Asana has become a byword in project management the past few years, especially for people new to the game. That’s pretty understandable: it’s easy to use, has a generous free plan and is about as flexible as the yoga poses it’s named after. In this full Asana review, we’ll see if it stacks up against the other contenders battling for the title of best project management software.
The short answer is yes, Asana is great. It’s definitely one of the best free project management options around, but when compared to top contender monday.com, it falls a tiny bit short. That’s not to say it’s bad — far from it — it’s just that monday.com does a few things we like just a bit better. However, which one is right for you depends very much on your needs, which is where this review comes in.
To find out if Asana is the answer to your task management woes, stick with us as we go over the pros and cons of this versatile tool (read our task management vs project management piece to see the difference between the two).
If you’d rather make up your mind yourself, Asana has a free plan you can mess with to your heart’s content. If you’d like to know more about how to get started with the program, check out our Asana tutorial.
Asana is a project management and collaboration tool that’s a great fit for small businesses. It will help you keep track of anything you need to do and stay ahead of the game.
Well, it depends on what you need it for, but for most people Asana is a good pick. Though it can be a bit annoying to use at times, it has a lot going for it, especially for beginners.
Overall, we prefer Trello, though Asana has some very useful features Trello lacks. In the end, it depends very much on what you need it for. The easy solution is for you to try them both, as they each have a great free plan.
In the most recent update in May 2020, Asana added dashboards for better overview, more timeline options, as well as more user management for admins. That’s just the headline stuff, too: there were plenty of minor, more cosmetic, tweaks.
Top Alternatives for Asana
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Tons of features & hundreds of integrations
- Free plan is great
- Great variety of views
- Very versatile & easy to use
- Bit pricey
- Massive jumps in pricing
- No customer service to speak of
- Mediocre security
Asana is chockablock with features, making it a great option for project managers looking to keep an eye on the big picture as well as the nitty-gritty. However, the best features are locked behind the paid tiers, which can get a bit pricey. That said, it’s good value for money. Let’s take a closer look.
Asana’s Free Version
We suspect most Asana users are on the free plan, as it’s very competitive and on par with one of our other free favorites, Trello (read our Trello vs Asana comparison for the details on that). It also holds its own against some paid alternatives, it’s that good.
For one, there are very few limits on its functionality. You can have as many projects and teams as you want, with the only stipulation being that you can’t have more than 15 people join. There are all kinds of integrations available and they are also unlimited, in stark contrast to Trello’s free plan and its one measly power-up (read our complaints about that in our Trello review).
Another limit is that you can only have 1,000 tasks active per account. Then again, if you have that many open tasks with only 15 people, you may be beyond saving (though reading our article on how to use Asana effectively may help you, still).
Asana also allows you to upload as many files as you want, as long as individual files are smaller than 100MB. In an odd twist of fate, apparently the only real unlimited storage out there is with a task management tool, but we digress.
You also get access to several important so-called “views,” or visual representations of your tasks. There is a list-based view (read our monday.com vs Asana article to compare it with another provider using the same approach, one that does it a little better), as well as a built-in calendar and a kanban board.
Asana Premium Features
There’s a lot to like with the free plan, but the Premium plan — which costs $13.49 per user per month or $131.88 per user per year — kicks it up a notch with some cool functionality. For one, it removes the cap of 1,000 tasks, and also allows you to have as many team members as you want. You also get a few more custom fields to add to tasks, like setting its status.
You also get unlimited guests, users who can view a project but can’t interact with it, which is handy if you work with a lot of contractors. There’s also an admin console, meaning you can keep a closer eye on team members and guests by limiting their access and seeing what people have been up to. If you want to keep your activities shrouded in mystery, you also get private boards.
However, the biggest advantage of the upgrade is the new views you get, namely timeline and dashboard (which was added in May 2020). Both add a lot of control and insight to your project, with the dashboard giving you all the information you need at a glance, and the timeline showing you how things are progressing — or will progress — over time, kind of like a Gantt chart.
Asana Business Features
The next tier is the Business plan, which will set you back $30.49 per user per month or $299.88 per user per year, which is hefty, but more on that in our next section on pricing. However, it may be worth it for some businesses, thanks to its integration with applications like the Adobe Creative Cloud, Salesforce and Tableau, among others.
Integrating these will let you send files and projects between the two, as well as automate when tasks are done, taking a lot off the plate of a project manager. They will also be happy to know that they get even more control over who uses what and when, so if you have a large team that needs to be kept on a tight leash, this upgrade might be worth looking into.
The Business plan also offers new views that might be a boon to power users. The first is “portfolios,” which is a top-down view of multiple projects, perfect for a manager tracking several teams. There is also the “goals” view, which lets you see how well you’re progressing toward certain company objectives using criteria that you can set yourself.
Our favorite, though, is the workload view, which lets you determine at a glance who is doing what and whether people may be working too much or too little, now or in the future. We predict this tool will save you a lot of time if you find that too much of your job revolves around being the slacker police.
