An Open-Source Alternative to Microsoft Project

SourceForge’s March “Staff Pick” Project of the Month is ProjectLibre, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Project. The ProjectLibre team sat down with SourceForge to talk about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

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Tell me about the ProjectLibre project, please.

ProjectLibre is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Project. Our functionality mirrors Microsoft in a way since you can simply open existing MS Project files in ProjectLibre. It is available on Linux, Mac, or Windows. ProjectLibre is the culmination of long careers in the project management software industry. The two founders are Marc O’Brien and Laurent Chretienneau. We have been innovating in the project management software industry since the Mainframe and DOS software era. Our mission is to provide an open source alternative to Microsoft Project. There are many ‘lite’ project management solutions but ProjectLibre is the only solution that has the full feature set to replicate Microsoft Project’s functionality.

What made you start this?

We have a passion for the project management marketplace. We are also the founders of WebProject and Projity, which were both acquired by large organizations, but the vision of making a global impact with an open source replacement of Microsoft Project was impacted with each acquisition. We are in this for the long term and are effectively making a difference.

Has the original vision been achieved?

Yes, that is a good question and we are thankful the vision is being achieved and exceeded. ProjectLibre has over 1,400,000 downloads in over 200 countries. We are continuing to make improvements and will be release a complimentary cloud solution this year.

Who can benefit the most from your project?

The project management world is being held captive by a Windows-only solution from Microsoft that costs over $1,300 per desktop copy, which does not cover the entire requirement stack such as the Project Server and many other components. This is very expensive! ProjectLibre still has roadmap features to complete but for no charge effectively project managers around the world can manage their projects without going broke. They can funnel their cash resources into their core business and not management software.

What is the need for this project management software?

There are over 60,000 people each month downloading in over 200 countries to manage their projects. They can manage schedules, resources, and costs at a very high level. There are pharmaceutical, construction, environmental, government, and other industries. The government of Laos is using ProjectLibre to manage the building of schools. The Clinton Foundation and other non-profits are using ProjectLibre in Africa for NGO programs in agriculture and other areas. We are making a major impact! Our website includes an impressive list of Fortune 500 companies that use ProjectLibre every day.

What’s the best way to get the most out of using ProjectLibre?

Our users vary from small projects to major initiatives. We encourage users to become community members. There are great discussion forums where community members answer questions and post questions. We also have documentation and videos available at the community site to help you get started and get the most out of ProjectLibre.

What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?

This is very important for open-source initiatives. We have a community site with over 60,000 community members who contribute. One of our goals for this year is to engage further with the community. We recently launched an improved website and want to continue this work to engage further with ProjectLibre’s amazing global community.

Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?

We do not have frequent releases. ProjectLibre is undergoing a complete rewrite to make it modular. This will have long-term benefits for the community and allow for extensions/integrations to be contributed. This process has impacted our ability to have frequent releases of the current project but in the future we certainly will!

What was the first big thing that happened for your project?

The initial release was such a monumental effort from the team. It was recognized by SourceForge, which greatly helped bring wanted attention to our solution. InfoWorld subsequently gave us a “Best of Open Source” award and that also helped. SourceForge’s support is truly appreciated and has been an important part of our success.

What helped make that happen?

The ProjectLibre team is truly unique. Our domain expertise is unparalleled for having innovated for decades in the project management marketplace. We have taken that domain expertise and have devoted ourselves to offering the global community a FOSS solution.

What is the next big thing for ProjectLibre?

ProjectLibre is breaking the news here. We will be releasing the modular rewrite of ProjectLibre on the desktop. We will also be releasing a cloud version and are working on hosting options. There will be a companion cloud solution called PPMLibre, which will allow enterprises to manage their entire portfolio of projects. We are well into both initiatives but have not announced a release date.

How long do you think that will take?

Great question but we are not in a position to announce the release date yet. We are using it internally and demos are impressive but I get in trouble every time I preview it because it looks good already. That’s why the team has asked me stop previewing it until we have an official release date.

Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?

ProjectLibre is very complex software. The code is complicated and the domain expertise adds to the complexity. We are hoping the modular rewrite will allow for more community contributions but at this point it is limited. It has been a struggle, as we do not have corporate sponsorship or revenue. We will make it happen but it has been difficult. This is a testament to the team’s commitment to ProjectLibre!

If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for ProjectLibre?

One thing I would never do is to choose a different co-founder. I do all the public-facing work for ProjectLibre but Laurent, who leads the development efforts, is truly irreplaceable. We have worked together for many years. Our community is and I am so fortunate that Laurent is passionate about ProjectLibre!

Is there anything else we should know?

ProjectLibre has made a difference globally with downloads in every corner of the globe. Our user stories inspire us and we are dedicated to ProjectLibre for the long haul. We hope the cloud version of both ProjectLibre and PPMLibre will allow us to accelerate our core mission.

If you have a user story to share, please send it to info@projectlibre.org. We’d love to hear from you!

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Image: ProjectLibre

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