How to Learn the Fundamentals of Software Engineering – in a More Interesting and Less Painful Way

Ryan Michael Kay

This article is intended to be an introductory guide to the fundamentals of software engineering.

I have written it with the assumption that you, dear reader, may not know much about the basics of the field, why they are important, and when you should bother to learn them.

We shall go into each of these questions and finish by discussing some ways in which I recommend you learn and approach them.

For those who do happen to be familiar with this subject, there may still be some interesting new perspectives, and particularly in the last section, useful ways to speed up your learning process.

In this article we will discuss:

  • What made software engineering spooky and intimidating for me, and how that changed
  • The reason for, and metrics by which we look at some code and conclude that it is less efficient than another approach (computational complexity)
  • A simple but hopefully useful introduction to Data Structures and Algorithms
  • The things I personally do to learn topics in software engineering for maximum efficiency and understanding
  • A way to motivate your efforts by adding in some basic tests to measure correctness and efficiency of your algorithms

Please be aware that I have tried to structure this article in a logical progression where each section (apart from the next which is more about getting over the fear of diving into this subject) builds upon or motivates the next.

I am condensing over a thousand hours of practice and study into one article, and have done my best to explain things clearly and simply as well.


Where The Problems Began

Throughout my limited formal education, I did not have the best relationship with the field of mathematics. And by extension, this impacted my relationship with a great deal of computer science (CS) and software engineering (SEng).

To be specific, it is not that I am bad at math, but I am poor at arithmetic and bad at remembering formulae.

I also found that the way in which mathematics, CS, and SEng are usually taught in schools does not tend to work for me either.

My own learning process to this day is largely driven by pragmatism (emphasis on practical over theoretical knowledge), curiosity about nature, and how this information can help me earn a living – three things I saw rarely emphasized in my western education.

Apart from my uneasy relationship with dry and boring presentations of things which are predominantly of a mathematical nature, I am a self-taught programmer.

To be clear, I took a single programming class at a community college (circa 2013), and the rest of my knowledge comes from self-directed studies. During my early years of that process, I also had to work various day jobs in order to pay the rent, which left me very little spare time and energy to learn my craft.

The end result was that I chose to spend most of my time building personal projects and learning topics specifically for those projects.

This led to me being really quite good at the skill of writing code, learning new technologies, and solving problems. However, if I did apply any concepts in CS and SEng to the code I was writing, it was largely by accident. To summarize this introduction, I am trying to say that the biggest obstacle in my study of SEng was that I just was not very interested in learning it.

I did not know the sense of accomplishment you can get from making a small change to an algorithm which reduces its runtime to completion by a factor of tens or hundreds of times.

I did not know how important it was to pick a data structure based on the nature of the problem I was trying to solve, let alone how to make that decision.

And I had no idea how it was relevant to me slinging mobile apps for a living.

So just in case you are in the same boat, before we get to the technical details, I would like to attempt to answer some of those questions for you. To make things less boring, I will motivate this topic by sharing a true story about what changed my attitude towards this subject.

Swimming With the Big Fish

Towards the end of 2019, I had taken a break from studying Android Development in order to take a deep dive into UNIX Operating Systems and C/C++ programming.

I felt very comfortable with the Android SDK, but many years of JVM programming had left me with a strong sense of having no idea how computers actually worked under the hood. Which bothered me quite a bit.

I was not really looking for work, but at the time a recruiter from a big tech company had reached out to me about my interest in an Android Software Engineer position.

Despite being many months out of practice with Android, I did well in the first interview (it was all core Android concepts that I was familiar with) and was sent an email detailing the topics to be covered in future interviews.

The first section of this email, which detailed Android specific knowledge, was extensive, but I was at least somewhat familiar which most topics and not intimidated. However, when I scrolled down to the section on Data Structures and Algorithms, I suddenly felt like I did when I first started writing code: Like a fish out of water. It is not that I had never applied any of these concepts in my code, but I certainly had not formally studied any of them.

Although I will do my best to give you a soft and clear introduction to these topics, SEng will immediately hit you with a wall of jargon terms, and my face was figuratively very sore and bruised after reading the entire list of DS and Algos I had to learn in that email.

I was very up front about that with my recruiter, who kindly gave me four weeks to prepare before the next interview.

I knew I could not cover every topic in four weeks, but I did hope that learning a year or two of SEng in a few weeks would show some talent and initiative.

I would love to tell you a juicy story about how I epically failed, or completely dazzled in the next interview, but the reality is that things fell apart before I even got the chance.

I am a Canadian citizen, and the position required relocation to one of many campuses in the United States, in either California or Washington State.

Two weeks into my first deep dive into SEng, I received an email from my recruiter stating that their immigration department did not want to sponsor me. I suspect it had to do with some difficulties around sponsoring a worker who had no degree, but the brewing global pandemic may also have been a factor.

In the end, even though I wanted the chance to succeed or fail in real time, I was happy knowing that I had a very clear idea of the knowledge I was lacking to be a software engineer in a big tech company.

With a clear but difficult path in front of me, I resolved to no longer let the field of SEng intimidate me. I wanted to know what it truly means to be a software developer versus a software engineer.

With that in mind, we shall go into the core ideas in SEng, and how to make the learning of them easier. Not easy – just easier.

The "Big Three" Topics in Software Engineering –And Why They Matter

The main topics in software engineering can be summarized using a bunch of big scary words and phrases – as is the tradition in anything related to computer science and mathematics. To avoid confusion, I will instead explain them using the English language and examples which prioritize clarity above all else.

I suggest you follow this section in the order I have laid out, as I have deliberately structured it in a logical progression.

First - What Are Runtime And Memory Space?

I want to start off by explaining the reason why we study these topics to begin with.

Being a fan of physics, I was happy to learn that the interplay of time and space which we see in nature is also directly observed in any kind of computer.

However, in this field, we refer to these qualities as runtime and memory space .

To better understand what runtime is, I suggest you pull up your Task Manager, Activity Monitor, or whatever program you have that tells you about your system’s active “processes.”

A process is just a “running program,” and through the magic of having multiple “processors”, CPU virtualization, and time slicing, it can appear that we have tens or hundreds of processes running at the same time.

I threw those jargon terms in so that you can look them up if you are curious about how operating systems work, but doing so it is not necessary to proceed with this article. In any case, a process’s runtime can generally be thought of as any point in time during which it can be viewed in your system’s process tracking tool.

I use this definition to point out that an active process does not need to have a user interface or even do anything useful even though it may still be taking up runtime in the CPU and memory space.

Speaking of memory space, in order for something to have run time, it has to be somewhere too. That somewhere is the physical memory space of the computer, which is virtualized (again, look up virtualization on your own time but it is not necessary for this article) in order to make it more secure and easier to use.

Every process is allocated its own distinct and protected virtual memory space, which can grow or shrink up to certain boundaries and depending on various factors. Let us take a break from theory to talk about why we should care about it. Since runtime and memory space can be accurately measured but are also limited , humans like you and I can really screw things up if we do not pay attention to these limitations!

To be clear, here are two very important things we want to care about as programmers and engineers:

  • Will our program or even the whole system crash because we have mismanaged the finite resource of memory space ?
  • Will our programs solve problems for our users in a timely and efficient manner , or will they hang so long that our users decide to force quit, demand a refund, and leave a nasty review?

These question largely dictate the success of our programs whether you formally study them or not. With any luck I have motivated you to learn what I call the big three topics in software engineering, which we shall go into now.

How We Measure Runtime And Memory Space

The first of the big three topics is described using a big scary term: Asymptotic Runtime & Space Complexity .

Having already described runtime and memory space, I think a serviceable replacement for the word complexity here is “efficiency." And asymptotic is related to the fact that we can represent this efficiency (or lack thereof) on a two dimensional Cartesian Graph. You know, x and y , rise over run, and all that stuff.

Do not worry if you are unfamiliar with this stuff. You only need a very basic understanding of these things to apply it in your code.

Also, note that there is such a thing as a Graph data structure , but that concept is far removed from a Cartesian Graph and not what I am referring to.

Since we can represent our code and how it behaves with respect to either runtime or memory space on a Cartesian Graph, it follows that there must be functions which describe how to draw such a graph .

The way in which we describe how efficient our code in this way is to use “Big O” notation.

Here is the simplest introduction I can give you in order to understand this topic. I will use the modern programming language Kotlin for my code samples which will hopefully provide a happy middle ground for you web and native developers.

Suppose three functions (also sometimes known as methods, algorithms, commands, or procedures):

Function printStatement :

Function printArray :

Function printArraySums :

For ease of understanding, suppose that every time println(...) is called, it takes 100ms, or 1/10th of a second on average to complete (in reality 100ms for a single print command is terribly slow but it's easier to imagine than a microsecond or picosecond).

