Thinking of giving Microsoft Planner a shot?
In this article, we’ll review MS Planner to help you decide if it’s a good fit for you. We’ll also give you nine great MS Planner alternatives to try out instead.
What Is Microsoft Planner?
Microsoft Planner is one of the newest additions to the Office Suite. It’s a simple Kanban-based project management tool to organize and schedule your project activities. This Office app makes creating a plan and trying to assign a task quite easy.
Who Has Access to Microsoft Planner?
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.
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 Interface
The first thing that hits you about the MS Planner app is its interface. If you’ve used Kanban tools before, you’ll feel right at home here. It’s got an easy-to-use Kanban interface that anyone can master.
Each project is stored as a card that can be accessed easily from your dashboard. You can move things around and edit items with ease. It makes this Office app the ideal solution for a team that’s looking for a basic task management app. You don’t need any prior knowledge to operate it – beginners will do just fine!
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.
Once you create a plan, you can add team members to the space easily. Just type in the first three letters of their name and MS Planner 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 tasks. Your team members will now receive an email confirming this and can access it in their Outlook 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.
Buckets can also be used 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.
It’s obviously not as organized as Custom Statuses in ClickUp, but it’s ok for basic project management!
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 teammates. To help reduce the number of notifications you receive, you won’t be notified of any new conversations on a task unless you’ve taken part in the thread before.
E ) Charts
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. 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. It’s a helpful way to keep track of how things are progressing.
Limitations of Microsoft Planner
1) You’re Stuck With One View
Cards aren’t for everyone. Not everyone is going to take to a card-based Kanban interface.
Some of your 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 your tool. It’s a surefire way to annoy your team members and drain their productivity.
Check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation with multiple view options.
2) No Project Timelines or Gantt Charts
Kanban tools are known for their simplicity. MS Planner is no different. Sure, it can give you a neat overview of tasks, but that’s all.
It just can’t handle complex project management. You’d do far better with an enterprise solution instead. By using MS Planner, you’re giving up some key project management features such as Gantt charts and timeline tracking. These are vital features that keep track of your dependencies and ensure your project meets its deadline.
Check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation with Gantt charts.
3) Cannot Notify People Individually
MS Planner tries to tackle unnecessary notifications by limiting it 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.
Check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation with assigned comments and notification options.
4) Comments Lack Functionality
Comments are a core part of any team collaboration tool.
MS Planner has a comment section. So far, so good.
However, there’s not much you can do with those comments. You’re limited to simple text messages and nothing else. You can’t add photos, videos or documents! This is a big problem as most project comments relate to a shared item.
If you can’t post that item alongside your comment, your team will have a hard time understanding what you’re trying to say. You’ll be wasting time explaining something that’ll be self-explanatory on another project management tool.
Check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation by letting you add files and images to comments.
5) Cannot Prioritize Tasks And Subtasks
Another problem with MS Planner is that it doesn’t allow you to prioritize tasks and subtasks
This is an issue when you’re working with multiple projects at the same time. Some of them may be more important than others – but there’s no way to identify them.
Check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation by letting you add priorities.
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. You have no idea what tasks are more vital to a project’s completion; making time management a difficult process.
Check out how ClickUp overcomes this limitation by letting you create critical paths in Gantt charts.
The 9 Best Alternatives to Microsoft Planner
Boasting of 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 it’s the perfect alternative to Microsoft Planner.
Why ClickUp Is Better Than Microsoft Planner
A) Multiple Views
Everyone has personal preferences. 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?
ClickUp gives you four different views to ensure that every team member feels comfortable using it.
The best part? ClickUp 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:
Great for Agile and Kanban fans. Each project is given a card that can be easily moved around your dashboard.
This is the perfect view if you’re a fan of the GTD (Getting things done) approach. All your tasks are arranged in a task list that you can check off once you’ve completed it.
A great view to get an overall look at who’s got what on their plate in your Workspace. Perfect for project managers as tasks are broken down by assignees.
Want to block out all distractions and only focus on tasks assigned to you? The Me view does that! You’ll only see projects and tasks that concern you here.
B) Add Priorities Easily
ClickUp makes it incredibly easy to add priorities to all your 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
Unlike MS Planner, ClickUp offers you powerful Gantt Charts to track your project progress. As your Gantt Charts are built-in, you won’t need a third party tool to manage your dependencies and task schedules.
