Saturday, April 16, 2011

5 Alternatives to Basecamp

There are more than 5 million people turning to Basecamp for their Project Management needs. It takes existing project management functions we’re familiar with - Messages, To-dos, Milestones – and centralizes the conversation. It's this simplicity, combined with a good dose of usability, that has won the world over. I have three accounts, use it daily, and regular run presentations on Basecamp 101.(Hit me up at if you or your team need some training). But they're not the only solution. And recently there has been a slew of new offerings looking for a slice of the PM pie. Here’s a list of the cream of the crop worthy of a look:


Another agency building a tool to solve an internal problem, Flow is less about project management than it is about task management. Sharing similarities with Action Method and OmniFocus, you can create, delegate and organize tasks (to-dos) amongst your team. Commenting within tasks allows you to collaborate with team members in realtime. Neat. While it won’t suit your more complex project planning needs, every good PM needs a system like Flow to help keep organized. It's clear this stone has been cut by Metalab. They know design and it shows.

Why is it awesome?

First up, it looks stunning. The signup process is slick, you'll be up and running in seconds (really). It's cheap at under $10 p/month p/account (although their pricing plan isn’t all that clear).

Access – almost- anywhere. Already they have an app for iPhone, a beta app for Mac desktop and you can also email in your tasks without having to login to the browser.

Why me worry?

While Metalab have a history of developing apps, in their own words “we make interfaces”, not apps. They’re just out of alpha, and yet to proven in this space.

Pixel Paddock Stars: ****

Copper Project Management

Copper could legimately be your one stop shop for your project management needs. From CRM to resource management, time & cost tracking and even invoicing, Copper offers up a lot for the price. But does it do it well?

Well, sort of. Copper requires a lot of commitment. You'll spend a lot of time in the settings. If you’re planning on generating invoices from it, you want to make sure it’s accurate, and while there’s a plethora of options to customize for your needs, it also requires more effort to manage, with some tricky cost settings to wrap your head around.

Customer service is one of their strong points. Ben Pendergast, Copper CEO, originates from my hometown in Melbourne, Australia, and you’ll find him on-the-ground actively involved in the business, replying to your emails and issues quickly. (They also have a San Francisco office, for those in the northern half of the world).

Why is it awesome?

Drag & Drop timeline: One of the reasons I first was attracted to Copper was this feature. Once you’ve created tasks and assigned people, the Timeline allows you to shift these around a gantt-style calendar with click-and-drag ease.

Commentary: A commenting section within tasks that allows you to track both time, and progress, and allow workers to keep project owners updated.

Basecamp import: If you’re already a Basecamp user, you can utilize their import feature to bring in the People and Project data to your Copper account.

Why me worry?

User Interface: The app ‘feels’ heavy. Functions are hidden in drawers that slide a little too slowly, functions such as allocating resources to tasks are just plain funky and require Olympic-level mouse precision. While there’s plenty of customization options to make it your own, there’s no option to remove those ugly icons across the top.

Pixel Paddock Stars: ***


“One of the problems that enterprise software has right now, is that it’s not inviting to people. People are in there because they’ve been told to be in there” – Scott Johnson, CEO, AtTask

AtTask have been in the PM Software as a Service game for 10 years now and have been the ones to watch in the PM space over the past few years. Thanks to a 7 mill funding boost in 2007, they have been aggressively pursuing product development and it shows. In May of last year, they launched ‘Stream’ to empower not only project managers, but those tasked with doing the work, to actively participate in the management and priority of their tasks. Their website has also undergone a touch of paint, retiring the tired stock imagery with a more modern appeal.

At the opposite end of the PM scale to Basecamp, AtTask's sweet spot is large corporations, tailoring bespoke solutions and integrating with existing services such as Salesforce and Oracle. All with the support of a full sales and PMP trained service team.

AtTask’s features cover the full breadth of agency and brand management needs, from time tracking and capacity planning, to file sharing and help desk. While Basecamp focuses on project management, AtTask, as with Copper, is about ‘work management’ across the organization.

Why is it awesome?

There is little competition in the AtTask space for large organizations. For those struggling with MS Project Enterprise this may be the best alternate out there.

Why me worry?

AtTask requires organizational commitment from top-down. And with all your eggs in the AtTask basket, you want to forgo the reviews and feature lists, and actually trial it in action to ensure it’s right for you and the people you work with. If you’re managing projects fine in Basecamp, then AtTask probably isn’t for you.

Pixel Paddock Stars: ****


Apollo is the latest player in the Project Management Software-as-a-Service space. Coming out in Beta in July, as of Monday, Applicom commenced paid plans. What’s it like? Take 2 tablespoons of Flow, and 1 cup of Basecamp, sprinkle in a Highrise CRM, and you have yourself Apollo. It’s a well-selected combination of PM tools for small business that need to manage personal tasks, manage projects and manage their contacts.

While not quite at the level of Flow, the design is refreshing for those that have been living in Basecamp for many years (Why the use of such as large Apollo logo though, taking up key real estate, I’m not quite sure). As Tony Mobily goes to great pains to detail, they made a conscious choice to perfect the product prior to launch, and a lot of work has gone into performance. And to their credit, it rockets (excuse the pun).

Why is it awesome?

For a similar price to Basecamp, you get more features, in a package that doesn’t feel more complicated. Include time tracking, file storage and a fairly comprehensive calendar function, and you’ve got yourself a project management toolkit that will serve most small to medium sized agencies.

Why me worry?

At this early stage, Apollo is still unproven. There’s currently no mobile version. Some copy and UI elements feel like they need some ironing out, with menus flying down, popping up and not always expected. At times, it just feels like Apollo have ripped Basecamp off almost to the pixel (See Pricing Plans page and Account Settings for proof). But as a package, it’s a very impressive launch, and well worthy of consideration.

Pixel Paddock Stars: *****


Born by two Englishman in 2006, Huddle promotes itself as collaboration tool, and bares all the features you know and love from Basecamp. With some impressive brands and agencies already using Huddle including AKQA and HTC, they’re a proven competitor. And with a cash injection of 10mill in May of last year, they’re also now setup in San Francisco and looking to carve out some market share in the US.

What’s the difference? Well, in most areas it’s business as usual. Where Basecamp have Writeboards, Huddle have Whiteboards. But where Huddle excels is in additional collaboration features.

Why is it awesome?

Huddle feels like a complete collaboration package. Web conferencing, and integration with Office, LinkedIn and Facebook. Adding to that apps are available for iPhone, iPad and Blackberry. They also offer comprehensive support, a 1-2-1 demo and a well-thought-out marketing site.

Why me worry?

At $150 p/month for 1-10 users, it is a lot more expensive than Basecamp, although admittedly this does buy you a wider feature-set.

Pixel Paddock Stars: ****

Edit: Since posting this, Apollo have been in contact, sharing a preview of their Mobile version currently in Beta. On first use, it's lean and mean, the ability to add tasks, and read only access to the other features. Another feather in the cap for those considering Apollo.


Unknown said...

Thank you for your great review!

Stefan said...

Nice list. Also add ProofHub in your list.

xrods said...

I would like to add MOOVIA to this list, it's a free, feature rich, and yet simple to use online project management solution.

ACLGUY said...

Hi - Hot Project have just released a free version of their project management system, which can be downloaded at I would love to hear your thoughts!

Unknown said...

A little late to this party but you should also take a look at Proofhub ( It's a great alternative to basecamp. Proofhub offers features like time tracking, collaboration, gantt chart, notes, labels, inbuilt chat, proofing, miletones, to-do's, sub tasks and more that allows you to keep all your project conversations nicely organized without any work on your part.