With that in mind, let us think critically about how these functions can be expected to behave differently , based on what inputs they are given .

printStatement , barring anything other than a catastrophic failure of the system itself, will always take an average time of 100ms to complete.

In fact, while Big O notation is very concerned about the size of the arguments given to a function (that will make more sense shortly), this function does not even have any arguments to change its behaviour.

Therefore, we can say that the runtime complexity (time taken until completion), is constant , which can be represented by the following mathematical function and graph:


In the above graphic, T represents the runtime for println(...) which we established to be an average of 100 milliseconds. I will explain what n refers to momentarily.

printArray presents a new problem. It stands to reason that the time it takes for printArray to complete will be directly proportionate to the size of the Array, arr , which is passed into it.

If the Array has four elements, that would result in println(...) being called four times, for a total average runtime of 400ms for printArray itself. To be more mathematically precise, we would say that the runtime complexity of printArray is linear :


printArraySums takes things a step further into something which you should be concerned about even as a junior or intermediate level developer. The number of arguments/inputs to any given function is referred to with a small n, when using Big O notation.

In our second function, this refers exclusively to the size of the Array (that is, arr.size ), but in the third function it refers to the collective size of multiple arguments (that is, arrOne and arrTwo ).

In Big O notation, there are actually three different qualities of a given piece of code that we can pay attention to:

  • How efficient is the code if n is small (best-case performance)?
  • How efficient is the code if n is of an average expected size (average performance)?
  • How efficient is the code if n is near or at the its maximum allowable value for the system (worst-case performance)?

Generally speaking, in the same sense that a civil engineer is most concerned about the maximum number of vehicles a bridge can support, a software engineer is usually most concerned about worst-case performance.

By looking at printArraySums , you should be able to reason that we can represent its worst-case runtime complexity (the number of times println(...) will be called) as n * n; where n is at or near to the maximum allowable size of an Array in the system.

In case it is not clear, we are not just pairing and summing the elements of arrOne and arrTwo at the same indexes, we are literally summing every value of them together in a nested loop .

From here you can start to truly understand the importance of asymptotic runtime and space complexity. In a worst-case scenario, the runtime grows exponentially in a quadratic curve:


Two final notes on this topic: Firstly, if I suddenly made you a bit fearful of nested loops (and yes, each nested loop potentially adds another factor of n ), then I have done a good job.

Even so , understand that if you are certain that n will not exceed a reasonable size even in a function which has exponential growth, then there is not actually a problem .

If you would like to know how to determine if n will have a negative impact on performance, stick around for the last section of this article.

Secondly, you may have noticed that all of my examples were about runtime complexity, not memory space complexity.

The reason for this is simple: We represent space complexity in exactly the same manner and notation. Since we do not actually allocate any new memory apart from a temporary reference or two within each frame of the forEach{...} loops, asymptotically speaking , the second and third functions are still linear, O( n ), with respect to memory allocation.

Data Structures

The term Data Structure, despite what any single teacher may tell you, does not have a singular definition.

Some teachers will emphasize their abstract nature and how we can represent them in mathematics, some teachers will emphasize how they are physically arranged in memory space, and some will emphasize how they are implemented in a particular language specification.

I hate to tell you this, but this is actually a very common problem in computer science and engineering: One word meaning many things and many words meaning one thing, all at the same time.

Therefore, rather than trying to make every kind of expert from every kind of academic or professional background happy by using a plethora of technical definitions, let me upset everyone equally by explaining things as clearly as I can in plain English .

For the purposes of this article, Data Structures (DS) refer to the ways in which we represent and group together our application’s data in our programs. Things like user profiles, friends lists, social networks, game states, high scores and so on.

When considering DS from the physical perspective of the hardware and operating system, there are two main ways to build a DS. Both ways take advantage of the fact that physical memory is discrete (a fancy word for countable), and therefore addressable.

An easy way to imagine this is to think about street addresses and how, depending on which direction you are physically moving (and depending on how your country organizes street addresses), the address increases or decreases in value.

Physical Array

The first way takes advantage of the fact that we can group pieces of data (for example a list of friends in a social media application) into a chunk of contiguous (physically next to each other) memory space.

This turns out to be a very fast and efficient way for a computer to traverse memory space. Instead of giving the computer an n sized list of addresses for each piece of data, we give the computer a single address denoting the start of this DS in physical memory, and the size of (that is, n ) the DS as a single value.

The instruction set for doing this could be as simple as telling the machine to move from left to right (or whatever direction), decrement the value of n by 1 each move, and to stop/return when that value hits 0.

Lists Of Links (Addresses)

The second way requires each piece of data in the structure itself to contain the address(es) of the next or previous (maybe both?) item within itself.

One of the big problems with contiguous memory spaces is that they present problems when it comes to growing (adding more elements) or shrinking (this can fragment the memory space, which I will not explain but suggest a quick google search).

By having each piece of data Link to the other pieces (usually just the previous or next one), it becomes largely irrelevant where each piece sits in physical memory space. Therefore, we can grow or shrink the data structure with relative ease. You should be able to reason that since each part of the structure stores not just its own data, but the address of the next (or more than that) element, then each piece would necessarily require more memory space than with the contiguous Array approach.

However, whether it is ultimately more efficient depends on what kind of problem you are trying to solve.

The two approaches I have discussed are generally known as an Array and a Linked List . With very little exception, most of what we care about in the study of DS is how to group collections of data which have some kind of reason to be grouped together, and how best to do that.

As I tried to point out, what makes one structure better in a certain situation can make it worse in another.

You should be able to reason from the previous few paragraphs that a Linked List is typically more suitable for a dynamic (changing) collection, whereas an Array is typically more suitable for a fixed collection – at least with respect to runtime and space efficiency .

Do not be misled, however! It is not always the case that our primary concern is to pick the most efficient DS (or algorithm) with respect to runtime and memory space. Remember, if n is very small then worrying about a nanosecond or a few bits of memory here and there are not necessarily as important as ease of use and legibility.

The last thing I would like to say about DS is that I have observed a profound lack of consensus about the difference between a DS and a Data Type (DT).

Again, I think this is largely due to different experts approaching this from different backgrounds (mathematics, digital circuits, low level programming, high level programming) and the fact that it is really quite hard to make a verbal definition of one that does not at least partially (or entirely) describe the other.

At the risk of making the situation even more confusing, on a purely practical level , I think of data structures as things which are independent of a high level programming language’s Type System (assuming it has one). On the other hand, a data type is defined by and within such a Type system.

But I know that Type Theory itself is independent of any particular Type system, so you can hopefully see how tricky it is to say anything concrete about these two terms.

I took quite a long time to explain the previous two topics because they allow me to introduce and motivate this topic rather easily.

Before we continue, I must very briefly try to untangle another mess of jargon. To explain the term “algorithm” in my own way, it is actually very simple: An algorithm is a set of instructions (commands) which can be understood and executed (acted upon) by an Information Processing System (IPS).

For example, if you were to follow a recipe to cook something, then you would be the IPS, the algorithm would be the recipe, and the ingredients and cookware would be the data inputs (arguments).

Now, by that definition the words function, method, procedure, operation, program, script, subroutine and algorithm all point to the same underlying concept.

This is not by accident – these words all fundamentally mean the same thing. The confusion is that different computer scientists and language designers will implement (build) the same idea in a slightly different way. Or even more depressingly, they will build them the same way but give a different name. I wish this was not the case, but the best I can do is to warn you.

That is all you need to know about algorithms in general, so let us be more specific about how they can help us to write better code.

Recall that our primary concern as software engineers is to write code which is guaranteed to be efficient (at least such that it keeps our users happy) and safe with respect to limited system resources.

Also recall that I previously stated that some DS perform better than others with respect to runtime and memory space, particularly as n gets large.

The same is true of algorithms. Depending on what you are trying to do, different algorithms will perform better than others.

It is also worth noting that the DS will tend to shape which algorithms can be applied to the problem, so selecting the right DS and the right algorithm is the true art of software engineering.

To finish off this third main topic, we will look at two common but very different ways to solve the one problem: Searching an ordered Array . By ordered, I mean to say that it is ordered something like least to greatest, greatest to least, or even alphabetically.

Also, assume that the algorithm is given some kind of target value as an argument, which is what we use to locate a particular element. This should become clear in the example in case there is any confusion.

The example problem is as follows: We have a collection of Users (perhaps loaded from a database or server), which is sorted from least to greatest by a field called userId, which is an Integer value.

Suppose that this userId comes from taking the system time (look up Unix Time for more info) just prior to creating the new User. Rounded to the smallest value that still guarantees no repeated values.

If that previous sentence did not make sense, all you need to know is that this is a sorted collection with no repeats.

A simple way to write this algorithm would be to write what we will call a Naive Search (NS). Naive, in this context, means simple, but in a bad way , which refers to the fact that we just tell the computer to start from one end of the collection and move to the other until it finds a match to the target index.

