Why we dumped Basecamp and what's the alternative

Written by Finn Taylor on 16th January 2014

(Last updated 30th June 2016)

71 comments
Why we dumped Basecamp and what's the alternative

Basecamp is a hugely popular and (at least in the web design industry) ubiquitous project management tool used by many web agencies, helping them to manage projects and collaborate with clients.

37 Signals - the makers of Basecamp clearly understood the needs of web designers/agencies, creating an online tool/service which has proven to be the most popular online project management platform around.

Why so popular?

The key principals of why Basecamp proved to be some popular are:

  • Simple functionality - did not try to do everything, just did what it did but did it well
  • Clean design - designed by designers for designers
  • Right place, right time..achieved critical momentum and lots of PR

Ultimately Basecamp was simple and elegant to use, avoiding the trap of trying to do everything but instead focusing on doing a few things really well.

Basecamp was also one of the first software as a service companies to hit that perfect sweet spot where agencies didn’t feel £35 or so per month for such a slick service was a big deal. 

So why is Basecamp frustrating the hell out of me?

So if Basecamp hit the right mark, then when am I looking for an alternative to Basecamp?

Don't get me wrong - there’s loads to like with Basecamp, however what started as a lovely, simple tool which ticked the right boxes, now just frustrates and angers me... 37 Signals has failed to grow and develop Basecamp and instead (in my opinion) chosen to ‘milk the cashcow’. It appears that 37Signals decided not to improve Basecamp in any meaningful way, but instead chose to create additional services such as Campfire, and Highrise.

Whilst each new app is great in its simplicity (just like Basecamp), none of the tools quite do the job either. Combining them together (whilst paying 3 times) almost gets you there but the integration between Basecamp, Campfire and Highrise is far from perfect and you are left still lacking in key functionality. 

After all these years, how can Basecamp still fail to provide:

a) Tasks to be allocated to multiple people - really?

b) Track time against time estimates/quotes - doh!

Task tracking and time tracking that lack this basic functionality is quite simply, pointless.

When 37Signals interdicted a major upgrade of Basecamp (A.K.A ‘New’ Basecamp as opposed to ‘Classic’ Basecamp), they decided to removed any form of time tracking arguing that no one was using it. Well we were and it was a showstopper. So we started the hunt for some alternatives...

Since this original article was written, Basecamp 3 has been released bringing in a number of changes and improvements including (finally) allowing you to assign multiple people onto tasks and simplifying the pricing by making all packages unlimited users & projects. The upgrade did however fail to introduce usable time tracking, requiring 3rd party extensions to fill the gap, which is from our perspective a glaring hole.

Whilst the update made a number of changes, as you can see from the comments below, many old time users did not appreciate the new design or the simplification of functionality.

Having revisited Basecamp V3, I am sorry to say that the upgrade is not compelling enough to draw me back!!

Trying to find an alternative to Basecamp

Year after year we looked for alternatives to Basecamp, exploring many options such as: 

Frustratingly each of these solutions is excellent in many ways, proving to be much more powerful, or flexible and capable than Basecamp, but they each were tragically flawed in other ways. Each year we failed to find an alternative that met our needs, instead staying loyal stuck with Basecamp and a number of in-house tools we developed.

Finding an alternative to Basecamp

Finally we decided to bite the bullet and do something different. The realisation that there is no perfect solution...each one has strengths and weaknesses..the simple question is which medicine will you prescribe to you and your team?

Understanding that there are many great solutions and they either fall down because they lack something, are not-cost effective or simply horrible to use, we had to find a criteria for selecting the right project management tool.

Going back to basics we focused on what frustrated us about Basecamp - not being able to allocate tasks to more than one person and not being able to estimate/quote time on a task and then track against it. Whilst many of the wannabe Basecamp alternatives offered this in one form or another the critical assessment to also apply was usability and transparency.

Using these simple criteria, selection became far simpler, resulting in a replacement for Basecamp - enter ActiveCollab

Having originally assessed ActiveColab many years ago, and rejected it as it was just too basic, we missed the fact the ActiveCollab had grown up (unlike Basecamp) to become a mature project management platform.

ActiveCollab offers all the core functionality you expect

  • Task management
  • Contacts
  • Calendaring
  • Gantt Charts
  • Document management
  • Project Quotes
  • Time tracking and invoicing (with integration to Xero)

Whilst most solutions on paper state the similar core functions, what made ActiveCollab stand out was that it allowed the tasks to be allocated to multiple people (kinda seems obvious) and also allows time estimates to be allocated to tasks, with users then tracking their time against this - which is absolutely essential if you want your team to see how much time they have spent and how much time they have left to complete the task.

