Roadmap Planner review: project schedules don’t have to be ugly
My day job involves taking the ideas of visionary leaders and turning them into reality. Gantt charts are one of the tools I use to coordinate all the moving parts.
As a communication device, a Gantt chart showing the entire project is terrible. Stakeholders will either slip into a catatonic state for the rest of the discussion or suddenly remember they have another meeting to attend. Most stakeholders want to know that someone has thought about all the tasks and interdependencies but have little interest in the detail. Showing the major phases and a few key activities is all you really need.
Gantt charts were once the domain of construction and IT project managers. Today they are a common tool used by professionals from various fields.
I’ve tried many project planning tools and settled on OmniPlan for complex projects. There’s not much OmniPlan can’t do, but with that power comes complexity and a premium price tag. Earned valuable analysis, resource leveling, and critical path analysis are not necessary for simple, one-person projects.
OmniPlan’s output is more attractive than most project planning tools, but it’s overkill if you only want a summary to include in a presentation.
I’ve always used Keynote or PowerPoint to create simplified, more audience-friendly project representations. A few weeks back I discovered Roadmap Planner from KeepSolid. It makes the job even easier.
- Easily create simple Gantt charts and project schedules
- Create dependencies between activities
- Keep a backlog of future tasks or ideas
- Limited formatting options
- No import / export to move data between applications
- Pricey considering the existing feature set
Roadmap Planner’s sole purpose is to create and present simple project schedules. It’s simple enough to operate, though user interaction methods are sometimes a little unconventional. Templates give you a jump-start on some common business projects such as a buying decision or a strategic planning process.
The following video gives a 2-minute overview of Roadmap Planner’s main features.
At the left, you add one or more projects. Each project can contain multiple items (tasks) in a colored band for the project they belong to. You can assign a description, a start date and duration in the inspector pane.
Dragging from the end of one item to the beginning of another creates a dependency. This reschedules the dependent task to start when the first one ends (a finish-to-start dependency).
A backlog lets you collect activities for future consideration. Drag backlog items to the appropriate project when you’re ready to schedule them.
Once the schedule is complete, the full-screen presentation view lets you talk it through with a colleague or client. Zoom controls help focus attention on the section of the project you’re discussing.
Formatting options are limited. You can change the color band of each project. The items within that band are updated to match the project color, but you cannot change individual items to draw attention to them.
The current release has no text formatting so you’re stuck with the system font. The font size is automatically scaled to fit the task.
Things don’t work so well when you have a long description for a task with a short duration. Roadmap Planner automatically reduces the font size but some words won’t display if the text is too long to fit. I got around this by removing the title, creating a screenshot, and annotating it separately before adding it to my slide deck.
Some cosmetic details could be better (such as the “today” marker’s appearance), but these aren’t deal breakers.
Task durations use absolute dates. There is no way to set a task duration and have Roadmap Planner work out the end date, though you can drag the task boundary to change its duration. I found this too fiddly with short-duration tasks and preferred the date picker in this situation.
Print to PDF is the only export option for now. You can create an image file by taking a screenshot, but I’d like to see a JPG or PNG export function added.
Basic annotation tools would be a useful addition for drawing attention to specific tasks. Still, it’s simple enough to take a screenshot and annotate the image in another application.
Roadmap Planner could be a handy starting point for planning a project with a team. With no CSV or OPML export function, there is no way to move your work into a more comprehensive project planning tool. Import and export functions would make the product more versatile.
Like many Mac developers, KeepSolid has been open and receptive to feedback. They are working on a range of updates but these have not been publicly announced yet.
Roadmap Planner has potential, but you quickly run into limitations in the current version. The $24.99 price tag seems steep for the current feature set. Watch for updates.