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10 Best Project Management Software Buyers’ Guide

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We’ve written the ultimate project management software buyers guide which includes a look at some of the top project management systems available.

In a hurry? These are our picks for the best project management software on the market, recently updated with more useful info and expert insights to help you choose the best project management tool for your team. These are project-management.com’s editorially independent picks, based on the research and hands-on experience of our staff.

Featured Partners

Our Picks

monday work management logo.

Best All-Around Performer

monday.com’s monday work management is customizable for scalable teams, workflows, and use cases. The highly visual project management platform provides an intuitive centralized workspace for users across the organization. Easy-to-implement automations, notifications, and team collaboration simplify the assignment, tracking, and reporting of any kind of work.


Read our complete monday.com review


monday.com allows users to modify views and create dashboards to display important project information to decision-makers. monday work management offers a free plan for up to two user seats and several paid plans for teams with different work requirements. It has ready-to-use templates, unlimited project boards, interactive documents, and custom fields. The software is mobile-friendly and includes features for file and project portfolio management, email integration, calendar sync, and in-depth analytics and reporting.

Example of monday.com list view.

Basic list view within a project shown on monday.com.

Standout Features

  • Customizable Workflows: Create and customize workflows to match the work you do, including specific processes and needs. This key feature helps support a platform that can adapt to any industry and project type.
  • Visual Project Tracking: monday.com has a highly visual interface, giving users a clear and intuitive way to track project progress. Easily view task status, timelines, dependencies, and other details for comprehensive project visibility.
  • Automation and Integrations: Many easy-to-implement automations and a seamless experience integrating with third-party apps and tools allow you to build upon this solution to make it even better for your needs. You can reduce time-consuming manual work with the ability to streamline tasks, notifications, and reporting.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Team collaboration is a top priority for this system, giving all users the ability to interact with other users through the ability to share files, comment, and @mention team members.
  • Customizable Dashboards and Reporting: Create custom dashboards and reports that clearly spell out project health and performance. Leaders can be confident in times requiring decision-making that will help keep goals and objectives on track.

Pros

  • Time-saving, easy-to-implement automations
  • Responsive support, with 24/7 support available in all plans
  • Industry-specific variations and templates

Cons

  • Visual user interface (UI) takes time to get used to
  • Gantt charts export as PDFs, which may be difficult to use in other applications
  • Tasks cannot be linked across boards

Why We Picked monday

In working with monday, I found that this option stands out due to its remarkable flexibility and visual clarity. This tool’s flexibility allows users to customize their workflows to match the unique needs of their team and adapt to a wide range of industry-specific projects and use cases.

In addition, monday’s highly visual interface simplifies project management by providing an intuitive and centralized workspace. The visual representation of tasks and progress allows teams to quickly grasp project status and collaborate well. My overall positive user experience in reviews made choosing monday as the Best All-Around Performer an easy decision.


Smartsheet logo.

Best for Fast-Growing Teams Seeking a Secure, Scalable Solution

Smartsheet is a leading work execution platform with strong real-time work management features, advanced dashboard reporting, collaboration, and automation tools. Organizations dynamically plan, execute, and report on work at scale for any type of project. The tool allows different views of real-time data laid out in instant Gantt, card, grid, and calendar views to accommodate different types of works and teams.

Smartsheet also has automatic update requests and can be used for waterfall and Agile-based projects, product launches, sprint planning, and more. Its resource management feature provides real-time visibility into who is busy and who is available.

Smartsheet project dashboard.

Example of a project dashboard tracker in Smartsheet.


Read our complete Smartsheet review


Smartsheet is a mature, feature-rich option that works well for a range of project types and processes. It is an excellent addition to project management offices, especially for teams with multiple project leaders who are responsible for providing management with detailed insights in larger cross-functional environments.

Standout Features

  • Intelligent Workflows: Powerful smart automation and workflow capabilities give users the ability to automate time-consuming, repetitive tasks, approvals, and notifications. Users enjoy enhanced productivity and save precious time by reducing manual efforts to stay focused on essential tasks.
  • Resource Management: Tools to manage resources help project managers allocate work and track who is doing it. This helps teams optimize assignments and prevent overwork, resulting in efficient project execution.
  • Secure and Confidential Dynamic View: Business owners have the ability to granularly share confidential information with the right people at the right time for viewing and editing. With Dynamic View, you can maintain tight control over access to specific information, how it is shared, and who sees it across vendors, internal and external teams, and across the organization.
  • Dashboards and Reporting: Present valuable information by creating and customizing real-time project dashboards using widgets to pull in information from sheets and even other tool plug-ins like Tableau, YouTube, Google Docs, and Power BI.

Pros

  • A familiar spreadsheet-like interface can simplify onboarding and implementation
  • Customizable automation are easy to set up and use
  • Users can instantly toggle between various project views

Cons

  • Requires some training to be able to use it at a basic level
  • Cost-prohibitive for small and midsize entities
  • The amount of information that can be shown may overwhelm some users

Why We Picked Smartsheet

Fast-growing teams may outgrow the one-size-fits-most capabilities of other PM systems. Smartsheet delivers for teams that need the ability to customize and build more complex functions.

