Software

15 Best Microsoft Project Alternatives in 2021 (Free & Paid!)

Jonathan Friedman
August 31, 2020
15 Best Microsoft Project Alternatives in 2021 (Free & Paid!)

Are you considering whether you want to continue to use Microsoft Project or replace it? Or are you considering buying a new license all together? In this article, we at TrueNxus will review Microsoft Project and help you determine if Microsoft Project is worth buying for your team to plan and execute project management. We'll also shed light on the fifteen best Microsoft Project alternatives to try out instead.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.

What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project is a powerful project management software that will help you:

It has everything you need for effective project management from a single online location.

Who uses Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project is useful if you are a project-based leader that plans and executes projects with a fixed duration. While Microsoft Project advertises as a project management tool that you can use for any project size, it’s best used for small projects that are centrally managed by an individual or set of individuals. 

Below outlines a set of users that benefit from Microsoft Project.

Advantages of Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project has a lot of benefits to offer to its customers. Here is a closer look at MS Project pros.

1.  It’s like a spreadsheet

Microsoft Project is a spreadsheet-like tool. It is essentially Microsoft Excel customized for project management as it has a Gantt chart. While it has some additional features that Microsoft Excel does not, its really just a customized spreadsheet.

If you are a Microsoft Excel power user, Microsoft Project will be a smooth transition. Additionally, suppose you are used to building and managing project plans in Microsoft Excel. In that case, MS Project will seem like a dream come true because you’ll now have online collaboration and standard project templates to leverage.

2. Coordinate the project in one location

Unlike traditional spreadsheet-based tools, you’ll coordinate with your project team in one online location. You’ll no longer have version control issues as every project team member will be able to access the same project plan from one place.

3. Gantt charts allow you to visualize the project across time

Microsoft Project provides you with a Gantt chart view of your project. Gantt charts are a bar chart visualization of a project schedule. As a result, you have a visual representation of the project.

Additionally, you’ll be able to document the following types of data:

Disadvantages of Microsoft Project

Unfortunately, Microsoft Project has a lot of drawbacks and limitations. Here is a closer look at Microsoft Project's cons.

1. There's a learning curve

MS Project is overly complicated and challenging to set up. Many reviews online mention that there is a steep learning curve for most. Microsoft Project in general is not intuitive. 

Do you want to learn how to use something like this?

Microsoft Project Gantt Chart

Or, would you instead work with something intuitive like this?

Project plan

2. Coordination is not collaboration

Like other spreadsheet-based applications, think Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, are excellent in their ability to do one-time or ad-hoc analysis and management. Microsoft Project takes it one step further and provides the ability to coordinate projects with one project plan. 

However, given the steep learning curve, getting the entire project team bought into the tool is unlikely. As a result, with Microsoft Project, you’ll need someone to act as an official project manager, who knows all of the ins and outs of Microsoft Project. You’ll need a MS Project guru, or a power user to direct and coordinate everything. 

Sure, Microsoft Project allows one person to coordinate everything by planning and executing in one location and uploading deliverables, but that’s not collaboration. Real collaboration is where there are dense interdependent connections, and stakeholders share power. MS Project's is for coordination, not collaboration.

3. Gantt charts are confusing and messy

Like many traditional project management software solutions, Microsoft Project has Gantt chart functionality to allow the project team to visualize the project across time. However, Gantt charts can be confusing to the rest of the project team, especially if the project team has many stakeholders. Typically, non-project managers are unwilling to take the time to learn a Gantt chart because they are not intuitive. More often than not, once you put together the first Gantt chart view, it’s not looked at again, and the project team moves onto another tool to manage the project.

Additionally, adding lots of detail, or only having a lot of tasks in a Gantt chart gets chaotic and difficult to understand quickly. With traditional Gantt charts, as is true in Microsoft Project, when there are many tasks, you have to scroll down (or up) and right (or left) simultaneously. In short, traditional Gantt charts are not intuitive. Furthermore, if you zoom out, you can’t make sense of the plan.

Again, do you want to learn how to use something like this?

MS Project Gantt Chart

Or, would you instead work with something intuitive like this?

