The primary purpose of project management tools is to help managers plan, execute and control all aspects of the project management process. Companies rely on key tools for managing a project to ensure that each task is completed on time and to balance staff workload for optimal time management. Because project management tools enhance resource efficiency and ensure project scope, such tools are especially important for project managers involved with large, complex projects.

Estimating, Planning and Tracking

Projecting management tools such as project plans, task assignments, project budgets and Gantt charts -- bar charts for planning and scheduling projects -- enable project managers to effectively estimate, plan and track projects. In fact, many view developing project plans as the most critical phase in the project management process. Project management tools allow managers to clearly define goals and objectives.

Assigning and Scheduling Resources

Project management tools are critical in the area of resources. Tools such as Gantt charts and resource time and expense reporting enable project managers to assign and schedule resources. These capabilities come in use in the areas of manufacturing and production in particular.

Types of Project Management Tools

Many early project management applications were general purpose tools not designed for a specific aspect of project management or for a particular industry. Now, software developers have created project management tools that target specific industries. And these project management tools come in different types: paper-based tools, such as templates, checklists and forms; automated tools, which could reside on local computers for primary users or reside on a network server for different users; and Web-based tools.

Free Software vs. Fee Software

Free project management software is available to project managers. Such software includes desktop applications and Web-based services. Although free, they could rival fee-based applications in terms of benefits and features. Nonetheless, free software may not have enough fundamental features for some project management professionals -- not enough scalability, limited interoperability, insufficient portability, inadequate rapid response time -- making fee-based applications preferable for their organizational needs.