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The Top Project Management Software Options – Reviewed

written by: Michele McDonough • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/17/2013

With all of the available applications on the market, the search for the perfect project management program can be quite a chore. Here, we've put together a summary review of the top project management software on the market today, including each application's pros and cons.

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    Differences in Project Management Software

    What would you consider to be the top project management software? If you were to take a quick poll of project managers, you’d find that some are more interested in task management systems while others are looking for applications that are more global in function and can assist with the budgeting of resources and creating of timelines. Still others are more concerned with how the project management software can improve communication between team members. And, of course, there are those who are looking for all of these things wrapped up in one tool.

    To answer these needs, there are several variations of project management software on the market. We’ve reviewed the top project management desktop applications here at Bright Hub PM. The following presents a summary of these reviews along with the strengths and weaknesses of each program. For more detailed information on any of these applications, click on the link in the summary and read the full review.

    Note: If you’re more interested in web-based solutions, see this article on online project management applications.

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    Microsoft Project

    One of the biggest names in the project management software world is Microsoft Project. There are basically three versions of MS Project: Standard, Professional, and Web Access. Project Standard is geared toward those looking for a stand-alone desktop product while the Professional and Web Access versions are for those working in a more collaborative environment via Project Server. In fact, Project Web Access is really just a thin client used to access data from Project Server and requires a Project Server Client Access License (CAL). Project Professional incorporates the best of both worlds – it can operate as an independent application with all the capabilities of Project Standard or it can be connected to Project Server. However, if you don’t plan on investing in Project Server, you’re probably better off saving your money and sticking with Project Standard.

    Pros: There’s a reason that MS Project is one of the biggest names in PM software – it literally can do almost everything you need, no matter what type of projects you’re planning and monitoring. It works as a task scheduling tool, resource management utility, and a project budget planner, just to name a few of its functions. It also integrates extremely well with the Microsoft Office suite and supports import/export capabilities with popular programs such as Excel and PowerPoint. Moreover, if you use MS Project in conjunction with Project Server, there are a number of high-powered collaborative features that larger businesses will find extremely beneficial.

    Cons: As Eric Stallsworth points out, one of the biggest advantages of Project could also be seen as quite a disadvantage, especially for smaller environments. The application may just be “too much” for your project management needs, and all those bells and whistles found in the product may make it hard to navigate if you’re only handling a series of relatively basic projects. On top of that, Microsoft Project doesn’t come cheap. The suggested retail price for Project Standard 2013 is $589.99 with Project Professional 2013 listing for $1,159.99. So, if you’re looking for a budget-conscious solution, you may want to keep shopping. Note: You can save about $100 if you buy a keycard only, with no disc, from Amazon.com

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    Project KickStart

    Project KickStart is another highly acclaimed project management application for Windows-based operating systems. Like MS Project, the software has two versions – Standard and Pro – but the differences in these versions are more pronounced. The Standard version really only handles small, simple projects while you will need the Pro version for projects that contain task dependencies or if you want to access the more advanced features of the software.

    Pros: The user interface for Project KickStart is amazingly intuitive and easy to master. Even beginners should be able to jump right in and use the application with little to no training. Additionally, Project KickStart offers free 24/7 customer support by phone – something that is almost completely unheard of in other applications nowadays unless you purchase an expensive support package.

    Cons: While Project KickStart is very easy to learn and use, it’s really only suitable for small and medium-sized projects. If you habitually handle projects with more than 50 tasks, you may want to look into a more robust application.

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    Next Up

    We'll continue our summary of the top project management software applications in Parts 2 and 3 of this series (see the links below). In Part 2, we'll look at MindView (formerly known as OpenMind) and RationalPlan Multi Project. Then, in Part 3, we'll cover FastTrack Schedule, Milestones, and MinuteMan.

Top Project Management Software

In this series, we review the top project management software, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each product. Each application has areas where it excels, but which aspects are most important to you?
  1. The Top Project Management Software Options – Reviewed
  2. Top PM Software Reviews - MindView and RationalPlan Multi Project
  3. Top PM Software Reviews - FastTrack Schedule, Milestones, and MinuteMan