Top 5 Tools for Project Management

Jacco Blankenspoor

Whether you’re on your own or working in a team, it’s important to keep a close eye on your projects. Project management tools are designed to help you keep track of your tasks, team members and customers.

We’ve already looked at the Top 5 Time-Tracking and Top 5 CRM tools, so let’s do the same for project management tools.

I selected these tools based on popularity and suggestions from readers, then compared them on functionality and usability.

All of the tools listed offer a free trial or free plan so you can try them out yourself.

Basecamp

Basecamp-dash

Basecamp is one of the most popular tools for project management. More than 285,000 companies already use it and thousands more are signing up each month. No matter how you look at it, that’s impressive.

People love Basecamp for it’s usability, and it’s easy to see why when you sign up and load the sample project. The navigation is straightforward, and you can start working with Basecamp right away.

basecamp-navigation

Basecamp is so easy to use that you may find yourself wondering if this is really all there is to it. But yes, it’s all right there in the navigation.

You may notice the Everything button in the navigation, which gives you a one page view of, well, everything. It won’t be as useful once you’re comfortable with Basecamp, but it’s a nice touch.

Basecamp-me

I personally like the Me screen, which shows at a glance all of your activity, including tasks you’re working on, messages you posted and files you added.

Unfortunately Basecamp isn’t perfect. You can’t assign multiple users to one task, and, strangely enough, there’s no visual reporting.

Pricing is very simple and starts at $20 a month for 10 projects with an unlimited number of users and 3 GB of storage.

Asana

Asana-dash

Asana, another top dog, takes a completely different approach.

To get started in Asana, you make a new project and select a template for it. Templates include bug hunting lists, milestone-based task lists and an ideas list. You can also forgo a template and start with a blank sheet.

asana-completed

I chose the milestone template, which allows for adding tasks grouped per milestone. You can easily mark tasks completed, or complete the milestone itself.

asana-sub

Asana looks a bit sparse if you use only the main task list. But each task has a little arrow next to it, and clicking the arrow brings up a new screen where the real magic happens. Here you can make split up a top-level task into sub-tasks and assign them to different people. You can assign a due date and add files or comments. Other users can even “like” a task, or “follow” a specific user to stay up to date.

asana-calendar

Asana also offers a built-in calendar to give you a visual overview of your own tasks or those of your team. The calendar supports syncing with Outlook and Google Calendar. There’s also an inbox to help you keep updated.

Asana takes some time to get used to, since it has a lot of tiny features which are actually quite handy. But once you get the hang of it, it’s a great tool for team collaboration.

Asana comes with a free plan that supports up to 15 users. After that, prices rise steeply: 50 users cost $300 a month, and you’ll pay $800 for 100 team members.

Podio

podio-dash

I mentioned Podio in my Top 5 CRM Tools article, but since it’s mostly a project management tool I decided to include it here as well.

Podio is actually a collection of apps, but project management is one of the more significant ones.

After selecting the projects section, you land on a view of all of your current projects.

podio-projects-detail

Each project has its own progress bar, and clicking on it brings up a list of members, tasks and dates. You can even add expenses for a specific project directly to this card.

podio-activity

Podio has a great way of showing who’s involved in each project, including a designated project owner. You can group projects in different work spaces, and it’s easy to keep track of activity. This is good example of the current trend of integrating social features into corporate tools.

Podio has a few drawbacks though, and navigation is the main one. It can be a bit slow and confusing to make your way around. Often you’ll realize that you just accidentally navigated back to the dashboard instead of just jumping back one page, and then you have to wait longer than you should while the dashboard reloads.

Podio is free for up to 5 users. Additional users are $9 each per month.

Sandglaz

sandglaz-dash

Sandglaz, which was suggested by a reader, is a new tool and doesn’t have a large user base yet, but it certainly looks promising.

Sandglaz basically is a task list deluxe, and if you are looking for pure task management, Sandglaz is an excellent choice. It’s easy to jump right in and start using it. If you know how to use tasks in Outlook, you won’t have any trouble with Sandglaz.

Another strength is the way it helps you prioritize your tasks. Some tasks are critical, while others would be nice to complete but aren’t as important. Sandglaz offers a Not important section, where you can drop these less critical tasks that you can pick up in your spare time.

sandglaz-detail

Tasks can be combined in grids, and every tasks has it’s own deadline and sub-tasks. You can set up recurring tasks or easily move a task to a different day.