Another nicety is that you can either use this as a SAS (much like Basecamp) starting from about £15 per month for 5 users and (get this) unlimited projects, or you can buy the software at a reasonable (approx. £300) one off cost and install it on your own web servers, allowing you to customise and extend it further. There’s a wide range of extensions and plug-ins offering a much greater degree of control.

Whilst from a usability perspective, ActiveCollab may not be as sweet or elegant as Basecamp, it delivers the key features and functionality we require in a reasonably usable manner and at an affordable price. I can find faults like the lack of drag'n'drop for re-ordering tasks, but the benefits outweigh the downsides.

ActiveCollab may not be perfect, but I am delighted to finally bid farewell to Basecamp.

Update - The upgrade to ActiveCollab V5 radically overhauled the interface, dramatically changing the UI, introducing drag-n-drop and a cleaner more usable layout.

From a usability perspective the Upgrade was welcomed as it dramatically improved the usability and experience of ActiveCollab, however in revamping AC from the ground level up, many features and functions that we were accustomed to using were reworked and in some cases dumbed down or over simplified. Here AC has fallen into the same trap as 37Signals.

The actual rollout of the v5 upgrade was quite a painful process as it introduced bugs which took time to iron out, however the guys at AC allowed us to roll back to earlier versions and engaged with us to solve the issues....in this respect they were great.

Whilst some functionality was lost, new features and functions were introduced including new tasks views such as a Trello style card based view and a Gantt chart view on tasks, allowing for more intuitive visual ways of viewing and managing your tasks. Trello is still slicker, but this is pretty close.

3 different task views
We like the new Trello style task view, but the Gantt chart view is not as useful.

All-in-all the upgrade really enhances ActiveCollab and we love the redesign, however we do miss being able to allocate multiple people on tasks (please bring this back), although this is resolvable using sub-tasks. The other gripe is the design change to time tracking, which is visually less intuitive compared to the old version which made it really easy to see the time used vs time estimated on each task. A final niggle is the fact that AC now frustratingly hides other users time tickets making it harder to check in on how time is being used by colleagues.

Update - So how are we doing with ActiveCollab?

Since the original article we have had many people getting in touch with suggestions of alternatives (yes we know many of these are just trying to promote their own tools), as well as others wanting to know how we are faring with ActiveCollab.

On the second point of how we we getting on with AC, we would have to say things are going really well. 

After working with ActiveCollab for the last couple of years, we can say it is not only allowing us to better organise our task management and improve how clients interact with us, but most importantly it is helping the team to work within estimated times, leading to improve efficiency and accountability.

Have you found a project management tool that you think beats Basecamp or ActiveCollab?

We’d love to hear about it!

This article was posted in Client Guides, Tools by Finn Taylor

  • Finn Taylor

    Finn Taylor

    Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.

Comments

I agree completely. Basecamp looks great but the usability and functionality leaves a lot to be desired for. It doesn't break the bank but for something that we'll never find a real use for, it's not worth justifying the cost. We now use Glip, according to their blog they've bought the Flow app, it's pretty neat for task management, adding notes/urls and an internal messaging function, so we'll be sticking with that. Jira is pretty good too, but you need to have a lot of time on your hands to configure everything for how you need to use it.

Dawn Osolinski03/02/2014 00:03

Let's hope with the recent announcement of @37signals becoming Basecamp and ditching their other projects, that they improve things. Their usability is unparalleled especially for client collaboration. I've never explained basecamp to a client yet... yet they use it. The time tracking I really miss. We use Help Scout for support so maybe that will end up being a blessing in disguise since we need time tracking that maybe a 3rd party integrator could handle for both.

Jason Hull17/02/2014 05:37

Not sure if you ever liked Basecamp classic. Well I won't confuse you much and not sure if you are still struggling, I am asking you about classic is because many of me liked it too much and we were blessed even more, when proofhub was launched. It works just amazing.

And when you we working with webdesigners where feedback on the design is important, we have extra benefit of using proofhub. This is because its proofing tool allows users to give/collect feedback my marking shapes on the designs sent by designers. Proofhub really works well for me, not sure if it does for you.

Would be glad if it helps you anyway. Good luck!

