ClickUp: Project management software review

Image: ClickUp

Only five years after its founding, ClickUp already ranks among the top project management tools. The cloud-based platform offers extensive import options, a clean user interface, and a stack of advanced features to enable productivity and collaboration. Like other top PM tools, ClickUp has something every team can appreciate with a multitude of use cases across industries.

SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (TechRepublic Premium)

Review methodology

This review is based on my personal experience registering, configuring, and executing a project in ClickUp. The sample project I built in the tool is a three-month application development timeline with six sprints and over 20 core tasks.

Below is the sample project (Figure A). The columns listed include task name, start and end dates, assigned contact, status, duration, completion percentage, and notes. Meanwhile, rows organize sprint tasks and subtasks into sprints. Two sprints contain multiple subtasks.

Figure A

To add additional context, I familiarized myself with ClickUp’s product documentation, demos, industry reviews and recognition and a comparative analysis with alternative software applications. I ran the free edition of ClickUp to test this tool.

ClickUp alternatives & competitors

*in alphabetical order

What is ClickUp?

ClickUp is a cloud-based project management, productivity, and collaboration platform for a range of team sizes and functions.

Started in 2017, ClickUp is already an industry-recognized name in the PM tools marketplace and boasts a user base of more than 800,000 teams. The San Diego, California-based startup offers a full stack of collaboration tools to enable team productivity. ClickUp’s quick success was most recently validated by a Series C round of funding worth $400 million in October 2021, bringing the total to $538 raised to develop the PM platform.

All subscription plans for ClickUp offer access to some level of the platform’s features including different views of project data, customized and collaborative workspaces, and critical tracking for visibility into project details and stakeholders.

Figure B

Image: ClickUp.

ClickUp overview

ClickUp is a cloud-based software available as a free trial, free plan, or premium SaaS subscription for teams. ClickUp is available via web browser, desktop application, or a mobile application through the Apple and Google Play stores for iOS and Android devices.

Start with the ClickUp desktop or mobile application

New users can create an account by submitting their email, full name, and password on the homepage’s “Sign Up” button (Figure C). After verifying the secret code sent to the email, users will be asked to:

  1. Name and customize your workspace
  2. Select reason for using ClickUp to get recommended templates.
  3. Estimate team size and send invites to the workspace.
  4. Select integrations from a group of 13 applications.
  5. Import tasks from Excel, CSV, or other PM tools.

Figure C

Users can choose between more than a dozen apps to integrate in their space. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

After making these initial selections, users are redirected to a window to choose a ClickUp setup (Figure D). As seen below, teams can limit the number of advanced features users start with, which can be helpful for avoiding the common overwhelmed feeling experienced by new PM tool users. Since I look to take full advantage of ClickUp’s features, I chose the Advanced setup.

Figure D

Choose a setup option to experience ClickUp’s capabilities at the user’s pace. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

Upon selection, users arrive at their default space view (Figure E) with a continued onboarding guide on the bottom left to start their workspace with tasks, additional spaces, custom fields, and team member invitations. As selected in the onboarding engine, I have quick access to three applications in the bottom right corner: Slack, Zoom, and GitHub.

While the onboarding guide is helpful for teams starting a new project from scratch, I skipped the remaining steps to move on to importing an existing project.

Figure E

The first look at a new space asks the user to get started. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

 

ClickUp features, models and workflows

Import existing project data

Teams can manually input project data or import data via an Excel or CSV file, or choose from seven different PM tools. While the top PM tools all offer a few import options, ClickUp leads the pack providing a list of choices for importing existing project data. For teams currently using one of the listed PM tools, ClickUp certainly makes it easy to change vendors by making the switch from one tool to another an efficient transition.

From the post-onboarding user space, I selected the bottom-left button labeled “Excel & CSV” to jump to the Import/Export tab of the user’s account menu (Figure F).

Figure F

Import existing project data through other PM tools, Excel, or a CSV file. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

Upon confirming my choice of import, I uploaded the project data from the Google Sheets file (Figure A), and proceeded with ClickUp’s import process.

Users will first select the row for column headers, followed by a longer step to match project data with the platform’s set field values. I moved through each column with the option to confirm or ignore the potential match, or create a custom field.