But you can also set a drop-dead date when the task must be finished (so you can’t postpone any longer). It’s a nice way of making sure a task gets completed while still remaining flexible.

Should you forget to move an uncompleted task to the next day, Sandglaz does it for you so you can’t miss it.

sandglaz-hashtag

Filtering your tasks or users is done with @mentions and #hashtags. While I’m not a big fan of these myself (maybe I’m old-fashioned), Sandglaz does keep track of your users and hash tags in a convenient way. You’ll just need to make sure your team doesn’t go wild with them so you can keep your list organized.

Sandglaz is priced at $5 per team member per month. Unfortunately, there’s no free plan available.

Trello

trello-dash

For a different–but fantastic–way to manage projects, we turn finally to Trello.

Trello is the tool that SitePoint relies to keep track of the dozens of articles we publish every month and manage the work of multiple teams of writers and editors.

Trello is divided up into boards, columns and cards. These are flexible, allowing you to define your own workflow.

In our case, we use a separate board for each section of the site, and each column represents a step in an article’s life, from concept to publication.

It’s an open space environment, so writers can help each other out by jumping in to comment on a card. And because you can use different boards for different topics (or channels like SitePoint does), it never gets cluttered.

In SitePoint’s case, each card represents an article. Team members can assign themselves to cards to show they’re working on an item. They can also subscribe to boards to get updates as work progresses.

trello-card

In each card you can add a due date, apply a colored labels and attach files. You can use comments to communicate with other subscribers, upvote the card, or assign it to other members. You can also add checklists for subtasks–complete with a progress bar. At the bottom of each card is a history of all changes that have been made since the card was created, which makes it easy to get up to speed when you’re assigned to a task.

Last but not least, Trello offers excellent apps for Android, iOS and Windows, so you can work from your phone or tablet.

Trello is free to use for all features described above, with unlimited users.

They also offer a paid plan that adds some bells and whistles (custom emoji for example) and tighter security. Pricing for the paid plan is $5 a month per user.

Conclusion

As you can see there are many different ways to keep track of your projects.

Which one fits best with how your team works? Did we miss your favorite tool?

Leave a comment and let us know!

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  • http://optimwise.com/ Chad Warner

    I’ve been using Trello for a few months to manage web design projects with my subcontractors, and it’s working great.

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      I’m a big fan as well :-) May I ask how you use Trello with your sub-contractors, maybe other can learn from it?

      • http://optimwise.com/ Chad Warner

        I create a board for each project, and invite the contractors who will work on that project. Then I create a card for each task (e.g., create mockups, develop WordPress theme, proofread copy, populate content, etc.) and assign each card to a contractor. As much as possible, we use Trello instead of email, so we use the cards to write comments, ask questions, and attach files. This helps me monitor the progress of the projects and guide as necessary. It also helps contractors see the big picture of the project and interact with each other.

        • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

          Hi Chad, thanks for getting back on this! I certainly can learn from this, figuring out a way to work with sub-contractors myself. I can understand why it helps to see the big picture, but aren’t you concerned for one of your sub-contractors taking over your business (or am I just too paranoid to share too much information ;-)

          • http://optimwise.com/ Chad Warner

            I’m not too worried because I have a pretty good relationship with my contractors, and have built up trust by working with most of them on several projects each. Also, I don’t put all project info into Trello; just the tasks that need people to do them (contractors or me). As another (hopefully unnecessary) deterrent, I have a non-competition clause in the agreement that contractors sign, stating that they agree to not work directly for the client for 3 years unless granted explicit written permission.

          • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

            The non-competition clause is a good one indeed :-) I will be working with new sub-contractors, that’s why I’m a bit wary. Thank you for your great advice, really helpful!

  • ShaneDaBane

    Just like with CRM, you seem to overlook popular free options, like Bitrix24 or Mango. Bitrix24 is WAY better than Asana, Basecamp or Podio IMHO.

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Hi Shane. I always try to include at least one free alternative, which was Trello in this case (and Podio has a limited free plan). Also I prefer to review focused tools instead of a collection of tools (with Podio project management was the main feature). And there are always many more great tools than I can write about, so that’s why these comments are so valuable. Maybe you could tell why you prefer Bitrix24 or Mango over the ones listed?

      • ShaneDaBane

        Because you get everything in one place. If you know Podio, multiply that by 3 and that’s essentially what Bitrix24 is (Podio+Skype+Dropbox+SharePoint). Obviously we all have our favorites, but if you do plan other articles on the subject, I’d give Bitrix24 a spin. There’s nothing quite like it on the market.

        • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

          Thank you for elaborating, will keep it in mind!

  • Michael Glatter-Götz

    I am missing Redbooth in your List.
    After Asana did not fulfill our needs, we switched to Redbooth and are quite happy with it.
    - Real Google Calendar integration (not only a .ics version of the calendar which does not sync in real time)
    - GANTT view
    - Ability to directly paste screenshots into comments

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Hi Michael, this one was on the shortlist as well but lost due to it’s relatively high pricing. It does have some great features, certainly worth checking out!

      • Michael Glatter-Götz

        Hi Jacco!

        For smaller team sizes you are right, there Asana is cheaper. But as the licensed members increase, Redbooth beats Asana in price (the table shows the montly costs per user)

        Asana Redbooth
        10 users $ 4,90
        15 users $ 3,33
        20 users $ 4,95
        30 users $ 3,33 $ 4,96
        50 users $ 6,00 $ 3,98

        To be honest, I don’t understand Asana’s pricing model…

        • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

          Hi Michael, Asana does have a not so common pricing model. Maybe that’s because when the numbers of users growth, so does the complexity of their connections? Thank you for this list by the way, nice to have listed here!

  • OphelieLechat

    Indeed — fixed now!

  • Amanda Olsen

    I’m surprised not to see ActiveColab in your list. Did anyone suggest that one? I really liked that one. A lot better than Basecamp.

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Hi Amanda, I don’t recall ActiveColab being mentioned but that’s why these comments are such a great addition to the article: There’s always room for suggestions! Looks great by the way, liking the Timeline :-)

  • TroyBatty

    Tried Trello, but needed a bit more flexibility so I am glad we use LeanKit at work. It’s based mainly on pull-based Kanban approach to managing work, but can be setup for almost any type of workflow (many Agile-based teams use it too). Also has mobile apps for iOS and Android, customizable workflow layouts and some other enterprise-level features and integrations- so worth taking a look if any here aren’t quite what you need.

    • TroyBatty

      Also has Zapier integrations – which if you haven’t heard of Zapier it is an awesome service that is like If This Than That with loads of integrations with everything from Gmail to Evernote to most listed here (Asana, Jira, Basecamp, Trello) even custom web hooks. Check it out if nothing here quite fits – you may be able to string together the ones that do the best at different things to make your perfect system.

      • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

        This one looks awesome as well, but can you share some examples of Zaps! you use to get a better understanding of the concept?

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      Hi Troy, thank you for sharing LeanKit, it certainly looks impressive. I think I will try this one out myself :-)

  • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

    Hi Todd, Jira was on the shortlist but lost it to Basecamp/Asana. Also, Jira is much more than just for project management I could only cover one aspect of it’s offering (which wouldn’t do it justice). But thanks for mentioning it!

  • Victory

    PivotalTracker is quite good as well :)

    • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

      I had to check out the demo a few times before understanding it, but it seems quite an impressive tool indeed :-)

  • Kim Vigsbo

    We switched from Basecamp to TeamworkPM a couple of years ago when 37signals removed several (for us) necessary features from their latest version. Our team is really happy with TeamworkPM (it even enables you to import your Basecamp data).

  • http://www.buildyourownwebstore.com/ Jacco Blankenspoor

    Hi Troy, these are some great examples (I like the medicine reminder :-). I will give it a try, thanks!

  • http://id.linkedin.com/in/rizky Rizky Syazuli

    i never get it why people use basecamp. it’s very limited in terms of features. Podio is more of my thing. with it’s modular app-based concept. it can be anything for anyone.

  • ShaneDaBane

    Where’s Bitrix24 or other free next gen social project management tools? Free B24 is way better than half the paid options you have listed.

  • Brockdin Barr

    Producteev is also really great for smaller teams and it’s free.

  • http://www.xpertdeveloper.com/ Avinash

    trello is best tool I have used so far for managing tasks. :)

  • http://www.pmhut.com/ PM Hut

    The best tool for project management is the project manager himself/herself. Also for the person who suggested JIRA, I think it’s very good, but it’s also very complex.

  • Marco Fiunno

    I recently switched from Trello to Kanban Tool. The reason for my decision was the need for more accurate data about employees working time (demanding client). After three months, I can say that definitely we stay with this application. It has a lot of interesting extras that really facilitated our work.