Creating Gantt charts

I've had this issue before and it annoyed me. It's still annoying me now!
Gantt charts are one of the types of chart that I have come to accept as a part of life that's not going away, and actually they're not all that bad. They are however difficult to draw.

I (like plenty of other people I've seen) have tried kludging together a Gantt chart in an Excel spreadsheet and it always seems to come out looking pretty horrific. I've also seen them drawn freehand in paint or Powerpoint or similar. Obviously these aren't really a proper solution, so I had a look round to try to find something that would let me manage a simple Gantt chart to plan and track my PhD progress.

Two options looked promising:
Gnome Planner - part of the gnome desktop but also usable under Windows
GanttProject - another open source cross platform piece of software

I started out with the latter and then switched to the former, but to be honest I don't find either that useful. I think the primary issue is that I'm not looking for a tool to perform PERT or CPM or do resource levelling for me. All I want is something that will accept all of my task details in a well contained format and produce a vector graphic of the chart that I can include in a LaTeX document. It's this last part where both of these tools fall down.

The output of these tools is much more of a formal report than it is a nice image. They also seem to really struggle with the multi-year duration of my work. With planner I've had to resort to taking screenshots of the window and including those in reports!

There are packages for LaTeX that support drawing of Gantt charts, but they're a bit too fiddly for the kind of quick changes that I'd like to be able to make. As Planner saves in XML format there must be a method of auto-converting to the LaTeX code...

Any solutions or alternatives out there that I'm missing?

UPDATE: In the end I went with drawing it out using one of the Latex packages. This used all the same data that the planner XML file had in it but in a different format - I was sorely tempted to put together a script to do the conversion for me but in the end I couldn't justify the time required and did it manually. I also had to meddle around a bit to get the gantt to fit on an A4 page - in the end I made it landscape and adjusted the page margins. I think the output from Latex looked a lot more professional and it would be really useful to have a conversion tool. If there is any interest in how I put the latex code together then leave a comment and I'll write a bit more about it...


Using a remote Bibtex file

As mentioned previously:
  1. I am using version control software to backup my work
  2. I'm using LaTeX
  3. I don't like duplicating files around my system
  4. I'm working between both Windows and Linux
So I've found myself today writing an end of year report (housed within its own folder in my filesystem) and wanting to pull in some references from my bibtex file (housed within the literature review folder in my filesystem). I could use the copying hack that I previously devised for figures, but that wasn't very elegant.

There are plenty of questions about this out there in internetland, mostly with the following suggestions:
  • Move your bibtex file to within the tex installation root - I can't really do this because of 1. above.
  • Use symbolic links to the original in the local folder - I can't do this becuase of 4. (windows doesn't support them)
  • Give a relative filename reference e.g. '\bibiography{../literatureReview/references}'
  • Adding the location as an environment variable as described here.
Both of these later two methods seemed to work for me. I went with the relative referencing for portability between systems. Odd that such a straightforward solution works for references but not for figures!?