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ActiveCollab 0.7 – greater project control for free

By   |  October 19, 2006

When Serbian student Ilija Studen wanted the functionality of a popular (closed source) project manager but didn’t want to be held to a monthly fee, or to hand his data over to a third party, he decided to build his own.

Eighteen months down the line activeCollab is nearing its first stable release, and has impressed many with its feature-set and ease of use.

ActiveCollab is a web-based collaboration and project management tool. Because it’s open source, you can host the application on your own domain on your own servers. You can also customise the look of the application to integrate it into your existing website.

Getting started
Requirements for installation are PHP 5 and MySQL 4.1 with InnoDB support. Once you’ve uploaded the files and chmoded some directories, a five step script-based installer does the rest of the work for you. As long as you know your database location, username and password, you won’t have any problems.

Once the script is installed you will need to set up users and projects. The users you set up can be either company users or clients, with a different level of permissions for each. Certain features are not accessible to users from client companies.

Each project contains tasks and milestones, each of which can be assigned to a user or set of users. Comments, tags and files can be attached to any “project object”. Additionally search and messaging features will help you to find your way around, and make sense of your projects and their deadlines.

Sounds complicated? Somehow activeCollab manages to provide a wealth of functionality in a clean and simple interface. The tabbed interface provides you with a number of ways to interact with your deadlines and tasks.

Unlike some of the alternatives, activeCollab sets no limits on the number of users or projects, your only limit will be the space on your server.

Full document versioning is supported and searches can be performed across all project objects, text-based documents, and tags. iCal export for milestones, and RSS export of changes are also supported.

Milestone: 1.0
Improvements planned for the 1.0 release sometime next year include plug-in support and an API, time tracking and a richer JS user interface. Studen is also extracting the framework upon which he has built the application, Angie, and plans to release it separately.

Studen chose to license the application under the Honest Public License, a variation of the GPL 2. While it does nothing for the proliferation of licensing options, the HPL is designed for web applications, and for software as a service.

The HPL plugs what has been called the “ASP loophole”, where open source software is used to offer a paid-for service, without returning anything to the community. This will be addressed in the GPL v.3, but until then the HPL seems a reasonable cover for web developers. As Studen says if you’re used to the GPL then, “nothing has changed except that if you provide a web service to the public based on activeCollab you need to provide the full source and changes.”

ActiveCollab is an attractive, open-source project manager where you retain control of your data. If you’re looking at project management tools, this is one easy-to-manage alternative.

Update: Ilija Studen, the creator of activeCollab, contacted Tectonic to point out a couple of errors which have been corrected in the story above. Studen pointed out that the name of the application is activeCollab and not activCollab as we incorrectly named it. He also pointed out that we said he was Croatian. He is in fact from Serbia.


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