The Best Project Management Software
Project management software is used to juggle anything from scheduling to task delegation. But the best software allows project managers to do so effortlessly while also allowing teams to collaborate and communicate more effectively. After testing 20 popular options, we found four with intuitive interfaces and well designed tools that outperformed their competitors.
A customizable dashboard and intuitive tools make Easy Projects a dependable resource for projects large or small. The software even has a free version that is better than some competing software you have to pay for.
Teamwork offers payment plans that are based on the number of projects and storage you need. Add to that affordable pricing (as low as $24 a month), and the software becomes a great option for students or teams who have a limited number of projects planned.
A simple interface and bare-bones approach to features, make this software great for beginners. It is less customizable and more structured which is great for learning, but not suited for those with more experience.
The plans are more expensive with this software, but they give you access to detailed task and financial management tools. Its interface isn't as easy to use or customize as other picks like Easy Projects. But for large teams juggling multiple tasks and expenses, Clarizen is tough to beat.
- January 24, 2018 - We've updated our review by reformatting for easier reading. We also reworked our methodology to give a better picture of how we came to our top picks. In the next one or two months, we'll be taking a deep dive into project management software for a complete overhaul, so keep an eye out for more soon.
The Best Project Management Software
The best project management software is not easy to define, because projects themselves are different things to different people. Projects can refer to company-wide initiatives, ongoing day-to-day work, and even one-off departmental activities. It’s important to identify the types of projects you need to track and the size of your team before implementing any project management software. The key is to choose the one that best aligns with the scope of your particular projects and working techniques.
Easy Projects is the clear winner in our book among the 20 useful project management software options we reviewed, with its easy integration, guest portal, and solid customization options. In addition to its impressive paid plans, the software also has a well-rounded free version which is great for beginners. With a variety of tools and resources, Easy Projects will be a great match for most people’s needs.
For students who want to avoid the frustration of disorganized group projects Teamwork, is an excellent option. A strong messaging feature allows students to communicate and share information quickly, which is essential for coordinating times to meet and work. It also integrates with popular storage software like Google Docs, so that students can access any work they may need. It isn’t quite as easy or enjoyable to use as more robust options like Easy Projects. But for college students or even professionals who need project management software for a few unrelated projects, Teamwork is a great choice.
If you’re a beginner to project management, the structured approach of LiquidPlanner is the way to go. You won’t get the same level of flexibility or customization as the other picks, but the simplified interface makes it far easier to learn how to use the software. Experienced professionals who need more than the bare minimum will want to look elsewhere, but for those who are just getting started, choosing simple software like LiquidPlanner will save a lot of time and effort.
For the experienced professional, we recommend Clarizen. With excellent financial management tools, larger companies will be able to easily keep track of multiple projects and budgets. The software is a touch more expensive and a few features aren’t as efficient or effective as those offered by Easy Projects. But the specialized task and financial management tools make it a great fit for a larger enterprise.
How We Found the Best Project Management Software
Many large companies lock their project managers into using specific software such as Microsoft Project — a whopping 67 percent of respondents to the most recent Capterra survey reported using it. The research shows that most large companies will already be committed to using particular project management software. In that sense, we focused on finding options for small teams that are new to project management software or are looking for the perfect tool to streamline department-based projects.
It is easy to be tempted by software that promises a nearly endless list of project management features. But Andy Kaufman, an expert on project management, warned “most project managers use a small percentage of the features in their project management tools, so be careful to not get overly enamored with feature lists.” Instead, he advised that we “find a tool that fits into the culture of your company and that will get used.”
Following his advice, we combed through over 100 options to find software that managed to deliver on a single goal: saving you time and increasing productivity. That meant looking for software with features that are easy to learn and use as well as scannable interfaces. After hours of comparison and a few debates, we found 20 that were worth putting to the test.
We took our software for a spin to compare their features
While it’s possible for project management software to have too many bells and whistles, our experts agreed that there are a few must-have features. Comparing these features not only gives you a better idea of which software outperforms others but also which software option might be best for particular work styles. We pit our 20 software finalists against each other to see which handled the following features the best.
Project management and organization
While every feature in project management software will be related to the process of managing a project to at least some degree, there are a few features that have a larger impact on productivity. A few of these features include project templates, calendars, and tools for creating a project hierarchy or timeline. When designed well, these tools help project managers or teams create and organize resources that break projects into more manageable chunks. The result? A streamlined work process that saves time and energy.
Our testers reported that all 20 of our finalists performed well in this category. This wasn’t too much of a surprise considering these features are widely recognized as a necessity for any project management software. That said, we were still impressed by a few options such as Easy Projects that allow to you easily customize nearly everything from the dashboard to the layout of projects for painless time and resource management.
Task and role management
Aside from general project management, the best software should also provide more specialized tools for managing tasks and team member roles. Project management software that offers task dependencies, sub-tasks, and recurring tasks scored well in this category — these features help you stay up to date with the parts of the project you’re responsible for and the obstacles or resources that may affect your work.
With all of these tasks, it’s also important that managers have access to specialized tools to assign roles and role permissions. By assigning roles, team members can see what their responsibilities are and who they share tasks with. Permissions allow managers to restrict access to resources in order to ensure that teams have quick access to the resources that are most relevant to them. Surprisingly, features like these aren’t considered standard yet, but think the best project management software should make completing work and collaboration as easy as possible. In our search for the best, we gave credit to software like Liquidplanner which offered a simple interface to make assigning tasks and roles a breeze.