Asana Enterprise Features
Last of the tiers is the Enterprise plan, which gives you all the above, plus some higher tier security options. If you decide you need them, you’ll have to contact Asana’s sales team directly for a quote. We won’t spend much more time on these features as, if you need them, you may be more advanced than this review is.
Before we move on to the next section, we’ll talk a little about the many integrations Asana has on offer. Project management software like Asana is supposed to make life easier, and one of the ways it does this is by automating a lot of tasks.
For example, you can set things up so that if you discuss something in Slack, it will automatically assign the person you’re chatting with to a task (read our guide on how to set up an Asana-Slack integration).
You can also arrange it so that if you move something in Asana’s kanban board to another column, the person in charge of what happens there gets an email in their Gmail account. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
If, somehow, there’s an integration you need that’s not on offer, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to either find it or make it using IFTTT or Zapier, thanks to Asana’s massive popularity. If you need document management in some obscure cloud storage service, there’s probably a Zap for that.
Asana Features Overview
- Kanban board
- Spreadsheet view: No
- Gantt charts
- Workload planning
- Long-term planning
- Multiple project management
- Dependency management
- Native scrum management: No
- Set user permissions
- File storage
- Built-in integrations
- Reporting features
- Free plan
- Free Trial: 30 days
- Web app
- Windows: No
- MacOS: No
- Ticket-based support
- Live chat: No
- Phone support: No
As much as we love Asana’s features, the price you pay for the more advanced ones can be a bit steep. There’s also a big jump between the free plan and the first paid plan, Premium, and then an even bigger leap between that and the Business plan. You get your money’s worth, but it’s still a big bill.
- Up to 15 users
- Price is per user. unlimited users, expanded features
- Price is per user. unlimited users, even more features
- Custom pricing, advanced security features
As you can see, there’s some serious money involved. In comparing the annual plans for each tier, the Business plan is more than double the Premium plan, which in turn is about 10 to 20 percent more expensive than the market average. You get more than 20 percent more features, though, so it may be worth it.
To find out what the Enterprise plan will cost, you need to contact Asana for a quote. We did so and were given a quote of roughly $600 per person per year, which is double that of Premium. That said, your mileage may very well vary, especially if you’re a better haggler than a bunch of software reviewers.
Cost: Asana’s Structure
As we mention in the “features” section, there’s a logical progression to Asana’s cost. It’s not like the pricing of Trello or monday.com, which feels almost haphazard in how it assigns features to different plans, something the two share with Podio.
Instead, much like Wrike or Basecamp — read our Asana vs Basecamp piece — Asana has some progression built in, with features that are most suitable for hardcore project managers being in the plan with the more hardcore pricing. A feature like Salesforce integration is going to be needed more by a corporation signing up for the Business plan than a few people getting by on the free plan.
That said, progression or not, it’s still a ton of money we’re talking about. You can lessen the pain a little by assigning only people that really need edit access as users and making everybody else a guest, but the bill is still going to sting.
The savings for going annual are decent enough, though, essentially giving you two months for free. On top of that, you do get what you pay for, and if you do decide to pay for Asana, you’re getting some serious bang for your buck.
Overall, Asana is very easy to use, but it has a few annoying niggles that keep it from being a champion of user-friendliness. That said, it still holds a lot of lessons for services like Jira, which can be tricky to manipulate (read our full Asana vs Jira article for more on these two and how they stack up).
Beginning at the beginning, signing up to Asana is as easy as surfing to the website and hitting the “try it for free” button at the top right of the screen.
It’s just a few screens, and then you’re signed up. What we like about Asana is how you’re forced through a thorough tutorial that has you up and running with a rudimentary project (or a project template) within 5 to 10 minutes. We wish more project management tools would use this approach, as it saves a lot of headaches for novice users.
Once done with all this, Asana is your oyster: you’re presented with the main screen, your rudimentary project and set loose. All other functions are explained through pop-ups, though fewer than with competitors, probably thanks to the introductory tutorial.
We’ll go on a slight tangent here and take just a brief second to complain about the pop-ups. While most of them are useful, there doesn’t seem to be a way to switch them off completely, meaning you have to click each one away individually. On top of that, some seem to be of the opinion that they know better than you what you’re doing, which is a tad annoying.
Asana isn’t well served by these condescending know-it-all comments, but thankfully they’re few and far between. The other tutorials, which you access from the big question mark button at the top right of the screen, are to the point and a great way to get started using Asana. We’ll talk more about them in our “service and support” section.
Using the Web Client
The web client is where you’ll be doing most of your work — the mobile app is more for quick, on-the-go stuff — and overall it’s a joy to use. Everything is laid out in a way that makes sense, and thanks to all the tutorials, pop-ups and tool tips, you never feel lost, even when performing high-level functions.
