8 min read
Jun 22, 2017

Microsoft Planner vs. Trello vs. Asana: Small-Business Project Collaboration Apps Compared

How does Microsoft Planner shape up against these other visually appealing online project management apps? Below, we'll take a look at Microsoft Planner vs Trello vs Asana to explore how they work, and compare the differences.

Vanessa RombautGuest Author

The recently launched Microsoft Planner is the latest project collaboration tool to hit the market, and if you're an Office 365 subscriber, it's worth a look. With Planner, Microsoft has finally caught up with the ongoing digital trends by offering an intuitive project collaboration tool based on the kanban-management style, popularized by other project collaboration tools such as Trello and Asana.

Microsoft appears to have developed Planner as a tool for those who find Microsoft Project to be too complex, and Excel not complex enough. Many of us have turned to other tools such as Trello or Asana to fill the gap of easy project collaboration and organization.

But how does Microsoft Planner shape up against these other visually-appealing online project management apps? Below, we'll take a look at Microsoft Planner vs Trello vs Asana to explore how they work, and compare the differences.

Microsoft vs Trello vs Asana: how do they match up?

We'll look at some of the core features, functionality, and the user experiences of Microsoft Planner, Trello, and Asana to answer the following questions:

  • Signing up: How easy is it to sign up to the software, and how much will it cost you?

  • Dashboards: What do the project dashboards look like, and how do they work?

  • Setting up your projects: How easy is it to set up projects in Microsoft Planner, Trello, and Asana?

  • Tasks: What does task management look like in these project collaboration apps?

  • Due dates: How can you set deadlines and track projects against a calendar?

  • Collaboration: What features are available for things like conversations, files sharing, and notifications?

Signing up

Microsoft Planner sign-up

In order to access Planner, you'll need to have an Office 365 account (we'll get to that below). Assuming that you have one, simply go through your apps screen by clicking the top-left corner of your Office 365 home page and then the Microsoft Planner button.

Arrow pointing at Microsoft Planner icon screenshot

Planner has a native integration with the Office 365 suite, so you don't have to log in to third-party websites to access your projects. The downside is that it's an enclosed system. If you're going to be adding team members (and we advise that you do- after all, this is a collaboration tool), they will also need to have an Office 365 account. They will receive an invitation via Outlook to collaborate on "plans" that you add them to.

Trello sign-up

Trello doesn't require you to pay for a subscription to access the app. You can simply sign up for a free account, either through Google, or with your email. Trello's free account is most interesting for small businesses, but if you are a part of a larger corporation, one of the paid accounts is likely more suitable.

Trello offers two paid pricing plansBusiness Class is $9.99 per user per month, and is suitable for up to 100 users, while the Enterprise plan is $20.83 per user per month and is suitable for businesses with more than 100 users. Each plan includes features such as more integrations, file attachments of up to 250MB, privacy and security controls, and priority support.

You can add members to a Trello board, even if they don't have a Trello account, by sending them an invitation.

Asana sign-up

Asana has a limited free plan for teams of up to 15 people. It includes some basic features such as unlimited tasks, projects, and conversations. The next tier, the Premium plan, costs $9.99 per user per month and includes more features such as unlimited dashboards and admin controls. Asana offers a handy pricing calculator which tells you exactly how much it'll cost your business to upgrade your team.

There are many useful integrations for both Trello and Asana, and both have public APIs to help you integrate them into your software stack. Microsoft Planner doesn't have native integrations, but you can use the Office 365 API to sync the project management solution with your other apps.


The Microsoft Planner dashboard

Microsoft Planner has a sober, minimalist design that fits any business or enterprise. It's great for those who just want the tool to do what it should, rather than wow with quirky features and a rad design.

Microsoft Planner dashboard screenshot

The Dashboard in Planner gives you an overview of all of your favorite plans, including the status of tasks.

The Trello dashboard

Trello's dashboard gives you a basic overview of your boards, with your favorites at the top. Unfortunately, there's no task overview unless you have a paid account.

Trello dashboard screenshot

The Asana dashboard

Like Microsoft Planner, Asana's dashboard gives you a quick overview of all of your projects, including the status of tasks.

Asana dashboard screenshot

Setting up your projects

Project creation in Microsoft Planner

To create a new project in Microsoft Planner, you create a "plan" and give it a project title, for example "Content Calendar."

Microsoft Planner project creation screenshot

You can then create an email address for the plan, which links to conversation threads about it in Outlook (more on this later), make the plan public or private, and add a description. You can also add team members by dragging and dropping their icons into the plan.

"Plans" essentially act as a corkboard and represents the broader project you'll be working on. Pinned to the plans are to-do lists, or "buckets", as they are known in Microsoft Planner.

Microsoft Planner plans board screenshot

Project creation in Trello

Trello works with "boards" too, and it's pretty much the same deal to set them up as in Microsoft Planner. The difference is that you can't add a description or create an email address for the board. You can add team members to the board by typing their name and sending them an email.

Project creation in Asana

Creating a "project" in Asana is super easy- simply click the '+' next to 'Projects' in the menu on the Dashboard. Again, you can add team members by typing in their names and sending them an email. You can then decide it the project is for a team or kept private.

Asana new project creation screenshot

Like "Plans" and "Boards", "Projects" act as a corkboard on which you pin your "Lists".


Tasks in Microsoft Planner

In all three apps, tasks allow you to become granular with projects.

In Planner, you can create tasks to pin to the buckets and assign who will be completing these tasks. You can see the status of the tasks as "in progress", "late", or "completed". What's really cool is that you can drag and drop your team members' icons into the task to assign them.

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