Extensive use of this fast-evolving solution makes it a must-have on our list of top software because Smartsheet’s developers have delivered a comprehensive set of tools needed to operate, from a basic set up all the way to a very robust and complex system of managing programs with multiple projects and with a lot of data pulling from multiple sources and tools.


The Wrike logo.

Best for Customization

Wrike is considered by some to be one of the most powerful project management platforms available, designed to help teams adapt to new ways of working. I’ve found Wrike to be flexible enough to meet the disparate needs of just about any team, including marketing, design, professional services, product management, and business operations teams. The project management app can easily adapt to a variety of business needs, whether for managing Agile teams, clients, or remote workers.


Read our complete Wrike review


Wrike offers a free plan to unlimited users with basic functionality that is sufficient for simple projects. Paid plans include more advanced features, such as shareable dashboards, interactive Gantt charts, time tracking, cross-tagging, custom fields and workflows, automation, and productivity integrations. Enterprise plans have additional security features like single sign-on (SSO), two-factor authentication (2FA), password policies, custom roles, and audit reports that are suitable for hybrid workspaces.

Wrike screenshot.

Example of a list view in Wrike, complete with customization options for subtasks, custom tags, and more.

Standout Features

  • Task and Project Planning: Teams are empowered to plan, create, assign, and track all tasks quickly and easily. Projects managed within Wrike are bound to stay organized and on schedule.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Real-time communication features such as comments, file sharing, and @mentions allow teams to collaborate on just about anything. There should be no question as to the where, when, and why of details with this ability to link and communicate instantly.
  • Workflow Automation: A smart suite of tools helps streamline repetitive tasks and manual processes. Save time, stay consistent, and minimize errors on all projects.
  • Customizable Dashboards and Reports: Users are free to create and customize dashboards and reports to showcase project progress, gain insights into work, and track KPIs to be shared confidently across the organization.
  • Integration and Scalability: This tool integrates with many third-party apps and tools to make connecting the Wrike project management universe with other tools and software you are already using easier. Scale the platform as your team and business grows.

Pros

  • Comprehensive project management with a focus on transparency and tracking
  • Project and team organization can be easily customized to meet teams’ needs
  • Free plan is available for unlimited users

Cons

  • Mobile app needs UI/UX enhancements
  • Users feel the UI could add color and a Dark mode for easier viewing
  • Difficult to locate custom rules to automate tasks

Why We Picked Wrike

I tested the free version of this tool and picked Wrike to add to this list because of its robust and user-friendly features. Wrike’s built-in customizability means a single platform can meet the needs of most, if not all, of your various teams’ needs. Wrike is adaptable to the unique needs of different types of project teams and industries, making it an excellent choice.


The ClickUp logo.

Best for Freelancers

ClickUp positions itself as a project management hub where teams come together to plan, organize, and collaborate on work using tasks, documents, chat, whiteboards, and more, all in one tool. But it’s not just for traditional departments and teams — freelancers can connect with vendors, clients, and peers to work as a virtual team.


Read our complete ClickUp review


In addition to scheduling, task management, and reporting functions that are the core of any project management system, ClickUp shines in its ability to automate multistep processes that require action by multiple users. Administrators can write custom rules to define when and which user needs to complete a task. It also includes notifications telling users when action is required.

Clickup table.

Example of a multi-project list view in Clickup.

Standout Features

  • Multitasking and Hierarchy: This tool’s unique “Multitask Toolbar” gets users interacting with multiple tasks simultaneously, efficiently “juggling” complex projects to perfection. A hierarchy structure lets users create tasks within tasks for more granular control over task details and dependencies.
  • Goals and OKRs: Users can set goals and objectives using ClickUp’s Objectives and Key Results framework, making it easy to align project tasks with larger business objectives for more goal-driven management of projects and work.
  • Visual Collaboration: Modern hybrid teams can see ideas and coordinate actions using Asana’s virtual whiteboard feature. From brainstorming to strategizing and creating concepts, team members can real-time draw and map out plans from anywhere in one connected work area.

Pros

  • Easy to use with in-depth features for all experience levels
  • Flexible multi-function app eliminates the need for other tools
  • User feedback is encouraged, driving constant site improvement updates

Cons

  • Mobile dashboards could be improved
  • Performance can be slow at times
  • New users may be overwhelmed without reviewing tutorial videos first

Why We Picked ClickUp

Long-term success as a freelancer requires close management of your time and deliverables. With an investment of a few hours in tutorial videos, ClickUp’s ease of use and accessible feature set will lessen the workload for you and/or your team.

I found ClickUp to be a great tool for keeping track of details, giving you more time to focus on the work that delivers your clients the most value. If working together and collaborating frequently with modern teams and structures is a need, ClickUp’s creative canvas format bridges the gap so teams of any makeup can work smarter.


Jira Software logo.

Best for Agile Teams

Jira Software is a development work collaboration tool that’s part of the Atlassian suite of products. As such, its strength lies in its robust project and issue-tracking features for technical and development teams. Task management features in this project management app enable users across the organization to plan, track, manage, and complete tasks, including repeat tasks. It is free for up to 10 users with scalable paid plans for bigger teams.

