Project Management Tools: The Comprehensive Guide

There are thousands of project management tools available, and finding the right project management software can be a daunting task! Which particular option is the right one for you depends on what your particular needs are.

If you’re new to project management tools, read on!

If you’re looking for details about different project management tools, click here to jump down to the list.

Projects are different than tasks, and project management software is different than task management software. Task management is basically an ongoing to-do list. Project management is for endeavors with multiple variables, and a defined successful endpoint. Projects have a goal, whereas tasks are recurring in nature.

What Are Project Manager Tools?

The key to project management is getting to delivery. Project management software gives a project manager the tools needed to manage a team working towards a goal. Some of those tools include

  • a timeline, for project planning. A popular example of this is a Gantt chart
  • task management tools, such as a kanban board
  • file sharing
  • resource allocation
  • workload balancing
  • data export
  • forecasting
  • budget tracking
  • expense tracking
  • employee time tracking
  • scheduling
  • software integrations
  • calendar sharing

What Does Project Management Software Do?

Project management software helps project managers get to delivery, efficiently and successfully.

airline route map

When you are managing a project, you need to coordinate the efforts of a team towards a goal. Think of an airline route map. The “hub” for the project is the project manager. Keeping track where every plane in the sky is at any given point is a daunting task!

Having a suite of tools that streamlines planning and operation of a project gives a project a much better chance of succeeding.

How Does Project Management Software Help Me?

Let’s say the project you are managing is an event. There are marketing materials to be made, ads to be purchased, an event schedule to be planned. What food will be served? Speakers need to be booked, breakout sessions prepared, hotel rooms arranged. Transportation options for attendees need to be tended to. And in the middle of all this, with all the people working on all those different aspects of the event, there’s a project manager who is supposed to coordinate it all. The project manager is the “Charlotte” illustrated in the map above. It doesn’t take a lot to realize that Charlotte needs the proper suite of tools to make sure everything is working properly and everyone arrives at their proper destination!

airport glitch comic

Staying with the example of the airline route map, imagine coordinating all of that in a world with no internet or telephones. It would be very difficult indeed! Project management tools are the telephone or internet in this example – it keeps everyone in contact, working together. You can now know about a plane being delayed in real time, instead of discovering it the hard way when it doesn’t arrive when expected. Charlotte can even give instructions about which peanuts to buy for the in-flight snacks, if it needs to. When you have people in different places working together, it’s vital that the team is kept on the same page. That is where project management tools come into the picture.

Choosing Project Management Tools

Different project management software solutions offer different suites of tools. Choosing which project management tool is right for you is an important step! Investing money and time into a platform that doesn’t help you is a drain on resources, and doesn’t improve your project’s chances of succeeding.

Reliability is important. Remember all those #slackdown days, when Slack crashed? If you can’t rely on your solution to be available when you need it, it isn’t going to help. (Slack actually has a website for telling users if Slack is working or not – which isn’t the best sign of reliability…) It isn’t only about the platform crashing – reliability includes functions and features working consistently, and as promised.

Ease of use is crucial. The platform your team is using is the central interface for the project. If it isn’t easy to use, the team will be annoyed, your project will get derailed and delayed, and the tool that is supposed to be helping you get to delivery successfully is instead an obstacle to getting there. A good project management tool is simple, easy to use, and intuitive.

confused at the computer
You don’t want to feel like this when using project management software

Ease of integration refers to outside tools you’ll want to use. If your development team is using Jira, it would be mightily helpful if your project management software integrated with Jira. If you use a CRM, it’d be great if it integrated with that central management hub you’re working with. Whatever the integrations you’ll want, those are the integrations to look for when choosing project management software.

There’s also price to consider. You might find the perfect project management solution – and it might cost something like $45 per user per month. On a team of thirty people in a small company, that’s a significant budget item! Price should not be where you start your search, but it definitely should be a factor before finishing it.

To help you, here is the definitive project management tools list to use in finding the right fit for you and your team.

The Project Management Tools List

best project management tools comprehensive guide

Instead of just an exhaustive list of names, let’s use some visuals to better understand our project management tools. In the scatterplot above, we graph out the best project management tools available. Our two axis measure effectiveness in project planning and effectiveness in task and team management. This is not typical for a project management tools list, but there’s a good reason why this is the visual.

There are many different types of project management software. But all project management tools help a project manager primarily in two ways – structuring the project, which is a planning-based activity, and managing the project to completion and delivery. Every tool offers features along these lines, literally. Either they aim to help you plan, structure, and design your project, or manage the team working on it…or both. Many tools call themselves project management tools, but they are more attuned to task management, or team management, for example. So for a definitive break down of project management tools, we highlight those two areas with our graph.