This is generally achieved by using some kind of loop:

Function naiveSearch :

If we happen to only have a few hundred, or even a few thousand users in this collection, then we can expect this function to return quite quickly all the same.

But let us assume we are working in a successful social media tech start up, and we have just hit one million users.

You should be able to reason that naiveSearch has O( n ) asymptotic complexity as its worst case runtime complexity. The reason in short is that if the target User happens to be located at n , then we must invariably traverse the entire collection to get there.

If you are not already familiar with the Binary Search (BS) algorithm, then you should prepare to have your mind blown.

What if I told you that by using a BS algorithm to search our collection with one million elements, you will only ever make, at most, 20 comparisons? That is right; 20 comparisons (as opposed to 1 million with NS) is the worst case scenario .

Now, I will explain how BS works in principle, but my one piece of homework for you to do is to implement it in your preferred programming language. It may be that the language you choose already has a BS implementation from its standard library, but this is an important learning exercise!

In principle, rather than searching an ordered collection one by one, unidirectionally, we start by looking at the value at index n /2. So in a collection with 10 elements, we would check the fifth element. The ordering is important, because we can then compare the element at n /2 with our target:

  • If the value of that element is greater than the target, we know that the element we want must be located earlier in the collection
  • If the value of that element is less than the target, then we know that the element we want must be located further ahead in the collection
  • You should be able to guess what happens if we have a match

Now, the idea is that we are cutting the dataset in half every iteration. Suppose the value at element n /2 was less than our target value. We would next select the middle index between n /2 and n .

From there, our algorithm keeps slicing back or forth using the same logic over a smaller and smaller range of indexes in our collection.

This brings us to the beauty of the BS algorithm applied to a sorted collection: Rather than the time it takes to complete growing linearly, or exponentially with respect to n , it grows logarithmically:


If this article really is your first introduction to the main ideas in software engineering, then please do not expect everything to make sense immediately.

While I hope that some of my explanations helped, my primary goal was to give you a basic list of ideas to study yourself, and what I believe to be a good order in which to study those ideas.

The next step for you is to make a plan for learning this field, and to take action on it. The following section is all about how to do that.

How to Learn Software Engineering – Some Practical Advice

I will now discuss some ideas and approaches which I have personally used to make the process of learning various DS and algorithms easier (but not easy!), both practically, and from motivational perspective.

I am confident that there will at least be one or two points here which will be useful (assuming you have not already arrived at them yourself), but I also want to emphasize that our brains might work slightly differently. Take what is useful and throw away the rest.

As a learning aid, you might also want to watch my live lesson on youtube where I cover this topic. Do not skip the rest of this article though; I go into much more detail here!

Follow A Project-Based Learning Approach

This is actually the first thing I tell any new programmer who asks me the “best way” to learn how to code. I have given a longer version of this explanation many times, but I will summarize the general idea.

In any field of programming, you will notice that there is an incredibly large number of topics to study, and the field itself is constantly evolving both for academics and industry professionals.

As I mentioned in the introduction, not only did I have no curriculum to guide my studies, but I also had limited time to study because I had rent due at the end of each month. This led me out of sheer necessity to develop and follow my project based learning approach.

In essence, what I suggest you do is to avoid learning DS & Algorithms by simply studying things topic by topic and just taking notes about each one.

Instead, you will start by picking a basic topic (like the ones I covered before) and immediately writing a code snippet or small application which uses it.

I created a repository which had a package for every family of DS & algorithm that I wanted to learn. For general algorithms it was mostly the sorts and searches (Bubble Sort, Merge Sort, Quick Sort, Binary Search, and so on). For more specific DS like Linked Lists, Trees, Heap, Stack, and others, I wrote both the DS itself and a few algorithms specific to that particular DS.

Now, I found that some kinds of DS were difficult to understand and implement at first.

One family of DS which gave me trouble for quite some time were called “Graphs.” The field in general is full of some particularly awful and overloaded jargon, but this particular topic even has a misleading name (hint: a better name would be “Networks”).

After spinning my wheels for several weeks (although in fairness I was learning this on the side), I finally admitted to myself that I needed a clear reason to use this DS in some application code. Something to justify and motivate the many hours I was going to spend learning this topic.

Having previously built a Sudoku game using algorithms that worked with two and one dimensional Arrays, I recalled reading somewhere that it was possible to represent and solve a Sudoku game using an Undirected Colored Graph .

This was incredibly useful, as I was already familiar with the problem domain of Sudoku, so I could focus intensively on DS and algorithms.

While there is plenty more that I have to learn, I cannot describe how satisfying it was when I wrote an algorithm that generated and solved 102 Sudoku puzzles in 450 milliseconds.

Speaking of, let me talk about another way to write better algorithms which can also be a great source of motivation and goal setting.

Test Your Code

Look, I know many people make the subject of testing a complete nightmare for beginners. This happens because they confuse the very simple idea of how to test code with some very elaborate and confusing tools one can optionally use to test their code. But this one is important so please stay with me.

To go back to basics, without even talking about Big O notation, how do we know if one algorithm is more efficient than another? Of course, we have to test them both.

Now, it is important to mention that benchmark tests can give you a good (or even great) general idea, but they are also strongly influenced by the system in which they are tested.

The more precise your tests need to be, the more concerned you will need to be about your test environment, set up, and accuracy. However, for the kind of code I typically write, a good general idea is all I need.

There are two kinds of tests which I find most useful for when I am writing my algorithms, both for practice and production code. The first kind of test answers a very simple question: Does it work?

To take an example from my Graph Sudoku application, one of the first hurdles for me was to build what is called an Adjacency List for Sudokus of varying sizes (I tested 4, 9, 16, and 25, which are, not by accident, perfect squares (mathematically speaking).

I cannot explain what an Adjacency List is in detail, but think of it conceptually as a Network of nodes and lines (called edges for some reason). In practice, it forms the virtual structure of the “Graph.”

In the rules for Sudoku, every column, row, or subgrid of numbers may not contain any repeats. From these rules, we can deduce that in a 9x9 Sudoku, there must be 81 nodes (one for each number), and each node ought to possess 21 edges (one for every other node in a given column, row, or subgrid).

The first step was to simply check to make sure that I was building the correct number of nodes:

The algorithm for that was really quite easy to write, but things were slightly more difficult for the next one.

Now I needed to, as they say in Graph jargon, build the edges . This was a bit trickier as I had to write some algorithms to select for rows, columns, and subgrids of dynamic size. Again, to confirm that I was on the right track, I wrote another test:

Sometimes I followed the Test Driven Development (TDD) approach and wrote the tests before the algorithms, and sometimes I wrote the tests after the algorithms.

In any case, once I was able to verify the correctness of each algorithm to the point that I was generating a solved, variably sized Sudoku puzzle, it was time to write a different set of tests: Benchmarks!

This particular kind of benchmark testing is quite blunt, but that is all I needed. To test the efficiency of my algorithms, which at this stage could build and solve a randomly generated Sudoku, I wrote a test which generated 101 Sudoku puzzles:

Initially I had two calls to System.nanoTime() immediately before and after generating 100 puzzles, and subtracted the difference to get an unintelligible number.

However, my IDE also kept track of how long a test would take to complete in minutes, seconds, and milliseconds, so I eventually just went with that. The first set of benchmarks (for 9x9 puzzles) went as follows:

Although I did not have much of a reference point, I knew that it was taking longer than a second to generate a 9x9 Sudoku, which was a very bad sign .

I was not happy about how I was preloading the Graph with some valid numbers ahead of time, so I decided to refactor my approach there.

Naturally, the result after thinking up a new way to do that was worse:

After quite a few more benchmarks which seemed to get slightly worse over time, I was pretty demoralized and wondering what to do.

I had what I thought was a very ingenious way to make my algorithm more or less picky based on how certain it was about placing a number into the puzzle. It was not working out so well in practice, though.

As is often the case, on roughly the 400th pass of my code via a code stepper (part of a debugging tool), I noticed that I had a slight mistake which had to do with how I was adjusting the value which dictated how picky my algorithm was.

What happened next blew my mind.

I ran another benchmark test, and got a weird result:

I was in complete disbelief, so the first thing I did was to undo the change I just made and rerun the test. After 5 minutes I stopped the test as this was clearly the game changing difference, and proceeded to run five more benchmarks:

Just for the hell of it, I decided to try building 101 16x16 puzzles. Previously I couldn't even build one of these (at least I stopped trying after the test ran for 10 minutes):

The point I am trying to communicate is this: It is not just that writing tests allowed me to verify that my algorithms were working . They allowed me to have an objective way to establish their efficiency.

By extension, this gave me a very clear way to know which of the 50 different tweaks to the algorithm I made actually had a positive or negative effect on the outcome.

