Software review: RationalPlan [2011]

General Information
Name: RationalPlan
Vendor: Stand by Soft Ltd
Hosting options: Locally hosted. A free trial is available, but you will need an application.
Cost and plans: Only one project. This does not mean you can only have one project at a time; it means that you can have unrelated projects without dependencies. Multi-project to include interrelated projects. A program. Project Server allows you store all your company’s project data one place. It can be used with the Multiproject license.
Languages: English and Dutch
Currency: You can have any symbol of currency you like.
Building projects: Basic features
The icons and the menu bar look exactly like Windows products. Select the icon that indicates ‘new file’. To start a new project, click File/New. After you have filled out the basic information, click ‘go to next step’. This is how it works, basically guiding you through the creation of a new project.
There is plenty of space for you to record your project notes and assumptions. These screens can be skipped if you need.
It is easy to enter tasks. First, create a work breakdown structure. This structure is used to create a Gantt diagram for scheduling. This is the easiest way I’ve seen to create task lists. It also has the best Gantt charts that I’ve ever seen. RationalPlan’s strong Gantt- and WBS features make it a great choice.
RationalPlan’s Work Broken Down Structure allows you to store up to 10 baselines per project. Drag-and-drop allows you to add task dependencies. If a task is on the critical pathway, it will automatically colour it in red.
You can add details to the task completion screen. For example, percent complete. You cannot add time to the task beyond what you planned. If you find that a task takes longer than you expected, edit the original duration and note the extra hours. This can be tedious. I couldn’t find a way around it in my settings.
RationalPlan Gantt chartTime tracking, notifications
Apollo’s online project management software seems inclined to integrate time tracking, as I wrote in my Apollo review. RationalPlan does not have this. Timesheets are not possible, but you can track work done using task tracking.
RationalPlan integrates to your email server to send emails notifications when members are assigned work. It is possible to send emails to team members if tasks are delayed. However, this feature is common in web-based software.
Reporting features
Access to basic reports, such as a project schedule, critical tasks, or a status report, is also possible. You can also print a cost-per-task report. All reports can be downloaded as.pdf.
Status report in RationalPlanCollaborating with others
There are no special collaboration tools such as chat, commenting and sharing tasks or Twitter-like streams data. Because the product is not hosted online, there are no apps or access options available for smartphones.
It is easy to use for project team members but can feel old-fashioned. It can be confusing to read some of the English. For example, “Project Calendar” is the default calendar for activities in a project. However, it might not match the general calendar for resources. “The Active Window could be divided into two parts.”
It wouldn’t take much for all this to look better, but it doesn’t affect its functionality.
Let’s sum it all…
RationalPlan claims that it is an alternative to Microsoft Project. Its design and feel is very similar to Microsoft products. Many of its icons, features, and icons are similar enough to MS Project users to be able switch to this product.
However, it does have the look and feel.

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