If you’re primarily managing tasks and/or workflow, you want to look at the top left part of the graph. If you’re charged with developing roadmaps, you want to look at the bottom right corner. For versatile options that are OK with both, look from the middle, and move up and to the left to get to the better options.

At the bottom of this list, there’s an exploration of underlying problems with Gantt chart-based project management software. It is very much worth reading before looking into Gantt chart project management tools. Click here to jump to the catch-22 hiding within the Gantt chart.

And so without further ado, here’s the list of project management tools you’ve all been waiting for! Click the link to jump down to the relevant detailed entry in the project management tools list, or scroll down to read entry by entry.

Outstanding Tools

  • Proggio – Project Management
  • Asana – Team Management
  • Aha! – Strategic Planning
  • DropTask – Task Management
  • JIRA – Software Development

Task Management Rockstars

Gantt/Spreadsheet Project Management Tools

Collaboration Tools

Workflow Tools

Project Management Tools

Proggio

proggio projectmap

Proggio’s biggest feature is the Projectmap, which you can see above. Instead of using a Gantt chart, Proggio utilizes a team-focused planning system to create a visual timeline that acts as a map or blueprint for a project. The visual presentation of the project is a major strong point – unlike Gantt charts, the Projectmap can be understood by nearly anyone, at a glance. It updates automatically in real time with every change, including task progress reports.

The platform is intuitive, and onboarding is fast and simple. It is also an outlier on our list of project management tools in that it does not utilize the familiar spreadsheet feel for project management. Proggio’s planning interface has a whiteboard feel, allowing you to plan a project in minutes.  Robust task management tools keep the team on task and on target.

Proggio comes loaded with features, such as customizable dashboards, budget tracking, resource allocation, and plan vs. actual. It also has a unique full integration with JIRA, which brings timeline planning and project management to software development in a way never done before.

Proggio is priced attractively. The Starter package costs $8 per user per month billed annually, with a minimum of three users. It is limited to three projects. The Business package costs $15 per user per month when billed annually, with a minimum of three users, and allows for 25 projects and an additional 5 viewers. There is also Enterprise pricing available.

Special Features:

  • Projectmap: whiteboard feel, clear planning visuals, built-in Planned vs. Actual
  • Intuitive, elegant interface designed for the team
  • Customizable widget-based dashboards

LiquidPlanner

Liquidplanner gantt chart

LiquidPlanner is a well regarded and popular project management tool. Like TeamGantt and SmartSheet, it is a Gantt chart based tool with a spreadsheet feel. It takes some time to master it, but the functionality it provides is top notch.

LiquidPlanner utilizes a best case/worst case scenario for planning that creates flexible timelines you can use for better estimations for completion and delivery. The same tool allows you to input tasks by priority and assign their resources, and with an estimation on your part about the effort needed, LiquidPlanner can predict the timeframe needed to complete the task. This feature is very helpful!

Similar to TeamGantt and SmartSheet, project managers who are not familiar with spreadsheets face a steep learning curve. The interface is more similar to SmartSheet than to TeamGantt – that is to say, not very clear or intuitive. Onboarding is a significant time expense. Setting up LiquidPlanner properly for your needs takes time and effort too.

LiquidPlanner is expensive – it starts at $45 per user per month, with a five user minimum, which means an account with LiquidPlanner starts at $2,700 per year. There is no in-system chat option, making communications a minus. LiquidPlanner also has time tracking capabilities.

LiquidPlanner’s predictive capabilities are attractive, but the price and decreased communications capability are minuses. Out of the options on this project management tools list, LiquidPlanner is best for project managers with significant time and money to invest in a tool, who need the predictive capability that LiquidPlanner provides.

Special Features:

  • Predictive scheduling
  • Integrated time and budget tracking
  • @mentions and #tags within project communications

MS Project

Microsoft Project used to be the gold standard for project management software, but time has passed it by. MS Project is a Gantt chart-based project management solution, with a spreadsheet feel. Using it properly more or less requires a high level of familiarity, which takes a long time to create.

Like TeamGantt and SmartSheet, MS Project really feels like a spreadsheet – and unless you are familiar with spreadsheets, you will need to hunt around to find what you are looking for in the app. If you don’t have a few months to sink into learning the platform, it can be a frustrating experience!

Using MS Project in an organization that is not already a “Microsoft organization” can be difficult. The program is meant to be used in conjunction with other Microsoft tools, like Outlook, Skype, and Microsoft Teams. Sending an email reminder to a team member, for example, is set to use Outlook. You can get around this, but it is an annoyance when you’re not an Outlook user.

