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Microsoft Project Standard 2002 review:

Microsoft Project Standard 2002

  • 1
MSRP: $599.00
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The Good Easy setup; excellent tutorials and wizards; full integration with Microsoft Office XP.

The Bad Sticks you with unwanted components during installation; hogs memory and disk space.

The Bottom Line For managers who use already Microsoft Office XP, Project will do the trick. But this software is far too involved for consumers and those in small offices, who would fare better with a spreadsheet.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

Project management (PM) software doesn't make a project manager more effective--it just makes him or her more efficient. For that task, Microsoft Project 2002 is one of the best packages available. Because it fully integrates with Microsoft Office XP, it lets Office regulars get up and running with relative ease in an app that would otherwise require a steep learning curve. Managers who don't use Office may prefer a package specific to their businesses, such as construction, sales, or manufacturing. But for general use, you can't go wrong with Project. Project management (PM) software doesn't make a project manager more effective--it just makes him or her more efficient. For that task, Microsoft Project 2002 is one of the best packages available. Because it fully integrates with Microsoft Office XP, it lets Office regulars get up and running with relative ease in an app that would otherwise require a steep learning curve. Managers who don't use Office may prefer a package specific to their businesses, such as construction, sales, or manufacturing. But for general use, you can't go wrong with Project.

Beware the nifties
As with all Microsoft products, the Project's installation is a breezy, albeit lengthy, process. We recommend using the Custom install option, in order to specify which components you want. Bear in mind that Project will become an integrated part of Office and that your decisions here will affect Word, Excel, Outlook, and the other programs contained in the suite. Also, be aware that Microsoft Project installs utilities on your system that pop up randomly and can drain your system's performance. For example, MOSearch, a search tool that runs in the background, noticeably slowed our test system.

Projecting forward
Once you're up and running, it's time to look through the tutorials and wizards that swiftly guide newbies in organizing tasks and resources. PM professionals new to Project Standard and Office will need to familiarize themselves with its interface. Office habitués will find Project's interface familiar. Furthermore, Project integrates seamlessly with Office, Visio, and Windows. This means you can import preexisting tasks, spreadsheets, and contacts from other Office XP programs, including Outlook and Excel. Outlook's integration also allows you to export milestones, deadlines, and tasks to your PDA, should you be so inclined. For no-holds-barred, intricate, highly collaborative project management, savvy managers should consider paying the extra $400 to $500 for Microsoft Project Professional.

To begin creating a project, you first list all the tasks needed for the job (for example, a manufacturer may list product conception, meetings with principals, obtaining the budget, and hiring the workers) in a spreadsheetlike grid. After the list is complete, you build your team and assign tasks via the Next Steps and Related Activities tabs.

If you need guidance, Project uses Microsoft's own Task Pane, which is now available on most Office products, very effectively. The Task Pane either floats as a separate window or sits to one side and helps you with various aspects of your project, such as estimating the duration of a task, combining tasks into phases, establishing milestones (key events), adding documents to the project, and sharing the project with others on your network or the Web.

Plays nice with Office
Once your project is underway (virtually, at least), you'll begin to reap the benefits of using the software. You and your coworkers can easily track the project's progress over time using standard Gantt charts, which present a project as a diagram consisting of circles or rectangles representing events or milestones. Project's network diagrams--such as those you might create in Visio--and copious reports also come in handy.

Limited free support
As with all Microsoft products, tech-support options let you search (and search and search) the overwhelmingly extensive ;kbhowto} LINKTEXT {Knowledge Base} LAYPOS {txt} SUFFIX {.ex_knowledge}], correspond with tech reps via e-mail, or place a toll call to support staff (weekdays from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT). Calls about installation support and two "personal support incidents" are free; for more extensive coverage, you must opt for one of Microsoft's support plans. We found the people who answered our call to be prompt, knowledgeable, and courteous.

The Zen of PM
Even if you're not familiar with the esoterica of project management, Microsoft Project Standard 2002 offers such a useful series of tutorials, wizards, and online support that any manager can master this craft. People with industry-specific project needs should check out other PM packages (such as SureTrak Project Manager 3.0 for construction) to see if they already offer customized templates. But if you're looking for a general package and already use the Office suite, Microsoft Project 2002 is a perfect choice.

Wizards, online help, and drop-down boxes guide you through all the possibilities you need to consider while creating a project.

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