You want Microsoft Project for Mac. I get it.
Microsoft Project is one of the most popular project management software programs, and Macs are popular devices.
This is a good news/bad news situation. I’m going to cut straight to the bad news:
MS Project is incompatible with MacOS.
That’s probably not what you want to hear, especially if you’re reading this on a brand new MacBook Pro.
Wait, you haven’t heard the good news yet. There are alternatives, workarounds, and—for the determined—creative solutions to get Microsoft Project on your Mac.
Jump to these sections or read straight through:
- Can I Run MS Project For Mac?
- Project Online: A Microsoft Alternative On Mac
- What Are Some MS Project Alternatives for Mac?
- How To Trick Your Mac Into Running MS Project
Can I Run MS Project For Mac?
No, MS Project does not work on Mac. Microsoft Project won’t run on Mac because they can’t talk to each other. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get more fundamental than that. MS Project was designed and optimized specifically for the Windows operating system.
Building project management software for Macs wasn’t Microsoft’s concern.
In fact, the last time that there was a version of Microsoft Project for Apple users was back in 1993 with Microsoft Project 4.0 for Mac. Sadly, that doesn’t work now!
Project Online: A Microsoft Alternative On Mac
Project Online is your best Microsoft alternative.
If you’ve used the version of Microsoft Office for Macbooks, you might’ve come across it already.
The Project Online web app is designed by Microsoft, comes with Microsoft 365 for Mac and is fully functional. To be clear, it’s not a web-based version of Projects. Microsoft explains that “Project Online is an entirely separate service that offers full portfolio and project management tools on the web.”
The Project Online application is great for people who need to manage projects, track timesheets, and balance resources.
What Are Some MS Project Alternatives for Mac?
Before you try any work-arounds with MS Project, consider one of the many alternatives that can do the job just as well—or better.
As you look for an alternative to MS Projects, you should determine what it is that makes MS Project so desirable to you. Ask yourself what exactly you’re looking for in a tool that replaces MS Project. Here are a few places to start.
1. Software For Making Gantt Charts
For some project managers, a Gantt chart for Mac is all they need. A Gantt chart demonstrates in detail the work breakdown structure (WBS) with tasks and sub-tasks, as well as shows duration, start and end dates, dependencies, and assigned resources.
If that’s all you need, have a look at the Gantt chart tools listed in my in-depth review of the Best Gantt Chart Maker For Your Projects In 2020:
2. Software Very Similar to Microsoft Project
Here’s a short list of software alternatives to MS Project from my full, in-depth reviews of the Best Microsoft Project Alternatives Of 2020. The list of MS Project alternatives below will be most useful to you if:
- You need MS Projects for more than Gantt charts
- You want to be able to create a project exec summary chart (a high-level view of the project plan to provide a project snapshot that anyone can understand)
- You need to be able to import and export .mpp files
- You often export PDFs or make shareable project plans
Smartsheet – Best for importing and exporting MS Project files
If you’re looking for an application that can open Projects, and don’t need to work within the software, then I’d recommend Smartsheets. Users can import MS Project files and work on them within the software.
This is an excellent option for users who want to stay on Mac, need to send and receive MS Project files for their professional work, and don’t care whether or not they work within MS Project. You can export the file as an MS Project when you’re done working. Nobody will ever know you used Smartsheet. It can also be a great planner for Mac, too.
Smartsheet has a 30 day free trial.
Celoxis – Best for Gantt chart features
Celoxis is a Mac-suitable all-in-one project management software that closely matches the Microsoft Project scheduling paradigm. Features include project scheduling, timesheets, activity streams, project financials, resource management, collaboration, dynamic reports, dashboards and snapshots, team and client accounts, and integrations with almost 300 other business tools.
The Gantt chart in Celoxis is fast loading and closely mimics the Microsoft Project paradigm. It’s fully interactive and supports features like drag-and-drop, adding multiple tasks and subtasks, recurring tasks, assigning multiple resources per task, inter-project dependencies, task colours, setting critical paths, baselining, and manual and automatic scheduling. It can effortlessly handle and load large project plans with thousands of tasks and subtasks without choking up. You can easily import and export .mpp files.
A con, however, is that it still lacks a dedicated iOS app. It uses a responsive mobile site that works well for Mac users, although it can get a bit out of sync with the Mac ethos. Given the other benefits the tool offers to the Mac community, this absence can easily be overlooked.
The cloud version costs $25/user/month with additional commitment discounts. The on-premise version costs $450/user and is billed only once.
Zoho Projects – Best for charts, dashboards, and project reporting features
Zoho Projects is an award-winning project management software and collaboration tool from Zoho. It offers flexibility and customization options to suit the needs of traditional project managers as well as agile teams. Zoho Projects supports multiple platforms including Mac. Some of the core features include a Gantt chart maker, Kanban board, inbuilt chat, and a highly collaborative social feed.
Zoho Projects also packs features that help managers such as resource utilization charts, task automation features, customizable dashboards, baseline features, critical path features, and budgeting features.
Users can generate and share Gantt charts as PDFs. The tasks in Zoho Projects can be exported to XLS or CSV. Zoho Projects also supports importing Microsoft Project MPP files.