The difficulties with using MS Project are why it ranks so low for planning and management – it may have the capabilities, but it does not perform. Unless you are an MS Project expert, the learning curve is steep enough that you may be better served using another project management software. There are better spreadsheet-feel Gantt-based project management tools on the market.

Special Features:

  • Shared team calendar
  • Timesheets for team members
  • Risk tracking and scoring

Zenkit

zenkit project

Zenkit is a really, really cool tool. It’s a bit like a mind map. You can sketch out ideas and keep track of tasks, visually. By using a canvas approach, you can play with placement and connectors to create real maps of tasks or ideas and how they interact with each other. It’s simplistic, and doesn’t offer a lot of options for long term planning, but it is a very effective tool when it comes to managing tasks and workflow.

Zenkit is best thought of as an “idea management” tool. You can map your idea, break it down into tasks, and track those tasks’ progress. You can even track expenses, too. For smaller projects, this kind of planning approach can be helpful. For larger projects, Zenkit does not have the planning capabilities needed for project management. Zenkit’s project planning seems to be “the total is the sum of its parts,” where task lists are called project plans. This is a definite problem for large projects.

Zenkit has a really intuitive interface, and great visuals. It also has a mobile app. Zenkit is perfect for smaller projects, where management is the challenge. Whether managing the team workflow overall or the nitty gritty of task management, Zenkit is a solid option compared to other project management tools on the list.

Special Features:

  • “Favorites” bookmarking across projects
  • Labels for category, priority, and customized labeling
  • Global search across projects

Basecamp

basecamp main view

Basecamp is an old tool. Like an old friend for some, its familiar and it comes with good memories. Basecamp is a collaboration tool, and it hasn’t kept up with the crowd. The interface is hard to figure out – Basecamp has a lot of tools and features, but finding them can be difficult.

Basecamp’s design uses cards for teams and projects, and this creates a silo-like feel for all your different work spaces. The dashboard doesn’t pull information from each card – to get to whatever you’re looking for, you need to drill down somewhere.

Basecamp has a simplified pricing model, where an account costs $99 per month 0r $1000 annually, with 500GB of storage and no limits on team members or number of projects you can create. For large teams this can be an attractive option, but the level of functionality you will receive is in line with the lower price point per user.

Basecamp’s project planning features are very basic, while its collaborative team management features are solid. Basecamp’s bigger features are its collaborative tools and approach. But compared to the rest of the options for project management tools, it’s a bit of an also-ran.

Special Features:

  • Integrated calendar schedules
  • Campfire: real time group chat, with chat rooms for each project and @mentions
  • Check-in questions: status meetings within the app

DropTask

droptask visual view

DropTask is a task management tool. It is optimized both for single users, and for teams. DropTask presents task management with a unique visual layout, which is intuitive and pleasing on the eye. You can plan tasks using two views – canvas, and list. The canvas view allows you to plan with a mind map style feel, creating categories and populating them with tasks.

The canvas view is a very powerful visual and utilizes drag and drop capability to really use the space as a method of communicating interactions and relationships between tasks. This use of space as a planning/mapping tool is similar to Proggio’s Projectmap, and is unique for task management options on the project management tools list.

DropTask is not built for project planning, though for an occasional simple project the paid Business plan can do the work. For managing your day to day To Do list, DropTask is effective, and easy. For managing tasks and workflow across a team, DropTask’s interface is clear and simple. It can increase productivity for task management with its near-nothing onboarding time, and the learning curve is easy and accelerated.

For planning projects, though, DropTask is just not up to the task. The platform is not built for project management. Use it for workflow, and task management, both personal and across the team. You won’t be disappointed. DropTask has free accounts available for individuals, and costs only $10 per user for its advanced Business plan.

Special Features:

  • Google contacts integration
  • Evernote, iMindMap, Google Calendar integrations
  • Canvas view

JIRA

JIra board

JIRA is the gold standard for agile project management and software development teams around the world. The platform utilizes a ticket based system for tasks, and structures projects around the agile methodology of epics and sprints. JIRA has a timeline, but it serves as more a reporting tool than a planning interface. Projects are planned across boards, and Kanban is used for workflow.

JIRA’s project planning is task based, if not ticket based – this works for software development, but is a clunky way to plan projects overall. Using JIRA for project management outside of software development is a challenge.

For coordinating agile processes across a team, JIRA is a great choice. For software development, JIRA may be the best choice. Using JIRA in any other way is not recommended. Outside software development, the other options on this project management tools list might be a better fit for you.