Project timeline, or gantt chart

4. Reporting is almost non-existent

Microsoft Project has reporting, but its basic at-best. Microsoft advertises that the reporting allows you to track progress, but it does not provide you with the insights necessary to tackle roadblocks and making decisions. It also does not provide you the foresight on what's next for the project. If you do decide you need reporting for Microsoft Project, you'll have to upgrade to the more expensive plan, which starts at $30/user/month.

Unlike, Microsoft Project, TrueNxus provides you with an out of the box status report that give you and senior leadership the insights you all need to know to clear roadblocks, make decisions and move the ball forward.

Project status report

5. You cannot see everything you are responsible for

Microsoft Project allows you to visualize every task you are assigned to in a specific project. However, to do this, you have to go into the project and filter your name on the Assigned column. Then you have to do this every time. 

While this is hugely inefficient in its own right, it’s even more annoying and unproductive if you want to see every task you are assigned to across multiple projects, because you can't. You should be able to see everything that you are responsible for completing. Additionally, you should be able to see how others impact your work, that is task dependencies. If a task is dependent on another task, you have to go into the project and find the task and see if anything has changed.

Who has time for such inefficiency? At TrueNxus have a section called My Work that provides you a view into everything you’re on the hook for, including any dependencies that you may, or may not be assigned.

MyWork

Microsoft Project pricing

All pricing is based on an annual contract, and Microsoft Project pricing is expensive. The first plan, Project Plan 1, starts at $10/user/month. However, if you want reporting capabilities, you need the second pricing plan, Project Plan 3, which is $30/user/month. What’s the point of MS Project without the reporting, though? If you don't have reporting, MS Project is literally just an expensive Gantt chart.

15 best Microsoft Project alternatives

1. TrueNxus

TrueNxus is the most pragmatic project management software in the market. With TrueNxus, you’ll be able to manage all of your organization’s projects. 

You’ll have all of the features you need to plan and execute projects successfully.

1. Multiple views

Your project management software needs to be able to provide personalized views. A view that makes sense to you may not make sense to your teammate. These views need to be in sync as well.

TrueNxus provides you with the following views:

Project plan

List

A list is a table that allows you to manage your project plan easily. Organize the work into groups such as workstreams, or any logical way to categorize tasks.

Project timeline, or gantt chart

Timeline

Visualize the project as a Timeline, a Gantt chart like view that lets you understand how the entire project fits together. Make updates to the project plan through an interactive interface.

2. Automated project status reports

Project status report

Let TrueNxus analyze the project health real-time giving senior leadership and the project team the insights they need to make decisions and move the ball forward. Unlike with Microsoft Project there's no more herding cats with endless phone calls and countless emails.

3. My Work

View all of your work in one place

Know what you’re on the hook for delivering. View every task, and every dependency, that is important to you, across every project, in one location. Unlike Microsoft Project, you no longer need to have multiple plans open.

4. Dependencies

Dependencies

Be accountable when others are reliant on you. Understand dependent tasks, change implications, and adjust course as needed.

5. Automated notifications

Automated workflows - notifications

Stay productive and get notified when changes occur. With TrueNxus’s 20+ out-of-the-box automated notifications, you will have the transparency you need to stay in-the-know. As a result, TrueNxus creates efficiency by informing you immediately when changes to the overall project plan occur, such as when roadblocks impact dependencies. You won't find this in Microsoft Project.

6. Comments

Collaboration by comment in the webapp

Collaborate directly in the app. Communicate with project team members and chat with one another directly in tasks.

7. Project charter

OKR with a project charter

Unlike Microsoft Project, you can leverage OKR and create a project charter. Collaborate as one team and establish the project objectives, benefits, and risks from the very beginning.

8. Privacy

Project privacy

Ensure confidentiality when necessary. Make projects private to create a safe place for sensitive work.

Learn more and see all product features.

TrueNxus advantages

TrueNxus disadvantages

Nothing else. We’d love for you to sign up for a free trial (no credit card needed) and let us know what you think. We love feedback!