Katie24/02/2014 13:14

Surprised not to see anything Atlassian on your list! JIRA is by far the best I've used.

Edward Mulraney24/02/2014 15:01

I really like asana.com I've found it the best task management tool I've used so far. It also has google docs integration. The (huge) drawback is that it doesn't have a unified task list so you can't view all your tasks from different projects by date in one list, though the Hill 88 Pro app does this on iPad and iPhone which solves the problem -- tho' not great that Asana doesn't do it itself. I do not understand how Basecamp has failed to improve some basic usability issues - the revamp a couple of years ago just got rid of some good things. One thing, for example, is the fact that the most recent message on the discussions appears at the bottom of the page -- not useful when you have to scroll through lots of messages to see the new one!

Laura North14/03/2014 22:24

Thanks for the mention, we're happy that you came along and tried our product. If you ever wanted to provide feedback or let anyone else know, we have a 30 day trial and full customer service for implementation. http://www.copperproject.com

Ben Prendergast19/03/2014 01:48

We dumped Basecamp too :)

I can personally relate to Basecamp not being the perfect fit for everyone. It's lack of structure really frustrated us, projects became one huge endless list of tasks & discussions.

We couldn't find anything that fit our needs entirely so we went out and built our own tool, Stepsie!

You guys might find it a nice alternative to Basecamp, so please take it for a spin: www.stepsie.com

Jono Chatterton27/03/2014 06:42

Hey Jono - liking what you guys created with Stepsie - Nice simple concept...sweet UI

For us, the time tracking and visibility of time allocated vs time used leading to how much time is remaining has been a really critical requirement.

If you can add in intuitive time tracking into Stepsie, then I really think you guys are onto a winner - keep me posted...

Finn Taylor27/03/2014 08:59

I have a question reg, Activecollab. We were thinking about changing our project TFS from Microsoft to Basecamp or Activecollab. After evaluating Basecamp we realized that its too expensive for us with around 200 employees all together. So we are now more favouring especially their hosted solution which is only 500 USD. Then we can buy it and install on our server + take support after the 1 year for updates and tech queries. Your blog about Activecollab also made our decision faster ;-)

What is your experience with Activecollab? Are you happy with it? Do you recommend it?

Let me know any inputs /suggestions/comments you have reg. Activecollab.

Thomaskutty03/04/2014 13:22

Hi Finn

Looks like I am late to the party as you have already picked one, but if anyone else is still looking for an alternative, I have created app specially for creative agencies which has all the features you have described in your post. You can check it out on getquantify.com.

Have a good one!
Roman

Roman Leinwather29/04/2014 22:04

I've spent the last 3 days trialling different CRM and project management options after we dropped Basecamp, We were looking for something that allowed us to manage the entire workflow from proposals through to billing so our quest was even more difficult.

We though we'd found a solution with Motiv App which, on paper, looked great but after 24 hours of testing,we found that it was quite buggy and the support was pretty slow. A real shame as the product has everything we need and the pricing was reasonable too with the top plan being just $20 a month.

A real shame but it's back to the drawing board (again).

Keith A Pearson01/05/2014 08:26

I found a great free tool, which offer everything I was looking for: COLLABTIVE (http://collabtive.o-dyn.de/)

* Assign tasks to multiple team members
* Track time
* Simple functionality
* Clean design

It was adopted by all team members and clienst very quickly. And that for us was the key to project (management) success! :)

Evelyn Becker05/05/2014 13:36

I totally agree. I went from Trello, which was too task management oriented, to BaseCamp and suffered from many of the frustrations you mentioned. When I joined Wix I had to start using dapulse because that's what the entire company uses. I was never happier.

Eva Green14/05/2014 10:26

Hi guys, we're in a similar boat at the moment wanting to go from a hosted to self-hosted solution.

Five months down the line how are you getting on with activeCollab, any issues or caveats since your original post?

Ed Leake15/05/2014 17:16

We use some free clone named StashBuckes http://stashbuckets.com/

It is not so fancy as basecamp, but it is similar enough and has few more features.

Goran Majnaric30/05/2014 10:58

Thank you so much for your input and suggestion. I have some very bad difficulties in finding THE project management software and up to now I did not find anything with budget management too. I mean, if we work on projects we certainly work on budgets too and it cannot be made by simple time tracks.. that's frustrating.
BUT to add a suggestion to the previous comments, I am trying Project Bubble and it has all the basic features (included timesheets) for free with a very functional design. www.projectbubble.com

Er Show11/06/2014 13:01

Hi Finn, I am thinking of leaving basecamp to other solution. Can you advise me anything after 6 months? I heard a lot of good about www.worketc.com especially when I need CRM too. Have you got any feedback on it?

