I recently had a chance to review three alternatives to Basecamp and I felt compelled to share with you the results. The three solutions are ProjectPier, OpenGoo and ActiveCollab.
Both ProjectPier and OpenGoo appear to be forks of ActiveCollab but the only hint at their common ancestry is the installation process. All three platforms have a somewhat different features and very differnt user interfaces.
ActiveCollab: Not Free – costs approximately $499
ActiveCollab does not offer a demo version to “download” but you can sign up for a free 30 day trial with their online demo platform. Having done that now I can’t speak about the installation process. However, the interface is every bit as good, if
not better than Basecamp. It also over comes to MAJOR shortcoming with Basecamp (at least from my perspective) which are the ability to create Project Templates, and the ability to process unsolicited inbound email turning it into notes and tasks automatically. This latter feature really increases client adoption rates.
While the product is not free, over the long term it is less expensive to operate than Basecamp. If I had to make a switch from Basecamp then I would move to this platform because of these two core features.
However, if price is an issue for you then have a look at the following two solutions based on ActiveCollab.
OpenGoo aims to be more of an Office Suite on the web allowing you to manage projects and all of the associated collateral such as phyiscal document storage and the ability to write “web based” documents. It is not a replacement for Google Docs though as it does not have presentation or spreadsheet capabilities.
The installation was extremely simple having only the need for a database, user and password. No errors encountered during the install!
The default (and only theme) is very clean and simple – well thought out. What I really like about the interface is that along the left hand side you can create a “workspace” – which I’d setup as client projects. Each “workspace” has all of the features in the platform filtered for that project. As a result the UI is extremely nice and simple.
From a project management perspective though – I find that the added features cause the project management aspects of notes, tasks and milestones to become lost. As a result it may be more difficult to obtain client adoption using this platform. However, that remains to be seen!
Overall – I really like this solution. It’s feature rich and easy to use. But it is lacking inbound email handling and does not have project templates.
Installing Project Pier was also simple and did not produce any errors for me. Several themes are provided out of the box and you’ll want to change it from the default which is not very well designed. The single largest shortcoming of this platform is it’s lack of fullscreen mode – ie centered in the middle of the page. This causes the UI to be a bit cramped.
It has all of the project management related features such as notes, attachments, outbound email notification (no inbound), tasks and milestones.
Out of all of the platforms this one was my least favorite because of it’s inferiour UI and lack of inbound email handling (at least as replies).
However, it does a very good job with the features it does contain.
Of all of the platforms ActiveCollab is the clear alternative for my needs. It contains the two core features that Basecamp is missing (hint: basecamp – add these features) – inbound email handling and project templates. However, it’s not free and thus there is a cost for licensing it.
If cost is an issue for you then OpenGoo is the clear second choice. I recommend you test them all out see for yourself!
If you know of web based project management / collaboration platforms beyond these four that I’ve mentioned please post a comment here. I’d love to try them out and write a little review of them.