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Microsoft updates Project 98

Project 98 is the latest version of a software package for project managers.

Microsoft (MSFT) has today released an upgrade for its project management software for the Windows operating system.

Microsoft Project 98 is the latest version of the computer software giant's package for project coordinators who delegate tasks, receive status updates on the Web from team members, and handle resource management.

The redesigned Project 98 includes improved scheduling, resource management, and costing features that give managers the ability to plan and track all the details of their projects. Some of the new features are "resource contouring," task splitting, cost rate tables, "effort-driven scheduling," and two new usage views, which allow users to view and edit period-by-period work and cost information.

"Project managers usually need a product like this when they have more information than they can deal with," said Microsoft Project group product manager Jennifer Cioffi.

Project 98's hardware requirements include a 486 processor, Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows NT version 3.51, 12MB of RAM on Windows 95 or 16MB on the Windows NT, 20-40MB of available hard disk space, and a high-resolution video adapter. A Windows-compatible network and MAPI-compliant mail system or leading Web server and browser are necessary for workgroup functionality.

The new release includes Web-based workgroup features for delegating project tasks and incorporating team-member status reports. Microsoft Web Server and Microsoft Internet Explorer are also shipped in the box. With the Web-based feature, users can save project information to HTML for reporting on the Web, and supporting documents and Web sites can be accessed from within the project file by clicking on hyperlinks which can be inserted into the project plan.

Traditionally, packages like Project 98 have been marketed toward large government agencies that worked under strict time restraints, said Cioffi. With this release, Microsoft is aiming to meet the needs of the larger customers as well as newer users.

John Roddy, a senior client server systems supervisor for Nordstrom and a beta user of Project 98, said he uses the package to track different tasks, who's working on them, and how much time they will take to complete. "It is really a great help," he said. "Before this I used one of the earlier versions of Project. I use to have big problems with those, so I was a little leery going over to this version. But there haven't been any problems. It really runs clean."

Roddy said he believes the Web-based features of Project 98, like the HTML reporting, will come in handy. "It will be great, because other people can look at my plans without using Project 98."

Project 98 is scheduled to be available in October for $499 for new users and $199 for users of previous versions.