Asana

Productivity enthusiasts love Asana—and for good reason. It’s a collaborative tool that helps teams track work, from tasks to workflows to even some types of projects. Don’t confuse it for a full-scale project management platform, however, because it doesn’t have resource management tools, budgeting and expense tracking, or other features you might expect in that type of app. Yet Asana is one of the best apps for managing tasks, workflows, and certain kinds of projects. In recent years, it’s added more structure and templates for teams that want more guidance in setting up and using the app. It’s flexible, elegant, and can bend to your will. Because Asana is one of the best apps for collaboration and productivity, it’s an Editors’ Choice winner.

Asana doesn’t easily compare to other collaboration and work management apps. Still, if you were evaluating it as a tool, you might also consider Basecamp, Airtable, Wrike, and a few other apps. Deciding among these tools is less a question of which one is best and more about which one is best for handling the particular type of work you have and all the steps or workflow it goes through.

Asana interfaceAsana’s Guide for help, which includes webinars, tutorials, and more.

Asana project overviewOKRs out of a disconnected spreadsheet or app and into the context of work management where it’s easier to understand how individual tasks contribute toward a goal.

Other fairly new features include a custom rules builder for building automations; changes to the List View that make it easier to work with; and updates to the Admin Console that give managers quick insights into which team members have been most active or influential on moving work along.

Workload and Portfolios (for Business and Enterprise accounts only) are also somewhat new features. Portfolios are similar to dashboards in that they provide quick stats and progress updates to people who need a bird’s eye view of some set of work. Workload is another view designed for high-level team members, namely managers. It helps them see the distribution of work to keep workloads balanced.

Asana new project blankAsana’s templates as a starting point, make your own template, or get going from scratch.

Asana’s Apps and User Experience

Asana is available on the web and as an Android app and an iOS app. There are no desktop apps. Asana’s web interface is efficient and responsive, with enough color and design flair to keep it interesting and useful without looking too cluttered. It has some surprises as well, like celebratory animations that appear on screen from time to time, although you can disable these extra effects if they don’t appeal to you. Asana also includes a series of keyboard shortcuts called Hacks in its settings section. Hacks add various kinds of functionality and personality. For example, hit TAB B for a bit of feline fun after enabling the related hack.

The web app is divided into three areas. There’s a left-hand rail, a main window that changes based on what you select from the left, and a right-hand information box that drills down into whatever you’re viewing in the main window. 

In your profile settings, you can add basic account information; control notifications; adjust display preferences and the aforementioned visual effects; and configure integrations with other apps such as Harvest, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Figma, and others. See Asana’s full list of supported apps and integrations.

In the mobile apps, you can do nearly everything you can do in the web app, although depending on the volume of work and comments your team generates, looking at Asana on a full-sized screen may be preferable. That said, it’s definitely possible to be productive from a phone, and I appreciate that you can access Asana from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Notably, the mobile apps have a good deal of offline capabilities, too. When you work offline in the mobile apps, you see gray clouds indicating that the content hasn’t synced yet, so none of your collaborators will be able to see it until your device reconnects and syncs.

Asana automation timeline viewkanban board), Calendar, Messages, and Files. These options may differ,tpc depending on how your team sets up and uses Asana.

You can customize your view at any time or filter and sort lists of tasks by various criteria, such as due date or assignee. Clicking on a task opens a secondary window to the right that shows all its details.

Task Tracking

At the heart of any Project (or any set of work, even if it’s ongoing work) are tasks. Each task can have subtasks, as well as an assignee, due date, recurring due date, attachments, comments, tags, and followers. Followers receive updates anytime a change occurs to the task. Comments are particularly useful because they support rich text formatting, editing after posting, and @ mentions.

A single task plus all its subtasks and customizations can become a workflow. For example, if a common task for your team is signing on new clients, the subtasks would cover all the steps, such as confirming the client’s interest, sending them any necessary paperwork, receiving the returned paperwork, sending them a welcome email, and so forth. Different people might be responsible for each step, and with Asana, you can assign each step to the appropriate person and add the corresponding due date at the right time.

It would be helpful if Asana let you turn a task and all its subtasks into a template so that when you create a new task in that Project, you’d get it by default. That’s not an option, but there’s an easy workaround which is to make the template you want and label it as such in the task name, then make sure everyone creates a duplicate of it when they need it. There’s a button to duplicate a task, so that makes it easy.

Asana search reportsGantt chart comes in handy, which is what you get with Asana’s Timeline. Here, users can see every one of their tasks laid out in a Gantt chart format. Dependencies are represented by lines between tasks and you can make changes at will. Gantt charts are particularly helpful for seeing how a delay in one task or an extended absence of a team member can affect target dates of task completion down the line. Asana also lets you organize tasks in the view into sections.

While Asana is flexible and feature-rich, it isn’t adept for graphics-intensive projects. Asana’s Board view is your best bet because you can set cover images for each task in a column, but you don’t get markup tools or other proofing tools to collaborate, discuss, and view changes to graphics files.

For teams whose work revolves around graphics and other images, it helps to have a full suite of tools for that job right inside your work management system. A few examples are ProofHub, Smartsheets, and Wrike, which are all project management apps that offer some type of proofing, markup, and discussion for images. Other online collaboration apps handle proofing specifically without being project management apps, too, such as Filestage and InVision.

Asana goalsbounty program for disclosing vulnerabilities with the service. The company has completed SOC 2 Type I and Type II audits, which, in brief, means an independent third party has validated Asana’s security and ability to keep them up. As with Slack, you can also check Asana’s status via an online dashboard.

At the usage level, Asana gives you ways to keep some information private from others without impeding collaboration. You can keep projects and tasks private to just you or private to an invited group. You can also set projects so that people may comment on them only and not edit them, as well as assign a comment-only permission level to members.

For teams who do use Asana as an open platform, it’s very important to maintain dialogue about the rules of engagement to ensure everyone agrees to use the app in the same way, not overwrite one another’s work, and so forth. At the enterprise level, Asana has some additional security options, including the ability to control which apps are usable across the integration as well as restrictions regarding who can add guests.

Advanced Search and Reports

Asana includes excellent advanced search functionality. At the top level, when querying for a term, you can specify if you are looking for a task or conversation. Other default fields include: Assigned to, In Projects, and Followed By. Further, you can specify whether a task has an attachment, if it is completed, as well as its due date. To drill down even further, you can add Filters for custom fields, People, Tags, Dependencies, and even Subtasks. If you can’t find what you are looking for with these tools, it likely did not exist in the first place.

Asana makes it easy to save any of these complex searches as interactive Reports, which live in the left-hand menu for quick access. These reports update as new items match the terms and you can edit the terms of the search at any point. I appreciate this feature as it can be invaluable for managers who are looking to figure out who is being productive. Even for individuals, it’s a good way to track individual progress over time.

A Deck of Cards

Asana’s thoughtful design and flexibility make it a powerful task-management app for many kinds of team-based work, as well as personal task management. Its extensive feature set and variety of workflow views are also commendable. For all those reasons, Asana earns an Editors’ Choice award for collaboration apps.

February 1, 2021
To Top