While some productivity and project management mavens may decry using Microsoft Outlook (s msft) for managing projects, it’s often the one application that people keep open at all times on their Windows desktops. MissingLink Project Center from Moore Software Solutions is a lightweight add-in that makes project management features available in Outlook. You can purchase it for $49, with a 30-day free trial available. Can it help you to manage projects without having to add a separate app into your toolbox?
Inside MissingLink Project Center
After installing MissingLink Project Center, it appears as a toolbar and menu in Outlook. It includes the following:
- MissingLink Dashboard: This is the central control panel for setting up new projects.
- Add to MissingLink: This enables you to add items to an existing project and opens the Select Project dialog box.
- Find in MissingLink: This button seems to be for a search mechanism, but in Outlook 2007 I was only greeted with an error message.
- Help for MissingLink: This tool could definitely benefit from a simple quick start guide to get users acclimated to it. There is online help, but it lacks task orientation and spends more time going over the user interface, rather than telling users how to use the add-in to manage projects.
The greatest gaffe with MissingLink Project Center is that it doesn’t take a process-oriented approach. While I am conversant with a number of project management tools, and am a longtime Outlook user, I didn’t find MissingLink Project Center very intuitive. My expectation was that it would offer more wizards and give me a more fluid system for managing projects. Post-install, much to my disappointment, I was only left with an extra toolbar.
I ran MissingLink Project Center on a Windows XP machine with Outlook 2007 and noticed in some places that the add-in breaks from Office 2007 interface standards, because it isn’t accessible from the Add-Ins ribbon, which is irritating.
MissingLink Project Center could be useful for the many non-PMs out there seeking tools to improve their project management, such as freelance workers who want to get better organized with their client work. However, to capitalize on this audience, usability is key and this add-in is just not good enough.
In the end, my hope is that future versions of the Missing Link Project Center clean up some of the add-in’s rough edges, especially its usability, and make sure that it keeps up with the interface changes present in Office 2007 and the forthcoming Office 2010. This add-in has a lot of potential, but needs to mature further. I look forward to revisiting MissingLink Project Center because it is a good idea suffering from poor execution.
Have you tried MissingLink Project Center? What did you think of its usability?