Jira allows users to create and manage unlimited tasks and projects. Users can access multiple views, such as lists, timelines, calendars, and boards, for different perspectives. A drag-and-drop builder lets users create forms to standardize work, and automation rules offer multiple actions to choose from. Thousands of integrations with apps, plug-ins, and add-ons make this a customizable app to fit many different project scenarios.

Jira setup screenshot.

Example of a Kanban board and quickstart wizard within Jira Software.

Standout Features

  • Agile Boards: A variety of agile boards are a part of Jira, including Scrum and Kanban boards, providing dedicated environments for teams immersed in agile project management. Each board is highly customizable, giving entire teams the ability to plan, track, and visualize their work in a way that aligns specifically with agile methodologies.
  • Advanced Workflow Customization: Create and customize desired workflows that match your unique requirements and processes in a flexible yet precise way.
  • Integration with Other Development Tools: Integrations with top dev tools like Bitbucket and GitHub help simplify the software development lifecycle and support collaboration between development teams that manage the projects.
  • Sprint and Release Planning: Tools for sprint planning and release management give agile teams the upper hand when setting sprint goals, prioritizing tasks, and monitoring progress. They support iterative development practices, ensuring timely software releases.
  • Powerful Reporting and Metrics: Built-in features like burndown charts, velocity tracking, and cycle time analysis provide accurate reporting and metrics so Agile teams can gain insights into their performance and identify areas for improvement.

Pros

  • Robust dev team-specific views, including requirements and test case management
  • Multiple view options
  • Free plan available that’s suitable for small teams

Cons

  • Complicated user interface
  • The calendar view needs enhancements
  • No built-in timeline to track progress

Why We Picked Jira Software

If your team works in iterative software development, engineering, or a similar field, Atlassian’s numerous solutions are likely already part of your tech stack. Seamless integration with Confluence, Slack, Microsoft Teams, HubSpot, and more than 500 other available integrations puts Jira Software on numerous shortlists.

We love it because it is a part of the Atlassian suite of products and teams that use one of their products are likely to use a few others and seamlessly use them together.


Asana bog logo.

Best for Remote Teams

Asana enables more effective project and task management across the organization in one interface. It provides an organized workspace where users can look at project data using different work views, such as lists, timelines, and boards. Users can create and assign tasks, build plans, customize workflows, and track project progress over time.


Read our complete Asana review


Asana offers one of the best free plans available, with feature-rich access for teams of up to 15 people for an unlimited time. With Asana, users can easily track bugs, manage sprints, and plan and run campaigns, events, and product launches. The project management app includes built-in messaging, file storage, a workflow builder, unlimited dashboards, custom fields, forms, automation, mobile apps, portfolios, workload management, approvals, and proofing.

Asana has one of the most robust feature sets available, but we found its inability to assign tasks to more than one user created occasional speed bumps in more complex workflows. As a workaround, other individuals can be tagged in a task. This wasn’t a dealbreaker, but we’d welcome the addition of multi-user assignments.

Asana homescreen.

Example of a list style view in Asana, with navigation bar shown on the left and customization bar on the right.

Standout Features

  • Task Dependencies and Timeline View: Users create tasks and task dependencies and can visualize project timelines using Asana’s signature Timeline view.
  • Work Automation with Rules: Asana “rules” define its automation capabilities, allowing users to automate repetitive tasks and actions based on triggers. Simplifying workflows through automation saves time by reducing manual effort and adding consistency to a myriad of tasks.
  • Collaborative Workspaces: Teamwork is top of mind with the ability to share information, assign tasks, set priorities, and communicate across teams easily and from anywhere.
  • Advanced Reporting and Analytics: Create dashboards that visualize data and project information using charts, templates, and filtered results. Seeing the big picture at a glance helps in staying on track and hitting business goals.

Pros

  • Flexible views and customizations give teams maximum control over their project organization and task management environments
  • A comprehensive set of features, including in-app collaboration and approvals
  • Robust free plan for individuals and small teams

Cons

  • Does not allow tasks to be assigned to more than one user
  • Needs better data export functionality
  • Users want more how-to guides and case studies

Why We Picked Asana

Asana is a familiar favorite that I’ve put to the test both professionally and personally to manage and track tasks and workflows, from the simple to-do list to full project and team functionality. A full-featured free-forever plan makes it easy to try Asana on for size. Then, as your team grows, Asana easily scales with your company through a range of pricing plans, varied permissions and access controls, and flexible workspace designs and hierarchies.


Trello logo.

Best for Smaller Projects and Teams

Trello’s kanban-style list-making application is a web-based and highly visual tool for organizing projects and phases into cards and boards. With a single glance, Trello tells you exactly what’s being worked on, who’s working on it, and where certain tasks and subtasks are in progress.


Read our complete Trello review


Trello can be thought of as digital sticky notes (cards) on a whiteboard divided into project phases. This kanban design makes it quick and easy to add details as tasks or lists, and then organize, move around, and prioritize those tasks or lists. Trello is great for when your team is starting with a list of tasks and deadlines that needs to be built into an immediate action plan.

Trello project management board.

Example of a project management template in Trello.