Nicole03/09/2014 13:47

I'm also looking for something like all of this. I need to Create and Manage basic projects (ideally with ease and predecessors etc), structured project mind share and VERY easy customer collaboration. We are a consultant house so all of this is a big deal. Everything is highly scheduled so those agile/scrum solutions do nothing for us. I can't spend 20k a year to keep 60 people happily using it. Thoughts?

Steve01/10/2014 23:55

I've been pleased with the opensource package dotProject.

Already when we started to implement it back in 2008 assigning tasks to multiple users was possible e.g.

However as the last update is from 2013 (http://sourceforge.net/projects/dotproject/files/dotproject/) and the website dotproject.net doesn't seem to be available anymore I'm not sure if this tool is still actively supported by any developers/community.

Denise14/10/2014 21:58

There has been a branch of dotproject which is still actively maintained I think.
Check http://web2project.net/

Fadi17/10/2014 13:42

Hey Folks,

A long time ago (early 2000s) we built a client extranet at Sposto Interactive (http://www.sposto.com) to run as a software layer between our creative and our clients (reducing the need for middle management and to auto document all our projects) - when basecamp came out we looked at it as a possible solution/alternative but it didn't mesh with our work style. Our projects at the time were on one page (which basecamp finally did a couple years ago) and were designed to be both client and internal facing.

A few years ago I spun off our extranet into a product that anyone can use - redeveloped it and launched it almost two years ago. We've seen a lot of success and adoption across industries. I'd love it if you'd give it a try as well. We refer to our system as "productive sharing" (as opposed to social sharing) as we use familiar social protocols for productivity.

You can also read a little more about it on our blog http://blog.xtrant.com

Really interested to hear what you think.

James Sposto10/11/2014 19:51

I’ve been using Arc 9 to manage all my creative projects, especially ones that require direct client interaction. It’s definitely the easiest platform to use because, it combines all the best features of traditional collaboration software like; basecamp, vimeo, and dropbox, into a single web application.

I love that not only is it great for video (which is nearly impossible to find these days), it handles everything else with ease. You can upload almost any type of image, coding/development script, pdf, text, or file without having to convert them back and forth. I am still most impressed by the features available for sharing, which instantly turn projects into fully branded presentations. You can invite clients (via email) to view your work in customized private portals, with annotation tools that encourage both written and visual feedback.

I’ve found it to be the perfect solution for many of my creative workflow obstacles, and I really think other creatives would benefit from it as much as I have.

http://www.arc9.com

Kristina Gebert-Kolb11/11/2014 18:26

Does anyone have thoughts to share on bitrix24.com? I can't believe I've never heard of them but after tooling around with it for a week, I'm wow'ed by all its features, including an import utility for Basecamp projects (extra cost).

Fanna11/01/2015 16:23

I personally have used basecamp for almost an year and initially it worked pretty well for me. But eventually when projects, tasks and people came aboard, I realized the several little issues I had using it. Then at someone’s suggestion I gave a shot to proofhub. Frankly, at first, I did have some apprehensions, as many of my projects were already running on basecamp. But, fortunately, I was able to import all my projects into proofhub from basecamp. And during its free trial version of a month, I was really convinced about it as it had all the features which I was looking for like super cool task management, proofing tool, custom roles. And, now its been quite a good number of months that I am using it & loving it too. Check out www.proofhub.com

Bill Jack15/01/2015 12:31

hello, i think freedcamp is one of the best alternatives out there if not closest to basecamp.

kalibbala21/01/2015 16:57

I also have a love/hate relationship with Basecamp. The iOS app is great and the discussions feature is fantastic. But its file management is so basic that I end up having to use Dropbox for that -- far from ideal.

Seconding Denise, above, who mentioned dotproject. http://sourceforge.net/projects/dotproject/files/dotproject/

Dave03/02/2015 19:38

Exactly what I had in my mind after reading the title.

Why you don't improve your software ? why we pay for third party apps ? Why we use basecamp if there are many other PM softwares available with more features and have to less pay ? Why we fool ourselves?

After ditching basecamp we started using proofhub and pleased with their group chat, proofing feature, gantt chart, unlimited users. Most important they have awesome support team which are ready to revert back immediately if you are facing any trouble with their app.