With ClickUp’s Gantt Charts, you can:
- Start calculating 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) Assigned Comments
MS Planner doesn’t allow you to assign a comment to someone. You can’t directly inform someone of something without bothering the rest of your team.
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 them of this. 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.
E) Powerful Comment Section
ClickUp lets you power up your comments by letting you share files, pictures, and videos alongside them. Your team members will have all the references they need within their conversations itself.
F) Custom Statuses
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. You won’t have to settle for generic statuses like “Open” and “Closed.” Each project can have its own unique set of statuses such as “Client Review” or “Issues Found.”
G) Project Templates
Why waste time creating a new set of subtasks and checklists for each project when you can use a template instead?
ClickUp lets you save a project space you’ve created for future use. The next time you’re opening a project, go to the templates section and add your saved template instead!
Alternatively, you can use one of the pre-made templates ClickUp gives you to ensure you’re not wasting any time.
Additional ClickUp Features You’ll Like
You won’t find these features in most other project management tools.
The ClickUp Docs feature is a useful knowledge base tool for your company. Use it to store important project-related documents that anyone in your team can easily access and reference.
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 for creating docs that appeal to you.
- Customize access rights to all your documents for additional privacy.
- 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? Don’t worry!
ClickUp has a handy notepad on your laptop and mobile app to note down anything important that comes to mind.
Unlike most note apps, ClickUp lets you add checklists, photos, videos – pretty much anything to your notes. You can even print out your notes easily.
It’s a great, private place to plan out action plans for your projects before sharing them with your team.
If you’re using Microsoft Planner for the card and board functionality, you might as well go to one of the teams that does it well. That’d be 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.
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 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!
3. Microsoft Excel
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 right? Nope.
Well, if your manager loves the staid nature of Microsoft Project, but you need something a bit more robust than Planner, then take a look at Wrike.
Its folder hierarchy, dashboard, Gantt charts, and drag and drop functionality should bring comfort to those with sensible tastes. 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 help you plan member schedules easily.
Asana makes sense as a Microsoft Planner alternative. Asana makes it simple to find your way around and has cutting-edge UI design with simple task management attributes. In Asana, you can create and select project sections, much like Planner’s buckets. Asana has a personalized inbox which will help you manage activity and collaborate with coworkers over your task calendar. While it has a good integration list, Asana’s hierarchy gets bogged down with the Sections and limited users.
Flow gets high marks from reviewers on Capterra for its design and task 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. Flow isn’t as flexible as your average task management tool because it locks you into a system of statuses and updates that you must submit to for it to work successfully.
It’s also hard to separate Flow projects from different teams–meaning that all teams can see all projects. You won’t manage to keep workspaces apart from other organization units, limiting your ability to really think big picture.
See how ClickUp compares to Flow as a Microsoft Planner alternative. Import and share files in CSV from Flow!
Casual takes mind mapping and cards to another level. If you like using cards but aren’t sure of the status and its link to team members and other projects, then Casual is your answer. You create and link tasks as you go, making it easy to organize work breakdown structure before moving on to the next stage. Your workflows are simplified with lines that are easy to change. You can stay organized with ease!
NutCache is a little more complex than the Microsoft Planner app, but not as complex as Microsoft Project. It’s an Agile product with boards, but also has more robust time tracking and resource management that Microsoft Planner doesn’t have.
Couple this with an invoice tracking feature and it works better for a smaller sized organization that may not have the enterprise resources of Microsoft. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the most powerful integration list out there.
The value of Smartsheet is that it looks remarkably similar to Excel but with more intuitive project management features. You’ll have to still organize work in 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.
Smartsheet offers more dashboard overviews and cost estimations. You’d have to set up all of that yourself in Smartsheet. The drawback? Better hope your team loves spreadsheets! That may not be the best way for your team to collaborate or view a task list.
While MS Planner is a good addition to the Office Suite, it’s far from perfect. It’s not as powerful as most of the alternatives we listed in this article. While all the alternatives are good options, ClickUp is easily the best of the bunch. It’s the complete package for your project management needs.
Why not sign up for the free version and experience the difference today?