You organize work in projects, and from there into tasks and subtasks. You can assign projects to teams of people, and assign tasks and subtasks to individuals. When you create a task, you can also set a due date and the priority it has. Premium subscribers have the further option of adding a progress state.
It’s a very intuitive, fluid system and you’ll be working away, setting up tasks and projects, within minutes.
Views & Kanban Boards in Asana
The operational part of Asana is good, but we especially like its views. You have plenty to choose from, as we discussed in the “features” section, and all of them serve a distinct purpose. As a bonus, changes made in one view or board are reflected in all others, so there’s no need to hunt down details every time somebody makes a change.
Besides the default list view, which is great for assigning tasks and setting their priorities and dates, you have the very handy kanban board. At Cloudwards we’re big fans of kanban boards, thanks to their ease of use and great bird’s-eye view of a project, and fellow travelers will be happy to know Asana is one of the best kanban-based project management tools.
If you want to know exactly when things are due, you can use the timeline board view — great for seeing how long things are taking — or use the calendar, which gives you an overview of due dates, perfect for editorial boards or shipping companies.
Asana Mobile App
Like most project management programs, Asana has an app for workflow management on the go, but also like most others, it’s very bare bones. It’s there more for those times when you’re on the bus coming from work and you have a forehead-slap moment and want to fix something real quick. For anything more than that, though, you’re going to have to log into the web client.
That said, it still has more functionality than some competitors (looking at you, Trello), so while it’s bare bones, there’s more meat on it than with some. Below you can see the details of a task on mobile, for instance.
Before we move on to the next section, we’ll go over the many, many options Asana has that make it even more user friendly. You access options by clicking on your initials in the top right corner and selecting either “admin console” or “my profile settings.”
The admin console is all about user permissions, with most of it only unlocked after upgrading to Premium or higher. Though probably not too important to casual users, it’s where you set user permissions, determine what guests can and cannot do, all that. It also serves as a portal for some important resources for getting to grips with the program.
Profile settings is where you’ll find things like your personal information, whether you want to receive email notifications instead of ones in your browser, all that. It’s also where you can opt in for time-tracking app Harvest and mess around with some “hacks” that help automate recurring tasks.
Most importantly, under “display” you can toggle Asana’s celebrations, saccharine cartoon animals that appear with a trailing rainbow when completing tasks. Thankfully they don’t show up too often, but having them completely switched off makes this reviewer very happy. Why yes, I do always root for the Grinch, how did you know?
Security & Privacy
Asana’s security and privacy are…not great: it’s no Airtable. There are some flaws in both the way it approaches security and privacy, though no real deal breakers. Think of them as things to look out for more than anything.
Free users, though, have a lot more data collected, including mobile data and general metadata. Supposedly, much like with subscriber information, it’s not sold or shared, but Asana does seem to want to know more about free users than its subscribers.
However, EU citizens do have their rights protected under the GDPR and it doesn’t seem like Asana is doing anything particularly nefarious with the data. It seems rather that free users, who are getting a pretty nifty tool for nothing, just have a bit more data siphoned for the company’s purposes. If you think that’s fair, then you’re good to go with Asana.
Asana’s security is good in that it ticks all the right boxes, but we have to say that we still feel a tiny bit uneasy after reading the company’s statement on security. We like that the system is regularly audited and holds certificates for SOC 2 Type I and II, and that data is encrypted with TLS when in transit. These are all good things.
The problem is that Asana uses Amazon servers to store data. There are just so many issues with Amazon that we feel a bit uncomfortable telling anybody to store data with them. The upshot is that if you store data on Asana, only do so with non-sensitive stuff. We would store our secret 11-spice recipe and the like with secure cloud storage services like pCloud or Sync.com.
Service & Support
If you’re looking for customer support, Asana isn’t the best. Asana staff seem loath to talk about any user issues — sales and tech problems are dealt with swiftly, though. They got back to us within the hour when we asked about Enterprise pricing, for example. However, if you need assistance getting to know the program, they’re not much help.
For that, you need to either hit up the self-help guides and tutorials or visit the forums, all of which can be found on the support page. We have to say, the documentation that Asana provides is excellent, and we like how you can access it from both the website and the web client.
Besides the usual help guides and beginner’s tutorials, Asana also offers the Asana Academy, which is a set of courses that guides users through all the software has to offer. If you want something more technical, there are resources aimed at devs specifically, and there are even use cases for people that like templates.
If, somehow, you can’t find your answer among all these resources, you can hit up the forums, which are populated both by knowledgeable users and Asana staff. We browsed through it for a while and saw that few forum posts go without a reply, so the help is there if you need it.
Overall, Asana is one of our favorite cloud-based collaboration tools out there. It’s a solid task management solution that has a lot more features than others do, with only a handful of issues marring the overall ease of use. Asana makes project management a joy, though we can understand why some people would find it a bit overwhelming.
What do you think of Asana? Did we get it right, or are we about as wrong as we can be? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.