Software has a solution that they claim will solve your management needs. And the most important part of it all is that, it’s free! Basically, AceProject is offering a free, online project management software that allows you do to some of the most common project-based tasks like time tracking, checking of expenses, generation of important reports, segregation of tasks and many others. You may be thinking that being free means that there are features that get locked unless you pay them with some amount. AceProject gives you a big NO as they’re offering all of this for free, to quote: “… we do not believe in half-locked trial software, as key features are not always available for test driving.” Is this too good to be true? Well, let’s all find out in this comprehensive review of the AceProject Project Management Software.
- AceProject is a toolbox that can help organizations manage multiple projects within one single account. You can manage as many projects simultaneously as your package allows you to.
- Each project can be structured in a unique way allowing different types of projects to be managed in a central place. Besides, projects can be copied or transformed into templates to be reused later.
- Professionals from various industries have substantially improved their projects efficiency since they chose AceProject. Architects, IT specialists, contractors, software developers and engineers are among our customers.
This is how everything is laid out. You’re presented with multiple tabs which contain the kind of tasks that you’re allowed to do depending on the access you have with the system (we’ll discuss about those later). When you first create an administrator account, you’re presented with the tabs “My Office”, “Portfolio: All Projects”, “Admin” and “Help”. Take note, as Help has its own tab. And for the most part, you’ll be using this help tab — why is that so? Let’s answer that by going in the Admin tab, which contains most of the administrative work needed in setting up your projects and any related stuff to it. We advise that before you start a particular project, you need to complete the necessary configuration in this section as otherwise, you will easily get lost.
Here’s where you’ll spend most of the time configuring everything. The left navigation pane containes the necessary items that you need to setup in order to get a project framework going. You’re allowed to configure the users that can use the system (as well as their access levels) and the user groups which will be very useful when you’ve got multiple projects that contain multiple users that can sometimes overlap with each other. Project wise, you can create and change the type of projects you can assign a particular project into, the status of which they’re progressing at the moment and the priority of a particular project. Then we’ve got times which allow you to set as to how the users can book their productive times. And finally expenses where you can also set how the system can categorize the outbound cashflows.
Other customization options, aside from having your company name in the URL, include placing your own logo at the upper left column as well as the login screen (provided your image has a maximum height of 50px) and changing the overall color scheme to suit the company’s needs.
After setting the initial configuration, then you can proceed in setting up the projects. To do this, you go to the “Portfolio: All Projects” tab and conveniently, a template is there that you can just modify to suit the needs of your new project. Clicking on that project template reveals the many, many options you can change to your liking. And this is where all your configurations come in handy, provided you’ve set it up completely. Once you find out that you’ve left out something while creating your project, you’ll need to get back to the Admin tab and add the additional options — which can be cumbersome when you’ve got to do some quick changes and you wouldn’t want to go back to that Admin tab.
Now this is convenient for the first project, but how about when you’re going to create a project from scratch? This is where things can get confusing for some. Take the screen capture below as an example:
Aside from the multitude of options you can customize as presented earlier, you’re now presented with a two-step process in creating a new project. Here, you’re given the option to create a blank project in which values for the key fields will be set to default — with these default values being set in the Admin tab. Another option is that for example, you’ll be doing another project of the same type as with the previous one handled. Then the second option comes in handy — copying from an existing template. When you select this, you have the option of also copying the assigned tasks, documents and dates. You can also link your new project to the previous one if you’re doing an upgrade or something along the lines. Once done, you can proceed with the next step which practically gives the same options as to when you change the pre-made project template initially. With this, we suggest that you play with the template to get the hang of the project configuration process.
Continuing in setting up the project, you’re now given the options to select which values you’ve configured from the Admin tab are to be used in the project itself. Included are options for “Assignments”, “Groups”, “Types”, “Statuses” and “Priorities”. First up is the Assignments which let you assign users to a particular project. Opening up the Assignments screen gives you a table containing the names of the assigned users. If you want to add a new user to the project, simply click on the “Assign a New User” link located on the upper right hand corner. Why so detailed on the location of this link? This is because there are chances that once may find it difficult to locate the button where to add users — as it is placed at the part of the screen that the user wouldn’t immediately notice. It would be better if they placed a button or something at the bottom of the table, easily seen by the user. Going in detail to the user assignment gives you a screen in which the administrator can control the access level of a particular user to be assigned. They’ve done a great job in setting up the access levels of users — particularly on how and what they can edit in a particular project. This is highlighted in their documentation as show below:
Moving further, the following sections are task-specific. Groups section maintains the groupings of which you can allocate your tasks in. Types allows the segregation of the defined tasks in the project. Statuses let you determine the completion of a particular task — not to be confused with the project status in the Admin tab. And finally, the Priority section which defines task priorities. Once all setup for these are done, your project is ready for tasks.
This is where the bulk of the project comes in. As the name suggests, this is the assignments given the users in the project. You can set task progress, priority and the like from the project configuration mentioned earlier. For the creation and assignment of tasks, head over to the main project tab (which appears after you’ve assigned the user to that project) and the left pane will show you task views like the complete and incomplete ones. Clicking on either will show a page containing a table with the different tasks created for the project. Like with the projects, there’s an add task link at the upper right corner of the screen. Configuring tasks isn’t as complicated as projects as you would only need to set the estimated and actual start/end dates, as well as assign the users to do the task.