I recommend every basecamp user atleast research for other pm softwares and definitely you will find the better one.

Thanks

Ryan04/02/2015 11:18

One of our main duties is report writing, we write a lot of reports each year. The reports have
very detailed formatting with lots of tables and figures. What we would like is to be able to have the report online where multiple people can work on it (at different times). We are not able to do this on basecamp. The most we can do is upload it as a file but that requires uploading and downloading to make changes. If we load it into the TEXT component on basecamp we loose all our formatting and it is a real mess. Is there a better program out there for us to use?

Dean25/02/2015 17:10

I am a digital designer and project manager. I have been using Classic Basecamp for years. It just works. But what really confuses the hell out of me why the created the "New" not so new now Basecamp.

It has lots of features but it is also missing so many features from Basecamp Classic.

They claim on their website 5,570 companies signed up to Basecamp. What the hell are they doing with all that money? They certainly are not using to to improve basecamp.

The UX is outdated, the UI is skemorphic which is horribly out dated too.

I am looking at ASANA, made by ex Facebook people. It looks good.

Will let you know how it goes.

But for now, I think i will be dumping Basecamp too.

Robbie Lockie10/03/2015 22:00

Just dropped BC today after realizing I was paying $24/month for it and barely using it. I would like something for the future though.

dotproject is not something I could look at for more than five seconds. Developers might like it but I'm a UI guy and that UI is about as awful as it gets. Yikes. I'll check out the others.

Dave Ross23/03/2015 17:54

I spent plenty of my time trying to find something convenient. Onlyoffice and Worksection are the best for me. Both of them are easy to use and have nice support. Discussions, files management, work with clients and other features are great.

Terry Mitchell10/04/2015 03:18

No native app for freedcamp, don't bother download at all!

Anonymous18/04/2015 09:06

If you want a solution for your company that offers task management, time tracking and invoicing in the same app you can take a look at Paymo (http://www.paymoapp.com).
Thank you!

Laurentiu27/05/2015 14:29

If you are looking for alternative to Basecamp or any other PM tool, you need to get more information about different PM software to make a right choice.
I compared PM tools with help of saas-guide.com to see the difference. It was very helpful.
Check it!

Cassie07/06/2015 16:17

Hi Cassie - Interesting guide...a lot of work has gone into this. Whilst this provides an amazing breakdown of different solutions, from experience it can be easy to get lost in features, as most solutions look good on paper.

When it comes down to practice, many very fully featured solutions simply fall down when it comes to the simple things you need and most importantly their implementation.....does it work as expected.

We ended up having to strip right back to a few key features, compromising massively on other features and functions.

Finn08/06/2015 12:54

Software services are in a tough spot, they want to provide a product that appeals to many as that is what would makes a successful business but at the same time have the flexibility and uniqueness that customers require. Time tracking for example, Basecamps core clients base that they started with, small web shops, never used it. As they grew and more companies starting asking for it they added it, But "the way" it was done didn't please all. The old clients that didn't used it found it clutter on the page etc. So you can't really win. Like the one comment said, Its about compromise, pick the solution that is closest to your requirements. Also, don't be afraid to re-think the way you look at how you work. Larger client base companies like 37signals and Noodle have a huge pool of clients to poll and pull data from. Sometime the mass of people help improve the way work is done.

Tim15/06/2015 14:16

I moved from Basecamp about 18 months ago and I've never looked back.

I ended up going for allthings, which you can take a look at over at http://www.allthings.io

It does so much more than most other applications. It's great for marketing and software teams and general project management.

But...it keeps it simple.

The one thing I really love about allthings is the different ways in which you can display your lists. Again, most other apps do not do have this functionality.

I put together a little video, which you can take a peek at over on YouTube: https://youtu.be/9SY0DtsROpI

Great article!

Don't forget to be awesome!

Chris.

Chris Marr30/06/2015 17:46

Chris, don't you own that company?

bob05/07/2015 19:48

I guess the decision to dump or not to dump should mainly depend on your needs. Try to asnwer - why do you need Basecamp at the first place? When I was looking for a solution for my daily task and document management I tried Basecamp, Trello, Podio, Asana and a few others of apps I don't remember. Though I finished my search with https://pyrus.com/. It has all the functionality I need at the moment - starting from task management and ending with automating workflows. Using it on the go with my iPhone as well.

So my guess will be trying a few options with the clear understanding of what should include your ideal solution.

