It's difficult to find a free online project management tool that's useful. Free software apps are typically limited in terms of the features they offer. Basecamp's free version, Basecamp Personal, offers a variety of features that accommodates up to 20 users at no cost. Although you might not have full access, Basecamp Personal provides enough components to be a complete and functional project management tool that you and your team can be happy with. Basecamp is our pick as the best free option for online project management software for 2020.
For a closer look at how we selected our best picks, visit our best picks page for our methodology and a complete list of online project management software.
Here's more about Basecamp's free version, Basecamp Personal:
- Cost: $0
- Number of Users: Up to 20
- Features: Personal lets you manage three projects simultaneously. It includes a message board where team members can post progress updates and give feedback on topics; a to-do feature; a schedule element through Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook; space to store documents and files; group chats; and automatic check-ins for assignments
- Storage: 1GB
If you want more storage space and features, Basecamp Business, the paid version of Basecamp's software, costs $99 per month. There are no per-user fees, long-term contracts, minimum contract, and you can cancel at any time without penalty. (If you pay for a year in advance and then cancel, your money will be refunded according to the number of unused months remaining.) Here's more about the features and storage with Basecamp's Business plan:
- Cost: $99 per month
- Number of users: Unlimited
- Features: You get unlimited projects, a company headquarters space where you can make announcements for the entire team to view, a team project space, unlimited clients, advanced client access that gives you complete control over what clients view, project templates and priority customer support
- Storage: 500GB of storage
Basecamp Personal is designed specifically for very small teams or startups, freelancers or entrepreneurs working on personal projects. The features Basecamps offers include a variety of collaborative tools that present information clearly and encourage communication and transparency. Here's a breakdown of some of its features:
Notifications: Through reports, you can track which tasks are complete, overdue or are coming due. This is enforced by Basecamp's "Hey!" menu which records all of your team's conversations, tasks and pings. You can control how frequently you receive email notifications, such as if you want to receive an email whenever an update occurs (such as when a to-do is checked off) or an email summary every few hours.
Message boards: This feature keeps you and your team connected by posting alerts, questions or messages related to your work project. Like Facebook, you can like comments, which allow you to provide instant feedback on information.
Client side: You share information and files with clients and get their feedback. You can keep communication private. You can also keep email correspondence between you and your clients linked to Basecamp, which keeps your project data and communication neatly organized in one place.
Hey! Menu: This feature informs you of every notification you receive in Basecamp, such as new messages, to-do assignments and mentions.
File Storage: Using drag-and-drop functionality, you upload files into Basecamp using Google Docs or from your computer. Each project has its own space to store documents.
Campfire: Campfire is ideal for quick communication. It's a chatroom for individuals working on a project together. In this feature, you can @ team members by name in the same way you would on social media.
Automatic check-in questions: Instead of you having to follow up with each member of your team individually about impending deadlines, Basecamp keeps your team aware of their responsibilities through customized check-ins that you can set to repeat throughout the day or whenever you choose.
Pings: Pings are direct messages that can be sent to small groups or individuals working on the same project.
Schedules: You can sync your Basecamp schedule with Google Calendar, iCal or Outlook. This gives you access to upcoming deadlines, projects or events.
Search and Bookmarking: If you want to quickly locate a project, using Basecamp's search feature, you can type in a keyword or name, and Basecamp hunts through the entire program to locate your project. You can also bookmark the information you want to keep on hand.
To-do lists: When you assign to-do lists, Basecamp automatically follows up with team members if tasks are overdue.
Basecamp has an incredibly simple and easy-to-use layout. Its interface is not difficult for users to grasp, because the tools are presented clearly. Basecamp does not have a steep learning curve for new users, though it would benefit by providing more tutorials and resources.
Each to-do list is similar to a Facebook thread. Team members can post comments, questions and files, and each to-do can be checked off. Although Basecamp Personal is limited, very small teams will appreciate how the app encourages collaboration and communication, not to mention its tracking features so you are always up to date on the current status of a project.
Another significant benefit of Basecamp is that its automation features take a lot of pressure off project managers. As assignments and to-do lists are created, team leaders can automate reminders for team members.
The two main drawbacks you'll find with Basecamp are one, limited resources that give new users an overview of how the program works and, two, limited access to customer support.
For those who are new to Basecamp, there isn't a lot of information available about how to use the program. The information – a short tutorial video – that is available is extremely condensed, but the video doesn't cover all the features in Basecamp. As you use the application more, though, you quickly come up to speed about the various tools.
There is only one way of reaching Basecamp's customer support team and that is by submitting a message through their site. Having a customer support messaging system is helpful, but restricting it to one form of communication can be frustrating for users who prefer to communicate directly or differently.
About Basecamp's pricing. Basecamp offers two plans, which can be restrictive for users. The free version offers a variety of tools, but you're limited to three projects. There is a significant gap between the Personal version of Basecamp, which is free, and the Business version of Basecamp, which costs $1,188 annually, a significant ask for entrepreneurs and small businesses. If Basecamp were to offer one or two plans with a more affordable price point and flexibility in terms of the number of allowed projects and storage, it would accommodate the needs of budget-conscious small businesses looking to scale up from the free plan. Still, for a free plan, small businesses will benefit immensely from the organization and communication that Basecamp provides.
We contacted the company, posing as a small business owner interested in online project management software. You can contact the company using the message feature on their site, and they usually respond within the day. There is not a phone number listed on the site.
When we reached out to Basecamp, they responded to our email within the same day. After some initial email correspondence, we set up a phone call with our assigned representative who explained each feature in depth. We spoke about the organization issues we wanted the solution to solve, and the representative explained how Basecamp's tools could help with those concerns. After our call, Basecamp emailed us on several occasions to make sure we didn't have any follow-up questions. There was no pressure to buy the software, but we were encouraged to use the free version and the 30-day free trial for Basecamp Business.
Ready to choose a project management solution? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage: