Smartsheet Review

Smartsheet is a pretty quirky piece of project management software that, on the whole, underwhelms. Check out our Smartsheet review for all the details.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large, Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-06-14T12:05:40+00:00
(Editor)
Starts from $ 1400 per month
Save 26 % (All Plans)
smartsheet slider 1
smartsheet slider 2
smartsheet slider 3
smartsheet slider 4
smartsheet slider 5

Smartsheet is one of the more singular project management tools we’ve encountered. It was originally conceived as an advanced spreadsheet of sorts, and has kept this influence over the years. The result, as you’ll see in this Smartsheet review, is an interesting piece of software that suffers from some issues. Though there’s a lot to like here, we hesitate to put it in the upper regions of our best project management software roundup.

Key Takeaways:

  • Smartsheet is a piece of project management software based largely on spreadsheets, which will be a boon to some, a curse to others.
  • Smartsheet is quite expensive: the Business plan, which is the lowest tier for teams, is more expensive than most other services’ top-end plans, yet offers less functionality.
  • Smartsheet is easy enough to use, but some of its details make it a little frustrating at times. As such, it’s more difficult than it needs to be in some areas.

Unless you really like Smartsheet’s approach to task management or it fits in well with software you’re already using (it integrates especially well with agile tool Jira, for example), we would suggest trying out other options, like monday.com or Asana, before trying out Smartsheet. Those two are a lot easier to get started with, and have more functionality besides.

That’s not to say Smartsheet is bad — it’s just different. To see how different, join us for this full Smartsheet review as we go over what it can and cannot do, and how well it does it all.

  • Smartsheet is a project management tool that lets you plan projects and tasks for team members through customized spreadsheets.

  • Smartsheet stores its data in two different U.S. data centers. One is in Ashburn, Virginia, and the other is in Chicago, Illinois.

  • As a planning app, Smartsheet is better, but as a spreadsheet Excel is better by far.

  • Smartsheet is owned by Smartsheet, Inc., a publicly listed company headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.

Top Alternatives for Smartsheet

Strengths & Weaknesses

Pros:

  • Easy to grasp
  • Good knowledgebase
  • Excellent security

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Inflexible
  • Limited

Features

75 % – Good

Smartsheet has a host of features and views, all of them based on spreadsheets. As such, it’s a bit more boring than most of the other cloud-based project and resource management tools out there; if you were looking for mind maps like in our ClickUp review, Smartsheet is not the place.

However, if you like your interface clean, then Smartsheet is a good pick. The main view — or at least the one that it defaults to — is called the grid view, but it’s really just a set of spreadsheets, albeit interactive ones. 

smartsheet grid view
Smartsheet’s grid view isn’t much to look at, but it gets the job done.

While we can’t fault the grid view — it works well enough, we suppose — it’s not the best default view we’ve come across either. For example, in our review of monday.com we go over a much more pleasant alternative: a list that allows for much smoother operation than the rather static, colorless grid of Smartsheet.

That said, it’s still better than Wrike’s drab spreadsheet view (read our Wrike review to find out what we mean by that). It’s also a lot more flexible than a plain spreadsheet would be: you can move cells around as you please, and you can assign a number of preset values to each column or row, as well as add your own.

smartsheet change column properties
Smartsheet lets you edit the properties of each column easily.

More Views

Once the grid is filled out, you can start messing with the other main views. Smartsheet offers three: a calendar, Gantt chart and a kanban board, all of them accessible with a single button at the top of your view. 

smartsheet views
One button to rule them all.

However, there are some caveats. The calendar only works if you have a field for the date in your grid, and the Gantt needs one to start and end — somewhat logically; read our explainer on Gantt charts to find out why that is.

smartsheet gantt charts
Smartsheet’s Gantt charts do a pretty good job, thanks to its decent dependency management.

The board is even more demanding: it needs a dropdown menu or symbol somewhere on the grid to work. It makes sense, but the choices you’re given for these feel a little unpolished at times. That said, we like how once you figure it out, it immediately moves cards to the right kanban columns, which is a great time saver.

smartsheet board view
Smartsheet’s kanban board won’t win any beauty contests, but it works just fine.

Scrum boards are missing: if you like Smartsheet but need an agile tool first and foremost, it comes with some excellent add-ons with Jira, one of our best scrum software tools. This allows you to use the functionality of both applications at the same time, which is great for software development teams.

Other Work Management Functions

Smartsheet’s views are nothing you wouldn’t find when exploring other project management software, though usually you’d find it implemented a little better; read our Asana review for one example. That said, we like how it implements time tracking, for example, and have a soft spot for its built-in file sharing system.

However, what sets Smartsheet apart are its advanced features, two of which are particularly cool — namely web forms and workflow automation.

The web form is exactly what it sounds like: a form that you can use to collect data from potential clients or hapless internet users. This is where Smartsheet shows its roots as spreadsheet software, as all results can be plugged directly into your sheet. You can then manipulate the data you’ve gleaned and use it for whatever purpose you desire.

smartsheet web form
The web form is a nice addition.

It should bear mentioning, however, that you can make a form like this and have the results plugged directly into a sheet using apps in Google Workspace — and for free, to boot. While it’s a handy addition, Smartsheet isn’t doing anything revolutionary.

Task Automation

As for automation, we actually really like how Smartsheet handles this, but again, it’s not doing anything that takes our breath away, either. It can automate tasks within Smartsheet as well as integrate with other apps (Slack and email are always great places to receive notifications if something changes), but it won’t replace Zapier or IFTTT as a full no-code suite.

smartsheet automation
We like how Smartsheet handles automated workflows, but it’s not better than other, dedicated solutions.

Overall, we like Smartsheet’s features a lot, but its reliance on spreadsheets makes it a little unwieldy. It also hampers the inclusion of functionality that doesn’t rely on cells and rows, making them feel a little tacked-on in places.

Smartsheet Features Overview

Management Views
Kanban board
List
Calendar
Timeline
Spreadsheet view
Gantt charts
Workload planning
Long-term planning
Management Features
Multiple project management
Dependency management
Native scrum management
Set user permissions
File storage
Time-tracking
Built-in integrations
Reporting features
General Features
Free plan
Free Trial30 days
Web app
Windows
MacOS
Android
iOS
Support
Ticket-based support
Tutorials
Knowledgebase
Forum
Live chat
Phone support

Pricing

50 % – Poor

Smartsheet’s pricing is a little odd: in some ways it’s more complicated than it needs to be, in others it’s ridiculously simple. Essentially, there are only two plans — Individual and Business —  aimed at, you guessed it, individuals and businesses. Signing up for Smartsheet gives you a free 30-day trial of the Business plan, which has a few more collaboration features than the Individual plan.

There are two more tiers available, called Enterprise and Premium. Both contain advanced collaboration features, like an activity log that we doubt most of our readers will need. We’ll treat them as one and the same for the purposes of this review. Neither has an advertised price, and why they require you to reach out for a quote will have to remain a mystery.

How Much Does Smartsheet Cost? 

Below you’ll find the pricing table for Smartsheet, which was a lot harder to put together than it is for most other project management software. The information on the pricing page is incomplete, with details only found by signing into Smartsheet and upgrading your free trial.

Individual
  • : Prices per user, One user only, Up to 10 free users, Basic features, 50GB file storage
Business
  • : Prices per user, Three user minimum, Unlimited free users, Expanded features, 300GB file storage
Enterprise/Premium
  • : Advanced features

Please note that there are discounts for nonprofits and schools for the annual plan. The Individual plan goes from being $168 to $145 and the Business plan from $300 to $249.

Standard Business Practice?

One example of Smartsheet’s confusing pricing structure is how the limit of just one user on the individual plan isn’t mentioned outright on the pricing page. The “free users” mentioned are what Asana would call “guests” — people who can view your Smartsheet account, but not interact with it.

smartsheet price
Incomplete information is the worst marketing ploy in the book.

Another issue is that the price advertised is the one you pay when signing up for a whole year; the month-to-month price is significantly higher. This is in itself normal (check our articles on monday.com pricing or Asana pricing for examples), but we don’t like how this little fact is hidden away until after you sign up for the trial and decide to upgrade.

While we won’t accuse Smartsheet of anything untoward, we don’t like that we had to go looking for some of this information. It leaves a sour taste in our mouths, though not as bad as the one we had after reviewing Basecamp.

Overall, we give Smartsheet middling points for pricing. It’s a lot more expensive than most of its competitors, but doesn’t offer comparable collaboration features, despite costing top dollar for the Business plan. At $25 per user per month, it’s probably the most expensive project management software we’ve reviewed, and that price is when you pay for a whole year, too.

Much the same goes for the Individual plan: freelancers who have need of the features Smartsheet offers can get all of them for free elsewhere — or at least a damn sight cheaper than $14 per month (check out best project management software for freelancers for more details). Though there’s a lot to like about Smartsheet, it’s effectively pricing itself out of the market.

User-Friendliness

80 % – Good

When coming to Smartsheet from another collaboration tool, like Trello or monday.com, it’s going to feel a little weird. While on the surface everything is as you’d expect, because of its strong foundation as a spreadsheet application, it operates a little differently than its competitors once you get to know it a bit.

Signing up to Smartsheet involves entering your email address on the website and that’s pretty much it: you’re automatically enrolled in the free 30-day trial. You won’t need to enter any credit card details until you decide to upgrade to the paid plans. You’ll be asked to enter some company data, but before you know it you’re on the main screen of Smartsheet.

smartsheet main page
Smartsheet offers plenty of different types of sheets to choose from.

From here you can either go with templates or start a project from scratch; we went with the latter, but going over the templates shows you’re spoiled for choice. There are all kinds to pick from, and it may actually be a better idea than making your own.

smartsheet templates
Smartsheet templates seem to be the ticket to get you on your way.

This is because Smartsheet doesn’t have any on-screen tutorials — just videos that play on some screens that broadly explain what you can do there. To get into the nitty-gritty of the program, you’ll need to visit the knowledgebase. It works well in itself, but the lack of in-app help makes the learning curve rather steep.

How to Use Smartsheet Project Management

Smartsheet runs in a hierarchy, with workspaces at the top and the individual sheets under that. Each sheet has all the views we discussed earlier, so a project could fit into a single sheet, if you wanted it to. You could also make it so that each team within your company has a single sheet, or assign subprojects to each sheet — there are a lot of options here.

smartsheet project view
Smartsheet makes controlling multiple projects pretty easy.

Manipulating sheets is pretty easy: the information is all laid out in front of you, like with other spreadsheets, and any extra functions can be accessed from the top. We really like how many options you get to move things around and customize cells, but you do run into some problems here.

For one, the freedom Smartsheet offers comes at a price: you’re going to have to fill in a lot of details yourself unless you use a template. Add to this that even the criteria you can pick are usually left open, expect to be messing around a lot to get it the way you like it.

At the same time, you’re also weirdly limited in other ways, like when setting up a kanban board. Then, you can only pick from a specific set of criteria, some of which will require you to get very creative just so you can set up a board that any other project management tool lets you use right out the box.

Though Smartsheet has decent ease of use overall, the mold it’s been cast in makes it harder to use than many of its competitors. As such, we find it hard to praise its ease of use.

Security & Privacy

95 % – Excellent

Overall, your data is safe with Smartsheet. Its privacy policy is a little on the arcane side, spread out as it is over several pages, but looking over it we see no red flags. Data is stored in accordance with the GDPR and those rules seem to be applied to U.S.-based customers as well. The company pledges not to sell data to third parties, either, so it all seems above board.

Is Smartsheet Safe?

As for the safety of your files, Smartsheet is in line with the rest of the industry. It uses TLS/SSL when transferring files and AES-256 encryption when they are stored. This is pretty much state of the art, and there’s no realistic way in which anybody can get to your data.

The only smudge on this clean slate is that it uses Amazon AWS for its servers, which is known to sometimes have leaky buckets. This is only a problem if Smartsheet employees ever make a mistake, so unless they’re using sleep-deprived interns, you should be okay.

Smartsheet Security Issues

As far as we can tell, Smartsheet has had only one recorded security issue: back in 2015 the company was alerted by a bug hunter that there was a vulnerability that could have allowed third parties to hack user accounts. 

Smartsheet assured users that it never actually happened, only that it could have, and patched the issue quickly. If only every company was this proactive.

Service & Support

85 % – Very Good

Smartsheet support is accessed through the help and learning center, which has both a knowledgebase and a set of courses on learning how to use the program. The course is pretty decent, though we would have preferred more in-app help as we mentioned in our ease-of-use section above.

smartsheet learning center
Smartsheet’s help and learning center features easy navigation.

As for the articles in the knowledgebase, they’re generally decent, though some assume that you’ve gone through the course already and understand how Smartsheet works. However, between the articles and the course, you should be able to tackle Smartsheet’s learning curve.

If you do run into issues, support is available via the forum, called “community,” and tickets (contact by email, basically). There’s no phone or chat support, but the forums are a pretty helpful place with plenty of replies to existing queries by Smartsheet staff, so you should be OK.

The Verdict: Smartsheet Review

Overall, we’re not too keen on Smartsheet. There are some things we like about it, like the built-in web forms and automations, but the prohibitive cost makes us shy far away. If it were any cheaper or had a free plan, it might be interesting, but looking through our project management reviews, we see too many cheaper options with better feature sets.

Instead, we recommend you check out monday.com or Asana or Trello or anything else, really. They offer more bang for your buck and are easier to use, too.

What do you think of this Smartsheet review? Do you agree with our assessment, or did we miss a vital feature that justifies Smartsheet’s exorbitant cost? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.

Was this post helpful?

One thought on “Smartsheet”

  1. The recent upgrade of the notes feature to conversations has significantly reduced the functionality of communicating with team members. conversations is one long list that makes if difficult to find information. Previously the notes feature summarized the first few lines of information making it very easy to find information. Conversation offersz a view of every comment in a single sheet as a list with entries identified by row number making pertinent information difficult if not impossible to find.

    Reply
Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top