Special Features:

  • Ticket system for bug and defect tracking
  • Customizable dashboards
  • Unlimited custom fields

Trello

trello board

Trello is a clear and simple Kanban workflow system. The platform uses a Kanban board for task management. This approach is simple, clean, and straightforward – anyone can just jump in and start planning workflow. For small projects, or repeating workflows, Trello is fantastic. Tasks are displayed as cards, and progress is measured by cards moving across a table from “To Do” to “Done.” Trello has an entire universe of add-ons and integrations, some of which provide more traditional project management tools like Gantt chart timelines.

Planning a complex project in Trello is difficult, and requires incredible attention to detail and near constant monitoring of tasks. Using a Kanban board for project planning is dependent on a near perfect recall of everything in the “To Do” column, and knowing when they are supposed to being their trip across the table to “Done.” The lack of a timeline makes it very hard to plan, or track, all those cards.

However, as a task management system, or for team workflow, Trello is a great choice. In fact it may be the best option for workflow management on the project management tools list. Trello’s interface has simple, clear visuals, and this makes for easy onboarding and a short learning curve. Drag and drop, track progress visually, and keep the workflow moving – this is Trello’s strong point, and why it is so popular.

Special Features:

  • In-line editing
  • Description formatting
  • Keyboard shortcuts

Asana

asana

Asana is a team-optimized, collaborative workflow and task management platform. That’s a mouthful, to be sure, but Asana really provides all of it. Asana’s versatility is hard to get used to, at first, but with time you will love the wide and varied capabilities of the software. Of all the options on this project management tools list, Asana is probably the most versatile. Asana is very fluid, and designing what you want it do for you is often the hardest part of the onboarding process. Once you have that nailed down, though, the platform really delivers.

Asana’s weakness is in project management – it has a Timeline feature in its Premium account, but the timeline does not handle project planning well despite its Gantt chart-like feel. The platform also lacks project management tools like time tracking. However, as a task management tool, or a workflow tracker, or an office productivity hub, Asana shines.

Asana provides a limited feature free account, and the Premium accounts are fairly priced at $12 per user per month or $120 per user annually. Overall, for team management and office workflow, Asana is a solid, dependable, productivity driver. There is a mobile app available.

Special Features:

  • Colorblind friendly mode
  • Follower mode allows team members to receive notifications on tasks not assigned to them
  • Send emails to Asana: make emails actionable straight from your inbox

ProjectManager.com

ProjectManager is a Gantt-based project management software. ProjectManager feels like a spreadsheet, and its visuals are very similar to Microsoft Excel. The features are very solid – there are customizable dashboards, reporting, dependency capabilities, budget tracking, time tracking, and task management tools. Integrations with Excel, Word, and Google Docs are available.

ProjectManager’s interface is a clunky, and is not laid out intuitively. It takes time to master the software and get up to speed. Some users complain that when managing a portfolio of projects, ProjectManager is difficult to use because of its layout.

ProjectManager is a little pricey, too. It’s $15 per user per month for a personal plan (which does not include Gantt chart capability!), $20 per user per month for teams up to 10 users, and $25 per user per month for larger teams. For that kind of price point, a Gantt-based spreadsheet feel can be had for cheaper.

ProjectManager has an old timey feel to it, and the other options on this project management tools list probably have shorter learning curves and better layouts.

Special Features:

  • Real time dashboards
  • Timesheets for team members
  • Hundreds of integrations available

TeamGantt

teamgantt gantt chart

TeamGantt is named very accurately. It’s a Gantt chart based project management software for teams. TeamGantt’s design is a major plus, and onboarding is easy and simple. The layout is easy on the eye, and tools are where you’d expect to find them. Communication tools are a minus, though, and when managing large scale projects this flaw can really be an issue.

There is one other design flaw that can derail serious projects: the Gantt chart does not update automatically when other users make changes. You need to refresh your page to see the changes made by others. This means the information you are looking at is not in real time. For a complex project, or when working with remote teams, this can be a major problem.

Overall, as a Gantt chart tool, TeamGantt is dependable and straightforward, and a solid option. Collaboration tools are a minus, and the real time issue can be a deal breaker. TeamGantt’s pricing is attractive – a team up to 5 people is only $40 per month, total. With all features unlocked, it is $62.25, total. If it’s a spreadsheet/Gantt chart tool you need, TeamGantt might be the most solid option on this project management tools list.

Special Features:

  • Calendar view
  • Plannd vs. Actual
  • Mobile App

ClickUp

clickup board

ClickUp is a productivity tool with team management and task management capabilities. It features an amazing user interface, with clear visuals and intuitive tools. Your team will master the learning curve in no time, and you can use ClickUp to accurately and efficiently manage workflow and tasks across a team.