This is important for the success of the application, but it was also incredibly positive for my own motivation and psychological health.

What I did not yet mention is that the time it took me to get from the first benchmark to the fifth (the fast one), was approximately 40 hours (four days at 10 hours per day).

I really was quite demoralized by the fourth day, but when I finally tweaked things the right way, it was the first time I ever felt like a real software engineer instead of just someone studying it for fun.

To leave you with a great image, after I ran the 16x16 tests and saw they were promising, I took a full 15 minutes to run around my rural property hollering like an excited chimpanzee that just got dosed with adrenaline.

My Final Suggestion

I will keep this one short and sweet. The worst thing you can do as a student, upon not being able to understand something difficult and complicated, is to blame yourself.

Good teachers and explanations are rare, and this is particularly true of topics which most of us find relatively dry and boring.

I had to watch approximately four videos, read approximately five articles/textbook chapters, and blindly dive into writing some code which did not initially make sense to me, just to even get started with Graphs .

This may be good or bad news for you, but I work very hard at what I do, and I very rarely find things in my field which are natural or easy for me.

My goal with this article has never been to imply that learning software engineering was easy for me, nor that it will be easy for you.

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What is Application Software? A Comprehensive Guide

Gain a profound understanding of this integral component in modern computing. Delve into the functions, examples, advantages, and disadvantages of Application Software. Uncover key factors guiding your selection of Application Software, empowering you with the knowledge to navigate the dynamic landscape of software applications.


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Table of Contents  

1) What is Application Software? 

2) Functions of Application Software 

3) Examples of Application Software 

4) Advantages and disadvantages of Application Software 

5) Factors you should consider when choosing Application Software 

6) Conclusion 

What is Application Software?   

Application Software, often referred to simply as "apps" or "programs," is a class of software specifically designed to perform various tasks and functions for end-users. Unlike system software, which manages the computer's hardware and offers a platform for other software to run on, Application Software serves a more user-centric purpose. It enables users to perform specific tasks, such as word processing, graphic design, or playing games. 

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Functions of Application Software   

Functions of Application Software

Word processing  

Word processing software revolutionises document creation. It empowers users to craft and edit text documents with remarkable flexibility. From creating professional reports to drafting personal letters, it enables precise formatting, spell-checking, and seamless collaboration. 


Spreadsheets are the backbone of data management and complex calculations. Excel, for instance, simplifies financial analysis, inventory tracking, and statistical computations. It offers formulae, charts, and pivot tables for in-depth data manipulation. 

Graphic design  

Graphic design software like Photoshop unlocks the world of visual creativity. Artists and designers employ it for image manipulation, photo retouching, and crafting captivating digital art. It provides advanced tools for precise editing and design work. 

Web browsing  

Web browsers are our gateway to the large expanse of the internet. Chrome and Firefox, among others, offer rapid page loading, secure browsing, and a plethora of extensions for customising the online experience. 

Email clients  

Email clients are communication hubs. Outlook and Thunderbird streamline email management with features like categorisation, scheduling, and integration with calendars. They enhance productivity in both personal and professional settings. 

Multimedia playback  

Multimedia players like VLC and Windows Media Player provide immersive audio and video experiences. They support various file formats, subtitles, and streaming capabilities, transforming computers into entertainment hubs. 


Gaming applications offer diverse experiences, from action-packed adventures to brain-teasing puzzles. They leverage high-end graphics and interactivity, providing hours of entertainment for gamers of all ages. 

Project Management  

Project management software, exemplified by Microsoft Project, is a lifeline for effective planning and execution. It facilitates task scheduling, resource allocation, and progress tracking, which is crucial for project success. 

Accounting software  

Accounting software like QuickBooks simplifies Financial Management for businesses. It automates tasks like invoicing, expense tracking, and payroll processing, ensuring financial accuracy and compliance. 


Communication applications like WhatsApp and Skype transcend geographical barriers. They offer instant messaging, voice and video calls, and group chats, fostering seamless interaction for individuals and teams. 

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Examples of Application Software   

The following are some relevant examples of commonly used Application Software: 

Examples of Application Software

Microsoft Office Suite  

Microsoft Office Suite is a cornerstone of productivity software, offering a trio of essential applications. Microsoft Word is a versatile word-processing tool that empowers users to create documents of all types, from essays to professional reports, with features such as formatting, spell-checking, and collaborative editing. Microsoft Excel excels in data management, allowing users to build complex spreadsheets for tasks like financial analysis and inventory tracking. Lastly, Microsoft PowerPoint is the go-to application for crafting dynamic presentations, enabling users to convey ideas visually through slides, animations, and multimedia elements. 

Adobe Creative Suite  

Adobe Creative Suite, now known as Adobe Creative Cloud, is a powerhouse of creative software applications that have revolutionised design, multimedia, and content creation. It encompasses a diverse array of tools, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Premiere Pro. Photoshop is the go-to for image editing and manipulation, while Illustrator excels in vector graphics. InDesign is the premier choice for layout design, and Premiere Pro is a leading video editing software. 

Google Chrome  

Google Chrome stands as one of the most widely used web browsers globally. Known for its speed, stability, and minimalist design, Chrome provides a seamless internet browsing experience. It offers robust features like tab management, bookmark syncing, and cross-device integration through Google accounts. Chrome also boasts a vast library of extensions, enhancing its functionality with tools for productivity, security, and entertainment. 


WhatsApp has revolutionised communication, bridging geographical gaps with instant messaging, voice calls, and video chats. This messaging application prioritises privacy and end-to-end encryption, ensuring secure conversations. Users can create group chats, share multimedia content, and make international calls without incurring hefty fees. WhatsApp's widespread adoption has made it a staple for personal and professional communication. 


Minecraft is an exemplar of gaming software, renowned for its open-world sandbox gameplay. Players are immersed in a blocky, procedurally generated world where they can mine resources, build structures, and embark on adventures. Its limitless creativity and multiplayer capabilities have fostered a dedicated player base, with educational versions also utilised for teaching purposes, making it not just a game but a platform for exploration and learning. 


For businesses, QuickBooks serves as a vital tool for Financial Management. This accounting software streamlines tasks like invoicing, expense tracking, and payroll processing. It simplifies bookkeeping for small and medium-sized enterprises, ensuring financial accuracy and compliance. QuickBooks offers a range of editions, from self-employed individuals to larger enterprises, making it adaptable to businesses of all sizes and industries. 

Advantages and disadvantages of Application Software   

Application Software, with its diverse range of functions and capabilities, plays an integral role in our digital lives. However, like any tool, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let's explore these in detail: 

Advantages of Application Software  

The following are some advantages of Application Software: 

1) Enhanced productivity: Application Software streamlines tasks, making them more efficient and less time-consuming. For example, word processing software automates formatting, saving users hours of manual effort when creating documents. 

2) Specialisation: One of the key benefits of Application Software is its specialisation. Users can choose software tailored to their specific needs. This ensures that the software they use is optimised for the task at hand, whether it's graphic design, accounting, or project management. 

3) Improved creativity: Many Application Software tools are designed to foster creativity. Graphic design software, for instance, provides a platform for artists and designers to bring their vision to life. This encourages innovation and artistic expression. 

4) Convenience: Application Software simplifies complex processes, making them accessible to users with different levels of expertise. This convenience is particularly important in a world where technology plays an ever-expanding role in our daily lives. 

5) Scalability: Application Software often offers the advantage of scalability. Businesses can start with a basic version of the software and then scale up as their needs grow. For example, a small business may begin with a simple accounting software package and later transition to a more comprehensive solution as it expands. This scalability ensures that the software can adapt to changing requirements without the need for a complete overhaul. 

6) Collaboration and connectivity: Many Application Software tools are designed with collaboration in mind. They offer features that enable users to work together seamlessly, even if they are geographically dispersed. For instance, cloud-based office suites like Google Workspace facilitate real-time collaboration on documents, enabling multiple users to edit and comment on files simultaneously. This connectivity promotes teamwork and productivity, especially in today's global and remote work environments. 

Disadvantages of Application Software  

The following are some disadvantages of Application Software: 

1) Cost: High-quality Application Software can be expensive. Licenses, subscriptions, and upgrades can add up, making it a significant investment for individuals and businesses. This cost can be a barrier to access for some users. 

2) Compatibility issues: Not all Application Software is universally compatible. Some software may work seamlessly on one operating system but encounter challenges on another. Similarly, hardware limitations can restrict the use of certain software. 

3) Security risks: Security is a significant concern with Application Software. Malicious software, commonly known as malware, can compromise the integrity of a system or steal sensitive data. Users need to be vigilant and use reputable software from trusted sources to mitigate these risks. 

4) Learning curve: Complex Application Software often has a steep learning curve. Users may need to invest time and effort in learning how to use the software effectively. This initial learning period can slow down productivity. 

