With over 10,000 organizations using it, Microsoft Project is a popular desktop project management tool. However, an estimated 25 – 30% workforce is expected to work from home by the end of 2021. That’s why businesses and managers are looking at Microsoft Project alternatives.
In this article we’ll look at the following:
- Freemium Microsoft Project alternatives
- Open source MS Project alternatives
- And, Mac-based alternatives to MS Project
But, before that, let’s look at why you may want to look at alternative project management software.
Why Look For Microsoft Project Alternatives?
MS Project is a powerful tool that comes with all the features for your project management needs. But, it’s not for everyone. Here are the three main reasons why you may look at its alternatives:
1. Distributed work
The 2020 pandemic has changed the way we work. Over 250% more people will work full-time from home, even after the pandemic.
Microsoft Project has traditionally been a desktop application. As a result, it does not adapt well to distributed teams. In addition, collaboration and task management are tough with desktop apps.
Microsoft Office 365 does solve this to some extent. But, it can quickly become expensive for small businesses.
The features that make MS Project powerful also make it complex. It comes with all the features for:
- Project planning, budgeting & scheduling
- Resource management
- Portfolio management
- Collaboration & communication
However, not all these features are needed for every team member. As a result, while MS Project is great for senior managers, it’s not yet that relevant for the entire team.
Microsoft Project is available in three price plans.
First, the basic plan comes with project planning and execution features and costs $10 per user, per month.
Next, the second tier plan comes with all the features in the basic plan, plus resource management and reporting features. It costs $30 per user, per month.
Finally, the enterprise tier comes with additional enterprise and portfolio management features and costs $55 per user, per month.
In addition, you also have to pay for Office 365.
As a result, MS Project can quickly become expensive for small businesses.
Now that you know the reasons, let’s look at some MS Project alternatives.
Free MS Project Alternatives
Considering the above reasons, let’s look at a few free MS Project alternatives. However, in this section, we’ll only look at online tools that facilitate distributed work.
1. Toggl Plan
Toggl Plan is a beautifully simple project planning and execution tool. It’s built for remote teams that prefer results-driven management, transparency, and autonomy over micro-management.
It comes with the following features:
- Project plan timeline for project planning and scheduling
- Team plan timeline for visually managing your team’s workloads
- Comprehensive task management with customizable workflows and recurring tasks
- Assign multiple team members to a task
- Task collaboration and communication using attachments and comments
- Email notification reports
On the minus side, Toggl Plan does not come with portfolio management.
Pricing: Toggl Plan comes with a free plan that includes all the above features. This lifetime free plan is good for unlimited projects and small teams for up to 5 team members. Paid plans start at $9 per user, per month.
Asana is a comprehensive, online project management tool. And, it’s best suited for large teams and complex projects. It comes with multiple views to manage your projects and the following features:
- Timeline and calendar views for project planning
- Task management with custom task workflows and sub-tasks
- Task collaboration and communication
- Team workload management
- Portfolio management
But, most of the above features are available in the paid plans. And, the free plan is limited to Calendars, Boards, and a limited number of tasks.
Pricing: Asana’s lifetime free plan is good for teams of up to 15 members. However, you can only create a limited number of tasks in the free plan. And, you don’t get timelines or workload management in the free plan. Paid plans start at $13.49 per user, per month.
TeamGantt as the name suggests is a project planning and execution tool. It’s an online tool that comes with features similar to MS Project.
- Project planning with Gantt charts
- Workload forecasting
- Task management with dependant tasks and estimates
- Team collaboration with conversations and attachments
- Time tracking
Now on to the negatives. The free plan is limited to a single project and up to 3 team members.
Pricing: TeamGantt’s free plan is limited to one project, one timeline, and up to 3 members. Paid plans start at $24.95 per user, per month.
Wrike is an all-round project management tool. It comes with planning, task management, and reporting features. Primarily meant for creative and marketing teams, Wrike also comes with proofing and approval features.
Major features in Wrike include:
- Project planning with Gantt charts and Calendars
- Task management with boards, custom fields, and sub-tasks
- Proofing, task, and project approvals
- Reporting with time-tracking
- User access controls
On the minus side, the free plan does not come with any of the advanced features.