Standout Features

  • Kanban Board Interface: A highly intuitive and visual display of work and items makes it easy to plan and organize smaller teams and projects.
  • Customizable Boards and Lists: Begin with a simple list and convert it into a custom board with cards laying requirements out visually. A flexible interface allows users to structure their workflows as needed.
  • Integration Ecosystem: A wide range of integrations with top apps and tools enhances Trello’s functionality, so users can connect this software with other tools they may already be using to streamline project management.
  • Task Attachments and Collaboration: The ability to attach files, images, and links to cards makes it very easy to share information with others within tasks.
  • Activity Tracking and Notifications: Keep informed about project updates and changes to status with real-time visibility into who is doing what in relation to the latest project developments.

Pros

  • Flexible, easy to use, and, dare we say it … a fun way to track project status?
  • Simple and intuitive drag-and-drop interface
  • Add tasks and lists easily, then quickly organize and track them

Cons

  • New items get added to the end of a long list which can be inconvenient for an organization when creating many cards at once
  • Easy to create too many boards and lose track of things
  • Not ideal for larger teams or projects

Why We Picked Trello

Making sweeping generalizations is dangerous, but we’d hazard a guess that nearly every project manager has used Trello at some point in their career. While it may be best suited for smaller-scale projects, Trello’s nearly non-existent learning curve makes it an attractive option for teams of all backgrounds. It’s especially helpful for those who don’t have the operational advantages of a trained project manager and who need a PM solution that’s ready to use out of the box.

Based on my experience using Trello for many agency-level technical projects, this is a stand-out option for smaller teams needing to see what is coming up next and stay connected and up to date with the click of a button.


Airtable logo.

Best for Teams that Need Custom Applications

Airtable is a complete project management software solution that has evolved and been adapted for many business types. The software works like an Excel spreadsheet, which is familiar to most users. Features like file attachments, drop-down options, and checkboxes make it simple to set up and track projects from scratch or to use a template.


Read our complete Airtable review


Airtable allows teams to work together seamlessly through a centralized database for efficiency and speed. Users can access data and migrate datasets to other databases without error. They can also easily transition from a basic spreadsheet system to one that includes useful features like file attachments, kanban card stacks, revision history, calendars, and reporting.

Airtable setup process.

Sample project board is shown in grid view.

Standout Features

  • Flexible Database and Spreadsheet Hybrid: This solution combines the functionality of a relational database with the familiarity of a spreadsheet interface, giving project teams support in creating highly customized databases for their work.
  • Custom App Creation: Build custom applications from scratch or use pre-built templates for specific project management solutions.
  • Integration and Collaboration: Connect Airtable with other popular productivity tools, including real-time collaboration and communication.
  • Workflow Automation: Easily automate repetitive tasks, set up triggers, and streamline workflows with an automation feature that helps reduce manual work so processes run smoothly.
  • Customizable Views and Reporting: Teams can visualize their work and analyze data in any way they see fit. The flexible presentation of data sets makes this a unique tool for making data-driven decisions.

Pros

  • Easy to organize, schedule, and track project progress
  • Numerous templates and layouts to choose from
  • Will feel familiar to those who have managed projects using spreadsheets

Cons

  • Lengthy setup required, resulting in a steeper learning curve for some users
  • Lack of in-app communication options
  • No auto-refresh requires manual sorting

Why We Picked Airtable

No matter how comprehensive a PM solution is, some teams have unique project management requirements that more boilerplate, robust solutions don’t meet. For those cases, Airtable’s no-code approach to building and customizing project planning software will give teams the exact solution they need.

Having used this in a creative custom app and project agency setting and in larger technical environments, I find Airtable to be a unique option that works well for teams ingrained in the creative and heads-down development worlds with minimal time for distractions and to tinker with and learn a new tool.


nOtion logo.

Best for Creative Teams

Notion is one of the most adaptable, multi-functional project management platforms available to users today. With features that support project management, task management, team wikis, vision boards, and more, teams can customize Notion to meet various needs.


Read our complete Notion review


The colorful, aesthetically pleasing design of Notion coupled with an easy-to-use interface makes it simple for creative teams to brainstorm, execute, track, and organize within one central application.

Notion home page screenshot.

Example of the initial start page upon creating a Notion account, with a navigation bar on the left.

Standout Features

  • Drag and drop organization: Virtually all commands within Notion can be launched by typing “/” and dragging and dropping elements to rearrange and organize.
  • In-page linking: You can easily link to other pages within your workspace by using the “@” command, making it easy to navigate.
  • Scheduling tool: New for 2024, users can now schedule meeting times directly from their personalized calendar within Notion, keeping busy creative teams on schedule.
  • Robust AI features: Notion has extensive AI capabilities, including generative AI for quick drafts and copy.*
    *AI features are paid features that can be added in addition to any plan.

Pros

  • Notion includes hundreds of free templates for projects, wiki, docs, and even personal use.
  • Up to 10 guests can use Notion for free, with integrations, basic analytics, and more.
  • Users can add emojis, custom labels, headers, and more to every project and wiki page.

