FastTrack Schedule 9.1

FastTrack Schedule 9.1

These aren't your ordinary Gantt charts, no siree.

 

FastTrack Schedule is a full-featured cross-platform project management and scheduling application - no other project management product we know of approaches its feature set. Its primary rival is PC-only Microsoft Project.

 

Fundamentally, FastTrack is about creating Gantt charts that depict the duration of tasks as bars on a grid. However, it takes your Gantt charts to the next level, making the charts useful productivity tools rather than just simple bars. You can drop milestones on the time scale to represent point-in-time events. You can add calendar views that can isolate team members’ tasks. There’s also a resource view that indicates the demands on a given person or piece of equipment - an easy way to avoid double-booking hardware or assigning someone 34 hours of work in one day.

 

Just about everything in FastTrack can be modified in fine detail. For example, each bar can display subbars for scheduled, revised, and actual time. Each subbar can have its own color fill, pattern, border, and start and end points. You can customize each of the views to suit your needs and then save the layout to reuse with other documents. Tasks can be grouped and subgrouped several levels deep, then collapsed and expanded as necessary.

 

Then there are the toolbars. People seem to love them or hate them, with few occupying the middle ground. FastTrack has lots and lots of 'em, and while we're not particularly fond of toolbars, we were happy to discover that they can be undocked into floating palettes. They can even be grouped together into custom tabbed palettes. Now we’re talking.

 

FastTrack's customizability rounds out with sorting and a simple object-based scripting feature called FastSteps. Click an action, set the options, click the next action, and so on - you’ve got your script.

 

We were impressed with AEC's attention to Mac technology, because cross-platform software often wimps out on the Mac side. Not FastTrack, which boasts support for Spotlight content searches, direct export to iCal, calendar publishing to .Mac accounts, and AppleScript. (We're hoping some Automator actions can be added to the next revision.)

 

New to this version are features that will come in handy for some users. Multiple project files can now be consolidated into a master schedule, allowing very complex projects to be carved up into smaller documents but periodically brought together for a big-picture view. FastTrack also sports automatic archiving, which saves an archive copy of your project file at user-selected intervals. Distinct from a backup, archive copies accumulate instead of overwriting previous versions. FastTrack now reads and writes Microsoft Project files, giving Mac users a way to share Project documents without resorting to Windows. FastTrack also imports Mindjet MindManager documents, grouping parent and child branches into task groups just as we expected. Schedules may also be exported to MindManager XML, resulting in a basic mind map.

 

A few things temper our enthusiasm for FastTrack. The interface has little quirks that flustered an otherwise enjoyable experience. The dialog for formatting bar styles, for example, uses a combination of tabs and pop-up menus that made us feel a bit disoriented. Grouping tasks was another head-scratcher; we expected a way to designate the parent task or drag subtasks into other tasks, when in fact tasks are subordinated by placing the cursor at the beginning of the task name and pressing Tab.

 

The bottom line. FastTrack Schedule 9.1 is a robust project-management application with a deep feature set. If you can live with a few quirks and the price tag, it's the best in its class.

 

COMPANY: AEC Software
CONTACT: www.aecsoftware.com
PRICE: $349
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, 60MB disk space
Full-featured project management tool. Excellent Mac integration.

Pricey. A few interface quirks.

 

 

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