The main planning interface is a Kanban board. Like Trello, ClickUp’s usage of the Kanban board makes it an effective workflow management tool, but it does take away some planning capability. There is a timeline view available, but it is not a robust project management tool. With complex projects, ClickUp can become difficult to use.

ClickUp has a forever free pricing model, where for individual users the platform is fully functional at no cost. This is unique compared to other project management tools – no one else offers a fully functional free plan. For individual users, ClickUp is a very effective productivity and task management tool. For teams, ClickUp costs $5 per user per month, which is an attractive price point for a team management tool.

ClickUp offers great customer support and considers feature requests from all its users. They regularly roll out new features, and there a many add ons available. Overall, ClickUp shines in team management and task management applications, and its intuitive interface makes it a great option in those spheres.

Special Features:

  • Multiple task assignees
  • Task dependencies
  • Time tracking

SmartSheet

smartsheet gantt chart

SmartSheet is a Gantt-based project management software with a spreadsheet feel. It is so much like a spreadsheet that it lacks an autosave capability. Like using a spreadsheet on a PC, you will need to click “save” after all changes.

SmartSheet has advanced tools, and a spreadsheet-familiar project manager will love its capabilities. If you are not spreadsheet savvy, the pop up help dialogue will help you, but you will still miss out on so much of the platform’s abilities. It is frustrating – there is a lot there, but like MS Project, without being very familiar with the tool, you will never get to use it to its full potential.

Similar to TeamGantt, the spreadsheet does not update automatically with other team members’ changes. It does prompt you to refresh the page when it is out of sync, though.

SmartSheet can be a bit pricey. The basic Individual plan allows unlimited collaborators, but limits project planning to one user and ten projects. It costs $14 per month. The Business plan costs $25 per user per month when billed annually, with a minimum of three users. There are more features unlocked at this pricing tier, including dashboards and reporting. There are also Enterprise and Premier pricing plans available, each unlocking further features.

SmartSheet’s complicated interface and steep learning curve makes it difficult to use for team- and task management. But for the spreadsheet savvy project manager, SmartSheet might be the most powerful spreadsheet Gantt chart tool on this project management tools list.

Special Features:

  • Critical path view
  • Custom pre-loaded dashboards
  • Custom branding

Monday.com

monday board

Monday is a versatile tool. Primarily a team collaboration tool, Monday is usually used for task management across the team. It can also be used for CRM management, workflow management, team management, and more. It has good visuals and a clean simple interface. Monday is intuitive. It borrows from the spreadsheet and the Kanban board in its presentation, but vastly simplifies the interface and centers on individual tasks. Tools are laid out well, where you expect to find them.

As a project management tool, Monday is lacking. The timeline feature is not a planning tool. Task dependencies, milestones, and deadlines are not central to the planning or workflow system. In fact, Monday does not support dependencies at all. Communications-wise, Monday centers conversations around individual projects. This has its positives, but the lack of a central team-wide area for discussion can be felt.

One other issue with Monday is its pricing plans – they use blocks of users as their tiering system. This means, for example, your 6th user which moves you from the 5 team member tier to the 10 team member tier will dramatically increase your cost per user.

Out of all the project management tools listed here, Monday compares most to Asana, especially in its versatility – but Asana is far more attractively priced.

Special Features:

  • Integrates with Slack, Trello, Zapier, Google Calendar
  • Templates available
  • Mobile app

Flow

flow calendar view

Flow is presented as a project management tool, but its strengths lie in task management and team coordination. Its interface is clean and uncluttered, with a good layout, and is pleasing on the eye. The onboarding is easy, and the learning curve is straightforward. One good feature Flow offers is the ability to send emails to an inbox that then turns those emails into tasks. This is perfect for those sudden flashes of inspiration, or those moments on the train when you remember something.

Flow lacks some basic project management features, like budget tracking and reporting capabilities, and most crucially, a timeline. There is a timeline feature, presented over a calendar – however, this is not a planning tool, but a reporting one. Flow is most similar to Trello, as its main interface is a Kanban board. For agile teams, Flow’s simplicity is a welcome break from the Gantt chart based project management software. However, the planning in Flow is data-entry intensive, and can be difficult.

Flow is an interesting project management tool, as it has better planning features for tasks than traditional task management apps – but its planning is not up to par for project management. As such, it sits near the middle of our graphic above – it is a solid, if unspectacular, choice for someone looking for adequate capabilities for both planning and management. However, whatever your goal is, Flow is not going to outperform the other choices on this list of project management tools.

