Thought at first glance you might confuse it for a spreadsheet, below Smartsheet's looks lurks a very powerful project management tool. Though nothing is perfect, we can imagine several classes of people that would be very pleased to use it, as you can read in our Smartsheet review.
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Smartsheet is a business-focused tool that looks as much like a spreadsheet as it does its competitors. We’ll try to find out whether its approach works in this Smartsheet review.
Despite teething problems (early versions were too hard to use), it has gone on to be a successful player in the project management sphere. After a redesign, it doubled its revenues four years running and was listed on the stock exchange last year. It has a strong client base, with over 77,000 brands using it, including the likes of Cisco, Hilton and PayPal.
Though Smartsheet looks plain and unassuming, it has a strong user interface, allows you to view and manipulate your data in useful ways and does a good job of making its advanced features easy to use.
- Useful range of templates
- Easy to generate reports
- Useful views, which each offering something different
- Slow support
Smartsheet allows you to easily enter data into a familiar-looking interface, then view it in several ways. The data you enter can be structured differently. If you’re managing a project it can represent tasks, but it could also be sales targets or people.
How you structure it is up to you. You can use one of the templates to guide you or use your creativity. If you want to compare it to another versatile tool, take a look at our Monday.com review for a good alternative.
You can attach files to items or tasks, making Smartsheet a good tool for sharing them with your team. The file size limit is 250MB if you have a paid account. The total available space to your team depends on your plan and how many users you have because it is allocated on a per-user basis. It ranges from 50GB per user on the basic plan to 250GB per user on the Premier plan.
You’re getting a generous amount there and have the option to pay extra if you need more, but you’ll have to talk to Smartsheet’s sales team for the details. If you want to use an alternative service, take a look at our best cloud storage article for options, but, if you want to add productivity apps, our best EFSS providers might be a better choice.
Its activity log allows you to keep track of actions relating to projects and can be filtered if you want to investigate something specific.
Its calendar view lets you see what tasks are coming up and what needs to be done when. You can double-click tasks to adjust them or assign them to someone else.
If you want to see a timeline of tasks, as well as which tasks depend on others, the gantt view gives you that. It also allows you to drag tasks around and adjust their start and end dates, so if you want to juggle things to try to make your schedule more efficient, you can do so.
There is also a card view, which sorts tasks into columns. You can click to easily add subtasks or edit the details and drag them from column to column to show how far along each one is. This view works like a kanban board.
If the card view meets your needs, it might be worth looking at a simpler tool, such as Trello. Read our Trello beginner’s guide to see if it’s a good fit.
You can set reminders to give you and your team members notifications about specific tasks. That’s useful if there’s something in your routine that always gets forgotten.
There are also forms you can set up to make entering data easier, as well as reports for displaying information as you need it.
Reports are created using a handy builder, which allows you to select what data you want to include and filter it as required.
In addition to being available in the browser, there are apps for Android and iOS, so you don’t have to wait to get to the office to start planning your day.
If you want to go beyond its standard functionality, Smartsheet offers many add-ons. Over 30 are available and include platforms such as Jira and Salesforce, as well as some of Smartsheet’s own offerings, such as calendar and pivot add-ons. If you’re willing to use Zapier or IFTTT, the sky is the limit as there are plenty of recipes for Smartsheet available.
You can also add storage services, such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive. If you are interested in extra storage and want to see which of the many options suits you best, read our best online storage for teams article.
Some add-ons require you to contact Smartsheet to set up, so not all of them can be accessed immediately, but they allow you to expand on Smartsheet’s feature set considerably if you take advantage of them.
Smartsheet offers a strong feature set with excellent task management and the versatility to work with data in many ways. It also integrates well with outside tools. We rate it highly in this area.
Smartsheet Features Overview
It’s easy to get started with Smartsheet. Its sign-up process is quick and painless. On your first login, you get a four-minute video showing you around the platform. After watching it, another video is presented to you, along with a step-by-step guide to getting started.
In the app, the initial impression is one of complexity, so it’s a good thing you have all that help available. Making entries is easy, but figuring out how everything fits together is tougher.
When setting up, you can enter data from scratch or import it from another application. There are several templates to help you get started, too, which will make things much quicker at first.
The structure is built around sheets, which contain data. As its name suggests, Smartsheet takes a spreadsheet-like approach, with columns assigned different types of information.
It does plenty of work for you. Assign a column to store contacts, for example, and it will search your contacts for possible entries as you type.
Assigning Tasks in Smartsheet
Data on sheets can represent many things, such as tasks. Tasks can be given a start and end date and assigned to a team member. You can also assign them predecessors, which means you can set up dependency management, then see how everything fits together.
Each task can be tracked with a status, completion percentage and comments to let you know how things are going.
They can be viewed in different ways, each of which having its uses, as discussed in the features section.
The top of the screen is full of icons, which gives it the feel of a desktop application, but also brings a sense of familiarity. It feels like using a slicker, shared version of Microsoft Excel at times.