5) Maintenance and updates: Application Software requires regular maintenance and updates to remain secure and functional. Users need to ensure they keep their software updated, which can be time-consuming and occasionally disruptive. 

6) Resource intensive: Some Application Software can be resource-intensive, requiring powerful hardware to run smoothly. This can be a disadvantage for users with older or less powerful devices, as they may experience performance issues. 

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Factors you should consider when choosing Application Software   

Factors you should consider when choosing Application Software


Compatibility encompasses both the Operating System (OS) and hardware requirements of the software. Different applications may work optimally on specific OSs (e.g., Windows, MacOS, Linux) or require certain hardware specifications (e.g., processor speed, RAM). Ignoring compatibility can result in software that runs slowly, crashes, or doesn't work at all on your system. To avoid such issues, double-check and ensure that the software is a good fit for your setup. 


The heart of the matter is whether the software can effectively address your needs. To determine this, start by identifying your objectives and the tasks you intend to accomplish with the software. Create a detailed checklist of the features you require and compare them with the capabilities offered by the software. It's essential to find a match that not only meets your immediate needs but also accommodates future requirements. 


The financial aspect is a vital consideration. Different software applications come with various pricing models, and it's essential to understand them fully. This includes one-time purchase costs, subscription fees, or free versions with limited functionality. Take into account your budget constraints and evaluate whether the software's pricing aligns with the value it brings. Remember to factor in any ongoing costs, such as subscription renewals, to ensure that the software remains sustainable. 

User Interface (UI)  

The User Interface significantly influences your interaction with the software. An intuitive, well-designed UI can enhance productivity and user satisfaction. On the other hand, a badly designed interface can lead to frustration and meddle with your ability to effectively use the software. If possible, explore the software's UI through demos, trials, or screenshots to assess whether it matches your preferences and workflow. 

Support and updates  

Robust customer support and regular software updates are crucial for a smooth user experience. Investigate the support options provided by the software vendor, such as documentation, forums, or direct helpdesk assistance. Additionally, check the software's update frequency to ensure that it remains secure and up-to-date, safeguarding against vulnerabilities. 

Reviews and recommendations  

Leverage the experiences of others to gain valuable insights into the software's performance and reliability. Reading user reviews on reputable platforms and seeking recommendations from colleagues or industry peers can provide a well-rounded perspective. These real-world experiences can highlight both the software's strengths and potential weaknesses. 


As your needs evolve, it's crucial to choose software that can scale alongside your growth. Scalability ensures that you won't outgrow the software quickly and need to transition to a new solution. Assess whether the software accommodates additional users, data, or features, allowing it to remain a valuable asset as your requirements expand. 


Security is paramount, particularly when handling sensitive data or communications. Evaluate the security features offered by the software, such as data encryption, multi-factor authentication, and protection against malware. Additionally, look into the vendor's track record in addressing security vulnerabilities and their commitment to maintaining a secure environment. 


Consider whether the software allows for customisation to tailor it to your specific needs. Customisation can be particularly valuable for businesses with unique workflows or industry-specific requirements. Ensure that the software offers flexibility in adapting to your distinct processes. 

Data portability  

Data portability is essential for preventing vendor lock-in and ensuring that you can migrate to another software solution if necessary. Investigate whether the software allows for easy importing and exporting of data in standard formats. This feature ensures that your data remains accessible and transferable. 

Trial periods  

Whenever possible, take full advantage of trial periods or demos provided by software vendors. These opportunities allow you to test the software in a real-world context, assess its functionality, and evaluate its suitability for your needs. It's an excellent way to gain practical experience with the software before making a commitment. 

Licensing terms  

Software Engineering Course


In our increasingly digitised world, Application Software stands as an indispensable ally, enhancing the way we work, communicate, create, and entertain. Its versatility, coupled with a vast array of functions, has revolutionised our modern existence. Hope we could answer all your queries about “What is Application Software?”! 

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Computer Science  - Hardware and Software

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Computer Science: Hardware and Software

Lesson 2: hardware and software.


Hardware and software

Hardware and software are two terms you've probably heard of at some point or another. The odds are high that you use both on a daily basis, whether it's with your smartphone or personal computer. Let's take a deeper look at what these two things are and why they're important.

Watch the video below to learn more about hardware and software.

Hardware is any element of a computer that's physical . This includes things like monitors , keyboards , and also the insides of devices, like microchips and hard drives .

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Software is anything that tells hardware what to do and how to do it , including computer programs and apps on your phone. Video games, photo editors, and web browsers are just a few examples.

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Hardware and software are different from each other, but they also need one another in order to function . Let's look at an example of this using a smartphone. In this case, the hardware would be the physical phone itself, and the software would be its operating system and apps.

If we were to take away the software, we would just have a dead phone in our hands. It wouldn't be able to make calls, text, or go online because it's not receiving any instructions .

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On the other hand, let's say we have no hardware , meaning there's no actual phone. If all we have are the programs, we just have a bunch of instructions but nothing to give these instructions to .

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The big picture here is that hardware needs software to tell it what to do, but software also needs hardware in order to act out its directions. When you combine the two, you can do all sorts of things, whether you're using a smartphone, computer, or any other type of device.

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Technology will continue to evolve. We may not be sure how it will look in 100 years, but hardware and software will be there serving as its foundation.



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Unit 7. Evolution of computers

Topic B: Computer hardware and software

Click play on the following audio player to listen along as you read this section.

Computer Hardware Basics

Hardware – any physical device or equipment used in or with a computer system (anything you can see and touch).

External hardware

  • External hardware devices (peripherals) – any hardware device that is located outside the computer.
  • Input device – a piece of hardware device which is used to enter information to a computer for processing.

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  • Output device – a piece of hardware device that receives information from a computer.
  • Examples: monitor, printer, scanner, speaker, display screen (tablet, smartphone …), projector, head phone, etc.

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Internal hardware

  • Internal hardware devices (or internal hardware components) – any piece of hardware device that is located inside the computer.
  • Examples: CPU, hard disk drive, ROM, RAM, etc.

Computer Software Basics

Computer software.

  • Software – a set of instructions or programs that tells a computer what to do or how to perform a specific task (computer software runs on hardware).
  • Main types of software – systems software and application software.

Application software

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  • Application software – a computer program that provides users with tools to accomplish a specific task.
  • Examples of application software: word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, database management, Internet browsers, email programs, media players, accounting, pronunciation, translation, desktop publishing, enterprise, etc.

System Software

A computer functions through interactions between the user, applications, the operating system, and the hardware.

  • Main functions of system software – allocating system resources, managing storage space, storing and retrieval of files, providing security, etc.
  • Main types of systems software – operating system, device driver, utility software, programming software, etc.

Operating system (OS) – a software that controls and coordinates the computer hardware devices and runs other software and applications on a computer. It is the main part of system software and a computer will not function without it.

  • Main functions of an operating system – booting the computer, managing system resources (CPU, memory, storage devices, printer, etc.), managing files, handling input and output, executing and providing services for application software, etc.
  • Examples of operating system: Microsoft Windows, Apple iOS, Android OS, macOS, Linux, etc.

Device driver – a software program that is designed to control a particular hardware device that is attached to a computer.

  • The main purpose of device driver – it acts as a translator between the hardware device and operating systems or applications that use it.
  • It instructs computer on how to communicate with the device by translating the operating system’s instructions into a language that a device can understand in order to perform the necessary task.
  • Examples of device driver: printer driver, display driver, USB driver, sound card driver, motherboard driver, ROM driver, etc.

Utility software – a type of system software that helps set up, analyze, configure, strengthen, maintain a computer and performs a very specific task (e.g. antivirus software, backup software, memory tester, screen saver, etc.).

any physical device or equipment used in or with a computer system (anything you can see and touch).

any hardware device that is located outside the computer.

a piece of hardware device which is used to enter information to a computer for processing.

a piece of hardware device that receives information from a computer.

any piece of hardware device that is located inside the computer.

a set of instructions or programs that tells a computer what to do or how to perform a specific task (computer software runs on hardware).

a computer program that provides users with tools to accomplish a specific task.

it is designed to run a computer's hardware and application software, and make the computer system available for use. It serves as the interface between hardware, application software, and the user.

a software that controls and coordinates the computer hardware devices and runs other software and applications on a computer. It is the main part of system software and a computer will not function without it.

a software program that is designed to control a particular hardware device that is attached to a computer.

a type of system software that helps set up, analyze, configure, strengthen, maintain a computer and performs a very specific task (e.g. antivirus software, backup software, memory tester, screen saver, etc.).

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These critiques will be graded by your TAs and/or Communication Instructors, and assigned a letter grade (we will specify more details about grading in each of the assignments). The expectations for each individual critique will be detailed in the tutorials. As your skills at analyzing and reading technical papers improve throughout the semester, we will expect your critiques to reflect that.


