Comparing Product Management Tools: 5pm, GoPlan, Central Desktop, and Basecamp

August 22nd, 2008

Whether you are managing a personal or business project, the need for organization is ever-present. Fortunately there are a number of web 2.0 applications that can help with organizing and tracking your projects. Called project management applications, these online organizers come in a variety of complexities and styles. Over the week we’ve talked about some of these project management tools and judged them on their interface, what features they offered, and how effective they were. You’ll see them compared in the chart below, and following the chart, we’ll talk about them in greater detail.

5pm GoPlan Central Desktop Basecamp
Time tracking yes yes yes yes
Project progress chart yes no yes no
Project keyword search yes yes yes yes
Email participants, clients yes yes yes yes
Direct link to project yes yes yes yes
Profiles and contact information yes yes no no
Public blog no yes no no
Host webmeetings/conference no no yes no
Task creation through email no no yes no
Prioritizing tasks no no yes no
Starting price (monthly) $14 free $34 free
Export calendar yes yes yes yes
Number of projects 80 unlimited 100 unlimited
File storage 1gb 50gb 25gb 25gb
Templates no yes yes no
Chat no yes yes no
Subtasks no yes no no
Private and public workspaces no no yes no
Logo and branding no yes yes yes

Of the project management applications we reviewed, there was little question about which was easiest to use. 5pm has a friendly interface with a project page that puts the majority of the management tools up front. Unlike some of the other project management tools, which use a dashboard as link to separate pages, 5pm makes its lead page a point of action, where you can control the project. Add projects, tasks, notes, files, see progress, and more all from the first page. 5pm has separate tabs for Timelines and Reports, which may have more to do with the screen space required for those functions than anything else. We were also impressed by how friendly the interface was, and how the quickly identifiable icons and the two panel project screen made navigation a pleasure. Every note and task has email notifications, and we found it easy to change the view from the whole Project to just what was on our plate.

5pm Screenshot

5pm does have a few downsides, one of which is the storage space available. Limited to 80 projects and 1gb, users may want to take a close look at the size of their project or try the 14 day trial before committing to one of 5pm’s paid plans. Another downside is the lack of advanced features, which may or may not affect most users, but for heavy business users, online conferencing, chat, prioritizing tasks, and logo or brand customization may be on the must list.

GoPlan offers a basic project management application with an uncommon feature – developer API for integration. This allows developers to integrate the GoPlan management platform into an existing infrastructure, making it possible to have a project management tool within your company’s own site. On the project management side, GoPlan offers what you would want from a project management application;  users can create tasks, tickets, notes, mark calendars, and upload files, each with email notification. Features common to all of the project management applications this week such as RSS feeds for updates and calendar export (iCal) are also present, and GoPlan has thrown in the ability to create subtasks and reordering tasks by drag and drop.

GoPlan Screenshot

There is no arguing that GoPlan is laid out in a clean, easy to understand manner, but it is difficult to overlook that the similarity between pages and the lack of cross-linking makes navigation in GoPlan awkward. The ability to integrate the API does make it appealing from a development standpoint, though GoPlan’s limited feature set is likely to frustrate heavy users.  For smaller projects, the free plan with 15mb of storage may be ideal, but ultimately, GoPlan is a solution for basic project management.

Among the applications reviewed this week Central Desktop was the most impressive, not so much for its interface, as it was for its lengthy feature list. Central Desktop breaks the project management interface up in the same way that all the applications did; by creating tabs that open pages with a specific focus. The difference is that when Central Desktop offers 25gb for storage they are also allowing you to create text and spreadsheet files inside their application, and when they offer communication for your team, they throw in web conferencing (add fees apply), chat, and email (including task creation from email). There are extended options for time tracking such as the ability to create special fields in the form, and there are unique urls available for tasks for quick access. The list goes on with additional features in each area (more information is available with the full review), but one of the most useful features is a search function that searches through the entire project, including content in the documents. For new users Central Desktop has placed how to videos on every category page, and has a chat feature that is linked in directly with their help desk.

Central Desktop Screenshot

The weak point of Central Desktop is its interface. Lacking friendliness is hardly a deal killer, but it should be acknowledged that effective design steers your attention, saving time. Searching for functions, rereading the page because you can’t see differences between items, and neutral colors all eat up time that could be spent keeping the project on the go. More could be done to improve the size of icons, change the colors (the medium priority color is flesh), as well as improve the dashboard so there are quick links to any area of organization. At this time there is also only one calendar view so project managers are not able to see details that might help them visualize their project. Contact and profile management is also lacking, yet Central Desktop remains a powerful tool.

BaseCamp, the project manager that inspired a bevy of look-alikes, takes a different approach to project management. While offering the features you would expect such as messages and tasks, Basecamp focuses on it’s milestone feature, making it the center of activity. In other project managers the milestones are reflected in a calendar (as they are in Basecamp), but unlike others, milestones in Basecamp replace deadlines, so when you create a group of tasks you attach it to a milestone rather than giving it an independent deadline. This allows Basecamp to offer quick shifting of deadlines across the calendar, a useful function for tracking goals. For example, if we were to make a task (they call them To-Dos) of writing an article, we could attach it to the milestone of publishing in an entrepreneurial magazine. If the milestone needed to change dates, we could change its date and move all future milestones the same number of days to reflect the change. Basecamp also allows users to configure the new milestones so that they do not fall on a weekend.

Basecamp Screenshot

In addition to milestones, Basecamp has a tab for Writeboards, a simple wiki with the ability to save versions, export text, and a direct url. Permissions and search are also in Basecamp, allowing users to set the level of members, including workers outside the project. Chat, available through the companion service Campfire, gives managers the option to connect in real time. Above the $49 a month level there are new features such as SSL encryption and time tracking.

