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Best project management software 2021: Top apps and tools

Picking the right project management software requires a deep knowledge of your operation and its pain points. Here are our top picks for the best software for your in-person or remote team.

Project Management apps are an essential function for a healthy and productive organization. Without project management, who sets the bar for accountability and expectations? 

Without the right software in place, how do you plan to drive a project to its completion? How will you help your team mitigate delays, due dates, or bumps in the road? How will you track projects through a project management system? Visibility, automation, customization, task track time, and more -- it's all essential to getting things done correctly and on time.

When time is of the essence in the business world, efficiency and the ability to collaborate matter most of all. The best project management tools and document management tools will help you accomplish all this and more. Plus, it will give you the top-down transparency you need as a manager or supervisor to customize your projects in real-time.

We have examined the top project management software offerings on the market right now, highlighted their features, and underlined the competitive advantages. We wanted to expand on past the standard workspace apps such as Mac Pro IOS systems, Android software or Slack messaging apps that you know about. Read on to discover ZDNet's best solutions for your large or small team and make the right investment for your organization at large.

Microsoft Project

Not unlike an Excel spreadsheet at its core

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Microsoft Project is an excellent piece of open-source software that will help calculate resource constraints, streamline the project, and help your organization stay on track with great interactive tools. 

The top features of MS Project are:

  • Built-in project templates
  • Resource management
  • Project cost and scheduling
  • Projected timelines
  • Reporting
  • Business intelligence

A single license usually costs around $600, but when bundled with the entire Microsoft Office suite of applications, this cost may be significantly reduced.

Microsoft Project is not unlike an Excel spreadsheet at its core. The file can be passed around to the entire team for status updates, but there is limited internet connectivity. Microsoft Project will check most of the boxes as an enterprise solution, even if it seems a bit outdated on the surface.

If you are looking for something with a streamlined unlimited user experience, Microsoft Projects might not be your best pick, but it gets the job done at a basic level.

View Now at Microsoft

Trello

Outstanding visuals and a clean, modernized UX

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Trello is a fantastic project management tool thanks to outstanding visuals and a clean, modernized UX.

It is well known for its main dashboard that all cross-functional units of the company can access. If using Trello, you are likely adopting an agile style of task management, which is far more common in small business settings these days.

You can shift assignments across the dashboard to different times, days, or weeks. There is no re-writing a start of the finished date - simply click and hold the task, and drag-and-drop it to its appropriate location. Easy to learn, easy to master, and highly intuitive.

The top features of Trello are:

  • Unlimited task creation.
  • Commentary and collaboration features.
  • Organizing tasks by priority.
  • File and image sharing.

Finally, Trello boards are free for personal use. If you decide that Trello may be the right pick for your complex project management department, it only costs $9.99 per user per month.

$9 at Trello

Scoro

Your "one-stop-shop" for all your business needs

Scoro

Scoro is another industry standard for cross-functional project team management, and we love the complete set of services it provides. Scoro assists in the management of everything from billing to reporting, production and development, and any other miscellaneous functions in your company. Whether you work with full-time employees or freelancers, the project management tools will work great for your team. 

In a nutshell, Scoro is your "one-stop-shop" for all your business needs, with a strong emphasis on team collaboration tools. 

The top features of Scoro are the following:

  • Contact management
  • Time-tracking and billing
  • Quoting and invoicing
  • Team meeting scheduling and calendar view
  • KPI dashboard
  • Reports of project progress and budget

Scoro is user-friendly and has a breezy learning curve for all employees. Instead of using Outlook to schedule meetings, Microsoft Project to build and track timelines, and Oracle for quoting and billing, Scoro can consolidate and streamline everything in one swoop.

You can even try the free version of Scoro for 14 days. After that, the $26 per user per month will not break the bank. It's worth the cost, in our book.

View Now at Scoro

Teamwork Project Management Suite

Web-based project management suite

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Teamwork is another web-based project management suite that offers a comprehensive toolkit for various operations and tasks. Collaboration is the keyword here, and that's where Teamwork stands out. A central location for everyone to tap into is a huge upside and clarifies everything across the board. 

The easy-to-use interface boasts the following features:

  • Reporting
  • Time Tracking and timesheets
  • Gantt Charts
  • Tasks with sub-tasks
  • Milestone projection and management
  • Different user permissions

If you are interested in the Teamwork suite, you will be happy to know that this project management software tool integrates with Teamwork Desk and Teamwork Chat.

View Now at Teamwork

Easy Project

Very similar to Microsoft Project

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Easy Projects project management software boats great visuals, Gantt charts, and a simple user interface. 

It is very similar to Microsoft Project in terms of the end product, but Easy Project is built in an updated interface with a great visualization appeal. 

The main features of Easy Project are:

  • Configurable dashboards
  • User and task tracking
  • Gantt charts
  • Project templates
  • Portfolio management

Easy Project lives up to its name in simplicity, and we like its customizable layout, but it may not be full-featured enough for enterprise use. This software can get any number of projects moving in the right direction, although you might want to upgrade once operations expand in scope and complexity.

