Basecamp, activeCollab, and Goplan compared

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

From the design, development, and product strategy company Webreakstuff comes a new contender in online project management and collaboration known as Goplan. In its newly released form, how does it stack-up against Basecamp & ActiveCollab?

Basic project packages compared

Service Price (per month)
Basecamp (Basic) $24
Goplan (Startup) $20
activeCollab $199+

All three services [at the basic level] provide support for unlimited users and a number of additional features provided to improve productivity.

Features Basecamp Goplan activeCollab
# Projects 15 30 unlimited
Ad-Free yes yes yes
Notes yes yes yes
Blog no yes no
Bug Tracking no yes no
Task Management yes yes yes
Security no 256/SSL n/a
Calendar yes yes yes
Real-time Chat yes yes no
Permissions yes yes yes
Storage 400MB 500MB unlimited

Registration & setup

Goplan registration, click for full-size

Goplan – Simple registration requirements for quick & easy project creation.

In order to leverage any one of these services for team projects, the usual registration hoops are required. Goplan and Basecamp both provide very simple registration interfaces while activeCollab requires a little more work. It is important to note that Basecamp & Goplan are paid-for hosted solutions. In comparison, activeCollab is a self-hosted solution requiring actual server setup and database creation.

Although the challenge of the activeCollab installation is on the same level of preparing WordPress, anyone hesitant to meddle with their own servers may want to discontinue the idea of utilizing activeCollab (PHP5 required).

Creating projects

Registration requirements varied from service-to-service, each addressed the task of creating your first project with even more variance.

Basecamp Create Thumb Goplan Create Thumb activeCollab Create Thumb

Basecamp, Goplan, and activeCollab – varying requirements for creating your first project.

Noticeable differences between each three:

  • Basecamp: Requires a Project Name and provides the additional option of adding an existing or creating a new company. By default, all of the default features offered by Basecamp are accessibly – Messages, To-do’s, Milestones, Writeboards, Chat, and File [management].
  • Goplan: Goplan addresses the task a little differently requiring a Project Name, Alias (goplan.org/alias), Description, and Timezone. Afterwards, specific features can be enabled or disabled – Notes, Task Management, Calendar, Public weblog (perfect for startups wishing to create a following), Tickets, File Management, and Chat. The option of adding Project users / members is available immediately after a project is created.
  • ActiveCollab: Very basic in comparison to the previous two. Requiring little else other than a Project Name, standard features are enabled by default – Messages, Tasks, Milestones, Files, Tags, Forms (polling users are project status), and People (managing users and permissions). The option of adding Project users / members is available immediately after a project is created by visiting People after a project is created.

Goplan’s option of enabling or disabling specific features is a fantastic option which allows project administrators to create less overwhelming interfaces for clients. Sometimes, less is more as I have noticed while using Basecamp. Very often, clients are only interested in the basics of Messages or Milestones. By eliminating some of the features during the initial setup, the end resulting interface can be a little easier to navigate (re-enable disabled Goplan features is available by visiting Project Settings).

Adding companies & users

Project Management solutions often serve double-time as an online Rolodex for clients & companies. Basecamp, Goplan, and activeCollab each provide the functionality to serve as contact managers. Each application treats contacts differently. Basecamp functions on the premise that every contact belongs to a specific "company" (global), Goplan operates on the idea of users / members on a per project basis (individual), and activeCollab somewhere in the middle.

Basecamp user Thumb Goplan user Thumb activeCollab user Thumb

Adding clients or team members should not require you to leave your current project.

Of the three services, the most logical and sensible method of maintaining a usable contact database is that foundn in Basecamp. Although the other two offer basic contact management on a per project basis, none allow contacts to be accessed from multiple projects without jumping through navigation hoops. For example, while activeCollab, administrators would need to leave the Project Dashboard and enter the Administrative Panel > Clients > Add Clients. Compare this to Basecamp or Goplan which allow for adding clients or members from within the Project Dashboard.

Client interaction

All three services provide the basic tools which promote developer & client interaction. Whether through forum style messages, focused to-do lists, milestones (coerced motivation to hit deadlines), or live messaging, none of these services leave any room for excuses.

