If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Trite yes but also very much true.  All projects even Agile projects need to plan.  Of course you don’t have to use software to plan your project but the productivity gains are definitely worth it. Over the last decade the project management software market has grown significantly.  There are now hundreds, thousands even of tools which promise to make projects easy.  Many of them try to make it easy by ignoring things like planning, dumbing  down.  Other tools try to do everything and become either expensive or complex or both.  In this post we are going to look at the top five planning software tools you should consider using.

Our review is going to look at just tools with a primary focus on planning and which can be used standalone.  Here is the summary grid and each planning software tool is then discussed in more detail below.

Top five Planning software; planning tools; project management software; planning tool comparison

Top five planning software tools – 1 – Microsoft Project

Lets start with Ms Project certainly the most well known desktop planning application on the market.  MS Project led the way with planning support and has been constantly updated ever since.  It is the most comprehensive desktop tool on the market in pure planning terms, highly featured and well supported.

Unfortunately it doesn’t have a good actual cost collection capability.  MS Project has two main drawbacks however, cost and complexity.  It is by far the most expensive application at £600+ to purchase individually however many organisations have discounted and bulk buying options which will bring that down.  I like MS Project I have been an active user for over twenty years but even I don’t know all its ins and outs.  You will need formal training to be proficient and to get the most out of it.  Of course sharing your plans isn’t that easy as it’s exporting/printing isn’t that great and you might need to tool your teams up with one of the free tools so they can view the plans you want to share

To summarise it is the desktop planning software you should use if you have the budget and the time to learn it all.

Visit the Microsoft site for Project Professional here.

Top Five Planning Software tools – 2 – Gantt Project

Gantt Project is a free alternative to MS Project.  It is the first of two similar freeware planning tools on the list.  Again it is provided as standalone software and is capable of running on Windows, OSX and Linux. Unfortunately Gantt Project is now looking quite dated.  This tool is also limited in terms of higher level capabilities for example cost and budget management.  Although it does offer both Critical Path and Baseline functionality.  Data interchange with older versions of MS Project and CSV formats is also good.

However it has no Earned Value capability and there is no step up capability for linking it into a more multi user experience so it is perhaps a little bit of a dead end.  Having said that it is free and has a large user base among smaller organisations.  It is robust and well proven and for freeware quite well supported.

Visit the Gantt Project site here to download it for free.

Top Five Planning Software tools – 3 – Project Libre

Project Libre is the second freeware planning tool we will look at. Although the interface is a little nicer than Gantt Project it is pretty similar and is also supported on Windows, Linux and OSX .  Likewise it also reads from older MS Project files but not newer ones nor does it exchange with CSV easily.

Project Libre provides Earned Value and baseline capabilities but lacks Critical path.  It also has minimal customisation, no actual cost collection, analysis or risk and issue management.  Project Libre does support budget cost build up and they say a server version is coming soon so this wouldn’t be a dead end.  I like it more than Gantt Project, but only just.

You can learn about Project Libre and download it for free here.

Top Five Planning Software tools – 4 – Team Gantt

Team Gantt is something a bit different from the other tools here as it is a SaaS subscription service.  They do offer a free very limited version but the paid (£25/month) version is more comparable to the other tools.  As it is browser based you can in theory use it anywhere with an internet connection, but don’t lose your connection!  It covers all the core capabilities as expected although again not actual cost collection.  Team Gantt also supports Baselines but not Earned Value or Critical Path.

It is the only tool on the list which doesn’t support interaction with MS Project and isn’t multi-lingual.  Customisation is also very limited.  On the plus side it has better Filtering and anlaysis then the freeware products and is inherently multi user and multi project.  However it doesn’t really support the full project management capability set.

Top Five Planning software tools – 5 – PROJECT in a box Planner

Our Planner tool is designed to feed nicely into our multi-user platform as a source of all project controls data.  It therefore goes further than the other tools in covering actual cost collection and also risk and issue management.

Planner does not support baseline directly and has a simple Earned Value measure called Progress Cost.  A Critical Path capability is coming soon too.  You can do full import/export with MS Project and CSV.  Planner is also the only product beside MS Project to offer Timeline and Calendar displays.

Planner is also totally free though developed and supported by a commercial organisation so not freeware. It also boasts strong analysis capability and onward extensibility into the main PROJECT in a box application.  Planner however is only available as a Windows application, although commercial users of the PROJECT in a box application have access to a browser version of it.

So if you want a great all round modern project controls tool Planner is a great choice and totally free.  Find out more here, or sign up to download it here.

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