Cons

  • Notion lacks some of the more advanced project management features some teams may require, like dashboards.
  • Some users report issues with the mobile app, particularly with the app crashing and lagging.
  • Notion’s export options are extremely limited compared to other solutions.

Why We Picked Notion

Notion is a great all-around option for fast-moving creative teams that need project management in combination with other resources for brainstorming, planning, and scheduling. Its generous free plan makes it easy for even smaller teams to access powerful project management capabilities and added AI features help resource-constrained teams do more with less.


The Basecamp logo.

Best for Collaboration

Basecamp is a project management tool with integrated team communication that’s suitable for all types of work environments, especially remote work. It helps companies, teams, and individuals organize tasks, find the information they need quickly, and get real-time project progress updates. Everyone involved can collaborate with dedicated tools for planning projects, sharing files, and discussing ideas.


Read our complete Basecamp Review


After a 30-day free trial, Basecamp’s lower-tier plan is available for $15 per user per month and includes all features for unlimited users and projects. The solution also includes a to-do list, scheduling, docs and files, charts, and automated reports. Users can choose to communicate with message boards, group chats, and/or direct messages.

Chat feature in basecamp example.

Example of the collaborative messaging feature in Basecamp, Campfire. Source: Basecamp, accessed February 2024.

Standout Features

  • Centralized Collaboration Hub: Every team needs a centralized hub for team collaboration and Basecamp does not disappoint. Create to-do lists, document sharing, messaging, and project scheduling all within the same platform.
  • Message Boards and Campfires: Conduct asynchronous discussions and utilize Basecamp’s Campfire feature for real-time chats. This combination of communication tools accommodates both scheduled and impromptu discussions.
  • Document and File Sharing: Find a file store and sharing feature that gives teams the power to upload, organize, and collaborate on documents, images, and other file types directly within Basecamp.
  • Client Access: Invite clients, external vendors, and collaborators to specific projects while controlling their access to information. This is an ideal solution for agencies and businesses that need to collaborate with multiple project-related parties in a secure environment.

Pros

  • Seamless communication and collaboration
  • Configurable notifications
  • Robust feature set for free plan allows teams to try out the full version before committing to a paid plan

Cons

  • No free-forever plan available for small teams/freelancers
  • A single pricing plan is not ideal for all teams
  • Limited drag-and-drop capabilities
  • No time tracking

Why We Chose Basecamp

While we wish Basecamp’s free trial lasted longer than 30 days, the fact that Basecamp makes all of its features and capabilities available with that trial should give teams more than enough opportunity to put the system through its paces.

My experience using this software in a creative agency setting proved that instant and easy collaboration between the in-house team, external freelancers and vendors, and the client can be accomplished seamlessly in an all-in-one multi-level yet intuitive project management solution.


Featured Partners: Project Management Software

Pricing Comparison

Our PickBest ForPricing Starts At

monday.com logo.

Visit monday
Best All-Around PerformerFree to try • $9/user/mo.

See details

Smartsheet logo.

Visit Smartsheet
Best for Fast-Growing TeamsFree to try • $7/user/mo.

See details

Wrike logo.

Visit Wrike
Best for CustomizationFree to try • $9.80/user/mo.

See details

ClickUp full logo.
Visit ClickUp
Best for FreelancersFree to try • $5/user/mo.

See details

Jira Software logo.

Visit Jira Software
For Agile TeamsFree to try • $7.75/user/mo.

See details

Asana big logo.

Visit Asana
Best for Remote TeamsFree to try • $10.99/user/mo.

See details

Trello

Visit Trello
Best for Smaller Projects and TeamsFree to try • $5/user/mo.

See details

Airtable logo.

Visit Airtable.com
Best for Teams That Need Custom ApplicationsFree to try • $10/user/mo.

See details

nOtion logo.
Visit Notion
Best for Creative TeamsFree to try • $8/user/mo.

See details

The Basecamp logo.

Try Basecamp
Best for CollaborationFree to try • $15/user/mo.

See details

Methodology

As a career digital project management consultant with experience working in small business and agency settings, my recommendations are based on my analysis of various popular project management tools and my own experience using them. I also evaluate information from various sources, including product specifications and user reviews and feedback.

For this buyers’ guide, I evaluated project management software tools and selected the 10 best based on the following criteria:

  1. Ease of use: The software should be user-friendly and easy to navigate for small teams with limited technical skills.
  2. Project management features: The software should provide essential features like task management, team collaboration, time tracking, and reporting.
  3. Customization: The software should offer flexibility and customization options to cater to the unique needs of small teams.
  4. Pricing: The software should be affordable for small teams, with free or low-cost options available.

Based on these criteria, I determined the options listed in Our Picks as the overall best project management software options for most teams. These tools are highly rated by users and experts, provide essential project management features, are customizable, and most offer free trials that allow users to test drive before making a financial commitment.

What Is Project Management Software?

Project management software is used to plan, schedule, track, collaborate and report on projects. More specifically, these essential tools project managers, teams, and other contributors complete tasks; record and track requirements; streamline resources; and manage time, budget, and scope constraints. Whether used as a stand-alone tool or as a suite of solutions, project management software — often shortened to PM software — is a must for any organization looking to maximize time and money while minimizing human error.