George13/07/2015 12:08

Awesome review of PM/Collaboration systems! I also learned a ton from the comments! I have varied needs. I have an Industrial Automation business where I manage larger projects for manufacturers (more traditional PM). I also have a small IT company taking care of Residential/Small Business Clients where we need collaborative task lists more than PM. I'm also starting a new organization helping Startups and Small Businesses Start/Grow/Pivot and they need more of a long-term goal with steps to get there. You guys have been AWESOME in helping me find possible solutions for all of my needs! Thanks! ~Leo

Leonard Knight06/09/2015 18:32

We think so too, we are using http://www.eagle-space.com in our team, and so far it looks great.

Tom06/09/2015 20:48

We have just ditched our PM system but always used Basecamp in conjunction for client communication and project documents. Having done some research on what to use to track time and plan resources I found myself on the Basecamp Extras page and found some good tools. I installed Everhour which tracks time within Basecamp (so your team don't need to leave BC) and TeamGantt which imports all the tasks and can manage resources and can allocate multiple users to a task. It's early days but using these three simple tools that each do their own service very well, I feel like we have all bases covered.

Leopold van Lynden09/09/2015 16:39

Thank you for this article. Very useful. I think you should also look at dooster.net which I found

Alison Evans15/10/2015 13:49

Actually just stumbled across Dooster as well, quite good I think.

Nadine Hornby26/10/2015 11:22

This ended up being just the thing I needed to try out, for pretty much the same reasons. Thanks!

Shannon Garcia03/11/2015 16:42

If you are looking an alternative to Basecamp, I suggest to consider TimeCamp. It's actually integrated with Basecamp, so nobody have to worry about loosing important data. Similar names but different feelings about using - user interface is friendly and intuitive, no problems with tracking time at multiple tasks, daily, weekly and monthly reports to see how much are employees in the company. Automatically or manually, you choose how to track your worktime. If you want to see how TimeCamp works, there is a 30-days free trial or completely free verion for freelancers.

Ola Rybacka19/11/2015 13:33

Hey thanks for mentioning Dooster. Seems quite a few people have joined us as a result. (Found this thread via our logs). Great article. Enjoyed it. Yes we built Dooster.net after getting frustrated with Basecamp. What's pleasing is that most users feel it's very simple to use - while it's actually quite powerful under the hood. Thanks again ed

Ed Parry20/11/2015 15:11

Have to say Basecamp3 is pretty impressive.

Justs01/12/2015 06:49

If you are looking or if you want to track your time while working, you can try Hubstaff! It also integrates with different project management tools. You can check the list of supported integrations here: https://hubstaff.com/integrations

Kim Marfil16/12/2015 07:51

Just wondering how your situation ended up? We also evaluated many solutions mentioned here, but for us, many seemed overly complex, expensive, and as you say, lacking some crucial features. We ended up deciding on SuiteDash @ https://suitedash.com and have been very happy with the development direction of the product.

Coca16/12/2015 21:27

Basecamp3 is very expensive. If i want to include client's works, it cost $79 dollars a month. I don't think a freelance like me can afford it.

Chris26/12/2015 20:35

I'm super pissed with what Basecamp offered, in terms of cost, and the discussions were not as easy as thought it would be. So we built our own now, and we're using it internally. It's free to use for anyone. I'm not saying Blank Cursor is the best product. But I'm assuring that there's more coming, and I'm always listening to my users.

Karthik K07/01/2016 11:24

Not being able to assign a task to multiple people frustrated me at first with Asana, but then I read their logic on that: if you assign to more than one person, nobody is fully responsible and task completion declines.

This is actually a basic tenet of quality control that Deming taught the Japanese and where the idea that any one employee can stop the line. Deming's studies showed that quality went down if you added QC inspectors because each one thought the next would get it.

Similar here - even if I could assign tasks to multiple people, I never would.

Tom12/01/2016 16:52

I see a brief mention of Podio. Does anyone have considerable experience with it? Our company is just beginning to explore it and I want to be efficient with our time. We need to manage projects with timelines by discipline, ability to preview and download art files with multiple revisions, assign and track tasks, and manage key documents. And what is the limit on the size of files it will hold? Appreciate any information you can offer.

Christina21/01/2016 03:38

What I can't seem to find in a project management tool is a rather simple feature: sub-categories.

For instance, if I have a list project with 6 "todo" categories, each with sub-categories and corresponding tasks.