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System software refers to the low-level software that manages and controls a computer’s hardware and provides basic services to higher-level software. There are two main types of software: systems software and application software. Systems software includes the programs that are dedicated to managing the computer itself, such as the operating system, file management utilities, and disk operating system (or DOS). 

What is System Software?

System software is software that provides a platform for other software. Some examples can be operating systems , antivirus software , disk formatting software, computer language translators, etc. These are commonly prepared by computer manufacturers. This software consists of programs written in low-level languages, used to interact with the hardware at a very basic level. System software serves as the interface between the hardware and the end users. 

System software refers to the collection of programs and software components that enable a computer or computing device to function properly. It acts as an intermediary between the user and the computer hardware, allowing the user to interact with the hardware and use various applications and programs. Some common types of system software include operating systems (such as Windows, macOS, or Linux), device drivers , utility programs, programming languages, and system libraries.

Operating systems are the most important type of system software, as they provide the foundational framework for all other software and applications to run on the computer. They manage computer resources, such as memory and processing power, and provide a user interface for users to interact with the system. Device drivers are another important type of system software, as they allow the operating system to communicate with hardware devices such as printers, scanners , and graphics cards . Utility programs provide additional functionality to the operating system, such as disk defragmentation , virus scanning, and file compression.

Examples of System Software

System software is a type of computer program that is designed to run a computer’s hardware and application programs and examples of system software include operating systems (OS) (like macOS, Linux, Android, and Microsoft Windows), game engines, search engines(like google,Bing,Yahoo!), industrial automation, computational science software, and (SaS)software as a service applications.

  • Operating systems (OS): Windows, Linux, macOS, etc.
  • Device drivers: software that enables the communication between hardware and OS.
  • Firmware : pre-installed low-level software that controls a device’s basic functions.
  • Utility software: tools for system maintenance and optimization.
  • Boot loaders : software that initializes the OS during startup.

Why use  System Software?

Here are some reasons why system software is necessary:

  • Hardware Communication: System software serves as an interface between the hardware and software components of a computer, enabling them to communicate and work together.
  • Resource Management: System software manages computer resources such as memory, CPU usage, and storage, optimizing their utilization and ensuring that the system operates efficiently.
  • Security: System software provides security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption, protecting the system and its data from malware, viruses, and other security threats.
  • User Interface: System software provides a user interface that allows users to interact with the computer or computing device and perform various tasks.
  • Application Support: System software supports the installation and running of applications and software on the system.
  • Customization: System software allows for customization of the system settings and configuration, giving users greater control over their computing environment.

Features of System Software 

The most important features of system software are as below.

  • Memory Management: operating system perform memory management . The OS keeps track of the primary memory and allocates the memory when a process requests it. 
  • Processor Management: OS performs process management . Allocates the main memory (RAM) to a process and de-allocates it when it is no longer required. 
  • File Management: Operating system perform file management . Allocates and de-allocates the resources and decides who gets the resources. 
  • Security: Prevents unauthorized access to programs and data using passwords. 
  • Error-detecting Aids: Production of dumps, traces, error messages, and other debugging and error-detecting methods. 
  • Scheduling: The OS schedules the process through its scheduling algorithms . 

Types of System Software

Types of System Software

1. Operating System

An operating system (OS) is a type of system software that manages a computer’s hardware and software resources. It provides common services for computer programs. An OS acts as a link between the software and the hardware. It controls and keeps a record of the execution of all other programs that are present in the computer, including application programs and other system software.

Important Tasks Performed by the Operating System

The main functions of operating systems are as follow:

  • Resource Management:  The operating system manages and allocates memory, CPU time, and other hardware resources among the various programs and processes running on the computer.
  • Process Management:  The operating system is responsible for starting, stopping, and managing processes and programs. It also controls the scheduling of processes and allocates resources to them.
  • Memory Management:  The operating system manages the computer’s primary memory and provides mechanisms for optimizing memory usage.
  • Security:  The operating system provides a secure environment for the user, applications, and data by implementing security policies and mechanisms such as access controls and encryption.
  • File Management:  The operating system is responsible for organizing and managing the file system, including the creation, deletion, and manipulation of files and directories.
  • Device Management:  The operating system manages input/output devices such as printers, keyboards, mice, and displays. It provides the necessary drivers and interfaces to enable communication between the devices and the computer.

For more, refer to  Functions of Operating System .

2. Programming Language Translator

Programming language translators are programs that translate code written in one programming language into another programming language. below are examples of programming language translator.

  • Compiler: A compiler is a software that translates the code written in one language to some other language without changing the meaning of the program. The compiler is also said to make the target code efficient and optimized in terms of time and space.  A compiler performs almost all of the following operations during compilation pre-processing, lexical analysis , parsing, semantic analysis (syntax-directed translation), conversion of input programs to an intermediate representation, code optimization , and code generation . Examples of compilers may include gcc(C compiler), g++ (C++ Compiler ), javac (Java Compiler), etc. 
  • Interpreter: An interpreter is a computer program that directly executes, i.e. it performs instructions written in a programming or scripting language . Interpreters do not require the program to be previously compiled into a machine language program. An interpreter translates high-level instructions into an intermediate form, which is then executed.  Interpreters are fast as it does not need to go through the compilation stage during which machine instructions are generated. The interpreter continuously translates the program until the first error is met. If an error comes it stops executing. Hence debugging is easy. Examples may include Ruby , Python , PHP, etc. 
  • Assembler: An assembler is a program that converts the assembly language into machine code. It takes the basic commands and operations and converts them into binary code specific to a type of processor.  Assemblers produce executable code that is similar to compilers. However, assemblers are more simplistic since they only convert low-level code (assembly language) to machine code. Since each assembly language is designed for a specific processor, assembling a program is performed using a simple one-to-one mapping from assembly code to machine code. On the other hand, compilers must convert generic high-level source code into machine code for a specific processor. 

3. Device Drivers

Device drivers are a class of system software that minimizes the need for system troubleshooting. Internally, the operating system communicates with hardware elements. Device drivers make it simple to manage and regulate this communication.

To operate the hardware components, the operating system comes with a variety of device drivers. The majority of device drivers, including those for a mouse, keyboard, etc., are pre-installed in the computer system by the businesses that make computers.

4. Firmware

These are the operational programs installed on computer motherboards that assist the operating system in distinguishing between Flash, ROM , EPROM , and memory chips. However, managing and controlling all of a device’s actions is the main purpose of any firmware software . For initial installation, it makes use of non-volatile chips.

There are mainly two main types of firmware chips:

  • BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) chip .
  • UEFI (Unified Extended Firmware Interface) chips .

5. Utility Software

System Software and application software interact through utility software . A third-party product called utility software is created to lessen maintenance problems and find computer system defects. It is included with your computer’s operating system.

Listed below are some particular attributes of utility software:

  • Users benefit from protection from threats and infections.
  • WinRAR and WinZip are programs that aid in reducing disk size.
  • It assists with disk partitioning and functions as a windows disk management service.
  • It makes it easier for users to back up old data and improves system security.
  • It operates as a disk defragmenter to organize the dispersed files on the drive.
  • It aids in the recovery of lost data.

Uses of System Software

Here are some common uses of system software:

  • Operating systems: An operating system is a type of system software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. Operating systems are used in a wide variety of applications, from personal computers to servers, supercomputers , and embedded systems .
  • Device drivers: Device drivers are a type of system software that allow operating systems to communicate with hardware devices such as printers, scanners, and graphics cards. Without device drivers, operating systems would not be able to interact with hardware devices, making them useless.
  • Firmware: Firmware is a type of system software that provides low-level control over hardware devices such as BIOS firmware, firmware for embedded systems, and firmware for network devices such as routers and switches.
  • System utilities: System utilities are a type of system software that performs routine maintenance tasks such as disk cleanup, defragmentation, antivirus scanning, and system backups. These utilities help ensure that the computer system is running efficiently and securely.
  • Programming tools: Programming tools are a type of system software that is used by developers to create, debug, and optimize software applications. These tools include compilers, debuggers, integrated development environments (IDEs) , and performance analysis tools.

Issues in System Software

  • Compatibility Issues: System software may not be compatible with certain hardware components, which can cause errors or crashes.
  • Security Issues: System software may contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers or malware to gain unauthorized access to the system or steal sensitive data.
  • Performance Issues: System software may not be optimized for the hardware or may be resource-intensive, which can cause the system to slow down or freeze.
  • Update Issues: System software updates may contain bugs or compatibility issues that can cause problems with the system or other software components.
  • Licensing Issues: Some system software may require licensing or activation , which can cause problems if the license expires or if there are licensing errors.
  • User Interface Issues: The user interface of system software may not be intuitive or may be difficult to use, which can affect the user experience.

