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Smartsheet review: Project management for spreadsheet fans

Our Rating :

Smartsheet has taken on the task of breathing new life into spreadsheets as a project management tool but the result is debatable


  • Decent free plan
  • Pro plan good value for small firms


  • User caps lead to expensive plans
  • Interface is often crammed
  • Handles subtasks poorly

Smartsheet is a project management tool that promises to get your organisation back on track with spreadsheets. Using spreadsheets to keep on top of projects feels very 1990s. Is there anything here to tempt us to turn the clock back?

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Smartsheet review: What do you get for the money?

The problems start with Smartsheet’s pricing scheme. Like most of its competitors, it has a free tier that can be used either by small organisations with modest needs or as an extended trial, if the 30-day one included with the paid plans isn’t enough.

The free tier offers almost all the basic functions you’d expect for two projects, including the Gantt chart and even some automations. However, it can only be used by a single user and up to two editors, which in this case are people that can adjust existing tasks but not create new ones – information on how these roles work is scarce.

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Three users is very tight, even for a free plan, so chances are that you’ll need to scale up to a paid plan. The first paid tier is called Pro and costs £5 per user per month. It removes or expands all the caps of the free plan, but you can only have up to ten users.

If you want more you’ll have to upgrade one more time to the Business plan, which costs a very steep £19 per user per month and offers a large number of extra features, though almost all of these are of doubtful utility or aimed at niche use cases. The upshot is that if you’re a generalist organisation with more than 10 users, Smartsheet expects you to pay a boatload of money.

It’s puzzling why you can’t simply add more people on the Pro plan. If that were an option, Smartsheet would be a fantastic budget option for smaller teams. As it stands, the Business plan doesn’t deliver the same oomph as similarly priced plans, such as those offered by Asana or

Smartsheet review: What’s it like to use?

As the name suggests, Smartsheet has spreadsheets at its core. This is actually not as weird as it might seem: until the rise of project-management software, workflow was mainly tracked on spreadsheets. Not willing to break from the past is both blessing and curse, though.

A good example is what Smartsheet calls the grid view, which is a spreadsheet-type list similar to the one offered by It’s extremely well-implemented, with columns that can be quickly added and removed, offering lots of at-a-glance information.

However, the competition has it beat in many ways. For one, and Asana take the spreadsheet ball and run with it, making it much more colourful and dynamic, resulting in a list that’s easier on the eye.

Smartsheet also advertises its Gantt chart pretty hard, and with good reason. Though it’s no Wrike – let alone a dedicated tool such as TeamGantt – it’s much better than the one offered by others, including industry leaders such as Asana.

That said, we’re not huge fans of the way in which Smartsheet handles subtasks, which is an essential part of how a Gantt chart works. Basically, you add a subtask to an existing task, with the subtask dangling awkwardly beneath its parent in the sheet view and the Gantt chart.

This makes it harder to figure out what task belongs where, and since there’s no clear difference between a subtask and a main task (such as colour-coding or even a slightly bigger offset), you’re left to figure out what’s going on. It’s a big weakness, and one that could easily be solved.

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This issue shows up in full force on the kanban board, which Smartsheet for some reason calls the “cards view”. The board mixes the two different types of tasks, so you don’t know which task is which unless you look closely. That’s exactly what you shouldn’t have to do with a kanban board.

Even without the subtask confusion, the kanban board isn’t great. Cards are jammed together and the information on them is very dense, making the whole thing feel even more cramped. It doesn’t help that three columns barely cover one third of the screen; Smartsheet’s designers could have easily given the board more room to breathe.

The final “big” feature is the calendar, which suffers from the same informational overload that Asana and Trello suffer from, with too many tasks crammed in. If you’re looking to get an overview of when tasks are due, you’re probably better off using the Gantt chart.

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Smartsheet review: Are there other useful features?

Smartsheet offers full integration with the Microsoft Office Suite, which might be handy if you’re transferring information from actual Excel spreadsheets! It also comes with a pretty generous storage allotment of 20GB on the Pro plan and 1TB on Business.

Besides that, you can also create custom automations, both within Smartsheet and third-party apps. Like many of its competitors, it caps use of these automations depending on your plan (100 per month for free users and 250 on the Pro plan), but smart use of them will likely keep you under this cap.

READ NEXT: Wrike review

Smartsheet review: Should you sign up?

We find it hard to recommend Smartsheet. While it’s far from bad, other project management tools offer a much richer experience for less. Were the company to remove the user cap on the Pro plan or expand its usability, Smartsheet could be a contender. Until then, the spreadsheets should probably stay in the past.

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