What Is Smartsheet?

By James T. Cains

Smartsheet is an online project management solution that claims to be the modern alternative to traditional project management tools like Microsoft Project. Smartsheet focuses more on the collaborative aspects of project management, whereas traditional tools tend to focus more on schedules and tasks. That’s not to say that you can’t manage tasks and schedules in Smartsheet; you can. It means that collaboration functionality is baked into Smartsheet and is readily available to use with your schedules and tasks, whereas if you use Microsoft Project to manage a project, you have to use other means for collaboration.

Smartsheet is a web application, which means you don’t have to install any software on your computer to use it. Everything you need is online, and therefore you can access it from anywhere — work, home, or on the road on your smartphone or tablet.

What does Smartsheet do?

Smartsheet uses spreadsheets, referred to as sheets, as the basis of everything it does, but the difference between Smartsheet and spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets is that Smartsheet has all sorts of collaboration functionality incorporated into it.

Beyond standard spreadsheet functionality, here’s what you can do with Smartsheet:

  • Collaborate: You can invite other project team members to collaborate on a sheet, which means they can either view or edit the sheet.

  • Set up alerts: You can set up notifications and reminders for tasks within the sheet.

  • Attach files: You can attach files to the overall sheet or to a row (or task) in the sheet. The files are stored on Smartsheet’s servers and are vaccessible when you or collaborators log in to Smartsheet and view the sheet.

  • Have discussions: You can set up discussions for the project as a whole or for certain tasks. These discussions are stored within the sheet.

  • Request updates: You can request updates from collaborators on the progress of their assigned tasks from within the sheet.

  • Set up web forms: This enables you to set up feedback or survey forms and have the responses users give to automatically populate into a sheet.

  • Publish the sheet: You can make the sheet available via an external URL so that anyone can see it.

Get started with Smartsheet

Smartsheet gives you a 30-day free trial to try out its features, and you have a couple of ways to sign up:

  • With your e-mail address: Just go to www.smartsheet.com, type in your e-mail address, and click Try Smartsheet for Free. You receive an e-mail from Smartsheet, asking you to confirm your e-mail address. Click the Confirm Email button, and Smartsheet loads in your browser and asks you to set up a password. After that, Smartsheet logs you in and you’re set.

  • With Google: If you have a Google account, you can log in to Smartsheet with your Google account, bypassing the confirmation e-mail and password setup; your Google account credentials are what you use to log in. Just click Or Sign Up with Google on the Smartsheet home page, and Smartsheet asks for permission to access your Google account. Click Accept, and Smartsheet logs you right in after you accept the Terms of Service.

As part of the free trial, you get to use Smartsheet as a single user would, and you can set up as many as ten sheets. The only thing you can’t do with the free trial is publish Web forms because only paid users can have public URLs.

When you’re trying out Smartsheet, you can switch from the single-user plan to the team plan to try out the additional features, such as reporting, user management, and resource management. See below for more on the team plan.

How much does Smartsheet cost?

If you like Smartsheet and want to continue using it after your trial expires, you can log in to Smartsheet and click the Upgrade button at the top of your browser window. You have three plans to choose from:

  • Basic: This plan costs $14 per month (if you pay annually) and gives you a single-user license. You would hold that license and be the “owner” of sheets. You can have an unlimited number of “collaborators.” This option is really for the project manager that works on his or her own. You get to set up as many as ten sheets for your projects and store up to 3GB of documents online.

  • Team: This plan is for a small team of project managers who must be able to set up their own sheets to manage their own projects. The cost is $13 per user, but you must have at least three users, so your cost will be at least $39 per month (when paid annually). Each user can set up 50 sheets and store up to 15GB of documents. In addition to the features in the Basic plan, you also get reporting, user and resource management, and priority support from Smartsheet.

  • Enterprise: This plan is for the large organization that has 25 or more project managers. It includes unlimited sheets and storage, plus all the features of the other plans. There’s no set cost; you need to contact Smartsheet to discuss custom pricing.