Once the user is assigned the task, he/she can easily update it as it will instantly appear in the “My Office” tab of the screen. There, the user can update its completion status, add additional notes/comments and upload additional documents as the project requires. Being assigned a task also allows the said user to book in time that was used in doing the said task.
So let’s focus on the “My Office” tab of AceProject as this is basically the screen that users will be using for the most part. In essence, this is the panel that has all the information the user needs and edits in terms of the assigned project. Unlike the project configuration panels for the administrator, the user screens are much simpler and is limited to what he/she needs to do. First item here is “My Tasks” which basically contains the tasks assigned to the user, it is here where the aforementioned task-related processes are done. This tab also has a “My Time Sheets” section — this is where the user logs all time used per day with respect to an assigned task (more on this in the following section). Then there’s the “My Expenses” section that conveniently logs in all project-related expenses. Now we do have to take precaution in the expense section as the administrator has an option to allow a normal user to add-in expenses on his/her own. Given that these are sensitive financial matters, the project manager and/or admin must be keen on whether normal users can add entries on their own. Nonetheless, it is a good way to easily track where the project’s budget goes. Additional features for the office dashboard include a mail functionality and a notepad. The Mailbox isn’t fully integratable with outside emails such as Yahoo! or GMail. Now some may see this as a disadvantage but it is also a way to keep confidential information in check as integration with these services could lead to security breaches and the like. The Notepad on the other hand, is quite useless as it is like a whiteboard that let’s one write or scribble something. You can save your note but that’s about it — you can’t add any additional notes, just change that one note.
A neat functionality that they’ve included in this free package is the Time Sheet function. As mentioned earlier, this is where timebookings are recorded per project. Like manual clocking of hours, the user has to create weekly logs of all used hours in a particular task. Here’s where the user enters the used hours on a day-to-day basis, after which that user can send the timesheet to the project manager for approval. This sends notifications to the assigned project manager in the provided email. Now this is good as you can tie-in your company/business mail to the system but it would have been great if the system also allowed these notifications to be sent to the built-in mailbox so that the approver wouldn’t need to leave the AceProject screen to know whether there are pending approvals. Overall, their Time Sheet system is well executed.
Despite being free, AceProject gives every free account about 250Mb for document uploads, so that’s a definite plus. The user can do this in multiple sections of the project. Let’s take a task as an example. In the Edit Task screen, there’s a “Documents” section. This is where functionality meets practicality (or something along the lines). Normally, uploading multiple documents mean holding the shift key and selecting the said documents in the upload dialog. AceProject however takes a different approach. It gives you an option to insert a description and a version number in each document uploaded. Using the multiple-document-single-dialog scenario wouldn’t allow this functionality. So what they did is they placed a drop-down menu that indicates how many documents the user would update at a given instance — with 15 being the maximum. This means that if there are 15 documents to be uploaded, the user must select 15 times instead of just selecting it all. This may seem cumbersome but given the document-uploading functionality, we understand why they took this approach.
Project Management Tools
For project managers, AceProject provides additional tools for better management of projects. These include gantt charts, calendar views and reports. AceProject generates these gantt charts in 3 views: daily, weekly and monthly — and these are on a per-task basis. This allows the manager to have a graphic representation of the overall progress of the tasks with respect to the target deadlines. Conveniently, right-clicking the generated chart gives the manager an option to either print it or save as an image — perfect presentations of status reports and others.
There’s also a calendar that highlights any important project-related dates like start dates, deadlines, etc. Like the gantt chart, AceProject offers multiple views for the calendar — weekly and monthly. The calendar shows information on the task, its status, the start/end dates, the assigned user and reviewer if available. Project managers can then export the calendar from either view in a standard excel or CSV file. Though the generated file isn’t that fancy, but it gives the information needed.
Finally are task reports that show the pertinent information connected to a particular task like the assigned user, reviewers, status, etc. AceProject offers five report views: By Description, By Date, By User, Non-assigned and Overview. For the most part, the Overview report contains the most information — more or less the combination of the aforementioned ones. Like the gantt charts and calendar, the reports are exportable to either Excel or CSV.
For a free web-based project management application, AceProject delivers. It is a great task-based application that allows the overall management of projects through the features mentioned and did we forget, a lot of customizing options. Now this is where AceProject becomes a hit or miss deal. Using it for the first time is really a daunting task. Given the multidude of configurations you’ll be applying in setting up the projects, tasks, priorities and the like. Once you get pass the initial configuration, it is basically smooth sailing for the most part — again, it’s a matter of getting used to.
Now we mentioned earlier that being free doesn’t mean that functionality must be impaired, and it is true, you get full functionality for the setup and configuration — the only limit you’ll be having is that a free account only allows 5 users with a maximum amount of 50 tasks. If you’re a business that doesn’t want to spend much but doesn’t want to go too cheap either, AceProject maybe the solution you wanted. For $24 a month, you can upgrade your package to have 15 projects at 5 Gb of storage. The question is, do we recommend it? It all goes down to getting your money’s worth in the package. Despite being a hit-or-miss deal at times as said earlier, once you get used to the interface and how everything works, you definitely have your money’s worth in this one.