Microsoft is sprucing up its software for planning and managing projects.
The Redmond, Wash.-based company on Tuesday released a public test version of Microsoft Project 2002, software that allows businesses to plan and administer projects. It lets workers build schedules, set deadlines, and track the progress of product launches, construction projects and other tasks.
The Project 2002 software is part of Microsoft's Office family of products and competes against several software makers that build project management software, including Artemis International Solutions and Primavera.
The previous version of Microsoft Project, released two years ago, ran only on individual desktop PCs. The new version will also be able to run on servers, allowing workers to better communicate on their projects through a local area network or over the Internet, said Ken Lampinen, product manager for Microsoft Project.
When the final version of Project 2002 ships during the first half of next year, the product will be grouped into Microsoft's server software products, which include the SQL Server database, software that stores information, and the Exchange Server e-mail software.
Lampinen said the new server edition of the software will allow for better employee collaboration and allow businesses one central place to manage projects and access information.
The new version offers communication features, including the ability to automatically send e-mail notifications to co-workers to note impending deadlines or project delays, Lampinen said.
The new version of the software can account for changes in the project and automatically update everyone's schedules. For example, if a piece of machinery is out of stock and prevents the company from building products for two weeks, project deadlines can be automatically pushed back. Workers will be immediately notified via e-mail of the delay, but Project 2002 will also automatically update each individual's schedule, so the project manager will not have to type in the changes, he said.
The new version of Project will come in three versions: a standard edition that serves as an upgrade to the previous desktop version; and professional desktop and server editions that allow employees to connect and collaborate on projects. Microsoft executives said the company has also improved the Web interface for people who want to access Project information over the Internet.
Microsoft plans to charge $599 for the standard edition, $999 for the professional edition and $799 for the server version.