Let’s say you’re building a house. It’s a complex process in which some tasks must be done in a particular order. You cannot install windows if you haven’t put up the walls yet. You probably have dozens of contractors working on the house, and you have to know which days they are available to pour the foundation, lay the tile, and so forth. Then you have to schedule them based not only on their availability but also on each task happening in the right order. The way to manage a complex project like this one, including all the jobs that need to be done by whom and when, is to use project management software.
Project management software is a type of online collaborative app. All the people who are working on a project log in and see what they’re supposed to do and when. These people also record their progress on those tasks and add relevant details, such as notes about any changes. With the appropriate permission level, people can also see what everyone else is doing, what requirements must be met for them to get it done, and when.
For the person or people managing the project, the project management app provides a clear overview of the project and its health. Are all the tasks on track to be completed on time? If one task is late, how does it affect the projected deadlines of other tasks? Is someone available to pick up an urgent task if the person assigned to do it is ill? Plus, if the project management app supports tracking finances, the app will also tell the people in charge whether the project is running on budget.
How We Choose the Best Project Management Apps
For this roundup of the best project management apps, we evaluated and tested more than 25 project management platforms and have included here the products with the highest scores. Inclusion is based on PCMag’s independent testing and evaluation. In determining scores, we consider the needs of a variety of business types, including small businesses on a budget and large organizations that need to manage many projects, people, and budgets simultaneously.
For this category, we stick to traditional project management apps only. These apps are specifically created to manage projects, rather than ongoing work. A project is a set of work with a start date, an end date, and a deliverable.
To be included in this roundup, the app must offer Gantt charts, which is a type of timeline view that’s commonly used in project management. All the apps included here also have other standard tools for tracking, organizing, and scheduling project-based work.
There are many other excellent collaboration apps that sometimes get called “project management apps,” such as Trello, Basecamp, and Airtable. While some collaboration or work-management apps are very capable at managing certain kinds of work, they aren’t necessarily designed for juggling the complexities of dozens or hundreds of projects and their schedules simultaneously.
What Can You Do With a Project Management App?
Project management apps let you track and manage nearly any kind of project, such as the creation of a new product, building a house or website, or launching a marketing campaign. Teams that use project management apps typically track more than one project at a time. The software helps them figure out when to schedule work based on when things need to get done and the human resources available to do them.
The very best project management apps detect problems before they happen. By tracking the progress of work and individual tasks (for example, having completed six hours of a task that’s estimated to take a total of eight hours), project management apps can sound an alarm when a deadline is in danger of slipping, but before it actually happens. The most powerful project management apps also offer to automatically reflow the project schedule when tasks do fall off course. They generate reports that give managers insight into which team members have too much or too little work assigned to them. Some let you track project budgets, too, and log billable hours so that you can send invoices to clients for time worked.