The interface of Basecamp is sparse and simple, with each tab containing only a few features. As with GoPlan there is room for improvement here, or at least some cross-linking to speed navigation. In the end, Basecamp is an option for goal oriented project managers and projects that require fluid scheduling.

Common to all of the applications was the ability to export or feed calendars to iCal or Outlook, and all but GoPlan had the ability to report on the time it took tasks to complete. All the applications had a free trial period, but only Basecamp and GoPlan offered a free plans. Entry pricing ranged from 5pm’s $14 a month to Central Desktop’s $34, and Central Desktop offered add-ons at additional cost such as a Security Pack, a Salesforce Pack, and Web Conferencing.

As with any project, determining which application is best for you depends on the needs of the project. You may find that simple efficiency is the best way to go, and be attracted to the well packaged 5pm, or you may find that the goal oriented milestone feature of Basecamp is ideal. You might have the ability to integrate GoPlan into an existing company structure, or you might need the strength of Central Desktop to tackle a heavy project load. Whatever the need, you can find these applications and others like them with the Listio search manage+projects.

Previously in this series: Central Desktop: Powerful, Centralized Project Management

Application: Goplan
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Goplan/
Website: http://www.goplan.org
Manage multiple projects using Goplan's user interface. All your projects are immediately accessible from your account dashboard, next to your assigned tasks, issues and calendar events. Track project progress through task management, calendaring, note sharing and issue tracking. Additionally, real... Learn more
Application: Basecamp HQ
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Basecamp-HQ/
Website: http://www.basecamphq.com
Task and project manage safely and securely with Basecamp HQ. Track changes, keep in touch, and schedule with the application that makes the entire project accessible to the team.... Learn more
Application: 5pm
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/5pm/
Website: http://www.5pmweb.com
A web-based project management tool that's powerful, flexible and simple to use. It features simple projects/tasks tree navigation, a dual panel layout, a customizable interface, projects/tasks viewing filters and time reporting.... Learn more
Application: Central Desktop
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Central-Desktop/
Website: http://www.centraldesktop.com
Collaborate with others online by using Central Desktop. Central Desktop is a web-based collaboration tool for business teams and workgroups to share information and communicate with others both inside and outside the firewall. Collaborate in real-time (web & audio conferencing), manage projects, c... Learn more

New to Listio? Our tag cloud search offers an easy way to narrow your hunt for the perfect web application or service. No more second guessing of search terms. Just click on one tag, then as many more as you'd like to narrow your search results. It's easy and ensures you get to the listing you want. Finding web 2.0 was never so easy.

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12 Responses to “Comparing Product Management Tools: 5pm, GoPlan, Central Desktop, and Basecamp”

  1. Sue Massey Says:

    Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?

  2. John Peilow Says:

    Thanks for posting the reviews but there are better products such as http://www.wrike.com and http://www.teamworkpm.net than 5pm and GoPlan.

    Even ActiveCollab is better than GoPlan and that was a Basecamp rip when it was free albeit with dates on tasks.

    Definately check Wrike and TeamworkPM though.

    John.

  3. alon Says:

    what about openproj?

    ( I don’t work there, just a fan..)

  4. Sal Says:

    You can even check out DeskAway – simple, affordable and power-packed. Includes project cloning, reporting & analytics, and full project export.

  5. links for 2008-12-09 « Amy G. Dala Says:

    [...] Review of Comparing Product Management Tools: 5pm, GoPlan, Central Desktop, and Basecamp | Web 2.0 R… (tags: md) [...]

  6. 5pm Team Says:

    This is a nice review. Thank you for including 5pm (www.5pmweb.com) into it.

    There are a couple of corrections we would like to suggest:
    1. We do have task creation through email:
    http://www.5pmweb.com/feature_email_integration.php
    2. Starting price (monthly) is now $18
    3. Number of projects – unlimited:
    http://www.5pmweb.com/plans.php
    4. File storage – 10Gb and more can be added for extra price
    5. Templates – yes, through cloning (any project or task acts as a
    template):
    http://www.5pmweb.com/feature_cloning.php
    6. Logo and branding – yes, we do replace the logos

    Thank you
    - 5pm Team

  7. RecruiterEsq » Blog Archive » [Product Review] Basecamp for Lawyers Says:

    [...] oriented:  Listio’s article "Comparing Product Management Tools: 5pm, GoPlan, Central Desktop, and Basecamp " [...]

  8. 20:20 Social: From Social Media Marketing to Social Business Strategy — Blog — Enterprise Collaboration : GoPlan Review Says:

    [...] Listio does a good feature comparison between GoPlan, 5PM, Central Desktop and Basecamp. The review states that GoPlan has elements of a basic project management tool but is limiting for heavy project management user. [...]

  9. 20:20 Social: From Social Media Marketing to Social Business Strategy — Blog — Enterprise Collaboration : 5PM review Says:

    [...] relatively moderate cost, ease of use and no requirement for any IT infrastructure. 5PM however, lacks advanced features for heavy business users like online chats, conferencing, task prioritization, custom branding [...]

  10. Ed Says:

    Great comparison.

    I tried a few of these and none of them quite worked for me. So I decided to do my own organising and basic project management tool Dooster

    It’s been a struggle getting developers to do it as I designed it . But it has been worth it

  11. 5PM – Enterprise Collaboration Tool review | 2020 Social: Because Business is Social Says:

    [...] relatively moderate cost, ease of use and no requirement for any IT infrastructure. 5PM however, lacks advanced features for heavy business users like online chats, conferencing, task prioritization, custom branding [...]

  12. PM Hut Says:

    Now this is a great post, with an actual table comparing PM tools apple by apple, not like almost all the other posts that boasts about each tool individually, without comparing it to others.

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