Learn More. Read What is a Project Manager?


What Are the Different Types of Project Management Software?

There are many types of project management solutions to consider. Desktop project management applications offer advanced features, scalability, and security to support multiple users and groups over an internal network. Cloud-based project management tools have made it possible for vendors to offer sophisticated, subscription-based solutions to businesses of all sizes, making it so users can access the tool from any location. 

When selecting project management software for your business, these are the main types and formats you’ll need to consider:

Project management programs that reside on the company’s server are called local, on-site, or on-premises. The server is located inside the company’s data center behind a firewall and is managed by the company’s IT employees. A common practice is for a company to purchase a single program license and then customize the package through the purchase of upgrades or updates.

Some companies prefer on-premise project software due to concerns about security as well as long-term costs. When a company runs the software on its private servers, it maintains full control over the storage of data and data security protocols. It also has control over planning and scheduling software updates and minimizing downtime that may be encountered due to automatic product updates inherent in SaaS systems.

PRO TIP: Enterprises with an existing on-premises server set up and more than 50 users can save on monthly subscription costs through the purchase of one-time license fees.

Online project management systems are accessible through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription from any internet-connected web browser. These online project management tools cater to businesses of all sizes across industries. Users in various locations can access the tool from different devices such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones to get up-to-date project status and information from a central database.

Features include multiple methods of visualizing project tasks and work progress, collaborating with coworkers, automating workflows, sharing files, messaging team members, and integrating with email.

PRO TIP: By expanding its feature sets, web-based PM software crosses into the categories of collaboration software or business process management software. This addition of multiple features and modules can be a plus or a minus, depending on your team’s needs.

Single-purpose or specialized project software is designed to manage key aspects of simple projects best. These applications specialize in one particular capability, such as task management, scheduling, or time tracking.

PRO TIP: Startups and small businesses often begin with several single-purpose applications before deciding that an integrated project management solution will meet their needs at a lower cost than licensing multiple solutions.


Read More About Single-Purpose PM Software:

Top Task Management Software

Top Scheduling Software

Top Time Tracking Software

Top Project Management Software for Mac

Top Workflow Management Software


Free software is an option for small teams of just a few people. Many of these simple project management solutions are offered as a free tier by project management vendors that also provide various levels of paid service. Free tiers may have more limited features, may be restricted to a few users, or may come with limited personalized support. Small teams and those just testing out a new tool may find these options useful and benefit from free access to help in their decision-making process.


Take a look at our picks for the Best Free Project Management Software

Check out our picks for the Best Project Management Software for Small Teams


Teams looking for a twist on free management software may benefit from a full-feature open-source option. These tools provide all of the same features you may find in a subscription or local tool and are highly customizable for different project types. However, access to support, implementation help, and custom changes will need to be managed by an in-house or third-party and technically savvy development team.


Check Out project-management.com‘s Best Open-Source Project Management Software


Not every industry is best served with a standard project management system, so industry-specific software for project management was developed to reduce the amount of customization a company will need upon implementation. Construction, software development, financial services, healthcare, and legal services all require specific industry-related features and customizations that make them better suited to industry work.


Read our Top Project Management Software for Architects Buyer’s Guide

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Web-based project management programs are accessible through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription from any internet-connected web browser. These online platforms cater to businesses of all sizes across industries. Users in various locations can access the tool from different devices such as desktops, tablets, and smartphones to get up-to-date project status and information from a central database.

Today’s online project management software has a rich set of features that can compete with enterprise systems. Many of these apps provide several methods to visualize project tasks and goal progress, collaborate with coworkers, automate workflows, share files, message team members, and integrate with email.

By expanding their feature sets, online management software also fall into the categories of collaboration software or business process management software. Examples of online project management solutions include Zoho Projects, Microsoft Project, and Basecamp.

On-premise project management programs reside on the company’s own server. The server will be inside the company’s data center and managed by its IT employees. Companies often purchase a single on-premise license and may have to purchase additional upgrades or updates. Companies prefer on-premise project software due to concerns about as well as long-term costs.

When the company runs the software on its private servers, they have full control over the data storage and security protocols to protect that data. Enterprises with 50, 100, or more users can save from monthly subscription costs if they purchase one-time license fees used in on-premise project management programs. They also have control over when to schedule software updates to make preparations and not experience any downtime due to an automatic product update inherent in SaaS systems.

What Are the Most Important Features of Project Management Software?

Choosing the right features for your team will depend on the size of your team, the complexity of the projects you run, and the project types and use cases you work with. Prospective PM software buyers should look for the following features:

Task management is essential in management software. The best software for project management offers visual task management in Kanban boards, Gantt charts, waterfall dependencies, and burndown charts. Task management should allow authorized users to:

  • Set dependencies on a task
  • Create and manage subtasks from larger tasks
  • Set a task to repeat or recur at a specified time or date
  • Assign tasks to one or more people
  • Import a list of tasks from an external file

These tools give a visual representation of project progress that is often easier to understand than a set of lists or items in a spreadsheet.

Trello Kaban Board for Task Management.
Kanban boards are an intuitive way to show a project’s deliverables and progress.

