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Twiddlebit Plan: A UIQ Update Print E-mail
Written by Richard Bloor   
Sunday, 12 June 2005
We first looked at Twiddlebit Plan back in 2004. Twiddlebit have now released a version for UIQ. We ask how well Plan works on a portrait screen and look at Microsoft Project interaction.

Project scheduling software almost universally presents schedules as a task list with an accompanying Gantt. This familiar layout works well on a landscape screen. Many of the most popular smartphones challenge this familiar layout. Plan has however taken up the challenge and implemented a portrait version in Plan for UIQ (although they have had time to refine the presentation as Plan has been available for other PDA devices for some time).

On opening Plan provides a list of the Plan files available on the device, in this review a Sony Ericsson P910i. Plan files are stored in the Document folder on either the device memory or Memory Stick, in "unfiled" or a selected subfolders. From the file list screen a file can be opened or created, from a "new" button provided at the bottom of the screen or by using the menu. The only other function on this screen is Preferences, under the Edit menu, where basic display options can be set. This option can also be accessed once a plan has been opened.

Opening a file displays the Gantt chart by default. There is no task list displayed, without which the Gantt would be pretty meaningless. This is overcome with the default settings displaying the task description to the right of each task bar, and resource details to the left. The ability to define text in the Gantt is a Plan option available on its other versions, which comes into its own on a portrait QVGA screen.

On the Gantt view, and every other Plan view, there are four shortcut buttons on the bottom left of the display. These provide access to, from left to right, the task list, Gantt, resource and calendar views. To the right are view specific shortcuts. The Gantt's shortcuts provide options to center the plan, zoom the display to a specific task (as shown below) and zoom the timescales.

The task list screen shows the task details held in plan. Unlike the Series 80 version control is provided over the column widths, with a simple drag option. The view can be zoomed through three font sizes, with the zoom level chosen also applying to the Gantt and Resource views. The screen also provides shortcut keys to indent and un-indent tasks in the task hierarchy.

New tasks can be added while in either the Gantt or task list views. Data is entered using a simple tabbed dialog.

The resource list is simply that. Again control over the column widths is provided. There are no screen specific shortcuts. Resources are created or edited in a tabbed dialog similar to that used for tasks.

The final view is the calendar. Here the holidays or other non-standard working time for resources can be entered. The detailed editing of a day's time (a day can be switched between working and non-working by simply tapping it) is done from the "Edit hours…" option under the Resources menu. The calendar view offers shortcut keys to move between resources (which can also be done using the jog dial) and jump to the next or previous half year block. The current day is circled, holidays and days with edited work hours are also highlighted with the color set in the preferences option.

The underlying functionality of Plan for UIQ is the same as Plan's other versions. There are the usual capabilities to assign resources to tasks, record expected and actual effort and create a baseline. For a more detailed discussion of these features see the earlier review of Plan for Communicator.

One very useful feature of Plan is its ability to display Microsoft Project files, after they have been converted to Plan format. Conversion is done on a PC and is a simple matter of selecting the Microsoft Project file in the Plan File Converter and converting it. Once converted the Plan file can be transferred to a smartphone for viewing and update.

Using a plan sourced from Microsoft Project requires some care. Plan does not store the same details as Microsoft Project. The fact that a 2Mb Microsoft Project file takes up less than 400Kb in Plan format is an indication of this. The most significant difference however is in the scheduling capabilities. Microsoft Project can level resource allocations while Plan can not. To illustrate take this simple Microsoft Project example:

Here resource leveling has been used to ensure Fred's tasks run consecutively. Converting this schedule to Plan format loses this leveling information and results in the following schedule:

Here Fred's tasks run concurrently and Fred is overloaded.

Practically this means that a schedule that is to be used in Plan needs to define dependency links between all tasks to create a schedule structure that is retained on conversion. So making Task 2 dependant on the completion of Task 1 means the same schedule is seen in Microsoft Project and Plan.

A Plan file can be returned to Microsoft Project by simply using the Plan File Converter again but selecting a Plan file as the source.

Plan does not take full advantage of some Sony Ericsson P910i's features. The most notable of these is the absence of a scroll and select capability from the jogdial (with the exception of the resource switching in the calendar view). As a result it is not possible to scroll through and select tasks or resources with the jogdial, it can only be done with the stylus. Similarly there is no way to switch views with the jogdial, as there is no view switch option on the menus, only the screen shortcut buttons. The addition of these features would make viewing a plan with one hand possible.

Overall Plan the UIQ version works well. Plans can be easily navigated and display well on the screen of a Sony Ericsson P910i. It copes well with large projects, although recalculation can be slow and is best done manually. Ultimately Plan works best as a companion to a desktop scheduler, which could easily be Plan's PC implementation. This is mainly because Plan for UIQ has no printing or other features for sharing the plan with those who do not have access to the software. But as a companion application it is indispensable for anyone who deals with project scheduling or management. Another excellent Twiddlebit implementation.

Plan for UIQ can be evaluated for 30 days. Registration is achieved through Regsoft for US $29.95 or UK 17.45, or from Handango.


More information on Plan can be found on Twiddlebit's web site: www.twiddlebit.com. Plan for UIQ can be found here in the SymbianOne shop, while the versions for the Nokia 92xx is here and for the Nokia 9500 here.

SymbianOne's review of Plan for the Nokia 9500 is here.

Last Updated ( Monday, 19 December 2005 )
 


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