Feature-rich online project management platform. Includes plenty of integrations with other services. Easy setup and use. Responsive. Good value.
Bug-tracking costs extra. Could support more drag-and-drop functionality.
- Bottom Line
Online project management service Zoho Projects has a clean and straightforward interface, an excellent array of features, and plenty of support for integrating other business tools.
By Jill Duffy
Zoho Projects continues to lead in the field of project management, having freshened up its look and added features that all teams can use to work collaboratively. It's one of only a few project management apps that still offer a truly free level of service, so you can try it fully and without any time restrictions before you upgrade to a paid version with more features and support. If you buy Zoho Projects, you'll be getting a great product with ample add-on tools and services that allow your Zoho Projects account to grow as your business and team grows.
//Compare Similar Products
The only other tool that compares in excellence of plan options and value is Teamwork Projects, which also offers a free account level. Both Zoho Projects and Teamwork Projects are Editors' Choice services for online project management. A third Editors' Choice product, LiquidPlanner, is better suited for organizations of 50 people or more, and it excels specifically in the areas of scheduling, reports, and interactive Gantt charts.
Price and Plans
Zoho Projects offers a few levels of service, including a free tier, which supports integration with Google Apps. The paid plans are competitively priced. I'll explain the details of the free account first and then explore some of the added benefits of the paid plans. For complete details, see the comparison chart for Zoho Projects.
Zoho Projects' free plan lets you manage only one project with a meager 10MB of storage space, although there is no cap on the number of people you invite to join your team. I'm pleased to see a free level of service at all, because not every project management platform offers one. A free offering lets people try out the platform at their leisure. With any of Zoho Projects plans, you can also sign up for a free 15-day trial. There are some limitations, however. You don't get tools for time-tracking, budgeting, invoicing and expensing, recurrences and reminders, subtasks, and task duration. Those features are included in all the paid service levels.
Other project management services that still offer a truly free level of service include Teamwork Projects, Wrike, and Volerro. Wrike has a fairly generous free account. It supports up to five users, does not have any limit on the number of projects you can create, and includes 2GB of storage space. See PCMag's head-to-head comparison of Zoho vs Wrike for more details.
Paid tiers of Zoho Projects offer a little more. The Express account, at $25 per month or $249 annually, lets you manage 20 projects and comes with 5GB of storage. For this price, you get unlimited projects and unlimited users. The Express package limits you to eight project templates. Another big limitation is that you can only view but not edit Gantt charts. There are other limitations as well. While Zoho Projects Express is a good deal, very small teams managing five or fewer projects might be enticed by Teamwork Projects' Personal plan, which costs only $12 per month.
The next tier of service is Zoho Projects Premium, which costs $50 per month or $499 per year. With this plan, you can have 50 active projects in any given month. It includes 100GB of space and 10 project templates. That's more space than you get with a similar deal from Teamwork Projects, which charges $49 per month for 40 projects but only 20GB of space. At the Premium level with Zoho Projects, Pages and Chat work across all projects (you're limited to just one project in the Express tier), and you can edit your Gantt charts (hooray!).
A special bug-tracking feature, which is essential for most teams working on software or interactive Web projects, is included to try out in the free account, but it's an add-on service for Express and Premium users and costs an additional $25 and $50 per month, respectively. That's on the expensive side. At least you can import bugs from CSV, XLS, and XLSX formats, as well as from Atlassian JIRA. Bug import is included in all tiers of service.
I love that with Zoho Projects, no matter the tier of service, you don't pay per user per month. You just pay a monthly fee for as many users as you need. Many other project management platforms charge by the seat. For example, Comindware charges $9.99 per user per month. Volerro charges $19.99 per user per month for its Pro plan. It's not hard to do the math and see that Zoho Projects has serious financial appeal for any organization with more than a handful of people that need access to project management software.
Zoho Projects does offer an Enterprise level of service for $80 per month or $799 annually, although enterprise features are not considered in this review.
Features and Interface
The Zoho Projects site has a clean and up-to-date appearance. The look was updated in early 2017. The site is intuitive, so you can figure out the basics of how to use it within a few minutes of creating an account.
Business owners and team leads will appreciate that Zoho Projects prompts people to enable two-factor authentication to help keep accounts safer and more secure. Who doesn't appreciate a simple security nudge for those employees who are guilty of setting weak passwords or reusing passwords?
Setting up projects is simple, with plenty of room to create even very complex projects. As you invite other team members to join your project workspace and start adding milestones to your calendar, you'll find the tools you need without having to search for them. Zoho Projects has an excellent layout and puts relevant options at your fingertips at the right time. You can customize your dashboard to show whatever charts or updates you need to see first. For example, there's a Task Status widget showing both a pie chart and a raw number count of how many tasks are open versus closed. Whether you're concerned with timesheets or individual workloads, you can modify your dashboard accordingly.