In Figure G, I confirmed columns E (Assigned To), F (Status), and I (Notes), while columns G (Duration), H (% Complete), and J (Project Manager) require action. Columns G and H both show Duration and % Complete match field values within ClickUp and only need a click of “Confirm mapping” to add them to the project space. At image bottom, column J (Project Manager) does not automatically match a field. This is an easy fix by creating a custom field.

Relative to other import engines, I was impressed that the ClickUp import engine could create new fields when columns failed to match, leaving me optimistic all existing data would make it to the platform project.

Figure G

Users can match spreadsheet column values with ClickUp field values and create new fields during the import process. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

Mapping fields was the first step of five; the second step has users select where to import the data, whether columns are separated by delimiters, and the date format. The third step comes back to the custom fields users created in the first step when fields didn’t automatically match.

To ensure these column values transfer and align with ClickUp’s project parameters, users must select the type of data of these custom columns. I selected the appropriate data type for column values from the list of options seen in Figure H, like placing the Duration data type as a number.

For teams managing a multitude of data types, this list may seem short. Sadly, the “Custom Fields library” only offered one additional option, which might be because I’ve yet to build custom fields within the space just yet. For the % Complete column, I would’ve liked a percentage option, which typically comes alongside choices like a currency option.

Figure H

Map any custom fields to ensure proper import into ClickUp data. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

The fourth step (User Mapping) reconciles users listed in the Excel file against existing ClickUp users. The import manager has the option of selecting a user, sending an invite, or not importing users. As I’m setting this project up before other teammates join, no assignee names will import.

Finally, the last step (Status Mapping) is determining whether imported “Status” values like Complete, In Progress, and Not Started map as open, closed, or a new status based on the imported text. Since I’m unsure what open and closed means just yet, I chose to create a new status based on original spreadsheet values.

With that, the import process is in progress! ClickUp allows users to wait for an email or check the status from the platform, however, it took my project probably 30 seconds before completion.

Viewing and managing project data

The ClickUp platform includes several ways to view, modify, and analyze project data. These options include a familiar List, Kanban-style Board, Calendar, Gantt chart, and a Timeline.

List view: Getting to know the platform

ClickUp’s List view is the default perspective when entering an imported project with the option to filter and group tasks by different conditions. In Figure I, my imported project tasks are grouped by status, and I closed the sections for tasks designated “Not Started” and “Project Sprints.”

Note: My original spreadsheet had rows, labeled as “Project Sprints,” to divide tasks and list the sprint start and end dates. In this format, they aren’t necessary. As all tasks sit together divided by condition, users can delete these “tasks” and add a label to tasks for sprints as “Sprint 1, Sprint 2, Sprint 3…”

Figure I

The default List view splits tasks into sections based on a condition. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

For spreadsheet users, the first glance of tasks divided into different groups rather than an orderly list can be intimidating, however, this is an easy fix by changing the “Group by:” condition to None.

Once I had my familiar view, I wanted to test ClickUp’s ability to manage task data, including creating subtasks (Figure J). I found configuring rows intuitive, as I could drag-and-drop tasks under their given sprint, but even better—select multiple tasks and mass designate them as subtasks.

Figure J

The List view when filtered by “None” is similar to the original spreadsheet. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.
Conducting bulk operations on tasks

On the left-hand side of tasks (Figure K), an empty circle will appear on hovering allowing users to select the given row. Selecting a row triggers the black banner menu seen at screen top with the number of rows selected and 17 choices to conduct bulk operations.

Among the top PM platforms, ClickUp’s options to modify project data is one of the most substantial levels of configurability I’ve seen. When selected, users can choose from a number of actions, including

  • Set assignees, status, and tags
  • Merge or link tasks
  • Set dates, milestones, and priorities
  • Share tasks
  • Build dependencies
Single operations on tasks

On the right-hand side of tasks (Figure K), three dots appear on hovering over tasks which opens a menu for configuring individual rows. There’s some overlap between what the top black banner and in-List menu can do, with additional options to rename or favorite the task, send emails to the task, or copy the task link to share with stakeholders.