Advantages of System Software

  • Resource management : System software manages and allocates resources such as memory, CPU , and input/output devices to different programs.
  • Improved performance: System software optimizes the performance of the computer and reduces the workload on the user.
  • Security : System software provides security features such as firewalls , anti-virus protection, and access controls to protect the computer from malicious attacks.
  • Compatibility: System software ensures compatibility between different hardware and software components, making it easier for users to work with a wide range of devices and software.
  • Ease of use: System software provides a user-friendly interface and graphical environment, making it easier for users to interact with and control the computer.
  • Reliability: System software helps ensure the stability and reliability of the computer, reducing the risk of crashes and malfunctions.
  • Increased functionality: System software provides a range of tools and utilities for performing various tasks, increasing the functionality and versatility of the computer.

Disadvantages of System Software

  • Complexity : System software can be complex and difficult to understand, especially for non-technical users.
  • Cost : Some system software, such as operating systems and security software, can be expensive.
  • System Overhead: The use of system software can result in increased system overhead, which can slow down the performance of the computer and reduce its efficiency.
  • Vulnerability : System software, especially the operating system, can be vulnerable to security threats and viruses , which can compromise the security and stability of the computer.
  • Upgrades : Upgrading to a newer version of system software can be time-consuming and may cause compatibility issues with existing software and hardware.
  • Limited Customizability : Some system software may have limited options for customization, making it difficult for users to personalize their computing experience.
  • Dependency : Other software programs and devices may depend on the system software, making it difficult to replace or upgrade without disrupting other systems.

Difference between System Software and Application Software

Here are the main difference points between software and application software

System Software – FAQs

1. how operating systems communicate with hardware devices.

operating systems communicate with hardware devices with the help of device drivers. Device driver is a type of system software.

2. What is the use of system software in resource management?

System software manages computer resources such as memory, CPU usage, and storage, optimizing their utilization and ensuring that the system operates efficiently.

3. What are examples of system software?

System software includes multiple applications, like utilities, operating systems, compilers and debuggers, that lie at a level of functionality like the computer hardware.

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20 Best Task Management Software Tools to Elevate Your Workflows [2024 Edition]

Sudarshan Somanathan

Head of Content

May 14, 2024

Just a few years back, I was always stuck in a cycle of frustration and self-blame—all because my professional workload was spiraling out of control . I’d make ambitious plans for me and my team and watch in agony as they fell flat. Things became so bad that I got used to the anxiety that accompanied my zillion unattended tasks. What followed was constant overwhelm, a clear lack of motivation , and even sneaky health repercussions. 😔

Eventually, I confided in some peers and realized that I was definitely not alone. In fact, there’s research revealing that as many as 41% of workers experience stress due to their heavy workloads. 

I was able to get out of this rough patch over time, and I cannot emphasize enough how life-changing it was for me to find the right task management software. You see, it’s never the amount of work that creates chaos—but poor task management.

In my case, for instance, I once unknowingly orchestrated a team burnout as I had the habit of setting over-enthusiastic ( read: unreasonable ) deadlines and delegating tasks without realistic workload considerations. It was only after I found my perfect task management tool that I had the knowledge and visibility needed to make more practical choices.

I’d call myself a much saner task manager now, and I hope my team here at ClickUp agrees. We have worked together to bring you this article exploring the 20 best task management software , with a special focus on tools that can assist you in assigning tasks and optimizing priorities effectively in 2024. You can learn about their key features, limitations, and pricing before locking your ideal task manager tool. 🌻

What Should You Look for in a Task Management Tool?

  • 1. ClickUp—best overall project & task management software

2. Asana—best for remote teams

3. jira—best for experienced it professionals, 4.—best for marketing and pmo teams, 5. trello—best for small teams, 6. hive—best task management software for multi-layered team collaboration, 7. meistertask—best for kanban task management, 8. ntask—best task management software for scheduling, 9. zenhub—best for software teams, 10. zoho projects—best for complex project management, 11. activecollab—best for personalized task management experience for client-based workflows, 12. wrike—best for scalable workflow management, 13. todoist—best for teams on a budget, 14. proofhub—best for granular task tracking, 15. smarttask—best for managing multiple projects, 16. hubspot (hubspot task management)—best for crm tasks, 17. paymo—best for client tasks and bookings, 18. timecamp—best for time tracking and billing tasks, 19.—best for creating to-do lists, 20. smartsheet—best for spreadsheet-style task management, leveraging the best task management tools: which one to pick.

Avatar of person using AI

For cross-collaborative teams like mine, task management software doesn’t just help identify, monitor, and manage tasks . It goes beyond supporting a simple to-do list and offers features to efficiently collaborate on elaborate workflows for effective goal completion .

The best task management software allows my team to set deadlines, prioritize tasks , track progress, and adjust schedules with ease, which results in smoother decision-making. Other useful functionalities that we prioritize include:

  • Flexibility: In my experience, good task management software is always the one that has a user-friendly interface. Bonus points if it runs smoothly on all major operating systems across devices, giving my team more control over everyday work
  • Time tracking: We find it’s best to go for a task management solution that lets us improve our time management through seamless time tracking
  • Task automation: As your business grows, automation plays a key role in expanding your task base sustainably. The best task management software lets us automate recurring admin tasks, leaving everyone more time to focus on cognitively demanding, high-level assignments
  • Communication support: Because I’m running a busy, distributed team, I value tools that support productive task-related discussions, file sharing, and instant announcements
  • Reporting and analytics: We’ve noticed that quality task management software provides reporting features to record and analyze information (like clock-in/clock-out data, absence, and overtime hours) for productivity analysis, invoicing, and payroll management
  • Integration with other tools: Now this may be a personal preference, but I like it when my task management system integrates with other software we use, like messaging apps , project management tools , and writing assistants , simply because this eliminates context switching and makes team collaboration and task monitoring way easier 😇

20 Best Task Management Software for Balanced Task Planning and Execution

When we started testing out the tons of task management apps available on the market, one aspect was clear—they’re not all cut from the same cloth. For instance, some are versatile tools, while others focus on nailing specific functions like task dependencies.

We eventually narrowed down to 20 best task management software that just had to be on our list. We cherry-picked them after considering diverse criteria like feature set and affordability, so you’re sure to find something that addresses your immediate needs. 🧐

Here’s a snapshot of our list, which will be followed by detailed and honest reviews of each software:

1. ClickUp —best overall project & task management software

Why end with a bang when we can start with one? 💥

We might be a bit biased here, but ClickUp has repeatedly proved itself to be the best task management solution for individuals, professionals, and teams alike. It’s not just us; even G2 considers it to be the best-rated task management and team task management software , ranking it #1 in 15+ competitive categories in 2024!

What makes ClickUp click is its AI-enabled, end-to-end support for managing tasks and priorities, monitoring progress, and staying productive.

How we use ClickUp for hands-on task management

The way we leverage ClickUp for my team is pretty straightforward—for starters, we go to ClickUp Tasks for everything, from centralized task planning and scheduling to tracking individual assignments.

I love how the platform makes our task management process super intuitive and data-rich. We get to categorize team tasks by type and set Custom Task Status from To Do to Done to make tracking effortless. We can use as many Custom Fields as we want to set deadlines, add assignees, and define further details we want to track or filter through. For each task assignment, our team can also: 

  • Add links and comments to centralize contextual knowledge and discussions
  • Specify task dependencies to offer visibility for schedule management
  • Define subtasks and checklists to support extensive deliverables 
  • Use @mentions and action items to delegate tasks and share updates

Our Task View is by default a pop-up window, but we can also minimize it to a sidebar or Task Tray if we want to keep our individual to-do lists accessible or track time as we go.

ClickUp 3.0 Task view Checklist

If you are a visual task manager like me, there’s good news! I frequently use the 15+ project views of this task management software for comprehensive visibility over our entire workflow—I manage tasks on Kanban boards, sort through them in the List view, and visualize timelines with colorful Gantt charts. 🌈

ClickUp comes with a drag-and-drop Calendar view that aids our granular task planning. We also make use of the Recurring Tasks feature to schedule routine stuff, like meetings and sprint retrospectives, and visualize or adjust our day-to-day directly on the Calendar.

At any given day, we have 100+ active tasks across departments, and it’s near impossible to follow up on each one of them. Thankfully, we can stay on top of our task lists with ClickUp Reminders . We create them from any task comment or notification, which gives us more flexibility to manage team tasks seamlessly from any device we’re on without losing sight of inter-departmental dependencies.

And, if we’re dealing with an overwhelming workload, we identify what to prioritize and deprioritize using ClickUp Task Priorities and its color-coded tags. We also lighten team workloads with ClickUp Automatons , which lets us automate time-consuming tasks like checking emails or organizing documents.

