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The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Best Mac Project Management Software

Smartsheet Contributor Kate Eby on Feb 21, 2019

Macs are no longer just the prize possession of the creative types. Professionals are using Macs for all types of business functions, including project management, but some popular tools, like Microsoft Project, just aren’t compatible with Macs.

The good news is that there are plenty of project management solutions available for Macs that have many of the robust features found in Project. This comprehensive guide will take you through features found in Mac project management products and the questions to ask yourself when making your final decision.


Local-Based vs. Cloud-Based Mac Project Manager Software

When evaluating project management software for Mac, think about whether you want a product that is deployed locally or in the cloud. One of the main differentiators between the two options is collaboration; cloud-based project management options tend to be more open, allowing more users to view, edit, and add project-related materials.

If you routinely work on projects that involve people outside the company, this feature can be tremendously useful. Another benefit to cloud-based tools is that anyone participating in the project can view status any time, any where. This can be helpful for project managers on the go who don’t want to stop what they’re doing to go back to their desks and generate a Gantt chart.

Mac project management software installed locally can sometimes have more robust features, similar to those found in Microsoft Project. However, because everything is stored locally, offering access to outside vendors requires more effort than just providing permission and login information.

If you need to interact with outside vendors, look for a local solution that lets you import and export data to cloud-based apps your company already uses such as Dropbox and Box. Many local-based project management software for Mac also provide a companion mobile app.

While you can’t always view and do everything you could if you were using cloud-based project management software, you can still carry an overview of the project on a mobile device.


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Mac Project Management Software Features From A to Z

Before analyzing a list of features, think about how you and your company will use the project management software. There are a plethora of features available; the key is to decide which ones are actually needed.

We’ve listed the common features in alphabetical order to help you better identify what will work for you. You’ll see that some items might be a little too much for your needs while others are exactly what you want. We recommend making a list of the most important features and keep it close at hand when evaluating Mac project management software.

  • AppleScript: If you want to customize your Mac project management software with automation, look for something that supports AppleScript. The object-oriented language can be used to automate complex workflows, but you’ll probably need a programmer to make the most of this feature.
  • Assignments: Mac project management software that lets you assign different tasks to each team member improves accountability and keeps a project moving. Software that includes the ability to send automatic email reminders to users as the due date for their assignment approaches can be a real time-saver.
  • Attachments: One of the great things about project management tools is that they can also serve as a repository for all documents related to a project. Look for a solution that supports all types of attachments (or, at least the ones you use regularly). This feature should also include the ability to track revisions, have comments, and leave comments.
  • Charts: You may use multiple types of charts to organize and track different phases. Be sure the software you select supports the types of charts you use most. Common charts are Gantt, PERT, Process Control, and Work Breakdown Structure.
  • Critical Path: Project managers use this method to calculate the longest sequence of events required to complete a project on time. If one of the events is a week late, then the project will be completed a week late. With this feature, you should be able to easily identify a project’s critical path in just a few steps.
  • Earned Value Analysis (EVA): You often need to identify if the money spent on a project will yield the financial results required. This feature can do all the calculations for you using built-in EVA formulas. If you have more complex needs, look for an option that lets you customize the formulas.
  • Export/Import to Multiple Apps: When evaluating this type of support, make sure you can import and export to Microsoft Project. Even though you use a Mac, lots of people use Microsoft Project, so there may be a time when you need to access Project files and vice versa. Look at the type of files that can be imported or exported; common supported formats include XML, CVS, PDF, and HTML. Also, consider other apps that your team might be using, like Excel, iCal, Outlook, Dropbox, Evernote, accounting software, Google Docs, and Box, and make sure it works with those as well.  
  • Milestones: An essential element found in Gantt charts, you should be able to set milestones based on key dates, key deadlines, and external dates and deliveries.
  • Mind Map: A powerful tool for brainstorming, this tool helps you turn those great ideas into a reality. The Mind Map feature often feels like a virtual whiteboard, where you’re adding thoughts and drawing lines between related ideas.
  • Mobile App Support: More and more of our work is done away from our desks, so you’ll want Mac project management software that has mobile support either in the form of an app for iPhone and iPad or via the cloud. These apps are not as robust as the software, so make sure you can do more than view a project. Ideally, you should also be able to add notes, make edits, view charts, and share information using the mobile app.
  • Monte Carlo Simulation: A method for performing risk analysis recommended by the text, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Monte Carlo Simulation calculates the impact certain risks will have on a project and creates a range of possible outcomes. (PMBOK is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.)
  • Multi-Project Dashboard: You most likely manage multiple projects simultaneously, so it’s important to view resources available for each project at a glance and see where to make changes if necessary. This feature provides a graph-based visual overview of multiple projects in a single dashboard.
  • Multiple Baselines: Using a baseline keeps track of how your project is doing. You can use the project management software to take a snapshot of the schedule and cost values and compare it to the values originally planned at beginning of the project. A solution that can create more than one baseline is handy when project experiences changes.  
  • Network Diagrams: A key tool used in the project-planning phase, a network diagram can help you visualize how the project will come together. Often referred to as a logic diagram or PERT chart, this is used to map out everything identified when breaking down the work involved in the scope of the project.
  • Publish and Subscribe: Commonly available for Macs, this feature allows you to publish projects so multiple team members can work on it simultaneously. Note: Depending on implementation, you may need IT support to get the most out of this feature.
  • Reports: Robust project management software for Mac will run multiple standard and customized reports. When evaluating this feature, check to see if it supports the type of reports you currently use.
  • Split Tasks: A popular feature found in Microsoft Project, this is also available in Mac project management software. The split task feature allows you to interrupt work on a project and have one part begin at a later date.
  • Track Changes: This feature is especially beneficial for projects that have multiple users entering information. Similar to how tracking changes works in a document, this function highlights what has changed and who made the change. You should also be able to approve or deny any changes.

Best Project Management Software for Mac: 6 Factors to Consider

Now that you have an idea of available features, here are some things you should consider before making a decision (think of this as reading the fine print).

For example, you might find Mac project management software that has all the features you want, but it doesn’t meet your company’s security requirements. Looking into these additional factors will help you narrow down your choice even more.

Is there a limit to the number of users?

Multiple people typically use Mac project management software, but not all programs support an unlimited amount of simultaneous users. Of course, there could be fees you can pay to make that work. Here are some questions to ask: Is there a limit to how many users can access the software? How can you provide access to people outside of your organization? Although this is Mac software, can it be accessed using a PC?

What is the pricing structure and is it negotiable?

Many apps provide introductory pricing information on their websites. However, in some instances, you’ll need to call and get a quote. Be sure to ask about what’s included when purchasing additional licenses. Typically, there are flat rate and role-based license options. When getting pricing information, inquire about contract discounts for multiple users.

How easy is it to use the Mac project management software?

You need to pick a tool project managers can actually use, with the features they really need. Think about how difficult or easy it will be for other team members to use. Be sure to consider access when thinking about ease of use -- will people be able to access it from virtually anywhere on the device of their choice? This isn’t an issue with cloud-based options, but something to look into with local-based project management software.

What type of collaboration features does the software support?

Collaboration includes the ability to upload and share documents to the app, but it’s also a lot more than that. For example, it should have messaging features where users can leave messages in documents and save comments about tasks. Don’t forget about integrated instant messaging; after all, a lot of work gets accomplished in those IM windows. Be sure to consider who can make changes, how to handle those changes, and finally how to overwrite those changes. And, find out how many people can view and access tasks in the software, and whether it matters what type of device they are using to do so.

Does the Mac project management software meet your company’s security and compliance guidelines?

When evaluating any software, be sure to keep the IT folks in the loop. After all, they are usually the ones who end up deploying it and providing support when issues arrive. The IT department typically has a set of requirements that new software needs to meet. Depending on your company, the option you choose might need to be Quality Management ISO 9001 or Information Management IS0 27001 compliant.

What type of support is included?

Project management software is a powerful tool, and as you’ve seen in this article, it has a ton of features. How are you going to learn about those features? Some providers offer in-person training for an additional fee. In this scenario, you can sometimes designate one person within your company to be trained and then they can teach everyone else. Other support options that companies offer include online training, video tutorials, free webinars, and social media style discussion boards. Be sure to ask if there is a fee for any of these services or a limit to how much you can use them. Take some time review the support available before making a selection.

Finally, keep in mind that many Mac project management software solutions offer free trials. When you’ve narrowed down your selection to two options, it is definitely worthwhile to spend some time “kicking the tires” to see which you prefer.

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