If you’re a project manager, you know that project management requires a LOT of planning.
Whether it’s planning deliverables, sprints, or allocations, you need to keep track of many factors.
That’s where a tool like Microsoft Planner comes in.
After all, it has “planner” in its name, right? 🤔
And while Microsoft Planner is a decent task management tool, it requires integrations with other Microsoft apps to be fully functional.
If you’re tired of having to jump through hoops to manage projects successfully, we’ve got the #1 free alternative waiting for you.
In this Microsoft Planner review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about MS Planner to help you decide if it’s a good fit for you. We’ll also give you 12 fantastic Microsoft Planner alternatives to consider to help meet your team and project needs.
- What Is Microsoft Planner?
- Microsoft Planner Features
- 6 Major Limitations of Microsoft Planner
- The 12 Best Alternatives to Microsoft Planner
- Time To Find an Alternative Plan
Let’s get planning!
What Is Microsoft Planner?
Microsoft Planner is an application available in the Office 365 group, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Whiteboard, Outlook, and more.
It’s a simple kanban-based project management tool that helps you organize and schedule your project activities.
If you ever feel you need to channel your inner Dr. Evil and devise a mastermind project management plan and assign tasks to your team, this Office app makes it a breeze.
Is Microsoft Planner Free?
Anyone who has one of these Office 365 plans has access to the Microsoft Planner app for free:
- Office enterprise plans (E1, E3, E5)
- Office education plans
- Office business essentials
- Office business premium
If you have one of these plans, the Microsoft Planner app will show up in the Office app section of your dashboard.
However, for full functionality, you’ll need to pay for some Microsoft Planner plug-ins like reporting tools, card estimates, Gantt charts, and more.
Microsoft Planner Features
Here’s a closer look at some of the features that make Microsoft Planner a decent addition to the MS Office Suite:
A. Kanban board interface
The first thing that hits you about the MS Planner app is its interface.
If you’re familiar with kanban project management, you’ll feel right at home with MS Planner’s easy-to-use kanban interface that anyone can master.
Wondering what the difference between Azure Boards vs. Planner is?
The MS Azure Boards app is suitable for scrum teams that need to manage complex projects, whereas Planner is more suitable for simple task management.
What makes a project complex?
A project that deals with multiple assignees, multiple deliverables, multiple stakeholders, and a rigid timeline is usually pretty complex.
Azure also offers additional features like @mentions, a GitHub integration, and developers can use open source on Azure.
Now, back to MS Planner.
In Planner, each project is stored as a card that you can access from your dashboard. You can move things around and edit items with ease.
This feature makes the app suitable for a team looking for basic task management software. You don’t need any prior knowledge to operate (AKA beginners will do just fine!) 😅
Additionally, adding projects to your dashboard in MS Planner is very easy. Just click on “New Plan,” and you’ll have a new project space set up in no time.
Don’t feel like you can work with MS Planner’s kanban interface?
Check out the best kanban software apps you could use instead.
Once you create a plan, you can add team members to the space easily by typing the first three letters of their name. The Planner app will pull up their details for you.
If you’re trying to add someone who isn’t listed, you can add their business email address instead.
You can now add them to your project group, where they can start working on Planner tasks. Additionally, your team members will receive an email confirming this and will be able to access it in their Outlook tasks app.
Buckets are categories in MS Planner.
You can use them to categorize your cards and add a layer of organization to your dashboard. For example, you can have a bucket titled “Social Media” where you store your social media tasks.
You can also use buckets as makeshift statuses. For example, you can have buckets titled “First Draft,” “Final Draft,” and “To Publish.”
As a task moves along, you can drag and drop the card into the relevant bucket to keep everyone updated about what stage it’s in.
Although using MS Planner’s bucket feature isn’t on our bucket list, it’s decent for basic project management.
Psst..this feature isn’t as powerful as ClickUp’s Custom Statuses. 👀
What’s team collaboration without an active comment section, right? 💬
MS Planner gives you a comment section at the bottom of each card that allows you to have conversations with your Microsoft team.
To help reduce the number of notifications you receive (because you will receive a lot), the app won’t notify you of any new conversations on a team task unless you’ve taken part in the thread before.
But remember, even if you just send one comment, you’ll receive a notification for every subsequent comment on that thread.
You’d better keep your laptop with you 24/7 to make sure those comments aren’t for you.
Want to view the status of your projects as a chart instead?
MS Planner has you covered.
It offers you a pie chart overview of all your projects and their statuses. This way, you can see which tasks are:
- Not started
- In progress
You also get a breakdown of how many tasks are assigned to each of your team members. This way, you can see which teammates are fully occu-pied and keep track of how things are progressing.
