Over a year ago I wrote an article about free Microsoft Project files browser / reader. I described the application called Live Project made by Kadonk. Live Project has proved to be a great viewer of mpp files, dealing both with older versions of files such as MS Project and MS Project 2007 files. He had, however, one serious disadvantage, a free license prevented the use of this application in the commercial environment. Not so long ago on the blog-mobile team.pl I found an entry on free browsers of mpp files that can be used for commercial purposes and do not require to pay a single cent for them. I decided to look at them a little closer.
These are the programs:
I conducted several tests, which aim was to check the basic functionality of these software, which is opening and presentation MS Project files. To conduct tests I used several files that I use in the course of my daily work, they differ in size, complexity of scheduling, the number of fields used, version of MS Project, in which they were created. Some of these were preliminary schedules, and some contain additional information regarding the progress of work in projects.
As the only one of the tested applications it allowed to load several MS Project files at the same time. I was testing the version 3.15.1 of the program and I have to admit that it was fairly stable. A nice surprise was the very rapid opening of mpp files. The program is able to conduct simple analysis of resources, cost and schedule (in the tabular form), also reads smoothly MS Project 2007 files.
As none of these tested applications It was also not able to show the formatting of text, and the application has a limited functionality to display additional fields. If the MS Project file stores the information in Text1, Text2, … fields, you can forget about seeing those information.
Project Planner Reader
As the only one of the tested programs It do not support files saved in MS Project 2007 format, also displays national characters in the wrong way (for example, instead of letters specific to the Polish alphabet it displayed only one big mess). The program does not belong to the fastest in terms of the opening files. But the distinguishing feature of this application was quite clear graphical interface (though it is not possible to simultaneously display a Gantt chart and a list of project tasks). There are interesting analysis presented in the clear and graphical way (load resources, earned value, PERT, etc.). Rational Plan can show also only a limited number of fields (Text fields issue).
Afinion Project Viewer
Tested in version 5.1. The program had problems with stability (it crashed frequently). The time of opening the file also not belonged to the shortest. Very poor set of functionalities, the program will not allow to conduct fundamental analysis (such as competition). However, there was no indication of any problems with opening files MS Project 2007.
The application looked quite nice but it had problems with openning ms project 2007 files and more complicated files from older version of ms project. The work with bigger ms project files was also very problematic and slow. The application can present only the basic set of task properties. In my oponion it can’t be used as serious ms project viewer alternative in business enevironment.
Perhaps the most mature of the tested apps. Smoothly opens files from the 2007 version of MS project. Application is very stable, it reads files very fast, also has an option to have the basic analysis of ms project schedules, and it can save the changes in files, actually. Open Project is about more than just the equivalent of MS project viewer. Open project aspires to be an alternative to MS Project desktop version (the standard version of Microsoft project). As the only one from the set it allowed to read the information in the Text fields (however the changed column names were not displayed).
Time to sum up.
To view Microsoft project files for free for commercial purposes (XP, 2003 and 2007) I recommend the Open Project application, you may also pay attention to the Rational plan (especially because it is an application written in Java and can work on nearly any platform), which is as fast, if not faster than Open Project. However, if you use the more complex Microsoft Project files (with the information contained in the additional fields) the only one choice is: Open Project.
Project Planner Reader attraction is rather nice (nice charts), but does not support files with MS project 2007 file format. It can be considered if, we won’t work with the latest version of Microsoft Project.
GanttProject had trouble with more complicated files, and I was not able to open most of the files I’m using in my everyday work.
And last – Afinion Project Viewer, which because of the strange behavior (especially for larger files) and strongly limited functionality (virtually only displaying Gantt chart) are unlikely to be fit for work in the business environment.