Struggling to find this simple feature!

Brian10/02/2016 22:30

For Brian - Asana allow task to have subtasks and To-Do lists to have sections, so that is pretty much all you are asking for.
For Tom - Basecamp 3 allows task to be assigned to multiple users now, but I completely agree with your logic and don't understand why they have included it.

Milan24/02/2016 13:13

These comments are pretty much just a bunch of people who own project management software platforms pretending they're real users, and trying to persuade people to use their software.

Shawn26/02/2016 02:25

At our home health agency we use (http://www.arrangedly.com). It's the first tool we tested (trial period) that was easy for clinical management, biz management, and marketing. Its fluidity and customization is worth giving it a look. Where it comes up short in comparison with some other major players is compatibility with other applications, but I'd imagine that's in the works, and it wasn't a concern for us.

Eric Christopher14/03/2016 03:02

Well We're in 2016, people are still commenting on this article and I came across this because I too was looking for an alternative. After getting used to the lacking elements of Basecamp 2, I have just been astounded by Version 3, currently in open beta for new customers it is so bad there are no words. But I'll tell you this - they've segregated client and team. So now it doesn't provide collaboration - at. all.

Useless.

For me, what Basecamp was really good with, is posting conversation threads instead of having email chains where people get left out, or come on later and need to catch up. that's actually all I want it for - the in V2 did zilch, the calendar was a car-wreck.

Andy Parker30/03/2016 19:34

FYI--Might be time to consider switching back. Looks like Basecamp 3 will allow assigning to-dos to multiple people. To-dos can also have a date range instead of a single due date.

Here's the list of what's new in BC 3: https://basecamp.com/3/new

Jeffrey Barke07/04/2016 16:39

So my question in 2016 is are you still using ActiveCollab? I feel like I have looked and tried everything!

Joanna08/04/2016 01:45

Yeah really curious about what you are using now and your experiences in the meantime, maybe time for a follow-up blog post?

Robby02/06/2016 21:35

Thanks @Finn for this post, even at 2 years old it's still pertinent.

@Eric that's precisely why we're now moving away from Basecamp: Version 3 is useless. We use Harvest, Basecamp and Trello - a pretty decent toolset, albeit a costly one. It went something like this:

1. Harvest for estimates, time-tracking and invoicing (great service)
2. Trello for internal project management and comms (still brilliant for this)
3. Basecamp for client comms and collaboration (was great, now dismal)

Everything was going swimmingly until Basecamp 3 came along and we (stupidly) switched over from Basecamp Classic. 37Signals' position seems to be that "clients want to just use email" which in my experience is utterly untrue. In fact most of our clients jumped on board with our Basecamp and use it as their main orientation point for working with agencies. Since switching to Basecamp 3 though, I've had them at my door with torch and pitchfork demanding we "bring back their Basecamp!" F*cking disaster unfortunately. Naturally we did not roll out this change to everyone, but even those we thought use it reluctantly are up in arms about the change to Basecamp 3.

This now opens the door for alternatives and for us to rethink our 3-piece toolset. I'm currently looking at:

https://freedcamp.com/
https://www.huddle.com/
https://asana.com/
https://www.activecollab.com/

So far, Active Collab is standing out as the best all-in-one, especially with the option of self-hosting. I'd love to hear if anyone has had longer term experience and what their clients think after moving to Active Collab, Freedcamp or whichever.

@Joanna did you end up switching to Active Collab?

Dennis Spring03/06/2016 06:12

Thanks for keeping this thread open. As long time BC/BC2 users we decided to try Basecamp 3. Huge disappointment for us. Here is my message to support that started with some Qs about pricing/upgrades (which is very responsive, gotta give them credit for that) and others looking at BC3 might find useful. I should add that we don't use BC for tasks/schedules, we use Liquid Planner as we have complex scheduling needs (https://www.liquidplanner.com/ ) and limited budget. We're interested primarily in internal and internal/customer collaboration.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I set up a BC3 account and tried out a sample project. Unfortunately BC3 goes in the wrong direction from what we need from a collaboration system for product development. We'll stick to BC2. More feedback below.

Specifically we need a system like in BC2 where clients have the same view and interaction capability from the web interface for messages, todo, and files. In BC3 that is all apparently removed. Currently in BC2 we make two projects, one for "internal" use and the other that is shared between the internal team and the client(s) (many of our projects involve multiple client companies). We had hoped that BC3's client side feature would solve the need for that dual project approach.