Special Features:

  • Export projects to PDF, CSV, or HTML
  • Tags and flags for tasks
  • Create tasks through emails

SamePage

samepage board

SamePage is a collaboration and communication app, primarily. It has an easy interface and streamlined design, but it is a unique app compared to other project management tools. It most compares to Google Docs, in that it provides a shared space for everyone on the team to be on the same page, literally. You can customize the page to what you’d like to have there, but it does not offer much in terms of task management or project management at all. You can assign tasks to the team, but the main thrust of the app is not delegating and tracking tasks.

If your project team is built of autonomous team members, SamePage would be helpful. Otherwise, it’s more of a communications tool, as it brings the team to one place, centers the conversation around the elements you want in front of them, and then keeps the chat option on the page itself. It even supports video conferencing. SamePage is a good addition for project teams using platforms lacking in the communication area, but otherwise, it feels like a tool in search of a purpose.

Special Features:

  • Create subteams for departmental projects
  • Group video calling
  • Create diagrams and share in real time

Aha!

aha planning portfolio

Aha! is a roadmap tool, and as you’ll notice, occupies a special place on the graph above and in this project management tools list. It is top notch for planning projects, strategic planning, and long term roadmaps. It is a superb tool for product management. The “ideas portal” feature is a powerful way to bring in feedback from customers and stakeholders.

When it comes to project management, though, Aha! is simple and direct, which is jarringly different from its feature rich presentation for roadmap planning and product management. Aha! isn’t built for project management, although it can be used for it. You can use the roadmap feature to create a Gantt chart, and there are Kanban boards and task lists, but the collaborative aspect of the platform is lacking.

Aha! can be used for agile workflows, especially with the Kanban board, but this feels like driving a Ford Mustang two blocks to the grocery store. Where Aha! shines is in its long term planning and especially strategic planning capabilities. Aha! integrates with JIRA, Slack, Trello, Dropbox, Zendesk, and some other applications. Overall, planning with Aha! is a treat, but managing anything with it afterwards is clunky and can be difficult.

Special Features:

  • Custom branded portal allows for customer and team feedback
  • Agile-optimized features/requirements planning
  • Integrates with JIRA, GitLab, Asana, PivotalTracker, and more

Wrike

wrike gantt chart

Wrike is billed as a project management tool with solid collaboration tools. However, Wrike is more tuned to workflow management than project management. It is easy to get started with Wrike – it’s intuitive, and the layout is usually very straightforward. As you can see in the picture above the interface is very plain, which makes it easy to understand, but leaves something wanting in its presentation.

Wrike can be used for project management, and its timeline does not have the same spreadsheet feel like other project management tools. You can easily create custom reports in Wrike, and with a few clicks, turn them into scheduled reports too. The timeline has drag and drop capability.

Wrike shines most when used for workflows and ongoing work, as it is oriented to presenting information in lists instead of charts. Wrike has time tracking as part of its task management functions. It does not have an in-system chat function, which limits communications. Wrike has many integrations available, as well as mobile apps.

For a project manager, team, or organization that does not have the time available to sink into learning the other spreadsheet-based project management tools (like MS Project, TeamGantt, LiquidPlanner, or SmartSheet), Wrike is a competitive alternative with much to offer.

Special Features:

  • Dynamic request forms for pushing tasks
  • Time and budget tracker
  • Custom workflows

ProProfs Project

 

best project management tools

ProProfs Project is an easy-to-use project management software that helps managers provide deliverables within set deadlines. It comes with a project calendar that allows you to track the progress of a project in real-time. It also helps multiple teams, whether in-house or working remote, collaborate with the manager and other departments by commenting on their respective tasks easily. The interface is clean and modern looking, but does require some time to master the learning curve.

ProProfs Project includes time tracking software, and collaboration tools for the team. Industry standards like file sharing are there too. The biggest problem with ProProfs Project is the timeline view: it does not exist. You can switch between a list view and a calendar view, but there is no project timeline.

ProProfs Project has some unique features, such as clients and contact tracking, and invoicing. These features, and the task management capabilities of the platform, make ProProfs Project a fantastic choice for small businesses and freelancers.

Special Features:

  • Automate recurring tasks
  • Tailored notifications for the day
  • Time tracking and timesheets for the team

Slack

project management tools list

Slack is a wonderful tool. It’s the closest thing to instant communication for the workforce. When running time sensitive projects, Slack is a best in class option for managing communications, sending and receiving real time data reporting, and knowing exactly what is going on.

Using slack for project management has its attractive points. Using Slack for project planning is a fools’ errand. There are no planning capabilities in the platform.

Slack is a communication and collaboration tool. Nothing more, and nothing less. Slack can be a great tool for a project manager, but it will never be the only tool in the arsenal. Project managers managing large teams, or time sensitive projects, will love Slack as a team communication and collaboration tool (especially when the project management tools used lack good communication tools, a common problem). But for projects lasting longer than about a week, Slack is probably not enough.

Special Features:

  • Video calls
  • Channel-based communication
  • API to multiple tools, and can connect tools to channels

Podio

project management tools

Podio is the LEGO set of project management tools. You can create your own customized app within an app, by choosing the names, fields, and functions you want to use in building your projects and workflows. Literally drag and drop the elements you want to use, and presto – you have the exact tools you want and need. Task management is Podio’s main strength and calling card. Tasks can be generated automatically with workflows, or manually edited and managed in projects.

Projects are standalone work spaces, with Podio including options for chat functions and reporting within the overall interface. Podio doesn’t have a real timeline view, a small issue in project planning.

The interface is pleasing to the eye, although learning the platform in and out may take some time thanks to the level of customization. Overall, Podio is an impressive, unparalleled  customizable tool that really shines in task management.

Special Features:

  • Integrated calendar scheduling
  • Mobile app
  • Kanban-based workflow system

Barvas

project management tools

Barvas is a unique entry in this project management tools list, because it swaps out the Gantt chart in the planning phase for mind mapping tools. This approach helps translate the big picture into tasks and action items in a way lacking in other project management tools.

Once you’ve mapped out the project, you can switch to a Gantt chart view for project management. Task management is run from a Kanban interface. Each task card has a built-in chat function, localizing communication around the particular context it is meant to be in.

The interface is clean, modern looking, and fairly intuitive. Barvas’ pricing is attractive, at less than $10 per user per month for teams, and a freemium option for single users.

Special Features:

  • Mind mapping tools for project planning
  • task-based communication
  • Attractive pricing

Zoho Project

zoho project management tools

Zoho is a one stop shop for the enterprise, with different modules and options for the team. One of the applications Zoho offers is Zoho Project, the project management suite for the platform. Zoho Project is a Gantt chart-based, standard project management option. The tools and features are fairly vanilla – Gantt chart, Kanban task management, collaboration tools, and so on.

What gives Zoho a little personality and makes it something special compared to the other options on this project management tools list is its social approach to project management. You can create forums for discussion, pages for knowledge repositories, and feeds for project updates.

The layout is simple and modern looking, though lacking a little in intuitive function placement.

Special Features:

  • Social project management options
  • Timesheets for the team, and billing
  • Zoho Analytics integration offers fifty different reports

10,000ft

project management tools list

10,000ft is a roadmap/planning tool with a modern layout, project management capabilities, and forecasting tools. It is jam packed with features, and the learning curve is a little steep as a result. 10,000ft operates on a “team on the same page” principle, and the project homepage is exactly that.

Standard project management tools features like resource loading, and the forecasting abilities of the platform can identify resource overloads before they happen. Robust reporting dashboards are very helpful, with custom reports available. 10,000ft tracks expenses and employee work hours – including a mobile time tracking app.

Special Features:

  • Forecasting abilities assist in reporting, resource loading, and scheduling
  • Detailed reporting options
  • “Everyone on the same page” approach

Celoxis

project management tools list

Celoxis is a Gantt chart project management tool that features automatic scheduling, multiple resources per task, and support for multiple shifts. Project tracking tools are a specialty for Celoxis – it includes critical path analysis, RAG health indicators, and baseline & EVA tools. The in-app communications have @mentions, which can come in handy. There are also custom workflow apps.

The task management tools are fairly straightforward, and collaboration can feel forced in the app. This is an app designed for a project manager, more than the team as a whole.

Celoxis integrates with hundreds of apps, including JIRA, Evernote, Slack, and Trello. The layout is pleasing on the eye, although the learning curve can be steep. There is a mobile app available.


Gantt Charts: The Catch-22

project management tools

Gantt charts are project management tools that were actually designed for optimizing factory production lines. For its time, the Gantt chart was a pretty intuitive, visual map of a production line. It showed all the inputs into the final product, the time each input needed, and the order they were run. You could glance at a chart, and immediately grasp exactly what was going on at the factory floor. Inefficiencies, bottlenecks, redundancies – all there for you to see when looking at the chart. It was a powerful tool, it revolutionized production, and that should have been the happy ending to the story.

Gantt charts were, at a later point, adopted into project management as a visual aid. Project management is easier with a visual aid, it is true. But the Gantt is a glorified bar chart scheduler. That’s really all it is. Inputs became tasks. Outputs became project delivery. The Gantt chart thus became a way to just schedule peoples’ tasks on a graph. (Who knows how many man hours were spent on this glorified calendar over the previous decades.)

The Gantt Chart: Project Management Tool, Or Waste Of Time?

