On the hunt for a Microsoft Project 2019 alternative? You’ve come to the right place. In this review, I’ll go over some great new MS Project alternatives and a downloadable how-to guide for choosing a Microsoft Project alternative for your projects.
Quickly Compare & Evaluate The 10 Best Microsoft Project Alternatives
If your company is feeling the pinch, your request to purchase a shiny new copy of Microsoft Project might elicit a response that goes something like,
“Surely there is a free Microsoft Project alternative that can do the job, isn’t there?”
Yes—there are dozens of paid and free MS Project alternatives out there. Below, you’ll find the ones that made my shortlist, followed by details, screenshots, to help you choose the right one.
Criteria For Microsoft Project Alternative Software
There’s loads of project scheduling software out there that does all kinds of things that we, as digital project managers will never make use of. In a tool that replaces MS Project, what exactly are we looking for? Here’s the criteria I use to evaluate Microsoft Project alternative project scheduling tool:
- User Interface (UI): How well-designed is it? How clear are the displays and navigation?
- Usability: Is it easy to learn? Are there tutorials, training, and user support?
- Features & Functionality: How many of the key resource management software features and functions does it provide, and how powerful are they? Specifically, I looked for this functionality:
- Create a Gantt chart: demonstrate in detail the work breakdown structure (WBS) with tasks, sub-tasks, showing duration, start and end dates, dependencies and assigned resources
- Create a project exec summary chart: provide a high-level view of the project plan to provide a project snapshot that anyone can understand
- Import and export .mpp files: be able to open .mpp files, seamlessly import someone else’s project plan, make edits and send it back to them without giving anyone a headache
- Export PDF’s or shareable project plans: be able to share something that looks presentable
- Integrations: Is it easy to connect with other tools? What are the pre-built integrations?
- Value for $: How appropriate is the price for its features, capabilities, and use case? Is pricing clear, transparent and flexible?
I know, I know: There are loads of other things that MS Project does, like resource management and project portfolio management with business intelligence integrations, which is great. But generally speaking, all we’re really doing is scheduling our projects. Yes, there are lots of other great functionality, but be honest—you don’t use them very much!
Best Microsoft Project Alternatives For Project Scheduling Software
In the overview of Microsoft Project alternatives below, I break down the features, pricing, and main benefits of the best Project alternatives.
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1. monday.com – Award-winning, visually intuitive tool for planning, tracking, and collaborating on projects.
monday.com is one of the few tools that prides itself in ‘not being a project management tool’! They’ve done away with a lot of the trimmings of typical tools and focused on simple structures that help clarify the sequence of work that needs to be done.
This tool is a great Microsoft Project alternative in that it functions a lot like a spreadsheet—but one that’s more intuitive to use and modify without having to mess around with formulas. Likewise, it offers more than a basic spreadsheet by giving you various views of your projects—view as spreadsheets or as lists, on a map, on a Kanban board, and other views. Users can upload and attach files to cards, make comments, mention teammates, and more.
It offers the ability to create summary charts as well as export and share project plans. However, one downside is that it doesn’t allow you to make Gantt charts in the traditional sense (they have a feature that serves the same purpose and works just as well, called “timelines”), nor can you import or export MPP files. That said, monday.com is designed as a true alternative to MS Project, not something to be used in tandem with it.
monday.com’s integrations include project management apps like Slack, Excel, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Dropbox, Typeform and many more, accessible via Zapier.
monday.com costs from $17/month for two users.
2. Project Manager – Fully-featured, award-winning PM software with Gantt chart features to plan, schedule and update in real-time.
ProjectManager.com is a well-rounded, award-winning software used by some big names including NASA, Volvo, Brookstone, and Ralph Lauren. This is an MS Project alternative solution where you can simply plan projects, assign tasks, track progress and collaborate with teams easily.
This tool delivers a ton of useful Gantt chart features that rival MS Project. Using this tool, you can create project plans (Gantt charts), manage tasks, create reports, and manage timesheets, expenses, and workloads. This Gantt chart application also provides a useful feature that lets you easily switch between views—between Gantt chart, task list, and Kanban board views. You can use the in-app communication features to comment on tasks and assign them to team members.
Their real-time reports are easy to use—get pre-set reports (project status, timesheets, expenses) in a single click, or set up your own custom reports. You can also use the real-time dashboard to get a glimpse of your current project stats. And you can use all of these features to schedule and report across multiple projects, as well.
