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Want Microsoft Project for Mac? Here Are Your Options

By 17/09/2019 September 19th, 2019 No Comments

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.

No God Please No Gif Michael from the Office - Can't run Microsoft Project on a mac

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?

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, sub-tasks, showing 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 2019:

  1. monday.com
  2. Wrike
  3. Microsoft Project Online
  4. Smartsheet
  5. Vizzlo
  6. Rational Plan
  7. MindGenius
  8. GanttPRO
  9. Instagantt
  10. Canva

2. 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.

Screenshot view of Microsoft Project Files

Seavus Project Viewer, a software designed for project managers who only need to open and view MS Project files. Source: Seavus Project Viewer

 

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.

3. 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 2019. 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

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.

Screenshot of the Smartsheet software used to open Microsoft Projects Files

Smartsheet, a software that allows you to open, download and work on MS Project files within the software. Source: Smartsheet

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.

Smartsheets has a 30-day free trial.

Celoxis

Celoxis is a comprehensive and easy to use project management tool used by HBO, Deloitte and Rolex that handily comes as an online app and on-premise tool.

Screentshot example of Celoxis being implemented

Celoxis, a comprehensive tool for creating and managing projects with Gnatt charts. Source: Celoxis

Just as you would with Microsoft Project manager, Celoxis allows you to create tasks, subtasks, milestones, assigned resources and dependencies to tasks. It is a comprehensive solution that you can use to not only create Gantt charts but also use to manage your project portfolios, workflows, expenses, time sheets  and resources.

 

Zoho Projects

A MS Project alternative for Mac that has a simple, easy-to-use interface that also comes with a mobile application.

Image of Zoho Projects in desktop and mobile view

Zoho Projects Interface includes features such as task management, time tracking, and resource utilization. Source: Zoho Projects

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.

AirTable

AirTable allows project managers to create Gantt charts, collaborate with team members, organize charts and time track.

Screenshot of AirTable Designed Project Pipeline

AirTable Interface, create and organize Gnatt charts, collaborate with team members 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.

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.

  1. X Plan ($79)
  2. Project Plan 365 ($99)
  3. Omniplan ($149.99)
  4. Merlin Project ($149) 

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.

  1. Download Parallels

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:

Screenshot of Windows on a Mac computer

Using Parallels on a Mac, you can have the Windows operating system open in its own window.

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.

  1. Click on the top left of the Windows tab to make it full screen.
  2. Switch between Mac and Windows with a two finger swipe on your magic mouse or touchpad.
  3. When you’re done working, move your cursor to the top of the screen.
  4. A menu will dropdown 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.

  1. Go to VirtualBox.org and click “Download VirtualBox 6.0”

ScreenShot of Download VirtualBox Button

2. Download OS X Hosts

ScreenShot of downloading the OS X Hosts package.

Since you’ll be installing Windows on your Mac, you’ll want to download the OS X Hosts package.

3. Install VirtualBox on Mac

ScreenShot of Installing VirtualBoc with MacOS Software

After clicking continue, you’ll be asked to put in your username and password.

Screenshot of using a username and password to install new software

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

Screenshot of naming the operating system

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

Screenshot of creating a virtual hard disk to 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

Screenshot of choosing a file 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!

Ben Aston

Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedigitalprojectmanager.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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