/ / Software review: Apollo [2011]

Software review: Apollo [2011]

General information

Name: Apollo

Vendor: Applicom

Hosting options: Web hosted version only

Cost and plans: Free.  The company will add plans in the future but hasn’t got round to it yet.

Languages: English only.  German, Spanish, French and Italian are in the pipeline.

Currency: Can’t find any options for financial information at all.

Basic features: building projects

From the beginning, I was very impressed with Apollo.  It’s easy to create a new project.  From the Projects Dashboard, click ‘Add Project’, and then enter the project’s name.  You can group projects by category, which could be useful if you needed to separate projects by client, for example.

ApolloHQ Projects Dashboard
ApolloHQ Projects Dashboard

Within a project you can create a task list, then add tasks to it.  Tasks in a list can be re-ordered at will, which is excellent.  Milestones are created separately, and I couldn’t see how to link them to a task list.  This is where Apollo falls down: it is clear that it is not a full-featured project management tool as it doesn’t follow the ‘normal’ conventions of groups of tasks linked to milestones, or the use of dependencies between tasks.  There is also no Ganttchart view.

It is easy to add people to tasks.  However, I think Apollo would be confusing if you had dozens and dozens of people using it.  For a small team, working on small projects, it is good.

I am particularly impressed by the good Calendar view.  The only extra feature I would like to have is the option to colour-code tasks and milestones as they appear on the Calendar, so as to make a graphical distinction between the projects.

Calendar View
Calendar View

One downside is that the software is still in development.  There are many features that are “coming soon” and I do receive more error messages than I would like to when using it.

Time-tracking and notifications

Project management software seems to be moving towards integrated time tracking, and Apollo is no exception.  It has the feature to create a timer, enabling you to ‘clock in’: start the clock when you begin working on a task and clock off when you are finished.  This is really handy, and is a good alternative to traditional timesheets – I can see this working well for team members with flexible working arrangements.

Apollo will also send out email reminders to team members, but only when tasks are upcoming or overdue.  The Settings section implies that more notification options are in development and this is something I would welcome.  While it would be great to think that project team members will have their Apollo dashboards open all day, every day, in reality that is unrealistic.  Email reminders will help everyone keep on top of what needs to be done.  And of course you can switch them off if you start to suffer from information overload.

Reporting features

There are no standard reports.  There are no options to customise reports.  In fact, the Overview page and the Activity page are all you get as far as reports go.  You cannot export data yet either.

The inability to view or export time spent on tasks or projects is a massive disadvantage.  As I’ve said, Apollo would be great for small teams and small projects.  But even sole traders need to know how much time they have spent on a particular activity, for the purposes of billing clients.

Collaborating with others

You can add external users to your Apollo workspace, and limit what they can see.  This is useful, especially if you are working with a number of suppliers.

There is the option to add comments to tasks, so you could comment on a task that someone else is working on.  You can also upload your photo so team members can see what you look like.  You can change your status as well, so if others are using the workspace they can see if you are available or on leave or whatever.  However, generally collaboration options with this tool are limited, and there is currently no support for smartphone apps.

In summary…

Overall, the interface is well designed and very straightforward.  I’ve focused quite heavily above on the things that Apollo doesn’t do well.  However, the proof is in the using.  And I’m using it.  I have written dozens of project management software reviews over the last 5 years and I haven’t adopted any of them for my personal use.  I honestly never thought I would find a product that I would actually use.  It’s only been a month, but I liked Apollo from the first time I opened it and I’m hopeful that I will stick with it.

It isn’t full of features.  It doesn’t have a good suite of reports.  But it is easy to use, nicely put together and with the promise of more to come.  For managing my projects, it works.  I can organise tasks and projects, and work from a calendar of upcoming deadlines.  I can schedule meetings, and set up reminders.  All it needs is the email notification options to be a bit more developed, and for the option to colour-code my projects, and I’ll be very, very happy with it.  I can, however, live without those extras.  Because finally, I have found a project management software tool that I will actually use for my business.

Right to reply

I shared my review with the team at Apollo and this is what they said:

If you click on “Edit list” in the “Tasks” tab, you will see that it’s possible to connect a task list to a milestone!  We obviously need to make the interface clearer here…  The review is well put together, I am very glad you found the time to write it and liked our product!

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