Fuzzy scheduling tool Liquid Planner is expanding its reach into the collaborative task management market with a neat new feature called project portals. These are group pages that offer some of the same basic collaboration features you get with the core product, however they can be branded and shared with anyone else who is not a paying Liquid Planner customer.
Any project you're working on in Liquid Planner can now become "portalized." These pages serve as a central place to access shared files and lets outside users keep track on a project's status and ongoing tasks without the coordinator having to go out of their way to keep the other parties updated.
Every portal page includes a built in group microblog, that like Yammer, is a place for team members to provide small status updates on what they're working on. All the other users within that group can then track and respond to those updates, replacing big group e-mails and putting things like edit requests and approvals in the project's workspace.
Most importantly, portals have been designed to serve as a simplified heads-up display. For someone who hasn't used the product before, this makes it far more approachable. There are quite a few knobs and buttons, which give the service an incredible amount of power, but can be overwhelming to someone who isn't familiar with the product. This simply focuses on the basics of progress, tasks, files, and communication.
Liquid Planner is letting its users create as many project portals as they want, but unpaid users who have been invited don't get access to all of the service's planning and tracking features. For instance, these users cannot track time, or see the full detail and structure of a project the same way they could if they were a subscriber.
Next up for Liquid Planner is a mobile client. In a phone interview last week, CEO and co-founder Charles Seybold told me the first device to get a native Liquid Planner app will be Apple's iPhone. It's the platform that's most requested by the service's users--the majority of which are in IT. Seybold says the mobile client will bring live notifications, let project members edit task lists, and track project activity. The iPhone version of Liquid Planner won't be here until later this year though. After that, Seybold says other platforms should follow.