ProjectManager.com integrations include native integrations with GoogleApps like Drive, Gmail, Calendar, etc. as well as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Project. For all other integrations, you can use Zapier to sync ProjectManager.com with other tools.
Pricing for ProjectManager.com starts at $15/user/month with their basic “Personal” plan requiring a minimum of 5 users. They offer a 30-day free trial (a credit card is required to sign up for a free trial).
3. GanttPRO – Powerful online Gantt chart software with a beautiful user interface.
You’re probably aware of how painful it is to find a nice looking and powerful Gantt chart and an MS Project substitute. In GanttPRO, you will find both. This Gantt chart tool looks really nice with its intuitive UX/UI design and a short learning curve.
GanttPRO offers a wide range of robust project management, project portfolio management, team collaboration, resource and cost management features. In this MS Project alternative, you easily create tasks with lots of settings like statuses, priorities, dates, deadlines, progress, time log, etc., assign them, set dependencies between connected tasks, and add milestones. Thanks to the Auto-scheduling feature, any change in your tasks, dates, or dependencies will be automatically reflected.
Moreover, you can switch between views to get more flexibility. Besides the native greatly looking Gantt chart timeline, there are also the Board view and My tasks view.
If you already started your plan in MS Project but need to change it, import it directly to GanttPRO, in seconds.
- Intuitive project management, robust portfolio and program management with a high-level picture.
- Team collaboration with comments, real-time notifications, attachments, and mentions.
- Advanced resource management: manage resources from all your projects in one place, see their availability, who is overloaded/underloaded, and with the help of drag & drop simplicity, redistribute tasks.
- Task time tracking.
- Advanced export and Sharing.
You can try a 14-day free trial or book a personal demo. A plan for 1 user starts from $15 if billed annually. Team plans start from $8.90 per user if billed annually.
4. Workzone – Easy to use Microsoft Project alternative with interactive Gantt charts and useful all-project dashboards.
Microsoft Project’s advanced features are meant for formally trained project management professionals, while Workzone provides robust features designed to be used successfully by the entire team, even those with no background in project management.
Unlike MS Project, Workzone includes five-star customer service. In fact, Workzone has a battle-tested approach that includes comprehensive onboarding and unlimited support. For anyone who struggles to make MS Projects useful to their teams, I’d recommend Workzone if for nothing else than the level of training and ongoing coaching that they offer.
Workzone’s interactive Gantt Charts, 10,000 ft project portfolio view, and project calendar allow teams to always know what’s going on and avoid bottlenecks. In the Gantt charts, Workzone links dependent tasks and uses a specific task’s end date to calculate the following task’s start date for projects with tasks that follow a set sequence. Plus, it automatically notifies the next party downstream when the dependent task is completed. In addition to those features, it offers secure document management and file-sharing, file versioning, customizable reporting, resource and task management, user permissions, and time tracking to keep teams productive. The software is cloud-based and offers automated emailed reports with up to date project status information.
Already an MS Project user? Import your Microsoft Project files directly into Workzone. I’m not sure if you can export .mpp files, but I do know that the tool offers file sharing at various permission levels as well as workload reports, so it’s easy enough to share out your resource plans.
Workzone has integrations with over a dozen standard workplace tools for comms, accounting, CRM, etc. Notably, it also integrates with MSTeams, so that could be useful for anyone who can’t leave the MS ecosystem fully. You can also extend Workzone’s functionality through their extensive API and Zapier.
Workzone pricing starts at $40/user/month for up to 5 users. Price per user lessens with the number of users…for instance, for 15 users the price per person starts at $24/user/month.
5. Wrike – Cloud-based, all-in-one platform that’s easy to scale, with a full suite of PM and scheduling tools.
To illustrate the point that the crossover between cloud-based Gantt chart creating Microsoft Project alternatives and project management tools is narrowing, it’s worth considering an all in one project management and scheduling tool like Wrike. While it doesn’t fall neatly into our selection criteria (it does much more than simply create Gantt charts), it’s worth including as an alternative way of approaching the challenge to create shareable project plans.
It’s a project management tool more akin JIRA, Clarizen or Asana – based around tasks, Wrike allows you to define and assign tasks and track their progress in real-time. You can easily import your .mpp Microsoft Project plans into the interface, although exporting is limited to.XLS. The Gantt chart view works but the control of interdependencies and predecessors is a bit cumbersome so it’s not clean like for like solution, but it’s definitely a workable solution. For the price (which they’ve priced very competitively), you can create Gantt charts and you’ve then armed with a swathe of other project management tools and potential integrations and features that you might find useful.
