activeCollab looks promising

I’ve never been very good with project management tools. Most I’ve used seem too complex for my taste and never that easy to understand and use.

Until now, my main experience has been with Microsoft Project. Yet my experience with that has been reflected by others with whom I’ve been using the tool: complex and not easy to use. So I tend to use tools like Excel and Access to keep track of things. Unquestionably the wrong types of tool but they’re relatively easy to use. Not very collaborative, though.

I’ve even tried using wikis. Not good for project management in my experience.

I’ve heard a lot about the Basecamp online project management service, although I’ve not tried it out. It’s a hosted service and you pay for it (the free option is too limited: only one project).

Then I heard about activeCollab a few weeks ago:

activeCollab is an easy to use, web based, open source collaboration and project management tool. Set up an environment where you, your team and your clients can collaborate on active projects using a set of simple, functional tools. 100% free!

This isn’t hosted – you install it on your own server. That appeals to me. Free? That appeals too, of course. Plus some good reviews about it so far. And a great screencast explaining what it is and how it works (and with an interesting account of how activeCollab came about).

Then I saw that Dreamhost, my hosting provider, is offering activeCollab as a 1-click install. That decided it. So I’ve installed activeCollab on my server. One click and it’s set up. (It requires PHP5 to run, so I also had to upgrade the PHP installation on my server from PHP4. That was almost a 1-click install as well, done in less than 5 minutes.)

I’ll be trying it out on a couple of projects. My 20-minute walk-around with it today shows me that this is a very promising collaboration tool.

Will it help me become more organized and efficient? Clients and other collaborators, too? Time will tell.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. neville

    Planning to mention it in today’s show, Marshall. Then more later if listeners’ contribute their own experiences and once I’ve had a chance to road test it a bit.

    It does look very good. One major thing I see missing is RSS feeds. But I bet that comes soon.

  2. Stephen

    Nice find, Neville. I’ve been thinking about signing up to Basecamp lately but now that I’ve seen this I may have changed my mind. It’s great that it’s open source (and free of course) and I hope we’ll see some useful plugins from talented developers similar to the open source WordPress movement.

  3. neville

    Worth a go, Stephen. I found the 1-click install by my host a dead easy way to install the application. Manual install looks relatively straightforward.

    Chris, thanks for the tip re JIRA. Not free, I noticed, unless you’re non-profit or a charity. Also seems to be geared to the tech community (specifically talks about its ability as a bug tracker). No issue with that but it may dissuade ‘normal’ people from looking to use it for collaborating on a very non-tech projecct like, say, setting up a conference or planning a PR strategy.

    But it does look good.

  4. Simon Wakeman

    Hi Neville,

    I downloaded Active Collab a couple of weeks ago, already having used Basecamp extensively for client projects for around three years.

    Active Collab seems to have most of the functionality that I used on Basecamp, except (as you noted) RSS feeds. I have had positive feedback from a couple of new clients who I’ve set it up for recently – one had used Basecamp with me on a previous project, and one hadn’t.

    At the moment the user interface lacks some of the design quality of Basecamp, but is very clear and easy to understand. Over time hopefully there will be more potential to customise the interface to include more personal branding.

    Look forward to hearing what you have to say about Active Collab in this evening’s FIR


  5. neville

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Simon. From what I’ve read nearly everywhere, activeCollab is being pitched/talked about as a sort of Basecamp clone.

    It looks like lots of improvements, fixes and additional features will be in the next version when that comes out, if the many discussions in the support forum are any indicator.

  6. Hans on Experience

    ActiveCollab op mijn Dreamhost server…

    One-click installationGisteren heb ik een one-click install gedaan op mijn Dreamhost server. Dus daar waar ook de blog op draait. Ik wilde eens naar een open source project managementtool kijken. En ActiveCollab is dat. De installatie was een fluitje v…

  7. Mark

    Neville, have you been using activecollab this year? Would be really interesting to hear your opinion.

    Recently I signed up for another project management tool. I think you might be interested in it, since it is a good web based alternative for MS project. Really collaborative. You can try Wrike if you have time, it has a free version.

Comments are closed.