Project managers know that the Gantt is a status symbol. It’s a way of appearing to be in control of a project. At best it’s a system for simply knowing who is doing what, when. It’s nothing more. It might be far less. It’s a bar chart, for crying out loud. Your Google Calendar can show the bars across calendar dates now. Why bother creating a dedicated bar chart to do the same thing? There’s nothing intuitive – half the people on the project couldn’t “read” a Gantt chart if you showed it to them. And as visuals go, it’s literally a spreadsheet. Nearly half of project managers don’t use project management software – possibly because they’re using a spreadsheet tool, or graphing one on paper by hand. Why pay money for a spreadsheet when you already have one? To many, Gantt charts are a waste of time.

The Catch-22

It’s rare that a profession explodes in size while it stagnates in its creativity. Project management today is a wildly growing field – but there is little to no innovation taking place within the industry. Agile took the idea of traditional project management and turned it on its head, keeping the name only while in reality creating a vastly different discipline. Project management tools with Kanban boards were hungrily gobbled up by people looking to have some kind of effective workflow sorting system. This revolutionized task management – and removed the idea of timeline from the project management equation. Anyone who’s tried to manage a complex project using only a Kanban board knows how that ends up.

This is the real issue. The Gantt workarounds don’t have timelines. Gantt charts are timelines that don’t work. Project management, in its purest form, is taking a goal from idea to reality, by managing who does what, when – with a deadline. The timeline is meant to be the same kind of intuitive map that the Gantt chart was, back in its day. Without a timeline, project management is basically an augur’s to do list. And yet, there are project management tools without a timeline.

Agile: The Workaround That Wasn’t

Use of agile methodology skyrocketed over recent years, by resolving the timeline issue on the ground by adopting a completely different discipline for managing projects. By employing sprints and using a continuous delivery approach, organizations and project managers are trying to sidestep the timeline issue by removing the hard scheduling of tasks from the picture. This works, to some extent – agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects.

But it’s no accident that project management tools specifically tailored for agile teams, like Jira for software programmers, still use a Gantt chart. 

You simply can’t include the “deadline” part of “taking a goal from idea to reality, by managing who does what, when – with a deadline” without some kind of time frame mechanism in your work. Progress cannot be tracked with amorphous time frames. Furthermore, you will always need to be able to schedule who does what, when. Even in the bottom up planning approach of agile, there is still a need for that “who what when” framework.

And So Here We Are

This is the crossroads where project management, as a profession, finds itself today. We all know we need a timeline. We all know we don’t have one, and the most efficient workflow systems are the ones that avoid the problematic timeline. It’s a catch-22. You’ll manage your workflow better without a timeline, but you can’t put together your schedule to build that workflow unless you have that timeline.

All the project management tools out there have some kind of trick for hiding the Gantt. They either force you to only work with a Kanban board, or hide the timeline deficiency behind sleek graphics. Some don’t even bother trying at all. They just hope you accept the fact you need a timeline enough to spend money on a tool that is going to cause you as much pain as it will be helpful. After all, you need a timeline. You’re a captive audience.

Gantt charts don’t work. And the Gantt chart is all there is.

This is a gap in the project management software market that’s been known for years.

Project managers need a tool that can be both a timeline and a planning tool. Gantt charts don’t work. This gap affects every company running a project. Companies lose money, work hours, resources, plus pay an opportunity cost. There needs to be a better way to do things.

This is what motivated two project managers to take the plunge and start a company. They decided to make the project management software that will actually fill the gap. Their company, as you may have guessed, is called Proggio.

The kernel of their idea is this:

Visual project management is crucial.

While a timeline of tasks may be useless, tasks on the timeline can be a revolution.

proggio projectmap the smart gantt alternative project management tools

The timeline doesn’t have to be a bar chart task schedule. It can be a project blueprint. By moving tasks to the timeline itself, the project can be built around the team, instead of the tasks. Look at the left hand side of the picture above. The project layout focuses on core areas of activity, instead of just listing the tasks to do. Such an approach mimics the whiteboard planning session that is a hallmark of the kickoff meeting – the original, accurate, team-centered project plan. You actually see the project as a whole, at a glance, in a way that anyone in the team can understand immediately. That clarity goes a long way – all the way to successful delivery.

Thanks to the intuitive and visual design, you can easily track the changes to the project over time. No need to contrast versions of a Gantt chart. Forget sifting through the change log in whichever project management tools you’re using. Click a button, create a reference point, and voila – you can see every change on the timeline.

plan vs actual

Forget the project management tools that cement the ultimate inefficiency at the center of your project. Use the solution that solves the catch-22 and unlocks your potential to be the project manager hero you can be.