Built-in Communication Tools
We love anything that declutters our email inbox. Having access to a built-in live chat feature not only cuts down on endless email chains, but it also enables the team to make decisions on the fly in the context of a project or task. The best software has both one-on-one chat for private conversations and group chat for brainstorming sessions, project-related chatter, and even a funny picture or two.
While most offer some kind of built-in communication tool, options like Clarizen offered both built-in chat and integration for Slack — a leading collaboration and chat service. Others like Asana were less impressive and didn’t offer built-in chat (though it does let you connect to a third-party service). We gave preference to the software that gave us the best of both worlds.
Cloud Storage and other Third-Party Integrations
At times, you won’t have a choice over the storage software your employer uses to save work. In that sense, it makes life easier if your project management software plays nice with popular cloud storage options like Microsoft Azure and Google Drive. It’s also key to have easy access to third-party tools such as integrated Email and customer service software which are increasingly important in the professional world.
The exact storage and third-party integrations you have access to will differ depending on the project management software you choose. But we gave bonus points to software that included some of the most popular storage and integration services. For example, Teamwork supports Dropbox and Zendesk which are highly regarded storage and customer service tools which gives it an edge over competitors like Redbooth which has a less impressive array.
An integral part of managing any project is ensuring that it stays within budget. We compared financial management features like revenue and expense tracking. Features like these are important for helping you keep track of the estimated and actual cost of a project or task. Similar to specialized task and role management, specialized financial management tools are not considered basic features and may cost extra. However, staying within budget is essential for keeping projects as achievable goals, so we gave extra points to software that offered accurate and dependable finance trackers.
While impressive in other regards, we missed having a financial management system with Liquidplanner. Other competitors like Clarizen offered intuitive financial tools for both estimating and tracking costs as well as revenue. We like knowing where the money for our projects is going.
The bottom line is that every project manager or team will want reports for different things — some may use the reports for tracking expenses and others may use them for looking at the time allocated for certain tasks. Reports allow teams to stay on top of current challenges, completed tasks, and help managers identify who might need an extra hand. Whether you need to craft an expense or task report we think the more options you have the better. That said, a large number of options isn’t enough; they should also be easy to navigate.
Some software like Easy Projects offer the ability to customize forms that take the complication out of gathering information. This allows you more time to analyze and write a report that can help fellow members of your team and managers. Since communication and sharing information are essential to any project, we gave preference to software that helped us improve the quality of reports.
After many comparisons and conversations, we found four software options that offered the best project management experience. These options not only fit seamlessly into our work environment, but also had enough flexibility to meet a variety of working styles. Whether you need general project management tools or have specialized needs, we feel confident our picks will save you time and increase productivity.
Our Top Picks for The Best Project Management Software
One of the most appealing things about Easy Projects is that it offers a great free plan with services under 1GB. However, their paid plans are also affordable and bring with them a ton of helpful features. You can expect the ability to easily customize your dashboard and even create custom forms for streamlined project management and report writing. The software also easily integrates with popular add-ons like Microsoft Outlook which means you’ll be able to maintain clear communication between team members and clients. In short, Easy Projects does what its name suggests it will.
It isn’t perfect though. You won’t be able to create cross-project dependencies which means you can’t like two projects together — if one project relies on the other, you’ll have to manage them separately. But even so, the wealth of intuitive tools and features Easy Projects provides was enough to outweigh any flaws. For effective and productive project management, Easy Projects is the way to go.
Best for Students
We recognize that project management is not only reserved for working professionals. Many students often need project management software to help them balance school and other life responsibilities. Teamwork eliminates all the frustrations of working in group projects by allowing students to communicate quickly and share information through messages. Not only that, students can integrate with Google Drive which makes group writing, editing, and resource management a breeze. Pricing is also based on the number of projects and storage desired instead of the number of users which often drives down costs — an important detail for many college budgets.
That said, the low costs still come at a price. The software isn’t the easiest to use and the interface can be difficult to navigate at times. However, with a little patience and exploration, Teamwork transforms into one of the more useful project management software options available. Whether you’re a student or not, Teamwork is a strong choice.
Best for Beginners
If you or your team has little experience with project management, starting with a more structured project management software can be incredibly beneficial. Unlike other software options, LiquidPlanner does not allow much flexibility when it comes to setting up your projects. Instead, it works more like a template forcing you to manage projects the way its designers envisioned. While constraints are often viewed negatively, our testers reported that the structured approach of LiquidPlanner makes it incredibly easy to learn and use. For beginners, that means less frustration trying to learn the software and more time actually using it.
However, the simple approach will not be a good match for those who have more experience. In order to streamline the project management process, LiquidPlanner sacrificed helpful features including financial management tools and the ability to assign multiple people to a task. If you have a more complex project, you’ll want to look at our other picks. But for those dipping their toes into the waters of project management, LiquidPlanner is a great resource.
Best for Larger Teams
Unlike LiquidPlanner, we find Clarizen to be a great match for those with more experience in project management. With excellent financial and task management tools, Clarizen makes it easy to manage multiple projects whether it involves assigning shared roles or tracking expenses. In addition, it offers a strong app integration feature to help you build the project management system that best fits your needs. For experienced project managers looking for an industry-leading resource and management tool, Clarizen is a solid choice.
Clarizen does have a few flaws. Compared to competitors that offer similar features, Clarizen is a bit expensive. In addition, its document management feature only allows you to upload one file to its system at a time — a strange time suck considering its otherwise efficient design. However, these flaws are more minor annoyances than dealbreakers, and you can still expect excellent project management experiences with the software.