You get plenty of help in the app, with pop-ups appearing every time you use a new feature. They typically give you a few pointers, as well as links to tutorial videos and articles.
If you want to make yourself feel more at home when using Smartsheet, you can set your own background color and logo. As with most things in Smartsheet, there’s a brief video that shows you how to do so, but the process is simple.
Smartsheet isn’t the most exciting tool in the world, but it provides plenty of guidance and help to get you up and running. It takes getting used to, but there is plenty of power there once you get to grips with it.
If you are after something more fun to play with, have a look at our Asana review for a program everyone on you team will enjoy using.
We give Smartsheet high marks here, too. It does a good job of presenting itself and eases you in with plenty of useful pop-ups and tutorials. It looks complex and there is a lot there, but it gets much easier after spending time with it.
Smartsheet offers an Individual plan for $14 per month, but that includes as many free collaborators as you need. The Business plan, for a minimum of three users, comes in at $25 per month. Its Enterprise plans require discussion with the sales team, so be prepared to negotiate.
The Individual plan lets you try the templates and set up forms. Business goes much further, giving you access to its activity log, visualizations and workflow automation. You also get analytics, custom branding and group management, so it is quite the leap up from the Individual offering.
Smartsheet’s Enterprise plan provides even more, with enhanced access control and extra group admin features. The top-tier Premier option gives you premium support and apps, as well as connectors to external services, including Jira, Salesforce and Dynamics.
It offers a 30-day free trial, with no need to add a credit card, so there’s no reason not to give it a try if you’re curious. If you want to sign up at the end of your trial, standard payment options are credit card and PayPal, but you can contact the company to set up wire transfer or ACH payments.
Smartsheet isn’t the cheapest option and has no free plan. It does offer several payment methods, though, and is a good-value product, so we’re giving it a decent score.
If you need a cheaper alternative, have a look at our Basecamp review. Basecamp is free for educators and a great value for large teams.
Smartsheet does well when it comes to certifications. In addition to having a SOC 2 Type 2 certificate, it provides guidance for clients needing to comply with standards. If your business is regulated by the GLBA, FERPA or HIPAA, Smartsheet can help you, which is a unique offering as far as we’re aware.
As for its own security, Smartsheet uses AES 256-bit at-rest encryption and Amazon S3 for file storage. Data is stored at multiple sites, so your data should be safe even if an accident happens.
It complies with the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield. Read this article explaining the GDPR if you are curious to know more about it.
Smartsheet says, though it complies with law enforcement, it limits what it discloses. You can’t ask for more than that. Prying eyes are everywhere, as this article on Snowden and government surveillance shows, so it is good to know that Smartsheet is on your side.
Two-factor authentication isn’t available by default, but you can use the OneLogin integration if you need it.
A login history is available if you want to keep an eye on when people are signing in or check for suspicious activity. Read our cybercrime article for more on what you need to look out for when using the cloud.
Smartsheet has a good attitude toward security and privacy and, in addition to keeping its house in order, offers you assistance in doing the same. As a result, it scores well here.
If you’re interested in learning more about security, take a look at our security, what you need to know piece, which tells you all about the subject.
Smartsheet’s support is based around its Learning Center, which has many videos to help you get to grips with the platform, as well as teach you its more advanced features.
There are also plenty of text-based articles if you prefer to learn that way. They are well written and nicely designed.
There is a busy community, with questions getting answered within a day or so, which is useful to have.
If you want to get in touch with its support team, Smartsheet will try to find you an article to help you first and, if that fails, direct you to its web form.
We sent a test question via its form, but at the time of writing, almost three days later, haven’t received a response. That’s not good. As with its forum, you can’t expect a quick response and may well find yourself waiting for a while if you get stuck.
If you want more hands-on training, Smartsheet gives you plenty of options. You can work with one of its consultants to get set up or attend one of its regular training sessions. It even offers certification for $199.
Smartsheet offers plenty of learning tools, but its support could be improved, so it gets a below average score here.
If you need a service with blisteringly fast support response times, check out Wrike. It’s an excellent service overall, too. Have a look at our Wrike review for more.
Smartsheet is an effective means of managing projects and a surprisingly likable tool to use. It looks plain but entering data is easy and its useful views allow you to plan your projects, and do other things, with a minimum of fuss.
Its spreadsheet-like approach seems vanilla at first, but it has the advantage that everyone is familiar with the basic format, enabling them to enter data quickly. It also does a good job of guiding you with its templates and views into producing something useful.
In short, it does what you would want such a tool to do, and does it well. Our time with Smartsheet was pleasant, with no major bugs or issues stopping us in our tracks. The UI isn’t the prettiest, but it has a good balance of power and usability.
Overall, we’d recommend using Smartsheet. If you’ve tried it and would like to share your opinions with us, please do so in the comments below. Thanks for reading.