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Check out our Top Task Management Software Buyers’ Guide for more details

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Project scheduling functionality is one of the most important features of project management software. It promotes organization in large, multiple, and remote teams. It allows the user to set schedules on tasks, create a project timeline with milestones, and determine dependencies and resources. For some, this is an essential project management function. However, for organizations with simple projects, short-duration projects, recurring tasks, or small teams, this may not be as important.


Read our Top Scheduling Software Buyers’ Guide


Collaboration tools help solve problems by making communication between team members as close to frictionless as possible. These features ensure that everyone who can see a task or portion of the project can comment, add assets to, and notate changes in the same interface where all of the project information is stored. Visual task representations, messaging, task descriptions, notation features, asset upload capabilities, tags, email integrations, calendar tools, and more are considered collaboration features. Collaboration tools enable project teams and stakeholders to:

  • Exchange information
  • Hold discussions
  • Send comments or approvals
  • Put context to project files
  • Directly message one another

Creative teams may run several smaller projects concurrently and can make use of Gantt charts and cross-team approvals to keep work flowing to reach deadlines. Large teams should use collaboration tools to keep the project up to date, alert team members to major and minor changes, and centralize assets.


Read more about Top Collaboration Software


A good project management app provides a space for teams to store and manage files directly in the tool or by using an integrated third-party solution. Document management features that are indispensable in PM software are:

  • A centralized document storage
  • The ability to attach documents to tasks
  • The ability to attach notes and comments to uploaded documents
  • Multiple document uploads using drag-and-drop functionality
  • Document organization within folders, projects, or custom settings
  • Version control
  • Security features that can restrict document sharing to a small team, an entire project, or outside parties

An online PM app also provides cloud storage space or integrates with a third-party service that provides it. Basecamp is built around a centralized project document and also provides some asset upload capabilities.


Learn all about the Best Document Management Systems


Email and chat features within top project management software will:

  • Send notifications to individual team members regarding the status of their projects
  • Send alerts regarding due dates, keywords, or status changes to individuals or the entire team
  • Make new or update existing tasks via email
  • Add comments, files, or custom labels to an existing task

This feature significantly increases productivity as the user can manage tasks and updates from their inbox without logging in to the tool. Individual members should also be able to set limits on the frequency and types of email notifications they receive.

Project management programs have reporting functionality included—but to varying degrees. Consider the depth of your reporting needs and whether the project software you’re considering meets those needs. Another feature to consider is the ability to export project data to a third-party business intelligence tool if your company has one or is planning to have one.

Helpful reporting features track progress by due date or task type, update stakeholders on resource allocation, list unfinished tasks, use tags to filter data, and estimate on-time delivery.


Read our Top Reporting Tools Buyers’ Guide


Time management features in a project management app let team members track how much time they spend on independent tasks, let project managers set ideal time goals for the project, and integrate with a timesheet or payroll app. Teams with long-term projects or that regularly employ contractors may find a PM tool like this especially useful.

In project software options built for large teams or industries with contractors, these features may also be called resource management and include expense tracking features.

A Monday.com feature for time tracking.

Read more about Time Tracking Software


Large teams that manage many concurrent, complex projects may need to track each of those projects separately while also retaining the ability to report on and analyze their progression. Project portfolio management software gives companies an interface to run several projects within one or more portfolios.

The project managers and stakeholders can then take a high-level view of project progress, quickly identify bottlenecks, and drill down into problem areas with each project. These tools are also instrumental in team resource allocation and expense tracking across a number of project timelines, as they can show where slack can be taken up by other individuals.

A key feature of project portfolio management software is its ability to scale. These tools can manage unlimited projects with their own separate settings and workflows but have reporting tools that are powerful enough to give a top-level view. Microsoft Project, Jira, and Wrike all provide project portfolio management features.


Read our Buyers’ Guide for Project Portfolio Management Software


Mobile access via native project management apps helps all types of teams and is especially useful for distributed or remote teams. It provides a familiar interface and functionality so users can catch up on work, track progress, and message their teammates easily while on the go.

Most PM vendors offer mobile app solutions, either as OS-native (iOS, Android) or HTML5-based web apps.

The best program management software has a solid core of PM features that allow users to manage an entire project effectively. It also has multiple integrations directly or via APIs for features and data sources outside of the project management tool. A flexible solution can readily integrate with many top project management software services in use by companies today such as Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Salesforce, or Dropbox.

Zoho Projects, Wrike, Asana, and many other project management vendors offer a lot of integrations to connect to many other types of business software.

When used for external clients, management software will help teams with additional features such as white labeling, custom branding, or customization settings. These features often appeal to sales and marketing agencies and global or multinational corporations who want to adapt their tool to meet language and cultural requirements.

Support documentation is critical for onboarding new and existing team members, allowing newcomers to learn the tools quickly and providing troubleshooting and tutorials for more experienced team members. When considering PM system options, consider the depth of support offered by vendors.

  • Help desk articles
  • Support videos
  • Periodic educational webinars
  • In-software tooltips
  • Chatbots
  • Email or phone support

Some tools offer email and phone support only to paying subscribers, while others offer only online documentation or customer forums for paid plans. If you think your team will need personalized support, look for tools with good support ratings.