Medium thumbnail of Goplan chat room

Goplan AJAX chat room provides log preview and room management but no file uploading like 37signals Basecamp Campfire.

One advantage of utilizing Basecamp or Goplan over activeCollab is the added benefit of live "chat" rooms. Basecamp relies on the powerful Campfire which not only provides a secure web based chat room, but also provides an archived view and file uploading integration associated with your Basecamp file manager. Goplan, while fairly new, provides similar functionality with their own web based chat room.

File management

Basecamp & Goplan rely on Amazon’s S3 (Scalable Storage Service) for their back-end with file upload limits governed by your current subscription. For the basic plans compared in this write-up, Basecamp offers 400MB and Goplan 500MB. Because activeCollab is a self-hosted alternative, file uploads are only limited by your server space.

Note that Basecamp does allow users to point their Basecamp file manager to a personal server which would essentially remove any limitation from uploads.

  • Basecamp: Files served by Amazon S3. Option to redirect uploads to a personal server removing the subscription governed file upload limitation. Support for updating (revisions) of uploaded files.
  • Goplan: Files served by Amazon S3. Subscription limited file uploads. No support for redirecting uploads to a personal server. No option to upload revisions [at this time].
  • ActiveCollab: Self-hosted translating into file upload limitations governed by your personal server space.

Subscription Costs

With the exception of activeCollab, Basecamp and Goplan require subscriptions billed monthly. Basecamp bills subscriptions on all major credit cards – Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc – while Goplan bills accounts through PayPal Subscriptions.

Conclusion

For individuals looking to manage projects without spending a small amount on monthly subscription costs, the less polished activeCollab application does provides the basics for managing and interacting with clients.

On the flip-side, anyone who is willing to part with a small amount through a monthly subscription recouped in an hour or less of work, definitely give Basecamp or Goplan a try. With Goplan’s recent public launch with features sure to give Basecamp a solid run, users now have more options. Which service will work for you? Give each of them a solid run-through and decide for yourself. Will you side with the proverbial favorite from 37signals – Basecamp? Or, will your business be better served by Webreakstuff’s Goplan?

On a personal note concerning the three services, I’ve moved all currently open [and plan for future] projects to be managed by Webreakstuff’s Goplan. Was this helpful? [Digg it]

Discuss - 149 Comments

  1. Silvia says:

    Yes this is surely a very long thread…I have tested a lot of this tool and one of the best was http://www.twproject.com/. it’s a web 2.0 software with a lot of functionality like edit a la Gantt , issue tracking ,time tracking ,agenda, and a very user friendly interface.On the website you can immediatly download a free trial version and test it.
    I have tried it and I purpose to buy it…anyone has alredy used it?

  2. Rob says:

    I’ve been testing OpenGoo – http://opengoo.org – it’s fairly new, but the interface is very nice. It’s open source, self-hosted.

    The workspace concept they are using to group things seems pretty slick.

  3. Gideon says:

    I’ve been using Project Pier. Uses the same source code as active collab but….it’s actually free.
    http://www.projectpier.org has some pretty themes aswell ;)

    Gideon

    • Derek says:

      I’m confused. ActiveCollab has gone commercial meaning the code is no longer open source. How is Project Pier able to use the same source code?

    • paulm says:

      projectpier was forked when they were deciding to make AC commercial, the original code was released under an OS licence and its that they forked and not the later commercial code. Although I think AC is also built on the original OS code too, which they are perfectly allowed to do.

      Project pier development is a bit slow for an OS project, it needs to do more regular release cycles I think. But its looking positive!

    • The Dave says:

      Project Pier is using the old code base for active collab (pre 1.0). Since early 2008, the active application is significantly changed, extensible and no longer “free”. The versions prior to 1.0 are still open source, hence project pier.

  4. Chralle says:

    My vote goes for goplan. Fantastic interface and really nice features.

  5. John says:

    Nice comparison. Another alternative to check out is Intervals, which provides a little more heft than these three and is ideal for smaller teams.