Pricing: Wrike’s free plan comes with task management features. Also, it’s limited to 5 user teams. Paid plans start at $9.80 per user, per month.
Clickup is a complete work management tool. It also offers project planning, task management, resource management, and time tracking features. Unlike other tools in this list, it also comes with an internal chat tool that teams can use to collaborate on projects.
Here are Clickup’s important features:
- Task management using lists, boards, and calendars
- Work planning using timeline charts
- Reports and custom dashboards with time tracking
- Enterprise-level security and HIPAA compliance
It’s important to note that all the above features are only available in paid plans.
Pricing: Clickup’s free plan comes with unlimited users and tasks. However, only the list view is available in the free plan. Boards and calendars are available in the Unlimited plan, which costs $9 per user, per month. Timelines and time-tracking are available in the Business plan, which starts at $19 per user, per month.
Open Source Alternatives To Microsoft Project
In addition to the freemium tools above, there are a lot of open source project management alternatives to MS Project. Let’s look at three of the most popular tools.
OpenProject is an open-source project management tool. It’s an online tool that comes with planning, task management, and bug management features.
Primarily for software development teams, OpenProject comes with the following features:
- Project planning and scheduling with Gantt charts
- Task management with Kanban boards
- Time tracking, and cost reporting
- Bug tracking and release planning
On the minus side, the tool is fairly complex to use and may need quite some time for your team to get used to.
Pricing: Like most open-source tools, OpenProject comes with a self-hosted, community version, that completely free. The paid plans start at $6 per user, per month. However, all paid plans require a minimum commitment of 1 year.
ProjectLibre is a desktop-based, open-source MS Project alternative. It matches most closely to MS Project’s desktop version. A cloud-based version of this project management tool is in the works.
ProjectLibre’s main features include:
- Desktop app for Linux, Mac, and Windows PCs
- Works with Microsoft Project files
- Project planning, task management, and resource management features
However, because it’s a desktop application, it comes with all the drawbacks of MS Project.
Pricing: The open-source, community version is free for life.
Microsoft Project Alternatives For Mac
Most online tools and open-source software applications work well for Mac devices. But, Apple users prefer native apps over these. In this section, we’ll look at the top, native MS Project alternatives for Mac devices.
OmniPlan is a native Mac app for project management. It comes with project planning and scheduling, effort tracking, and resource management features.
Features that come with OmniPlan are:
- Project planning with Gantt charts
- Resource management with leveling and sharing
- Task management with dependencies
- Critical path planning
- Cost/effort estimation and tracking
OmniPlan has the same cons as that of MS Project.
Pricing: OmniPlan comes with a 14-day free trial. The monthly subscription costs $19.99 and works on both Mac and iOS. The lifetime Mac version costs $399.99.
QuickPlan is another popular project management tool for Mac. And, it comes with similar features to MS Project.
Notable features include:
- Task planning with Gantt charts
- Task management with dependencies
- Keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures to improved usability
- Integrations with MS Project, Excel, iCal, and Mind map
However, QuickPlan suffers from the same drawbacks as any desktop application.
Pricing: A free trial is available for QuickPlan. The premium version costs $47.99 and is available on the Mac
How To Choose From These Microsoft Project Alternatives?
So far we’ve looked at nine different Microsoft Project alternatives. Each of the above-mentioned tools has its own pros and cons.
So how do you choose the right PM tool for your needs?
- If you are a team of one with very little need for team collaboration, you can go ahead with the open-source and free ProjectLibre. Or, if you prefer Apple devices, the premium Mac apps like OmniPlan or QuickPlan are a great choice.
- On the other hand, if team collaboration is important to you, choose from the freemium MS Project alternatives mentioned above. For software development teams, OpenProject is a great free and open-source alternative.
Keep in mind the maintenance of open-source software. Often, it’s self-hosted and support is almost non-existent.
Consider Toggl Plan for simple project management needs
For simple, collaborative project planning and execution, you may want to look at Toggl Plan. It’s come with all the project planning, task management, and workload management features that small teams need. Plus, it’s very affordable.