TrueNxus pricing

TrueNxus has flexible pricing so that you only pay for what you need. Both monthly and annual plans are available. If you sign up for a yearly plan, you get 2 months free.

Pricing is simple. For teams of up to 5 users, it’s only $10/month. Then, for teams larger than 5 users, you’ll only pay for each additional user - $9/user/month. If your team size changes, your bill will be prorated. As you can see, TrueNxus is significantly cheaper than Microsoft Project.

2. Asana

Asana

Asana is a project management and task management software. It's fantastic for smaller teams managing strategic initiatives or executing repeatable work. Unlike Microsoft Project, you'll be able to manage your small team online with mobile and tablet apps.

Asana advantages

Asana disadvantages

Asana pricing

While there is a free version, you're limited to simple checklists, file storage, and no more than 15 users. As a result, you'll want the plan that starts at $13.49/user/month (annual billing is $10.99/user/month) to take advantage of the features you'll need to plan and execute projects.

Compare Asana to TrueNxus.

3. Wrike

Wrike Gantt chart

Wrike is a robust resource management and project management software solution with enterprise capabilities. If you're looking to coordinate multiple projects, especially marketing projects, Wrike is a top-option to consider with considering MS Project alternatives.

Wrike advantages

Wrike disadvantages

Wrike pricing

While there is a free version, it's nothing more than a checklist shared amongst most five users. Additionally, paid plans are all billed annually.

The first plan, Professional, is $9.80/user/month, but you have to purchase in blocks of 5 licenses, up to 15 users. After 15 users, you need to once again upgrade to Business. The Business plan starts at $24.80/user/month, which, similar to the cheaper plan, requires purchasing in blocks of 5 licenses.

Compare Wrike to TrueNxus.

4. Monday.com

Monday.com

Monday.com is a powerful work management platform. It's a simplified, yet easy to use spreadsheet-like application. You can manage anything, including projects. However, it may not have everything you'd want if you're a Microsoft Project power user.

Monday.com advantages

Monday.com disadvantages

Monday.com pricing

The Basic plan starts at $10/user/month ($8/user/month if billed annually). However, keep in mind that you buy licenses in blocks of 5, so you're out-of-pocket by at least $50/month, or $40/month when billed annually. If you want features like Timeline or Calendar, you need to upgrade to the next package with a minimum of $60/month for five users, or $50/month for five users when billed annually.

Compare Monday.com to TrueNxus.

5. Smartsheet

Smartsheet gantt chart

Smartsheet was built to replace Microsoft Excel, and it has done its' job well. As its' name alludes, it's a spreadsheet. Smartsheet allows you to collaborate with your team, develop automated reports, and upload files. As a result, it's a top pick for project management software, especialy when considering MIcrosoft Project alternatives.

Smartsheet advantages

Smartsheet disadvantages

Smartsheet pricing

The Individual plan starts at $19/user/month ($14/user/month if billed annually). However, if you want reporting capabilities, you need the Business plan, which is $32/user/month ($25/user/month if billed annually), with a minimum of 3 licenses, resulting in a minimum of $96/month ($75/month if billed annually).

Compare Smartsheet to TrueNxus.

6. ClickUp

ClickUp

ClickUp claims to be "one app to replace them all". With a sleek user interface and an endless number of views, it is one of the best task management software solutions. Similar to other software listed, ClickUp has so much more than Microsoft Project.

ClickUp advantages

ClickUp disadvantages

ClickUp pricing

While there is a free version, you'll want the plan that starts at $9/user/month (annual billing is $5/user/month) to take advantage of the features you'll need to plan and execute projects.

Compare ClickUp to TrueNxus.

7. Jira

Jira

Jira is the go-to project management software for software development. They pretty much own the market. However, if you're in a related domain, or you abide by an agile, SCRUM, or hybrid methodology, Jira is the best Microsoft Project alternative.

Jira advantages

Jira disadvantages

Jira pricing

There is a free version for up to 10 users. Additionally, there is a paid version, which starts at $10/month for a team of 10 users.

Compare Jira to TrueNxus.