Subtasks: Note of caution

While I initially made subtasks (as described above) to replicate the view most familiar to me and my original Google Sheet (Figure A), I undid this after seeing its impact on other views. Instead of showing each individual task when changing to List views grouped by other conditions and the Board view, all subtasks were conjoined with the sprint as a single task.

Luckily, this wasn’t difficult to undo as I went back to the “Group by: None” view, selected all subtasks (sitting under parent sprint rows), and via the row menu choose “Convert to task”.

Board view: Kanban-style cards and lanes

For Agile teams and more that prefer Kanban-style systems, ClickUp’s Board view allows users to drag-and-drop cards vertically (within a lane) and horizontally (between lanes) to show progress or priority on tasks. The popular default view splits lanes by task status, however, teammates can filter or rearrange lanes by assignee, priority, tags, deadline, custom field, and more.

As seen below, the default lanes aren’t positioned in the ideal order, such as the “Not Started” column sitting to the right of Complete and In Progress columns. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a clear way to move lanes, and I didn’t see the option within the List view either. As the current order doesn’t make sense, this was disappointing in an otherwise positive user experience.

Figure K

The Board view separates tasks into lanes for Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

Gantt, Calendar, and Timeline views

The Gantt chart, Calendar, and Timeline view options should satisfy any user’s appetite for visualizing tasks against dates and durations of times. The Calendar (Figure L) especially stood out to me because multiple other PM tools often only mark start and end dates and fail to capture the duration between tasks featured below.

Figure L

The Calendar view shows tasks over a standard calendar. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

Other ClickUp features

From the top of a space, users have access to the views and additional tools applicable to the project. Those additional views and tools include:

  • Table view: Most similar to a classic spreadsheet with numbered rows.
  • Box view: Boxes representing each assignee, tasks, and workload details.
  • Mind Map: A graphic visual representation of task hierarchies.
  • Workload view: A table of assignees and tasks per day for workload management.
  • Activity view: All changes made to project data for team visibility.
  • Map view: Add and edit a Google map for project use.
  • Doc view: Create, save, and collaborate on team documents.
  • Form view: Create a custom form to streamline intake and collect data.
  • Embed view: Choose and insert third-party application data into ClickUp.

ClickApps: Granular control over features

At the top of every space, users can select the robot head to add an automation or jump to customize options for templates, custom field, status, and ClickApps. ClickApps (Figure M) is also available from the administrator menu seen in the import process, and is every teams’ gateway to exploring platform tools.

Figure M

Enable and disable platform features for an optimal project experience. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

As seen above, the first several features are enabled automatically including the Automations library, screen recordings, collaborative editing, comment reactions, and custom fields. Other capabilities listed include marking milestones, assigning a task to multiple people, sprint creation, tags, and threaded comments.

The list goes on, but what’s evident from ClickApps is the user and team’s ability to curate their experience using the ClickUp platform. Other PM platforms offer similar configurability, but I’ve yet to see this breakdown of specific tools that are more or less pertinent to different teams.

Of note, the features not automatically enabled included defaulting all new view to private, emailing within ClickUp, up to 7 levels of nested subtasks, and previews for Office 365 files.

Security: Safeguard access and data integrity

Also from the administrator menu, teams would be wise to enable two-factor authentication (2FA), single sign-on (SSO), and session limitations. While 2FA and SSO are common features, the ability to manage sessions is unique.

Administrators can choose how promptly to require 2FA for team members, meanwhile for SSO, they can choose to go with Google, or Microsoft, Okta, and SAML for Enterprise clients. Session management is similarly limited to enterprise plans, but gives administrators the ability to set sessions to expire after a duration of time or idle timeout.

Dashboards: Track project metrics

Breaking down and analyzing project data is one of the most important features a PM tool can offer, and I was impressed with ClickUp’s range of options. On first glance, users can create standard, reporting, and time tracking dashboards via templates or choose to Start from Scratch. The latter is a tad deceiving as it opens an extensive list of widgets.

Figure N

Create multiple dashboards with ClickUp templates. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.
Widgets

ClickUp offers a stack of widgets to display on Dashboards based on project data points. The widgets menu (Figure O) offers plenty to consider ranging across metrics for priorities, assignees, time tracking, and embedded tools.