6 Major Limitations of Microsoft Planner
Here are six reasons why you should be looking at some Microsoft Planner alternatives:
1. You’re stuck with one view
Cards aren’t for everyone and not everyone is going to take to a card-based kanban interface.
Some team members may prefer to organize work activities with a task list view, while others may want a calendar view.
Unfortunately, MS Planner doesn’t give you multiple views to work with. Your team is forced to adjust their styles to this specific project management tool.
It’s a surefire way to annoy your team members and drain their productivity.
But remember, just because you’re stuck with one view doesn’t mean you need to be stuck with MS Planner. 😉
⭐️Pro tip: check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation with multiple view options.
2. No built-in project timelines or Gantt chart feature
Kanban tools are known for their simplicity.
They’re all board-based with easy-to-read cards that contain all the information you need at a glance.
MS Planner is no different. Sure, it can give you a neat overview of tasks, but that’s all.
Without the ability to handle complex project management, you’d do far better with an enterprise solution instead.
By using MS Planner, you’ll be giving up some key project management features such as Gantt charts and timeline tracking. These vital features help you keep track of your project dependencies and ensure your project meets its deadline.
Without them, you and your team will have a super difficult time keeping track of time!
⭐️Pro tip: check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation with Gantt charts.
3. Can’t notify people individually
MS Planner tries to tackle unnecessary notifications by limiting them to people who contribute to a comment thread.
However, that isn’t enough.
There’s no way to notify anyone of a task individually without sending a notification to everyone else on your team.
You may be thinking: “So what? It’s just one notification!”
The problem is, all these notifications pile up.
What started as a comment addressed to one person can escalate into an unnecessary group discussion. This will distract other team members from their own tasks and make you lose sight of what you initially tried to address in the thread.
Sew annoying, right? 😅
4. Comments lack functionality
Comments are a core part of any team collaboration tool.
Yes, MS Planner does have a comment section.
However, there’s not much you can do with those comments. You’re limited to simple text messages with no rich text editing capabilities, no team @mentions, and worst of all, you can’t edit or delete comments! 😳
This means that if you by mistake send a comment with an attachment of a puppy reel, you’re going to have a ruff time trying to remove it.
⭐️Pro tip: check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation by letting you add files and images to Comments.
5. Can’t set tasks to recur
MS Planner doesn’t let you create recurring tasks.
Project managers and teams have a lot on their plate.
And not being able to automate time-consuming tasks like task delegation, meeting scheduling, and reminders will only lead to more stuff being piled on their plate!
⭐️Pro tip: check out how ClickUp ensures that this limitation never occurs again with Recurring Tasks.
6. No critical paths
One of the reasons you can’t prioritize tasks is because MS Planner can’t calculate a project’s critical path.
This means that you’ll have no idea which tasks are crucial for your project’s completion, making time management a problem.
Without critical paths, there’s no path to project management success!
❗️Critical tip: check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation by letting you create critical paths in Gantt charts.
The 12 Best Alternatives to Microsoft Planner
Here are the top 12 Microsoft Planner alternatives:
With enterprise-level functionality and startup-level user-friendliness, ClickUp will transform your team’s collaboration and productivity.
By the way, ClickUp has a powerful free version that has way more features than most other paid project management software!
Here’s a closer look at why ClickUp is the best MS planner alternative:
Everyone has personal preferences and not everyone will feel comfortable with the same interface.
Why force your team to adapt to your tool when your tool can adapt to your team instead?
One of the main differences between ClickUp vs. Planner is that ClickUp gives you four different views to ensure that every team member feels comfortable completing projects.
The best part?
This Microsoft free alternative is one of the few tools that let you toggle between views in the same project space!
Here’s a closer look at those views:
1. Board view
The Kanban Board view is excellent for agile and kanban fans.
Each project is given a card that you can easily move around your dashboard. This way, your agile team can visualize progress and make sure everyone’s on board with the plan, literally.
2. List view
This is the perfect view if you’re a fan of the GTD (getting things done) approach. All your to-dos are arranged in a task list that you can check off once you’ve completed them. ✅✅✅
3. Box view
4. Table view
With this view, you can finally say goodbye to organizing projects using an Excel or Google sheet.
Feel free to put it all on the table and easily navigate between fields, edit in bulk, export data, and more.
Sometimes, the best way to stay productive is by customizing projects to suit your needs.
Fortunately, ClickUp lets you duplicate existing views and change them into Personal views.
With this view, you can customize any existing view to your preference by adding new filters, sorting tasks differently, and more.
The best part?
You’ll end up with your own productivity-boosting personal version without changing the view for others!
B. Add Task Priorities easily
ClickUp makes it incredibly easy to add Priorities to multiple projects, tasks, and subtasks.
There’ll be a colored flag next to each item indicating its priority. The color coding is:
- Red (Urgent)
- Orange (High Priority)
- Blue (Normal)
- Light Grey (Low Priority)
This makes it super easy to keep track of what projects need to be tackled first!