Wrike costs from $9.80/user/month.
6. Microsoft Project Pro – Robust project planning tool from Microsoft Office.
Well done for making it all the way down to the bottom. Here’s your prize. Not many people seem to be aware of this product, and even Microsoft keep pretty quiet about it, but there’s an alternative to spending $500 on a Microsoft Project licence, you can pay as you go. and get the control and capabilities of Project Professional 2019 from virtually anywhere as an always up-to-date desktop subscription through Office 365.
The upside is that you get what you wanted from the start; you don’t need a Project alternative when you can actually pretty much have the real deal. The downside is that all those bells and whistles and add-ons that you can get with some of the other products might actually be quite useful after all.
Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365 costs from $30/user/month.
7. Merlin Project – Microsoft Project alternative for Mac, iPad, and iPhone with granular controls for customization.
In its latest iteration, Merlin Project works pretty well. It’s a great Mac alternative to Microsoft Project, and looks very similar, with many of the granular controls for creating project plans that many of the other options out there gloss over.
You can create tasks and subtasks with dependencies and constraints, add work and duration separately, assign resources with an option to decrease duration or increase work, see how much work each resource has assigned, and add your own fields to each task, for which you can define the field type (e.g. checkbox, date, etc.). Merlin Project also comes with some cool new features such as Kanban board, resource pools, mind mapping and even a standalone app available in the Apple App Store.
Importing in and out of Merlin is pretty straightforward, import native MPP and export MS Project XML, but you lose a lot of formatting which is annoying.
Merlin Project costs $99/year.
8. Tom's Planner – Clutter-free Gantt chart software designed as a more collaborative alternative for teams who use MS Excel.
Tom’s Planner is paid web-based Gantt chart software that allows anyone to create, collaborate and share Gantt Charts online with drag and drop simplicity. It’s billed as a more simple and collaborative alternative to Project but is really aimed at replacing teams trying to collaborate using Excel. Because of that, it looks a lot like MS Excel – there isn’t a way to define dependencies and defining a non-working time (e.g. bank holidays).
That said, if you’re looking to produce a simple project plan, it’s pretty good. It’s web-based, extremely intuitive and easy-to-use. A great feature is being able to publish your charts online and invite others to collaborate on projects (a free account suffices to accept invitations), add links to other websites and other online documents and embed your schedule in your own blog/website or intranet. The real selling point here is that it’s online, shareable, and collaborative, the downside is that it’s very basic.
Tom’s Planner costs from $7.50/user/month.
Summary Of The Best Microsoft Project Alternatives For Creating Gantt Charts
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the baffling array of Microsoft Project Alternatives out there. Below, we’ve put together a reader-friendly table neatly summarizing basic info about the tools described in this article. We’ve investigated the pricing and availability of free trials and demo versions for you to make a side-by-side comparison that much simpler.
|monday.com||Read monday.com features & functionality||
14 days free trial
|From $17/2 users/month||Check out monday.com|
|Project Manager||Read Project Manager features & functionality||
30 days free trial
|From $15/user/month||Check out Project Manager|
|GanttPRO||Read GanttPRO features & functionality||
14 days free trial
|From $8.90/user/month||Check out GanttPRO|
|Workzone||Read Workzone features & functionality||
|From $24/user/month||Check out Workzone|
|Wrike||Read Wrike features & functionality||
14 days free trial
|From $9.80/user/month||Check out Wrike|
|Microsoft Project Pro||Read Microsoft Project Pro features & functionality||
30 days free trial
|From $30/user/month||Check out Microsoft Project Pro|
|Merlin Project||Read Merlin Project features & functionality||
30 day free trial.
|From $99/year.||Check out Merlin Project|
|Tom's Planner||Read Tom's Planner features & functionality||
|From $7.50/user/month||Check out Tom's Planner|
Free MS Project Alternatives
They come with limited functionality, but here are a few Microsoft Project free alternatives:
- Project Libre – open source project management software
- GanttProject – free project management and scheduling app to make Gantt charts on Windows, OSX, and Linux
- Ganttology – interactive Gantt chart software with basic free plan (1 chart, 50 tasks) in addition to paid plans
- Team Gantt – MS Project alternative with great UI and a free plan (3 people, 1 project) in addition to paid plans
- Toggl Plan – simple, sleek project planning software with a free plan (5 people max) in addition to paid plan
Other project scheduling software alternatives worth considering:
There are some new kids on the Gantt chart block! I haven’t had a chance to review these properly, but if none of the above work for you, it’s worth checking some of these out:
- Tom’s Planner
- Mind Genius
- Edraw Project
- Rational Plan
- Toggl Plan
- Hyper Plan
- Office Timeline
Want Help Narrowing Down the Options?