8. Celoxis

Celoxis

Celoxis is an excellent option if you require portfolio management, resource management, and project management. They have both an on-premise and a could-based product offering making it a great alternative to MS Project.

Celoxis advantages

Celoxis disadvantages

Celoxis pricing

Celoxis' cloud-based product starts at $22.50/user/month billed annually, with a minimum of 5 licenses. As a result, you're looking at a minimum of $112.50/month for only five users.

9. Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects

Zoho offers an entire suite of products from CRM, Finance, HR, IT, and even project management. If you're already tied into the Zoho platform, you'll be hard-pressed not to purchase Zoho Projects. Alternative, if you're considering Zoho to replace many of your Microsoft suite, Zoho might be right for you.

Zoho Projects advantages

Zoho Projects disadvantages

Zoho Projects pricing

While Zoho projects have a free version, you're limited to 3 projects with not many features. Also, once you need to upgrade to a paying plan or collaborate with a team, you'll find the pricing confusing. Features and the number of users differentiate pricing plans.

10. Planview

Planview

Planview is another portfolio management software built for the enterprise. It's great if you are an enterprise IT PMO or a professional services org. They uniquely advertise as an enterprise agile planning software. If you're looking to replace Microsoft Project with an enterprise-wide portfolio management software, Planview might be right for you.

Planview advantages

Planview disadvantages

Planview pricing

Planview requires you to reach out to sales for a quote.

11. Sciforma

Sciforma

Sciforma is an excellent option if you require enterprise-wide portfolio management, resource management, and project management. They have both an on-premise and a could-based product offering. Great if you are a centralized PMO and can coordinate the entire organization. If you're looking for software to help you manage a centralized PMO, Sciforma might be the right MS Project alternative for you and your team.

Sciforma advantages

Sciforma disadvantages

Sciforma pricing

Sciforma requires you to reach out to sales for a quote.

12. Notion

Notion

Notion is one of the few no-code software solutions out there for collaboration. It is fantastic if you are a small team working together day-in and day-out and need to stay organized. It's like Evernote on steroids. It won't have everything you get from Microsoft Project in terms of Gantt-charts, but it's a good option to consider.

Notion advantages

Notion disadvantages

Notion pricing

There is a free version, but if you need more than a place to create a personal checklist, you're going to need to upgrade to a paid plan, which starts at $5/month. However, if you want to team and collaborate, you're going to need to pay $10/user/month.

Compare Notion to TrueNxus.

13. Basecamp

Basecamp

Basecamp is an excellent project management and collaboration software for smaller teams. It offers a central location for teams to collaborate, plan, and execute work. Its definitely worth considering when thinking of Microsoft Project alternatives.

Basecamp advantages

Basecamp disadvantages

Basecamp pricing

There is a free version for personal use. However, if you want to collaborate genuinely, you'll have to upgrade to a fixed price of $99/month.

Compare Basecamp to TrueNxus.

14. Trello

Trello

Trello is a great project management tool for small software development teams that need a kanban board. So, if you're a software development team and use Microsoft Project, Trello is a good alternative toconsider. However, domains other than software development can use Trello as well, but its capabilities are limited.

Trello advantages

Trello disadvantages

Trello pricing

There is a free version, but if you need to collaborate with a team, you'll want to upgrade to a paid version, which starts at $12.50/user/month.

Compare Trello to TrueNxus.

15. Airtable

Airtable

Airtable is another no-code software solutions out there for collaboration. It is fantastic if you need to spin up a shared database. It will have a lot of what you need from Microsoft Project, but not everything.

Airtable advantages

Airtable disadvantages

Airtable pricing

Airtable has a free option, but if you want additional features, you will have to pay at least $12/user/month.

Compare Airtable to TrueNxus.

Conclusion

While MS Project is a great addition to the Microsoft Office suite, it has several drawbacks, as shown in this review. Fortunately, you can use a handful of Microsoft Project alternatives like TrueNxus to solve all of its limitations.

TrueNxus has everything you need to plan and deliver successful projects but at a fraction of the cost of Microsoft Project.

See for yourself, and sign up for a free trial today (no credit card needed).