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OmniPlan: Visual project management for the iPad

OmniPlan for iPad packs features you'd expect in a desktop project management application. Will Kelly reviews this powerful iPad project management app.

The recently released OmniPlan has professional-level features that set a new bar for iPad project management apps. This is the culmination of the Omni Group to port all their popular Mac productivity applications to the iPad, which makes it well worth the $49.99 (USD) price tag. When I previously wrote about tablet apps for project management, OmniPlan had yet to launch. After checking out this app, I'm here to say that no coverage of iPad project management apps is complete without it.

Like their other iPad app releases, Omni Group does a good job of maintaining feature parity between the iPad and desktop applications. Some desktop project management apps intimidate users because they have a reputation of being difficult to master. However, OmniPlan hits the sweet spot of project teams and individuals seeking a project management app that's easy to use.

Create a project with OmniPlan

Say what you will about the validity of the iPad as a project management tool, OmniPlan uses the best parts of the iPad user experience with some robust project management scheduling features to make setting and managing a project schedule easier than it would be in a desktop application.

You don't have to go through complex menus to start a project. Just tap the + symbol, and OmniPlan opens a blank project with a starter task (Figure A). Figure A

Getting started with an OmniPlan project.

Now that you have a project started, you have full access to the app features. Tap the project name, and then change the name to a more descriptive title for your project. Tap Task 1, then select all, and cut. Now you can type in a new name for the task. When you tap and hold on the status bar, you can adjust the start date and duration.

Assigning and managing resources is a challenge for some organizations, and the features are often forgotten or glossed over in desktop project management applications, regardless of their usability. OmniPlan also puts managing and assigning resources accessible within a few taps. You can even automatically level resource allocations (Figure B). But just like I would with automatic resource leveling in a desktop project management application, I recommend trying out automatic leveling of resources a couple of times before you go mobile with the app. It's been my experience that this feature can be a dose of reality about how occupied your project resources are between their various assignments. Figure B

Assign and manage resources in OmniPlan.
OmniPlan lets you view project schedules by Filters, including Resource, Status, Type, and Visible Date Range (Figure C). Adjustable views are important in desktop and tablet project management apps, and you don't have drill down deep into menus to change views over your project schedule in this app. Figure C

OmniPlan includes some nice viewing options.

Going to an iPad project management app allows you to collaborate on project management schedules. OmniPlan includes a Change Tracking feature that you can set if you have more than one user working on a project schedule. The feature lets you approve changes one change at a time, which is useful for those users not quite comfortable with GANTT charts and other project schedule formats.

OmniPlan also detects Violations in your project schedules. This is a useful feature for mobile project managers, because it detects schedule elements that are not correct, like tasks that start before the project begins and other scheduling mistakes and anomalies that can affect your overall project schedule. This is a feature I would expect in a desktop but not an iPad project management app.

Another powerful feature that I wasn't expecting to find is the smart scheduling feature that can help you factor in team member schedules, including vacations.

Synchronize OmniPlan schedules

Project managers using an iPad have to get their data off the device, and OmniPlan lets you use a WebDAV server or Omni Sync Server (a free service from Omni Group for their customers to synchronize data). While I've yet to encounter any issues with the Omni Sync Server during my personal use, I'm not sure if some security conscious customers are going to want their project schedules syncing through a free service, even if it is running smoothly.

Send OmniPlan schedules to other users

You can go to the Document view and tap a project schedule to select it. Next, tap the Action button, and you'll have the option to email the project schedule or send it to another app in a compatible format. I expected PDF, HTML, and OmniPlan as supported formats, but I would have liked to have seen GAN format for users who want to export their schedule to Microsoft Project or other desktop or cloud project management application.

Figure D

You can email OmniPlan schedules or send them to other apps.

Final thoughts

While OmniPlan for iPad still doesn't have Dropbox support or native support for Microsoft Project, it's a very solid and usable project management app. You can even use it as your sole project management app without missing any functionality.

What project management app do you use on your iPad or Android tablet? Share you experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applica...

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