Microsoft Project vs. Microsoft Planner

5 min read

Project Management methodologies may share similar concepts, but the management tools at the disposal of Project and portfolio managers come in great variety. Deep analysis is required for some projects, which necessitates time-phased data and resource management. Other tasks may be more straightforward, and the need for tracking precise data may thus be less severe.

That’s where different project management tools like Microsoft Project, Office 365 Planner, Microsoft Lists, or To-Do come in. Microsoft Project is an excellent project scheduling application that uses a relational database. On the other hand, MS Planner is a lightweight task management solution for project teams. When picking which Microsoft Project management software to use, there are a few things to keep in mind.

What is Microsoft Project?

Microsoft Project provides features such as task assignment, due-date tracking, dependency configuration, and more. All these features help businesses set up their project server and communicate from anywhere. Users can use the solution to organize projects, resources, and portfolios.

Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project Online Portfolio Visibility

Project Online

Microsoft Project Online is a web-based add-on for Microsoft 365. It allows project managers to create plans and task lists, allocate tasks, and schedule reports, among other things. Portfolio managers can also check an overview of all their projects to monitor their team members’ work. 

And with PPM Express, you can easily integrate Microsoft Project Online with other PM tools like Jira, Microsoft Planner, or Azure DevOps

Project Online for Microsoft 365

Microsoft Project Online Real-time, Data-Driven Status Reports

Project for the Web

Project for the Web is a cloud-based project management solution that lets you create and collaborate on team projects quickly and effortlessly. Notable features of the Project for the Web include – Grids, Kanban boards, Timelines, and Gantt views.

Microsoft Project for web

Microsoft Project for the Web Real-time, Data-Driven Status Reports

Project Desktop Application

With features similar to Project Online or Project for the Web, the Project desktop application caters to standalone project plans and organizes work into phases. Microsoft Project is one of the most extensive Project and portfolio management tools available right now. It gives you advantages like:

  • Use task lists and custom task boards to plan and manage projects.
  • Visually track tasks for improved workflow.
  • Work together with team members and stakeholders to modify and update task lists, project timelines, and more using Microsoft Teams.
  • Use of familiar scheduling tools and views like Grid, Board, Timeline, and Gantt Chart.

What is Microsoft Planner?

Microsoft Planner is a task management and team collaboration tool that works with Microsoft Office 365 products like Outlook, OneDrive, OneNote, Office 365 Groups, etc.

Microsoft Planner for task management

Unlike MS Project, Planner is exclusively available as web software for Windows 10 and as mobile apps for iOS and Android. It can also integrate with Microsoft Teams to help you keep track of tasks while working on a team project. The Microsoft Planner was recently renamed to Tasks app in Teams as part of a rebranding effort. Microsoft wants Planner and To-Do to be front and center on their collaborative platform, with the possibility of merging the two apps down the road.

Some notable features of Microsoft Planner are:

  • Lets you create new Kanban boards swiftly and efficiently
  • It helps you plan with content-rich task cards containing elements like files, labels, and due dates
  • Automatically visualizes task status with bar or pie charts
  • Combines Planner and To-Do tasks with advanced collaboration tools using the Tasks app in Teams

While MS Project is the more comprehensive tool, with PPM Express, you can transform your Planner project management into a scalable project portfolio management platform.

Project Management Capabilities Comparison

Microsoft Planner and Microsoft Project are both project management and scheduling programs. They are, however, used in very different ways. Planner uses Kanban boards for easy job management in ad-hoc projects. Whereas, Microsoft Project offers complex integration, allowing project managers to store precise and time-phased data. The tools differ in terms of project management skills in the following ways:


The Planner is noted for its user-friendly design as part of a larger collaborative environment. Team members can be in charge of their tasks and buckets without a central project manager.

After you’ve created a plan, you may use Outlook to communicate, SharePoint to exchange essential files, and OneNote to keep notes, among other things. Microsoft Planner also works nicely with Teams, and you can add Teams chat to your Outlook group.

Collaboration in MS Project, on the other hand, is often limited because the MPP is managed entirely by the project manager or a small team, with only selected team members having access to updates.


Project Online lets team members collaborate and log time against tasks they’ve been allocated. 

However, if you need your team directly involved in creating, updating, and resolving tasks, the Planner may be better suited to your needs.

Using Office 365’s Guest Access features, you can invite team members to Planner from within or outside your organization. This gives even guests the fluidity of task management as they work on the Project.

Level of Detail

If your project management needs to require features like custom fields, baselines, resource monitoring, capacity planning, or reporting, go for Microsoft Project.

The Project is built for more detail-oriented work than the lightweight MS Planner, with comprehensive tools and features.


Both the Planner and the Project can be modified in their unique ways. The Project allows you to create custom views and filters, as well as add custom fields to your tasks. 

On the other hand, Planner comes with a limited selection of fields that cannot be customized as of yet.

So, Microsoft Project is your best bet if you want more configurations. Anything else you choose to add to a Planner assignment will go in the Description or Comments area.

Furthermore, Project allows you to connect projects and nest them into portfolios, whereas Planner does not.

Cost Comparison

When deciding between Planner and Project, it’s critical to consider the price differences. Microsoft Planner is a free tool included as part of the Office 365 subscription licensing bundle.

Microsoft Project, on the other hand, requires the purchase of a separate tool license. If you already have Office 365, you can use Planner without making any additional payments. The Planner also allows you to invite people who do not have an Office 365 license in your plan.

As a result, this is a less expensive option than Project, which requires a separate license for each team member.

UX Comparison

The planner is substantially more straightforward to use than the Project, even with minimal instructions. MS Planner, a competitor to Trello and Jira, uses buckets, boards, and dashboards to present impending tasks, their owners, and associated details in an organized manner.

Because it is a newly designed software, its user interface is built with a modern workplace concept in mind. The planner is accessible both via browser and mobile app. The UX for Microsoft Project is more complicated than Planner, so using it effectively might call for some instructions first. In the Project, the Tasks are organized, linked, and customizable.

Team members can be tracked as resources and allocated tasks throughout the Project. This is done to ensure that a project’s talent demands are predictable. MPP files can also be nestled within portfolios and rolled up into high-level presentations.

Moreover, you can access Project via the browser or a Windows app, but mobile and macOS support are only available through third-party apps.

Enterprise Resource Planning

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) aims to organize tasks and anticipated timeframes. An excellent tool to serve such purposes is Microsoft Project.

Designed to take tasks, and completion times and assign them to team members right in the app, Project is a good fit for ERP. On the other hand, the Planner lacks features like timeline or Gantt. So, it isn’t the best tool to support ERP. 


Both Planner and Project support agile project management. Microsoft Planner readily assists agile with its project board, task designs, buckets, etc. MS Project with sprint tools built-in may easily be adjusted to support agile too.

Merged with Planner and OneNote, Project can cover almost the whole agile process.

Final Words

The planner is designed for ad-hoc teams as a centralized platform for team collaboration. On the other hand, Project is a more complex tool that uses time-phased scheduling and a relational database.

The two tools, Microsoft Project and Microsoft Planner, have considerable differences. By weighing the limits of each instrument in terms of cost, team utilization, and Project planning parameters, you can determine which of these tools will work best for you.

Microsoft Project vs. Microsoft Planner
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