Help Us Find Web-Based Project Management/White Board Software
February 21, 2009 8:24 PM   Subscribe

We're two people working on a complex project, and we're sending each other sixty emails per day, everything from brainstorming to future ideas to testing notes to expense tracking. We're burning out fast, and need to shift planning and discussion to project management software (web-based, please).

We need:

Reasonably freeform and flexible.

Some vehicle for parallel categorized discussions, preferably threaded message board (though unthreaded would work).

Ability to assign and prioritize tasks within categories (no deadlines, calendars, alarms, etc).

A big white board for brainstorming (no drawing, this is all text stuff). In fact, all this would work well with a white board long as we can have this:

Above all, a high level view of all new/unread messages, tasks, etc etc. We want to get out of email, but DON'T want stuff to get buried.....ever. Ideally, I'd surf in and conveniently see everything new, everything queued.

Uncluttered interface non-choked with features.

Reasonably trustworthy security (on server; we won't use public wifis, etc).

Finally, this is a tech project (with lots of non-tech aspects), but only one of us is a tech. He'll use Beanstalk plus a bug tracker. If the above could integrate with that, great. But we'd rather have greatness than integration.

Suggestions? We can afford to pay if necessary.
posted by jimmyjimjim to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Basecamp or Zoho would seem to suit your needs.

I've used Basecamp in a distributed team setting to do everything you need.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:26 PM on February 21, 2009


I've used basecamp in another life, and it seemed feature-choked and I don't remember a top level view of everything specifically awaiting my view (there IS a view of everything done since I was last there, but that's not the same thing).

I'll go look at Zoho. Though Basecamp integrates with Beanstalk....
posted by jimmyjimjim at 8:28 PM on February 21, 2009

You might look at Fogbugz, which is fundamentally an issue tracker, but also works well for small-team project management.
posted by blue mustard at 8:47 PM on February 21, 2009

I just set up a freebie Basecamp trial. No prioritization of to-dos. No threaded discussion. Too many features (and can't strip unused ones from UI). Not what I'm looking for.

Fogbugz even less so. It has a real specific model, "cases", that's a poor fit with our needs. We don't want to kinda/sorta work to fit ourselves into software skewed for other purposes. We want software that either does what we want (as I described) or is flexible/freeform enough to be configured to do so.

To clarify, I'm not looking for suggestions of pretty good general project management software. I'm hoping to find something useful for the specific (and limited) purpose described above. Of course, if that doesn't exist, then we'll resort to basecamp! :)
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:01 PM on February 21, 2009

Also message board on BaseCamp SUUUUCKS. No formatting, it compresses out empty lines....yechhhh.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 9:20 PM on February 21, 2009

you could try central desktop
Blog/wiki/file share/collaborative docs and database functionality
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 11:05 PM on February 21, 2009

Maybe something like MantisBT? Check out a demo (especially the "View Issues" page). Seems to have a built-in mini-wiki for brainstorming too. Apparently it integrates with plugins that do extra project management stuff, etc.
posted by shivohum at 12:28 AM on February 22, 2009

A Drupal (open source content management framework) firm just gave a presentation on how to build Basecamp with Drupal:

Prioritizing To-Do's could quickly be added and Drupal does out of the box threaded discussion. Yes, you'd have to assemble it yourself, but if you're familiar with PHP based web applications and use their rockclimbr as a starting point, you can probably get it done in a weekend and it would be exactly what you want.
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:21 AM on February 22, 2009

As far as 37signals goes, Backpack might be closer to what you want than Basecamp.

Rather long list of project management software @ Wikipedia (categorized by platform-- web or desktop, and license -- FOSS or commercial.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:54 AM on February 22, 2009

Central desktop isn't web-based, and like base camp, 90% of app doesn't apply to us and the 10% that does isn't particularly well-developed. It's basically a bootcamp wannabe.

Mantis doesn't have a message board, and is "issues" based, like Fogbuzz. We need freer form.

We don't have a weekend to spare on setting up Drupal.

Backpack does to-dos on a calendar model, and won't prioritize them. No message board, but the whiteboard may be usable for that.

Everything is like a slightly different shade of BaseCamp. Perhaps I'll need to accept this, but I'm hoping someone will see my question who's used something that fits our needs well (and I'll start making my way through snuffleupagus' wikipedia list). Thanks to all respondents!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 7:03 AM on February 22, 2009

Well, there's also (bleech) Sharepoint (vomitgurgle) which you can get via monthly hosting plans. o3spaces might work too, if you want to adapt it. They have a free <10 user community edition.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2009

BaseCamp's overview page does give you a high level view of what's going on.

What I like about BaseCamp is that it is NOT prescriptive: you can use its features however you like. I guess I don't think it's "feature-choked" at all--we use it to capture to-do lists, and just create different to-do lists based on priority. We often have to-do lists for each project milestone, and just put the higher priority to-dos closer to the top of the list. For us, it works, but we're in an environment where there is also a lot of face to face communication.
posted by rachelpapers at 8:30 AM on February 22, 2009

Central desktop isn't web-based

Central Desktop IS entirely web-based. Perhaps it is a bit rougher around the edges than basecamp, but I think it provides more functionality (having used both, not for huge projects, or very extensively)
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 8:44 AM on February 23, 2009

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