The interface and modules are highly customizable. All aspects of the UI from theme colors to arrangement and visibility of the various modules can be changed to suit a user’s preferences. Zoho Projects also offers free onboarding for its customers and a comprehensive online help guide for all users.
Being part of the Zoho’s ecosystem allows Zoho Projects to connect to several of Zoho’s own services such as Zoho CRM, Zoho Desk and Zoho’s finance suite. The new Zoho marketplace allows for several 3rd party integrations as well including iCal sync, Google integrations, and much more.
Pricing starts from $18 for 6 users. Free 10 day trial available. No credit card information required.
AirTable – Best for usability and ease of navigation
AirTable allows project managers to create Gantt charts, collaborate with team members, organize charts, and time track.
Their mobile and desktop apps are easy to navigate. You can add whatever you need to stay organized. AirTable supports attachments, long text, checkboxes, barcodes, image files, and a lot more. The base version of AirTable is a free project management software with the option to pay for more features depending on the size of your business.
3. Software For Viewing MS Project Files
There’s a software designed for project managers who only need to open and view MS Project files called Seavus Project Viewer. With Seavus, project managers can track their projects with Gantt charts, task sheets, and resource sheets.
The standard edition can be bought for $39, but they offer a free online project viewer with reduced functionality. The full version can create and customize graphs. The software runs on Macs, iPads and iPhones.
4. Mac Exclusive MS Project Alternatives
If you’re on the Apple train and don’t want a sniff of anything Windows related, there are a few dedicated Microsoft Project options that you can install on your Apple Mac or iPad. These are 4 of the best project management software for Macs.
How To Trick Your Mac Into Running MS Project
Working as a digital project manager, it’s easy to become familiar with one particular software and not want to change unless absolutely necessary. If you absolutely want to keep working in MS Project, we can make that work. But it’ll require some creative solutions.
As a project manager, you’re probably used to that.
Here’s what I consider to be the best way to run Windows on Mac. To use MS Project on your Mac, you’ll need to create a Windows Virtual Machine (VM) on your Mac. There are two VM solutions that would work for digital project managers: Parallels and VirtualBox. I’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each VM and explain how to install them.
What is a Virtual Machine?
A VM gives users the functionality of Windows on a Mac. This allows users, like a Mac user that needs MS Projects for their clients, to get their Windows specific work done without buying a new laptop.
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Option #1: Parallels
Parallels is the easiest and most intuitive option—it offers seamless transition between MacOS and Windows, and they offer a 14 day free trial to get you started.
Parallels is not free. After your 14 day trial expires, you’ll have to pay either $79.99 a year or $99 for perpetual service. You can find more information on the software on their official website.
When you download the application, the startup manager will guide you through the Windows installation process. It’s as straightforward as installing any other software. No storage management or partitioning required.
2. Download and install MS Project
Once Parallels is running, the installation of Windows apps works just like it does on PC. Open your browser, go to the website, download the application, and begin the installation process.
All Windows apps that require Parallels to run will be marked with the Parallels logo.
3. Switch between Windows and Mac
Once using Parallels, you can have the Windows operating system open in its own window. It looks like this:
Using Parallels on a Mac, you can have the Windows operating system open in its own window.
Just like with your Mac apps, Windows apps can be saved to your dock and opened with a single click. Opening MS Projects will automatically run Parallels, create your VM, and run the app.
Or, if you prefer Windows to be full screen while you work, you can assign Parallels its own desktop.
- Click on the top left of the Windows tab to make it full screen.
- Switch between Mac and Windows with a two-finger swipe on your magic mouse or touchpad.
- When you’re done working, move your cursor to the top of the screen.
- A menu will drop down and you’ll be able to exit full screen.
Parallels has a video walkthrough here:
Option #2: VirtualBox
For the more tech-savvy, the other option is VirtualBox: a free, open-source VM that anybody can download and use. The downside is that it lacks the easy to use functionality that makes Parallels so attractive. With a little hard work, it can be done. I’ll show you how.
Go to VirtualBox.org and click “Download VirtualBox 6.0”
2. Download OS X Hosts
Since you’ll be installing Windows on your Mac, you’ll want to download the OS X Hosts package.
3. Install VirtualBox on Mac
After clicking continue, you’ll be asked to put in your username and password.
After putting in your password, the program will install and you’ll be able to set up a Windows VM. Unlike with Parallels, you will have to tell VirtualBox which OS you want to install, and how much of your storage you want to allocate to it.
4. Create Your Virtual Machine
It’s recommended that you give the VM the same name as the OS you’re creating. So, in our case, you’d want a name similar to the one in the image above.
5. Allocate Storage
This tells VirtualBox how big you want your VM to be. It’s best to accept the recommended size.
6. Select Location and Size
This tells VirtualBox where to save the VM and gives users a chance to change the size of their VM. If you’re happy with the folder name and storage size, click create.
Then you’re all done. You can open your VM at any time by opening VirtualBox, selecting your VM, and clicking start. I know it’s a bit of work, but it allows you to run Windows on Mac for free.
For a more in-depth walkthrough, VirtualBox has their own tutorial.
What Will You Use?
Now that you’ve seen some of the Microsoft Project alternatives for Mac, which one will you choose and why? Let me know in the comments!