  6. Steve says:

    You can also try Manymoon, it’s free:

    http://www.manymoon.com

    With Manymoon you can:
    * Managed private and shared To Do Lists and Projects.
    * Upload documents and add them to tasks and projects.
    * Integrate with Google Docs and Google Calendar.
    * Automatically convert emails into tasks.
    * Twitter-like feature to let people know what you are working on.

  7. The Dave says:

    One important point that was overlooked: If you are in a critical/ sensitive government or corporate environment, a hosted solution (basecamp or goplan) will likely NOT be an option.

    In this respect, an internalized infrastructure solution like ActiveCollab, is really the only option.

    I love actually what you can do with the other tools. Basecamp and Goplan appear as leaders in both “slick” design and U.I. envy.

    That all said, there is just no way to justify placing sensitive competitive analysis files and product strategy discussions, on a server you do not own (and thus have locked down tighter than a 400 hp Norwegian band-saw).

    Cheers

  8. Hey Guys, our app Teamwork Project Manager is definitely a worthy contenter to GoPlan, 5PM and Basecamp. We are getting a lot of very positive and I feel we should at least be mentioned. Please just for yourself at http://www.teamworkpm.net. Cheers!

  9. We use Remindo. We have tried basecamp, goplan and zoho. The simplicity and highly relevant features of Remindo makes sure that my colleagues keep posting everything on one forum.

    you can check it out here : http://www.remindo.com

  10. Thomas P says:

    Hey Guys, no mention of http://www.copperproject.com ? For those in the know Copper is the go to product in this category.

  11. Ruth says:

    I’ve been using http://www.WizeHive.com for collaboration and project management and it’s been great – very flexible to set up different projects in different ways. Fantastic task management tools, even send updates via Twitter, email, mobile devices, browser or desktop client. Very easy to set up each clients’ project in a separate workspace and then keep track of everything on one global tab. highly recommend!

  12. KT says:

    Anyone had any experience with either Central Desktop or Workspace.com that you would care to share? We’re a small company looking for meeting space less expensive than GTM, project planning, requirements, doc storage, revision tracking, testing, defect tracking. Thanks!

    • Jay says:

      Hi KT,

      I have used Central Desktop and it is definitely better than workspace, it is easier to use by far. Other similar apps to Central desktop would be Basecamp and Huddle, all of which offer free trials so your best bet would be to try them out and see which one feels right for you. It’s an important decision and you will want to try before you buy!

  13. Jenna says:

    We started to use http://www.wikicards.net recently, it’s free and the usability is more efficient that most of the form based tool for bug tracking and other intranet requirements.

  14. Tony Mobily says:

    Hi,

    I am very biased… Apollo is just coming out of beta: http://www.apollohq.com and we are very proud of it!
    It does project management _and_ CRM with cases&deals, timers, powerful shareable calendars… in a neat, Apple-like AJAX interface.

    Give it a go!

    Merc.

  15. John says:

    These posting is truly contain huge amount of information on project management tools. I think it would be more effective for all http://www.teamplifier.com

  16. Lucy says:

    We’ve been using http://www.dooster.net for a couple of months and it’s good too. In fact Dooster’s more than that. It has changed our way of doing things in the office and the boss is very pleased which makes life easier too. Wasn’t keen to try anything new at first but Dooster has been a great success so I’d recommend.

  17. JoeMike says:

    I didn’t knew goplan before until I’ve found this blog. Basing from the features mentioned above, I think goplan would be the best among the 3. I will have to try that soon.

  18. Sandy says:

    Our company had been keen on getting Basecamp but as we didn’t grow last year as much as projected and as we are small/medium sized we found Dooster.net seemed to fit the bill just as well so we got it and haven’t looked back. So far we’re loving it.

  19. DG says:

    I need Invoice and billing supporting PM tool, any suggestion?

  20. @DG – checkout http://www.startmission.com if you’re looking for something that functions similar to basecamp but with the ability to do billing.

    I really like basecamp because it’s easy to use, but the problem is that it doesn’t support invoicing/billing right off the bat.