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Technology

LibrePlan, Open Source Potential Unfulfilled

By Sergio Reyes

It is hard to be an Open Source Software champion when you choose what appears to be promising OSS but then shortfalls are discovered and there are no easy solutions for them. That was my case after putting a whole lot of work into LibrePlan (www.libreplan.com). On surface, it looked like we could introduce this solution to our non-profit organization as we strived to incorporate project management into our management tools.

I worked with my IT Department to setup a Linux server and install LibrePlan. This task was accomplished successfully and it looked promising. The struggle begun as I looked for training material. This is how I came across the most complete and articulate source, a book called "LibrePlan, the missing manual" (Edition 2014) by Jeroen Baten, with a price tag of $60, which we acquired gladly.

I also discovered that the author of the book is the LibrePlan Community Manager. So, I proceeded to open a ticket with my concerns at the time:

1. No report writing
2. Limited Importing and exporting data
3. Lack of free training resources

The answers:

1 - What do you mean by report writing? There are several reports available in the program.
2 - Yes, that is true. What kind of importing and exporting do you wish? It is possible to import MS Project files.
3 - That is correct. But you are of course free to make these. There is the LibrePlan book that I wrote that can help in getting started and understanding the program.

It appeared that no further development was expected for the software. Therefore, I set out to write a composite that would allow basic training to use the software (attached if you care to use it). But, with limited exporting and with image only printing, I was having a hard time trying to work on presentations and dissemination of reports. In terms of reports, there is also a limited amount of them and not always useful ones.

The final blow to the implementation of LibrePlan in production mode, was when I tried to create a series of users as project managers. As I continued to work in setting up a tutorial for LibrePlan, I came across a stumbling block. My idea was to create users so they could recreate a project included in the tutorial, a Web Design and Implementation project. This way the students could do anything they wanted without disturbing anybody else’s work. When I did this, the program failed. It worked well when the users were setup as administrators. But we needed the flexibility of setting up users as project managers, because administrators can change any project in the system.

Sadly, after months of attempted development, we were at point zero again. This time we had to go back to selection process, assessing eight commercial, on-line programs. We had done a similar process on the OSS area previously to selecting LibrePlan. After assessing functionality, we decided to try CobaltPM (www.cobaltpm.com), which is very strong on the areas that LibrePlan failed, except for also having limited training capabilities. And as it would be expected, it is also not an inexpensive solution.