This tool is pretty useful. We’ve partnered with Crozdesk to give you access to their “Software Finder”.
If you input some of the details about your project and the features you’re looking for in a project management tool, it will generate a list of tools that match your preferences. You provide your email, and they send over a nice PDF guide with a summary of your best matches.
Questions To Ask When Choosing Among The Best Microsoft Project Alternatives
So what is the best project scheduling software to use as a Microsoft Project alternative? It really depends on whether or not you subscribe to the requirements we set out above.
If you’re actually looking for something a bit more than that, then one of the cloud-based solutions like Smartsheet would probably work out well. As I often find myself offline, on planes and in the wilds of BC, I would miss having a desktop app to churn out my .mpp’s on the road. So in short, my preference would be for Microsoft Project Pro for Office 365. It does everything I want it to do, in the format I need it. Yes, it’s kind of a cop out but it works —and it’s actually no more expensive than any of the better, paid, alternatives.
That’s how I made my decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing the right MS project alternative for your case:
Where is the Gantt chart and project schedule used in your workflow?
This is a bit of a catch-all, but in choosing a Microsoft Project alternative, it’s worth thinking about how you’re managing estimates, tasks, resources, budgets, risk, time sheets and project reporting. There are features within Microsoft Project that support this, and many of the alternatives include them too.
How do you use your project plans and schedules?
If they are just Gantt charts that get created at the beginning of a project and are then not updated, it’s very different from the requirement for a tool that needs daily updates.
Consider what you actually use project timelines for; do you print them off every day and baseline progress? How do you share that information with the project team and executive? Consider too how you’ll be updating the timeline throughout the project.
Who will use it?
It’s worth considering if it will be just the project manager updating the project plan, or if the team will need to do it too. If the project timeline needs to be actively updated by the project team, it’s worth considering tools which are easy to use, and require minimal onboarding.
What other tools are you using?
Microsoft Project integrates and plays nicely with its Microsoft buddies, SharePoint and Project Server which are enterprise based solutions capable of some incredibly smart things with Power BI, Internet of Things, bots and machine learning. Microsoft Project integrates with a lot of other applications and tools too, including JIRA using the Ceptah Plugin and Daptiv PPM.
Are you always online?
Cloud-based project timeline apps can be great, and they can be kept more up to date with ‘live’ information but consider that they require an active internet connection to work. If you’re ever working offline, and got no cell reception, for example on a plane, you’ll be hooped and want a desktop application instead.
What’s the cost?
The cost of Microsoft Project tends to be one of the primary reasons that people look for an alternative. Microsoft Project isn’t cheap, but did you know that if you do a quick search on Amazon you can find the latest version of Microsoft Project 2019 for less than $600?
Consider Projects vs Users
Most of the Microsoft Project alternatives are priced on a cost per user basis. So in working out which solution is the most affordable, consider what makes most sense for you; is it a tool that many people in the organization will need to use, or will it be used principally by the project manager?
Consider The Lifetime Cost Of Ownership
While web-based apps might seem affordable in the short run, typically costing around $15/user/month, the cost of ownership over 3 years is actually the same as buying a copy of Microsoft Project. So before deciding on subscribing to a service, consider purchasing a desktop-based non-cloud solution like:
Most of the cloud-based Microsoft project alternatives offer at least some paltry freemium offering which might be enough for you:
While Microsoft Project might seem like an easy tool to replace, when you can subscribe to Project Online Professional for $30/user/month, it’s worth weighing up all the options before subscribing to a cloud-based option.
But if you’re not using it every day, and just need simple Gantt project planner, there are lots of great, cheap, and even free options for you.
What Do You Think?
What do you think we’re missing? Any other great alternatives to Microsoft Project for project scheduling, making Gantt charts, and project plans? We’d love to hear if you’ve got any suggestions, tips or thoughts on using this kind of project scheduling software – why not share them using the comments below?