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, and scores 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. You’ll also find an overall score to help you quickly compare tools.
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1. 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).
2. 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.
3. Smartsheet – A work execution platform with integration with your favorite PM tools and apps, custom branding options, collaboration tools, charts and graphs and more
Smartsheet’s online project management tool takes some of the most useful features of Microsoft Project, combines them with the simple use of an online spreadsheet, and then incorporates team collaboration and automation functions to save money. It offers the basics: functions such as making a schedule of beautiful activities with tasks, subtasks, activities, assigned resources and sections on tasks.
Smartsheet helps you organize projects, grids, calendars, dashboards, portals, forms and more all from a unified control center. They have pre-built Gantt chart templates with customizable fonts and colors, “% Complete” and “Assigned To” columns and more. It has useful features such as workflow automation and visualization of tasks in Gantt, calendar and card views. Team members get notified of critical changes in real-time, and the tool provides shared views, detail history, activity logs, automated alerts, reminders, and status reports to keep everyone aligned and informed.
The Critical Path feature highlights all the tasks which directly impact your project completion date to keep an eye on important milestones. Reporting is a strong feature of this tool, with editable summary reports that you can easily export to Excel.
Smartsheet integrations include Microsoft and Google apps, as well as development essentials like Jira, and useful business apps like Salesforce, ServiceNow, Slack, Box, and Tableau. The platform is extensible through a REST API and webhooks.
Smartsheet costs from $14/user/month and offers a 30-day trial.
4. Zoho Projects – Project management software that helps businesses plan, track, and collaborate with ease.
Zoho Projects is a MS Project alternative that has a simple, easy-to-use interface that also comes with a mobile application. Zoho Projects has extensive Gantt chart features and capabilities at an affordable price range which creates an all-round project management experience. It has an intuitive Gantt chart that can be operated with simple drag-and-drop actions. It supports all four kinds of dependencies and contains a critical path and baseline to help avoid delays.
Zoho Projects comes with features like task management, time tracking, and resource utilization. All projects can be split into milestones that you want to reach at various time periods. Task management is easy with features like custom fields and statuses, task recurrence, reminders, and a Kanban view. You can manage your time by splitting and allocating your available hours to all your work items.
The resource utilization chart comes with simple seesaws that depict the workload of your resources. While allocating tasks, you can easily see who is over-utilized, under-utilized, or unavailable too. Collaboration is possible with any of the project’s stakeholders with interactive feeds and forums, wiki pages and built-in chat.
Zoho Projects integrates with several Zoho applications like Zoho CRM, Zoho Books, Zoho People, and other applications like Office 360, Google Drive, G Cal, GitHub, BitBucket, and Crashlytics. Zoho has a Marketplace that has several pre-built extensions. Zoho Projects also has support engineers and live chat support to help with onboarding.
Zoho Projects costs from $3/user/month. The available plans are Standard, Premium, Express, and Enterprise.
5. 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 a MS Project substitute. In GanttPRO, you will find both. This Gantt chart tool looks really nice with its intuitive UX/UI design.
Besides, it offers a wide range of project management features. Here you can easily create tasks, assign them, and connect them with dependencies, set milestones, enable the critical path to see the most important tasks or create a baseline to compare the current state of your plan with what you have initially planned. Thanks to the auto-scheduling function, any change in your tasks, dates or dependencies will be automatically reflected. GanttPRO is also a good collaboration tool. It allows users to comment on tasks, export, import and share charts with Public URL as well as get notifications, mention team members, browse History mode, etc. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Clarizen – Fully-featured, enterprise-grade software with additional portfolio, resource, and workflow tools.
Companies are quickly finding that traditional, siloed, on-premises project planning and task management tools don’t work well in today’s environment. These tools are too complex and too narrowly focused and do not have the real-time information, the responsive planning, and flexibility required to keep everyone in the loop and everything on track. While it’s easy to download a simple task management tool, they do not support the collaborative interaction needed to complete process or project-related tasks. By contrast, delivers secure, cloud-based collaborative work management solutions built on the vision of business agility.
Discussions, tasks, projects, and portfolios are all accessible from Clarizen’s scalable enterprise platform. Our intuitive, easy-to-use and flexible solution offers a single source of information to improve work execution, collaborate in-context, optimize resources and respond faster. Clarizen provides:
• Centralized project and portfolio management – organize complex projects and automate workflows
• Change and issue management – track, manage and prioritize change requests and resolve issues
• Resource optimization and robust collaboration – execute on feedback and tasks in real-time to streamline how you work
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.
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:
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?