Figure O

Choose from a list of widgets to track, visualize, and enable collaboration for teams on Dashboards. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

Embed view: Coming full circle

The option to embed different third-party data is another feature offered by ClickUp, and can be incredibly convenient for consolidating data onto the platform for teams. Users can try to embed anything, or choose from Google Workspace apps like Sheets, Docs, Calendar, Maps, and YouTube.

Figure P is a look at the Google Sheets tab I created on the ClickUp platform. With the same project template I imported into the space, I was able to add a view of the sheet data. With the exact same interface used in Google Sheets (except the menu on top), it can be difficult to tell which app you’re in.

Note: This is not a copy of embedded files, any changes made to the file within ClickUp are also reflected within the Google Workplace application and vice-versa.

Figure P

Embed a file and modify third-party files inside the ClickUp platform. Image: Sam Ingalls/TechRepublic.

ClickUp clients and use cases

ClickUp is a general-use project management platform providing capabilities designed for an array of different functions and teams. Through working with over 800,000 teams, ClickUp’s core solutions, use cases, and clients include:

Engineering teams and use cases

  • Automate sprint workflows including points, unfinished tasks, and issue tracking.
  • Integrate with critical engineering tools Zapier, Zendesk, GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket.
  • Agile templates for bug queues, product briefs, roadmaps, and release notes.

Product teams and use cases

  • Build product roadmaps with over ten customizable views to visualize data.
  • Streamline bug tracking and response data with ClickUp’s Forms.
  • Team management, documents, communication, time tracking, and guest collaborators.

Marketing teams and use cases

  • Map marketing timelines, align goals, and collaborate on a central console.
  • Proof, markup, and approve files, and customize forms and requests for data collection.
  • Templates for content calendar, A/B testing, campaign tracking, promotions, and SEO.

Design teams and use cases

  • Proof and annotate files, share attachments, and invite guests for projects.
  • Embed projects with design tools Figma and Invision within the ClickUp platform.
  • Templates for clothing, web pages, architectural, interior, and graphic design.

Human resources teams and use cases

  • Create a central location for company documents, handbooks, and policies.
  • Website forms, application tracking, and score cards for employee candidates.
  • Create templates with custom onboarding tasks for new employees and training.

Operations teams and use cases

  • Manage teams with inventory, payroll, calendar management, and routine tasks.
  • Document processes for everything and create a dashboard to see all operations.
  • Delegate tasks and communicate with team members on project details.

ClickUp Pricing

Pricing Plan Cost Use Case
Free Free Best for personal use
Unlimited $5/month per member Best for small teams
Business $12/month per member Best for mid-sized teams
Business Plus $19/month per member Best for multiple teams
Enterprise Contact ClickUp Best for many large teams

Pros & cons of ClickUp

ClickUp advantages and benefits

  • Five different plans to meet different user, team, and feature needs.
  • Extensive import option for existing project data from other PM tools, Excel, or CSV files.
  • Intuitive user interface for onboarding new users, including spreadsheet users.
  • Substantial options to view, modify, and analyze project data.
  • Access to over 1,000 integrations for storage, developers, business suites

ClickUp disadvantages

  • Onboarding and training required for maximizing business plans.
  • Lagging when switching between projects views or opening sections containing tasks.
  • I struggled to move sections of tasks within a space, notably the Kanban board lanes.
  • No free trials for plans past the first paid tier; payment required to upgrade.
  • Repeated banner message at top saying “Your import is in progress!” long after import.

Conclusion

  • Newer platform but just as powerful as the top project management tools.
  • Robust management capabilities for configuring UX, integrations, and workflows.
  • Affordable range of plans and features for different sized teams and functions.

After reviewing ClickUp, I was thoroughly impressed with its extent of features and the flexibility and configurability for teams to use the platform to fit their objectives and workflows. As a general project management tool, its feature set expands to all teams as well as niche use cases for software development teams or HR departments.

ClickUp has one of the widest range of plans with a free edition, three priced editions, and a quoted enterprise plan. Together, the company’s subscriptions sit in the middle between the most expensive enterprise vendors like Smartsheet and cheaper alternatives like Zoho Projects.

While I knew ClickUp was a reputable PM platform, no one prepared me for how intuitive and powerful it really is.

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