C. Gantt Chart functionality
Another difference between Microsoft Planner vs. ClickUp is that ClickUp offers powerful, built-in Gantt Charts that track project progress.
Since your Gantt Charts are built in, you won’t need a third-party tool to manage your dependencies and task schedules (or pay extra for this feature). 👀
With ClickUp’s Gantt Chart view, you can:
- Calculate progress percentage for each of your projects
- View estimated vs. current project progress
- Automatically readjust Task Dependencies when you drag and drop projects around your chart
- Calculate your project’s critical path
D. Powerful Comments
ClickUp lets you power up your Comments by letting you share files, pictures, and videos alongside them.
This way, your team members will have all the references they need within their conversations themselves.
MS Planner doesn’t allow you to assign a comment to any person. This means that you can’t directly inform someone of something without bothering the rest of your team.
Here’s a glimpse into what your employees will be doing every time they receive a group notification:
Fortunately, with ClickUp’s Assigned Comments feature, you won’t have to worry about that.
Once you assign a comment to someone, ClickUp will only notify the assignee.
None of your other team members will be disturbed. 😌
The assignee can then proceed with the task and mark it as resolved when they’ve completed it. ✅
You can add Statuses to every ClickUp project to keep everyone informed of what’s going on.
All it takes is one look at a project’s status to know what stage it’s in.
However, that isn’t all.
ClickUp lets you customize your Statuses to suit each project. This way, you won’t have to settle for boring statuses like “Open” and “Closed.” 😴
Each project can have its own unique set of Statuses, such as “Client Review” or “Issues Found.”
ClickUp lets you save a project space you’ve created for future use.
The next time you’re opening a project, go to our Templates section and add your saved template instead! Alternatively, you can use one of the tempting pre-made Templates ClickUp gives you to ensure you’re not wasting any time.
Additional ClickUp features you’ll like:
Psst… you won’t find these features in most other project management tools. 🙊
The ClickUp Docs feature is a valuable collaborative knowledge base tool for your company. Docs let you work alongside your team in real-time to create a project plan, user guide, and anything else you put your mind to.
Here’s what you can do with Docs:
- Store project-related documents alongside each concerned project
- Nest pages within documents to easily create sections and categories
- Use Rich Text Formatting options to express your thoughts clearly
- Customize the Permissions settings for all your documents for additional privacy
- Share Docs with your stakeholders via a public or private link
- Allow Google to index your Doc so that it pops up on web searches (optional)
Ever have an idea you need to jot down but don’t have a pen and paper ready?
ClickUp has a free online Notepad you can use for project planning and ideation.
It’s a great, private place to plan out action plans for your projects before sharing them with your team.
Although Microsoft Planner lets you turn certain notifications on and off, you can’t choose when and where you receive those notifications.
Fortunately, ClickUp gives you complete control over every notification you receive on every platform.
AKA, no more ding ding ding and more cha-ching, cha-ching! 💰
K. Set Recurring Tasks
Without Recurring Tasks, your team will have to have to try to remember what they’ve got to do on Monday morning, which will make it even more challenging to get out of bed! 🥴
For example, you can set recurring tasks for quarterly performance reviews, client status meetings, or proofing a weekly newsletter.
Choose from a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly recurrence, or create a custom schedule according to your needs.
If you’re using Microsoft Planner for the card and kanban board functionality, you might as well go to one of the teams that do it well. That’d be Trello.
In Trello, boards function as projects, and the cards reside within each board. You can add details, create a task list, and share files onto the card.
In addition, the tasks are grouped accordingly, and it’s easy to select and share them with your team or publicly. This is a great feature for sharing work with clients or other vendors, or even others on your team who may be stuck on Microsoft Project!
Don’t let them bring you down, too!
But, Trello has more than just kanban boards; this project management software also has a calendar view, timeline view, and dashboard view.
Before you dash over to this Microsoft Project alternative, you should know that you don’t get any of the above views in the free plan.
Need to get a Trello alternative in your sights?
Here are the top Trello alternatives in 2021.
Plenty of people use Microsoft Excel for task management, but that doesn’t mean they should. It has rows and columns to collaborate on.
That means you could put down tasks in a few columns, describe them and then add due dates in the other columns.
It’s the ideal work breakdown structure for a teamwork project, right?
What’s the problem?
First, group collaboration is complex, the mobile app lacks functionality, importing data into a calendar is super challenging… and so much more.
If your manager loves the staid nature of Microsoft Project, but you need a project management tool that’s more robust than Planner, then take a look at Wrike.
Wrike is a powerful project portfolio management software with a Windows and Mac desktop app.