We do like (and both were constant complaints in BC/2, so this was really nice to see):

- ability to have inline images.
- folders for files.
- more formatting options in docs and messages


Things that were a negative in this very brief test:

- no groups for team members or clients (like in BC2)
- client messages seem to go to all team members? (i.e. no check boxes to select who gets the message)
- client messages don't show up on project dashboard (or I guess there should be a "master" dashboard to see everything, with the two divisions below it?)
- too easy to send messages to "everyone" on the team versus subsets of people that actually need to see it (leading to bad signal/noise ratio and people tuning out). Kind of same problem on client side.
- no file labels (even with folders adding tags could be helpful to find things)
- dashboard is too minimal, can't see enough useful information compared to BC2
- dashboard shows the message 1st post, not the current post. (I guess this is what the "Hey" thing is for...but makes more sense that that is what the default dashboard view is)
- message thread view doesn't put text on a white background (except for the 1st post).
- formatting options in docs and messages still limited. Please add a few font and color choices at least?
- no inline responding of messages where the responder is shown and text is differentiated. (we kind of achieve this with the text docs in BC2).
- why can't messages and todo's be organized in to folders as well (with ability to see flat chronological view or folder view). Or bring back categories from BC. Or add tagging.
- doesn't seem like projects can be organized in to folders? (couldn't create multiple in the trial version)
- Still no way to skin project page with colors/graphics to tell them apart (like in BC)
- contact info lacking (optional) phone #, snail mail address, etc. fields (like in BC)

Did not look at scheduling (we have another tool for that that's a real project management tool) nor campfire (as we already have an IM system).

If we could just have the 3 added features cited above in BC2 we would be really happy, we can live with two parallel projects as a way to separate team from client...I understand this isn't going to happen but the new BC3 really says to us "your type of needs aren't where we want to go with this product."

Brewster06/06/2016 15:49

Great post. We used Teamwork for years, but many of our customers found it overwhelming so we wanted some with a simplified UI, but the same functionality. BC3 is a great tool, but for the price, I couldn't help to feel like I was paying more for less. We're trying ActiveCollab. So far it's a fit.

Alan23/06/2016 23:55

Why not using Redmine for project management?

lubobill199010/07/2016 15:07

Very insightful article, thanks for sharing. You're perfectly right in saying "there is no perfect solution". Every team has different needs, different processes and different ways of getting work done. Sometimes an out-of-box solution like Basecamp won't cut it, it's just not quite as robust and flexible as it needs to be. What if your company grows? Processes will need to change and you'll need a more advanced project management solution that can facilitate your growth.

We're running a webinar that covers this very topic on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 4pm GMT/11am EST "Have you outgrown Basecamp?" http://hubs.ly/H03BWbX0 is most definitely not a Basecamp bashing session, like you Finn, we appreciate many of Basecamp's great features but we do acknowledge that you can meet limitations with it. In this free webinar session, attendees can get advice about when and how to move on from Basecamp and learn about some of the limitations that teams can face with it. Everyone is welcome to join, obviously including yourself Finn!

Sile Cleary12/07/2016 20:25

Great article. It is really interesting to see what other people are using. We moved away from Basecamp as it was really quite limited. We went on to use Dooster.net and would never look back. We have really personalized our account and our clients love it too.

Lisa Jaro16/08/2016 15:50

Hey Flnn,
Thanks for sharing this great post. But there are other alternatives too, I think you might want to have a look and include some other basecamp alternatives apart from the ones mentioned above in your blog. You can find them here: https://sprout24.com/10-best-basecamp-alternative/

Shruti Bongale11/09/2016 09:43

Someone dropped an ugly bomb on Basecamp 3! It looks like it was designed in 1995. by my nearsighted cousin. on a PC! lol

There is no way I'm inflicting that mess on my clients. It makes me and my company look unprofessional. I wear a suit every day even though I work from home. Pants optional.

goobernutz01/11/2016 12:13

Hi all, we're been reviewing BaseCamp / ActiveColab along with a number of alternatives. We are a Mechanical Engineering Contractor in the building industry and need a collaboration and document management tool (with task management and resource planning capabilities preferably) that can understand many different revisions of the same document - like in any CAD Drawing environment we have revisions A, B, C etc. and drawings for Approval, Review, Construction etc. . Has anyone come across a tool that could assist us? Thanks!! :)

TimJ02/11/2016 03:32

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