activeCollab project management

UPDATE 11/18: activeCollab is no longer offered as a free project management collaboration download.

Manage this, organize that. I believe I’ve just found the free answer to my question: “How am I going to keep myself from being pulled in all directions?” Having a fair amount of experience with both Basecamp and Tasks Pro for organizing items of importance and projects, I am truly impressed by the activeCollab package.

activeCollab Dashboard interface

Eli tipped me off to a great project management and collaboration tool known as activeCollab. Built as an open source alternative to the much respected Basecamp service, activeCollab offers project managers a complete platform from which to manage projects and respective clients through a centralized interface. Follow along as I break down some of the features of activeCollab and decide whether an open source option is suitable for your own work flow.

Download & Installation

Installation is a breeze assuming you know your way around your hosting administrative panel. After downloading the activeCollab package, unzip and take a few minutes to read through the included readme which outlines the gist of the procedure: upload, follow the installer script instructions, enter your database information, and complete. Total installation time: 5 minutes.

Project Management & Organization

activeCollab project users

activeCollab is very much as feature rich as Basecamp. Here’s the quick run through of what features administrators have concerning project management.

  • Unlimited project creation and management.
  • Overview: Parent view of current tasks, upcoming milestones, and messages.
  • Messages: Post and interact via messages between clients and sub users [includes email notifications].
  • Tasks: Create a task list and mark items as completed. Assign tasks to specific group members if working on a multi user project.
  • Milestones: Very similar to Basecamp milestones allowing project members to create long term project goals.
  • Documents: Upload, tag, and share documents with an option to keep private for certain members.
  • Tags: View a tagcloud of active tasks, milestones, and documents. Very helpful view for locating related tasks and documents.
  • Forms: Unique feature allowing project admins to create forms for members to fill. Create forms as a means to track progress or concerns e.g. is the project on track, etc.
  • People: View active members assigned to a particular project.
  • Create client profiles with sub user accounts. Each user account can be assigned unique permissions controlling the amount of operability each individual has editing projects.

Do have a better understanding of what activeCollab can and can’t do when placed side-by-side with Basecamp, check out Eli’s comparison of the two project managers.

Open source, open options

I can not stress the beauty of the fact that activeCollab is open source. Along with the publicly available code comes an unlimited number of options creating a custom project manager for personal use. Keep an eye on the active development and take a peak inside the activeCollab forums. Download your own copy [assuming your server meets the PHP5 requirement] and tweak your own install of activeCollab.

Discuss - 26 Comments

  1. Cleyton says:

    While I like activeCollab, I still prefer Its all about reliability. I can’t afford to have my site go down, and can’t afford the servers to provide that kind of reliability. That is where the hosted services like onstage and basecamp have an advantage. They can take advantage of economies of scale. That may not be as important to everyone though.

  2. In case activeCollab doesn’t meet your reader’s needs, there are many other alternatives. I’ve compiled quite a list of them at my Basecamp bitch site, some of which are open-source, at:

    Hope this helps others find a good project management solution that meets their needs.

  3. julian says:

    People have very different needs so you’ll never find ‘THE’ perfect soluton. All these solution will be of value to some people and not to others. Another tool to look at, more at the AtTask level is

  4. kermie says:

    I thought I’d point out that there is a free, open source fork of ActiveCollab called ProjectPier (, 2 versions have already been released fixng bugs and adding features to the original aC

  5. katie says:

    I used Basecamp for a long time. Then I switched to and didn’t look back. Now they even have a tool to import your data from Basecamp. Plus a couple of my clients still use IE6 and it seams that Basecamp doesn’t support it anymore…

    I’m mostly impressed by 5pm interface – those guys really did design an unique UI. Takes me less clicks to do stuff. As a designer I can appreciate such an advanced usability.

  6. Unfortunately, activeCollab is no longer free for some time now:(
    Still great interface, although some ajax in the interface would make the life easier for so many users…