Today I have another productivity app review, and this time I’m going to be exploring ClickUp. This is not sponsored and in fact I haven’t personally used the paid version of ClickUp, but I will talk about what the paid plans offer and why you might want to use them.
What is ClickUp?
When I first heard of this app a few years ago, it was a simple project planning and task management app with a few integrations for convenience. Now, after years of contiuous improvements, they’ve expanded their feature set and gotten more ambitious with their marketing.
ClickUp’s home page declares that it is “one app to replace them all,” and they list tasks, docs, chat, goals, and “more”.
If you start to click through some of their product tabs you can see that it is still mostly a project planning app, but now with a heavy focus on collaboration with features like live whiteboarding sessions, documents, progress reports, and time tracking.
Is it free?
The good news is that most features are available for free. The features that aren’t free are usually related to scaling businesses, which is a common pricing scheme for apps like this. The paid tiers offer things like multiple teams, guest accounts, advanced time tracking, and more detailed dashboards.
One thing is a little odd, though: the concept of “uses” for certain features. I have a totally normal (not weird) fascination with Gantt charts, so that’s always the first thing I look for. They do have a Gantt chart and a Timeline view, but these features both only have 100 “uses” on the free plan.
What does that mean, exactly? What counts as one “use”?
I’m still not sure. The FAQ is a bit vague; It might mean you can make changes on a Gantt chart view 100 times, or that you can create a new Gantt chart view 100 times. It might mean something else that I couldn't guess.
Either way, with 100 of these cryptic "uses", you should still have plenty of time to properly vet these special views to see if they will benefit your process long-term. If you decide they are, and you have the funds, you can upgrade to the next tier up (currently $5 a month per team member) to get unlimited access to them and other premium features.
On the free version you do have unlimited uses of the more basic but perfectly useful views: tables, lists, boards, and the calendar. You can use these free, forever, however you like.
Set Up a new Space in ClickUp
I made my ClickUp account a while ago, when they were earlier in development, so I’m not sure how they guide new users now, but the first thing you’ll need to do is create a Space for your work. After logging in, you can find the New Space button in the sidebar on the left.
As a one-person team, I don’t feel like I need more than one Space, but I could see these being useful for teams who work on multiple projects, or who have multiple disciplines they make tasks for.
When you create a new space, ClickUp walks you through the whole process. You can use a Template, if you like, or build one from scratch. Give the Space a name, color, and icon to identify it in the sidebar. Decide whether it should be part of your company workspace, or private.
Next we come to the status selection. You can change your statuses later, so don’t worry if it’s not quite right. But this is where you can customize ClickUp to match to your personal process, or your company’s process.
If it’s just you, working on things alone, maybe the “Normal” statuses are fine. Some of these are tailored to marketing, with the ability to set tasks “Running” like a campaign. The Scrum template is pretty elaborate, with every Scrum-related status you can think of. You can take any of these template processes and add, remove, rename, rearrange the statuses as you see fit. These statuses should represent the process that your tasks move through from start to finish.
Next up are the ClickApps that will be activated for your Space. These can also be adjusted later. They represent the features that will be available. If you want to keep things simple, remove anything you don’t need. I, for one, have never really used tags effectively, but I am interested in time estimates.
Finally, you can select which views are default and which are required. The List is their base view, so it can’t be turned off, but anything else is up to you.
Planning a Project
Once you have created a space, you can always find it in the sidebar with the color and icon you selected. The List will probably be the one it drops you in first thing, but you can switch your view using the tabs along the top of the screen.
Now you can start actually using Click Up. Type the name of a task right into the list, hit enter to save, and you’ve created a task. The list view is really good for entering many tasks at a time, because you can just keep typing until they’re all in.
If you want to adjust the details of a task, such as adding a due date or description, you can click on the task to open up the detail view. There’s a space for a larger description, attachments, a checklist, comments, and possibly other things if you selected certain ClickApps. For example, I have a space for time estimates in my tasks.
On your list view, you can change how information is displayed by clicking on the little plus icon at the top right. You can show new columns or remove ones that you don’t like.
Clicking over to the Board view using those tabs at the top, we can see the same tasks in a different format. These are in a typical kanban-style board separated by Status.
Clicking on a card on the board opens the same detail view, and you can change the status of a card by dragging it into a different column.
At the top, you can click “+ view” to create a new kind of view. In this way, it kind of feels like a Notion database. You have the same underlying data but you can display it in different ways.
Each view is useful in a unique way. The List is best for entering data quickly and reviewing task information. The Board is best for getting an idea of what the status is on each open task. The Timeline or Gantt chart can be really nice for forecasting deadlines or identifying bottlenecks, especially if you have a team of people.
Advanced Project Planning
You can also create new Lists within a Space. I like to use Lists to separate versions of an app project, but they can be used however it is most useful for you. Anywhere that you have tasks that should be grouped together for some reason, you can use a List to do that.
In the sidebar, you will see your space with the Lists grouped below it. You can select the whole Space to view all the Lists, or you can select a single list if that’s all you want to see.
Once you’re ready to begin working on your tasks, it can be helpful to assign a Due Date and a person to the task (even if you’re the only one), because ClickUp can then populate your Home page with your tasks. If you have tasks assigned to you and they’ve been given a date or time, you will see them on an agenda each day, which can be very convenient.
You can take project management to the next level by using Goals. Here you can define goals for your tasks and then define Targets underneath those goals.
A target might be a number of tasks completed, an amount of currency (income), or just a number that you fill in that represents something that you track in your business. You can assign multiple targets to a goal and then see the progress of them all beneath that goal.
I love the idea behind goals, but I haven’t found a way to work this into my process just yet. I think it could be very useful for people who have external concerns or deadlines and they need to be aware of that high-level progress.
That brings us to the final part of ClickUp I’m going to talk about in this review - the Dashboards. These are pages that you can customize with different metrics. This is where a lot of the business value comes in, so many of the Dashboard widgets are only available on a paid plan.
Some things you can add to a dashboard are:
A list of tasks filtered in some useful way
The status of all tasks in a certain list or space, as a pie chart or bar chart
A plain block of text (perhaps to include a goal or mission statement)
Tasks for each assignee (as a pie chart or bar chart)
Tasks by Priority
These are all free widgets. As you get into the paid tiers you can also add widgets that calculate things, billable time reports, sprint reports for a Scrum-based team, and more.
Each of the widgets can be dragged around and resized when you’re in Editing mode, or viewed in a more simple layout when you toggle over to Viewing mode in the top center of the screen.
Would I Recommend ClickUp?
I really like ClickUp! I use it primarily as a task management app as a one-person software development team. I haven’t used the Whiteboard feature, or saved any Docs, though if you’re interested in a review about those, let me know! I could test them out and report back.
The main draw that ClickUp has for me is that it is pleasant to look at and easy to use. Things are organized, the color scheme is nice, and I can quickly find what I’m looking for. Having used more complicated apps like Jira for my full-time work, ClickUp is a breath of fresh, clean air.
I do get a little frustrated at some of the limitations, specifically around the cryptic “uses” on the free plan, but I understand that ClickUp is a for-profit company and this is their way to encourage paying users while still offering a lot of value for free.
As a whole, I really enjoy using ClickUp and have recommended it for small teams before. ClickUp has made a lot of positive changes to the app in the past few years and continue to grow their feature set and integrations. With their free tier, there’s really no reason you can’t give it a try and see how you like it!