The site is also responsive. Click on a title to change a project name or enter the number of hours someone has worked on a task, and the app moves in time with you. That's the kind of responsiveness that's easy to take for granted when it's available, but that you'd really miss if it weren't there. The project management app Easy Projects is one of the most sluggish applications I've used. Compare it directly to Zoho Projects for speed of use, and the winner is obvious.
My favorite features in Zoho Projects are the ones related to chat and notifications. Zoho Projects has a live chat component built right into the workspace, so you don't have to flip to another app when you need to quickly ask a colleague a question. You can create a chat with multiple people in it and return to the thread as needed. The chat history won't disappear when you log out. While many teams rely on internal company chat apps, such as Slack and HipChat, I love to see the option to use one that's included in the online tool where you are already working. If your team doesn't live and breathe in a project management app, having a chat function may not be so important to you, but at least the option is available.
The notifications are well implemented; you can open some of them and interact directly from the notification itself. This interaction mechanism lets people reply to or comment on important matters quickly without leaving the screen on which they were getting more important work done. That's good for productivity.
Zoho Projects gives you easy links in that left rail to jump among views. The project calendar and your timesheet, documents, and forums are all reachable with one click. You can also jump to Pages. Like webpages, Pages are static content, where team member or project leaders might put important information that doesn't change frequently.
You can reach even more information about your project in the areas labeled Tasks and Milestones. The Tasks area in particular has some great options for letting you change how you view tasks: Classic, Plain, Dependency, and Kanban. The Task area also opens up the option to see Gantt Charts and Task Reports. Task Reports show how many tasks various people on the project have assigned to them, how many tasks are unassigned, as well as completion state as a percent.
Time Tracking isn't included with the free account, but it is available at the Express levels and higher. A Time Sheet Approval feature doesn't come with the Express account, but it is available for Premium and Enterprise users. When you use Timesheets, you'll find a start-and-stop timer icon appears next to some of your tasks to help you keep track of how long you work on them. You can also log hours manually by typing them.
Zoho Projects also has a newer feature that lets you add start and end dates to tasks, milestones, and projects so that you can estimate how long it takes to get work done, rather than simply assigning a deadline. There's also an option to set your project times to "strict," meaning the system prevents you from assigning due dates for milestones that are outside the time scope of the project.
If you're really into planning work around time, however, LiquidPlanner is the best tool available. It's an online project-management and management tool that tightly ties project tasks and other work together through time and dependencies. In LiquidPlanner, for example, if someone on the team enters their upcoming vacation, all tasks that are dependent on that work's presence will be flagged for attention so that you can reassign the work. If the work isn't reassigned and the worker turns in everything a week late, all the other tasks in the project will be pushed by the appropriate amount of time. LiquidPlanner is expensive, but you do get some unique and powerful features for your money.
Apps and Integrations
One great aspect of Zoho Projects is that it works with many other apps and services. You can integrate it with other Zoho software and services, such as Zoho Books or Zoho Invoice if you want to manage budgeting and invoice easily.
As mentioned, Zoho Projects also works with Google Apps, meaning you can connect your Zoho Projects account to your Google account to import files directly from Google Drive. You can track high-priority events by exporting them to a Google Calendar. Finally, you can use Gmail to create tasks and record working hours even if you can't log into to your Zoho Projects account.
Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, Evernote, Github, and Bitbucket are all supported as integrated or add-on third-party services, too. It's not an especially long list, but it does cover many of the basics.
For the mobile worker, Zoho Projects is available as an iOS app and an Android app. While I did not test these mobile apps as part of this review, their availability makes Zoho Projects an attractive option for groups with mobile team members.
An Outstanding Service for Project Management
Zoho Projects packs more features than most other project management tools, and the free trial really does give you enough functionality to test the waters. With the latest update, its interface is more streamlined and easier to use than ever. It offers the tools teams need to manage projects and puts them into relevant places where anyone can easily find them. It still takes some time to get the hang of Zoho Projects, but not much. Overall, it's an excellent tool and PCMag's Editors' Choice for project management.
If you do choose Zoho Projects, be sure to read 5 Zoho Projects Features to Organize Your Business for help getting started.
Jill Duffy is a contributing editor, specializing in productivity apps and software, as well as technologies for health and fitness. She writes the weekly Get Organized column, with tips on how to lead a better digital life. Her first book, Get Organized: How to Clean Up Your Messy Digital Life is available for Kindle, iPad, and other digital formats. She is also the creator and author of ProductivityReport.org. Before joining PCMag.com, she was senior editor at the Association for Computing Machinery, a non-profit membership organization for… More »
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