The app also has folder hierarchies, dashboards, Gantt charts, and drag-and-drop functionality.
The folder structure allows your project structure to ebb and flow, depending on its size and how much you need to drill down.
Using Wrike to select and schedule your work breakdown structure is a smart choice. It also features a solid integration list and dashboard reporting components that will easily help you plan schedules.
However, you should note that Wrike doesn’t offer any built-in note-taking functionality.
Need a little more info?
Asana makes sense as a Microsoft Planner alternative.
This collaboration app makes it simple to find your way around, and it has a user-friendly UI design with simple task management attributes.
One of the main differences between Microsoft Planner vs. Asana is that Asana has a great integration list. This list features tools like Dropbox, Slack, Salesforce, and more.
With this project management tool, you can create and select project sections, much like Planner’s buckets.
On top of that, Asana has a personalized inbox that will help you manage activities and collaborate with coworkers over your task calendar.
However, Asana doesn’t let you assign tasks to multiple teammates.
Guess you’ll just have to assign tasks…
Feel like you’re spoilt for choice?
Psst… we’ll leave the import option here for when you’re done reading that post. 👀
Flow is a work management tool that gets high marks from reviewers on Capterra for its design and project scheduling features.
Users can update their statuses fast, with notifications coming in a non-intrusive way. It’s a good way to stay organized and updated easily.
Their board structure will be familiar to anyone who likes that part of Microsoft Planner. A bonus is their mobile app-centric approach, which presents all of your tasks and subtasks in a clear way.
But let us remind you that Flow doesn’t have a reminders feature.
Without built-in reminders, your team might forget the tasks in their workflow.
Why go with the Flow when you can opt for a task management tool with powerful Task Reminders instead?
See how ClickUp compares to Flow as a Microsoft Planner alternative.
Casual.PM takes mind mapping and cards to another level. If you like using cards but aren’t sure of the status and how it links to team members and other projects, this task management app is your answer.
You create and link tasks as you go, making it easy to organize the work breakdown structure before moving on to the next stage.
Your workflows are simplified with easy-to-change lines, so you can stay organized with ease!
However, you’ll need to spend $12/month on two projects if you opt for this collaboration app!
Excuse the startups and small businesses as they disappear “casually.”
NutCache is a little more complex than the Microsoft Planner app but not as complicated as Microsoft Project.
It’s an agile product with boards and has more robust time tracking and resource management than Microsoft Planner.
Additionally, the app has an invoice tracking feature and works better for a smaller-sized organization that may not have the enterprise resources of Microsoft.
Unfortunately, this task management tool doesn’t have the most powerful integration list out there. Not having integrations with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Evernote would drive us nuts! 🥜
Smartsheet is a project management tool that looks remarkably similar to Excel but with more intuitive project management features.
Smartsheet project management relies on spreadsheets, but you can create main tasks and subtasks right underneath them with due dates, assignees, and more. It’s a smart way to stay organized.
Although Smartsheet offers more dashboard overviews and cost estimations, you’d have to set up all of that yourself in Smartsheet.
The drawback of using this task management tool?
You’d just better hope your team knows how to work with spreadsheets, or else you’ll be saying: “oh, sheet!”
Not sure if you should make the smart move and go for ClickUp instead?
Compare Smartsheet and ClickUp to find your answer!
If you’re looking for a simple Microsoft Project alternative, then Basecamp is a decent choice.
This simple project management tool improves teamwork in the workplace for both in-house and remote teams.
Basecamp views projects as hills; as a result, they’re well-known for their hill charts feature. This feature helps you track project progress and identify any bottlenecks.
However, the real uphill battle you’ll be facing is figuring out how to afford Basecamp’s flat-rate pricing plan!
At $99/month, startups and small businesses will be saying: “aw, hill, no!”
Feel like you and Basecamp could still be a match? 🔥
The app also has apps for iPhone and Android phones.
On the downside, although monday.com lets you add comments to tasks, you can’t assign those comments to teammates. This could easily lead to comments being overlooked or worse, forgotten, leaving you feeling like it’s a Monday every day of the week. 😵
12. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is an online project management app that’s suitable for startups and enterprises.
Zoho lets you create personalized layouts, statuses, and workflows so you can manage projects the way you want to.
The project management tool also integrates with every popular Google App out there, including Google Calendar, Google Tasks, and Google Drive.
However, if you’re planning on using the free pricing plan, you’ll be limited to three users, two projects, and 10MB file attachments.
Time To Find an Alternative Plan
Although MS Planner is a great addition to the Office Suite, the project management app is far from perfect. For one, it’s not as powerful as most of the alternatives we listed in this article.
While we did mention some decent options in this MS Planner review, ClickUp is by far the best project management solution. It’s the complete package for your project management needs!
Join ClickUp for free today to plan your way to success! 🚀
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