What Are the Most Important Purchase Considerations for Project Management Software?

Small businesses relying on spreadsheets or whiteboards miss an opportunity to manage their projects more efficiently. They can enjoy the advantages of a modern solution and still stay within budget with careful planning and mindful selection of important items while purchasing an affordable PM solution.

User Counts

While it may be helpful for everyone on the team to have access to project management software, many options base price on user seats. Companies can identify the essential personnel who need paid access and those who can collaborate for free through guest accounts or other channels such as email. Smaller organizations can easily bring the rest of the team up-to-date through reports that are generated without costs.

Free or Low-Price Options

While every company wants to save money on their software, free plans and low-priced options are especially attractive to small businesses that run on a shoestring budget. Affordable paid plans have limitations on the number of access or features, so it is important to plan for growth or expansion.

Open-source project management can provide a free plan or low-cost option, but these tools often do not provide the technical support or frequent updates that paid SaaS tools cover.

Visualizations

Task and project visualizations help teams see the progress of multiple projects running at the same time. These tools can assist in managing the progress of the initiative, but they can also be useful for project planning by giving a visual mind map of the project timeline. Whether it’s through a Kanban board, Gantt chart, burndown chart, or other custom visualization, these tools give an overview of the project’s progress.

PM solutions can quickly overwhelm users with all the ways that information can be visualized. To keep from overbuying, small businesses should identify which data or metrics are most important for them to see and check that their choice of PM solution can display them by default or with minimal customization.

Growing businesses face different challenges such as the task of scaling their company requirements. Project management solutions can help these businesses make a mind map of their upcoming projects, define their project processes, refine existing inefficiencies, and improve overall project outcomes.

Integrations

Midsize businesses have the tendency to adopt a greater number of solutions over time. As such, the ability of management software to integrate these existing solutions plays a greater role. The candidate solution should have native app connections, capable of API calls, or include webhook features to automatically data transfer and speed up processes.

Time Tracking

Time tracking software helps teams track contract work, employee hours, and billable time spent on projects. Your chosen project management tool should include features that tie work hours directly to individual tasks. The solution should also be able to compute hours across projects or filter hours for individual contributors. You should also look for connections to accounting or payroll systems via export or direct integration.

Time tracking reports are useful for building a project plan because they give the team an idea of how long previous tasks have taken. This can give the project manager and the individual contributors more context when they go to assign tasks.

Reporting and Analytics

Larger teams have a greater need to track and analyze key project data that comes from multiple sources. They need software for project management with a reporting and analytics engine to display the following metrics to help in the successful delivery of projects:

  • Total tasks assigned to the project and to individual team members
  • Total time needed for tasks and overall project completion
  • Tasks by completion stage
  • Points, hours, or other metrics to indicate task and project weight

Reporting and analytics can also be useful to help the team benchmark successful projects and understand where they can streamline their processes in the future. Many teams use management software analytics in their retrospectives and for project planning.

Large companies have the financial and infrastructure resources to implement enterprise-scale solutions. They need to find the right enterprise project management tool that will maximize their resources as well as provide them the insights from across a huge amount of data while keeping data secure.

Integrations

Whether your project management tool lives inside an ERP or business process management (BPM) system or exists as a standalone solution, integrations are essential. API connections and native plugins ensure key information flows quickly into the project software and reporting metrics flow back out to the right systems.

Reporting and Analytics

Reporting and analytics features in enterprise project management tools must seamlessly integrate with organization-wide reporting and data visualization tools like Tableau and Oracle Netsuite to play a vital role in making data from your PM solution widely useful. These features show bottlenecks in the process or other indicators of needed efficiencies. They help the team build a future project plan based on real data from previous projects and provide a talking point for otherwise subjective measures.

Enterprise companies need to check if their business intelligence tool can seamlessly integrate, import directly, or is compatible with the export format of their candidate PM solution.

Granular User Controls

Data safety and security should matter to companies of any size, but enterprise companies need user controls to effectively manage data access. An enterprise company looking for its next project management solution should carefully consider how the solutions tools provide administrative authority over access to projects, the number of available user seats, and granular access to capabilities and tasks.

Implementing the Right Project Management Software for Your Business

Companies should carefully plan how they roll out new project management software. The responsible project manager will need to first get the support of major stakeholders—from C-level executives to end users on the project team. From there, project managers should create a schedule that allocates time for learning how to use the software before taking on a major project. That way, each and every project will be set up properly.

Finally, be ready with training materials, support documentation, and (ideally) onboarding teams to ensure individuals don’t have to spend too much time learning about these project management programs and can quickly pivot back to their normal workloads.


  • 1/22/24 – Verified pricing, improved on-page navigation.
  • 12/28/23 – Added a condensed summary of our picks for top software; added a pricing comparison table.
  • 11/6/23 – Substantial content additions by author Anne Carroll, including standout features lists, expanded insights on what drove our editorial choices. Page headings, larger screen shots, and design elements have been added to make the page more readable. Site Editor Web Webster verified all new information including updated pricing.
  • 5/19/23 – Republished after a complete rewrite, including all-new research and vendor choices by contributing writer Anne Carroll.

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