View Now at Easy Projects

Basecamp

Boasts an Instagram-like dashboard

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Basecamp is a popular tool for thousands of project management teams and is known for its versatility across industries. A big part of Basecamp's appeal is its similarities to social media platforms. 

The Basecamp interface boasts an Instagram-like dashboard with the following features:

  • Application-based collaboration
  • Desktop notifications
  • Project performance
  • Message boards
  • In-app collaboration functions
  • Separate presentation for clients

Basecamp is a great project management tool for startups and young, agile teams familiar with social media platforms. Right out of the box, it offers a ton of value with a minimal learning curve.

One of the best things about Basecamp is that it is free for teachers and students and will not charge you based on a license amount. There are options for free plans, as well as plans starting at $99 a month.

View Now at Basecamp

ProWorkflow

Transparency across your organization

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ProWorkflow is a project management solution focused on transparency across the organization.

All data is consolidated on the main dashboard and can be seen and used by any user with a license. ProWorkflow will even work through mobile apps on your mobile device. 

The top features are as follows:

  • View colleague's workload
  • Send and track quotes and invoices
  • File sharing
  • Contract Management
  • Assigning tasks
  • Dashboard view

We also like the time-tracking features for added accountability. ProWorkflow might be your best option at the great pricing rate of $22 per month per user. ProWorkflow offer access to project management tools on your mobile device.

View Now at ProWorkflow

Smartsheet

Best for a larger collaborative effort

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Smartsheet is an online work execution platform for a larger collaborative effort. Its main formatting tool lets the user define tasks in a fill-in-the-blank style. Assign tasks, manage calendars, share docs, and do whatever else is necessary to get things done.

The top features of Smartsheet are the following:

  • Strategic planning
  • Project planning and scheduling
  • Importing/Exporting project files to outside collaborators
  • Resource management
  • Budget tracking

At $25 per user per month, Smartsheet is an industry go-to for easy project management software. However, compared to some of the more modernized platforms, Smartsheet might look a bit outdated visually.

View Now at Smartsheet

ProofHub

Can replace emailing and other standard tools

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ProofHub, similar to Scoro, can replace emailing and other standard tools while leveraging a robust unlimited project management workflow all in one suite. 

One problem managers face is the time wasted as employees switch back and forth between applications for basic communication purposes. 

With ProofHub, that problem is fixed with these top features:

  • Online chat and discussion
  • Assigning task ownership
  • Tracking progress history
  • Different user access tiers/applications

ProofHub is expensive compared to its competitors, starting at $45 a month per user. However, upon further research and demo of ProofHub, the price may be justified by the positive impact it makes on your new start-up.

View Now at ProofHub

Asana

Free for 15 members of your organization

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Are you interested in using a project management tool that will completely replace your email? Asana may be the project management tool for you. Asana's goal is to provide the user with file storage, collaboration, and many other pieces of project plan tracking without the use of that email client. 

You will be able to execute the following while using Asana:

  • Tracking milestone and task progress
  • View project dashboards for a high-level view
  • View cross-functional timelines and roadmaps
  • Color-coded design

Asana is an excellent option for a business that may have recently implemented project management and needs a one-stop solution. It is free for 15 members of your organization and then starts at paid plans for $13 per user per month.

View Now at Asana

Workzone

For marketers, designers, and content creators

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For marketers, designers, and content creators, Workzone is an industry favorite.

Workzone is the happy medium between many different types of project management software. Retired advertisement executives built it with visibility as a top concern. If you need a lot of eyes on a project and constant collaboration, this is a powerful tool to add to your arsenal. 

Workzone allows project managers to build timelines with cross-functional teams and go even further with these features:

  • Individual task list
  • Personalized subtasks and predecessors/successors
  • Status tracking
  • Task assignment
  • Specific permissions for a number of users and or clients

Workzone has a wide array of complex tools at the user's fingertips, balances functionality with a streamlined interface and simple UX. At $24 per user per month, Workzone will give you multiple options to manage your team and set expectations.

View Now at Workzone

Which is the right project management software for you?

Project management features are a critical function in any organization that prioritizes the timely deliverable of milestones and objectives whether you work online or on-premise. While each item on our list has its own merits, your choice will depend on your team's specific needs and the custom fields you wish to fulfill. 

When deciding on a new collaboration software for your team, make sure you know what gaps need filling and prevent employees from scrambling between multiple applications. Review the feature sets of each software and only implement if you see a clear value-add and discernable ROI. 

Take the time to thoroughly analyze your current project management workflow and make an assessment based on how things work -- not how you imagine them to be. Talk with team members about the dependencies they have with certain software, examine past project portfolios, and find a solution with a purpose to prevent unnecessary overlap. Expand your team past the basic Google drive, dropbox, and other methodologies that other businesses run off and power up your team with projects that will expand on your productivity.