Bonus! Our secret to stress-free productivity? ClickUp Brain and pre-made templates

Beyond tracking and prioritizing tasks, ClickUp also lends us a hand with Project Management . For instance, we employ ClickUp Brain , the platform’s AI assistant, to automate project summaries, task planning, and task standups and updates.

ClickUp Brain is a neural network connecting the team’s tasks, documents, and discussions living on the platform—it helps us extract and summarize information and action items through simple prompts and questions.

We also take our productivity to new heights with numerous customizable ClickUp templates that help us standardize task assignments immediately! If you’re new to the platform, the ClickUp Task Management Template can be a great starting point. By downloading this free template , you can organize your tasks into Lists like Action Items , Ideas , and Backlog for easier navigation. Open separate views to track assignments by department or priority label. 🚩

ClickUp’s Task Management Template

ClickUp best features

  • 1,000+ templates to kickstart skillful task management
  • Intuitive task scheduling platform with time tracking
  • ClickUp Dashboards for real-time task tracking and productivity metrics
  • ClickUp Goals to set measurable task KPIs
  • Task Checklist feature for easy to-do list creation
  • Multiple project views like List, Table, and Timeline
  • Custom task statuses to complement your workflow
  • A Bulk Action Toolbar to edit multiple tasks at once
  • Automates recurring, error-prone tasks
  • Built-in task prioritization levels  
  • Universal Search and Tags to access tasks quickly
  • Supports task generation directly from ClickUp Docs and Whiteboards
  • Integrates with 1,000+ apps like Slack, Gmail, Zoom, Outlook, and HubSpot
  • Dedicated mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux
  • Built-in chat and file-sharing options for task collaboration
  • Easy-to-use, no-code interface

ClickUp limitations

  • It takes time to explore all its task management features (you can leverage the ClickUp Help Center to ease the learning curve)
  • A dedicated subtask reporting feature would be a great add-on

ClickUp pricing

Most of ClickUp’s task management features are accessible on the free plan. The price-to-features ratio on the paid options is one of the best in this space.

  • Free Forever (supports unlimited tasks and members)
  • Unlimited: $7/month per user
  • Business: $12/month per user
  • Enterprise: Contact for pricing
  • ClickUp AI: Add to any paid plan for $5 per member per month

*All listed prices refer to the yearly billing model

ClickUp ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.7/5 (9,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.7/5 (4,000+ reviews)

The platform has garnered largely positive reviews as a task management solution. Here’s how one user describes their experience :

My favorite feature is the ‘add to’ function for tasks, which enables me to have a central location for all major projects. Within the project/Epic, subtasks can be assigned to the correct space/list to be worked on by whoever needs it. Having a top-down view of the location and status of each subtask is invaluable to keeping track of what is completed and incomplete. Adding custom fields wherever I need them is also fantastic.

Asana helps you create personalized workflows with zero coding and automate manual tasks with ease

There’s no milder way to put it—we just love Asana as an online task management software for remote teams! For starters, we can use pre-built templates to organize our remote projects and coordinate on tasks and updates using the centralized Inbox feature.

As we tested the tool further, we noticed that it was incredibly easy to add and track cross-team tasks across multiple projects. Essentially, I can ensure the same task is never duplicated in another department, which is a common pain point for remote teams!

Its breadth of features is quite similar to ClickUp (you can check out a detailed ClickUp vs. Asana comparison here ). For instance, I can add task descriptions in the form of bulleted lists, embed files to add context, set due dates, and add assignees in a few clicks. It’s also effortless to create subtasks, identify blockers, and streamline approvals on task changes.

What makes Asana stand out among its alternatives for me is the Workflow Builder feature —it gives us a smooth interface to create workflows without coding, helping us automate routine tasks and expedite projects. This quality task management software also features a My Tasks list , which helps prioritize work by auto-promoting tasks based on due dates.

Overall, Asana is a collaborative task management tool for anyone working remotely —my distributed team was able to communicate directly within the app, encouraging cross-functional collaboration with minimal friction. For added transparency, we recommend adding relevant collaborators to your team’s tasks to keep them updated on progress async.

Asana best features

  • Templates for task management
  • Remote-friendly collaboration tools
  • Zero-code workflow builder
  • Search and filtering options for simpler navigation
  • Integrates with apps like Slack and Dropbox, as well as ClickUp
  • Mobile app for Android and iOS

Asana limitations

  • May be challenging to implement for larger teams
  • Storage and collaboration features could use improvement

Asana pricing

  • Personal: Free forever (for up to 10 users)
  • Starter: $10.99/month per user
  • Advanced: $24.99/month per user

Asana ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.3/5 (9,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.5/5 (12,000+ reviews)

Many users have favorably reviewed Asana’s auto-reminders feature, like this one :

I like how Asana helps us to make and assign tasks to employees in our team, and also it auto gives them reminders to complete the tasks on time. Their reminder emails are very much helpful, this way our co-workers have the list of To-Do’s ready without checking multiple messaging platforms and emails.

Jira offers task automations, collaboration features, and numerous templates for software developers, makerting teams, HR, and more

When I first started exploring Jira, it was evident to me that this was not as beginner-friendly as other alternatives due to a somewhat complex feature set. But then, Jira is a popular task management software option among seasoned professionals in industries like IT, finance, marketing, and HR, so it was worth a try.

To give you some context, Jira was first launched by Atlassian as an issue-tracking tool for software developers—but has now branched out to become a useful tool for project managers and task managers alike. In my experience, I found it to be an incredibly handy tool for Agile project management .

My team tried to set up a sample workflow for a complex Agile project, and we were able to break everything into manageable sprints . We got the option to set up tasks under:

  • Company-managed projects: A standard admin-controlled workflow
  • Team-managed projects: A more self-contained workspace for independent teams

Jira’s multiple views, like boards and timelines, makes it easy to track sprint tasks and identify roadblocks to ensure continuous improvement . The tool also supports team collaboration by allowing members to brainstorm and exchange task information across departments through shared workflows.

Moving to productivity, it’s worth noting that Jira, like ClickUp , lets us update custom task statuses in real time, while its automaton feature allows for running manual actions in the background. Plus, project managers can automate work using its numerous task management templates . 😀

Tip: Explore the Jira-ClickUp integration to manage your Agile workflow better!

Jira best features

  • Workflow automation support
  • Multiple task views for agile teams
  • Templates for niches like human resources , marketing, and IT
  • Integrates with Atlassian Work Management and other popular apps
  • Effective task management apps for Android and iOS

Jira limitations

  • The system can be slow at times
  • The user interface and dashboard design could be improved

Jira pricing

  • Free: Up to 10 users
  • Standard: $8.15/month per user
  • Premium: $16/month per user
  • Enterprise: Contact sales for pricing

Jira’s business support is only available on paid tiers. However, free plan users can seek out community support .

Jira ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.3/5 (5,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.5/5 (13,000+ reviews)

Bonus read: Check out these Jira alternatives ! helps marketing, PMO, and operations teams track tasks easily with color coding

Can using for managing tasks can make Mondays less dreadful? We think yes! This simple task management software provides all key features, from multiple task views to task templates, that you’d find in most Monday alternatives .

However, what our research team loves the most is the software’s specific task management features for marketing and PMO teams . For example, marketing teams can benefit from key features like brand asset management , robust Gantt charts (to build task timelines), and campaign tracking . Meanwhile, PMO teams rely on features for monitoring OKRs , identifying dependencies, and tracking time for future task planning.

I think also stands out with its smooth interface . Its Work Management feature lets you create no-code marketing workflows for specific functions like content creation, social media, and event planning.

I consulted a few project managers who use the tool, and they even appreciated its intuitive layout. For example, the platform allows them to make informed decisions by accessing quick overviews of task progress on a dashboard. 📈

Plus, allows you to organize workspaces into projects with individual tasks and subtasks, complete with color-coding options to help you track task priorities and statuses easily.

Overall, it’s a powerful task management tool—quite similar to ClickUp and Asana in terms of design and feature set. Plus, the platform integrates with top marketing tools as well as other collaborative platforms ( including ClickUp ). best features

  • Includes 200+ automation options
  • Color-coded custom task statuses and priority levels
  • User-friendly project templates
  • No-code workflows setup
  • Offers a mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Integrates with over 200 apps limitations

  • The initial setup tends to be overwhelming
  • Some users struggle with custom reminders and experience delays in notifications pricing

You can access the following plans by first signing up for a 14-day free trial:

  • Free: Up to two users
  • Basic: $9/month per user
  • Standard: $12/month per user
  • Pro: $19/month per user ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.7/5 (10,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.6/5 (4,000+ reviews)

Trello helps you organize tasks on a Kanban board with minimal effort

I’m a religious fan of Kanban boards, which is partly why I always have a blast using Trello. One of the main reasons why I put it high up on our list is simplicity—most project management software are not as easy to learn as Trello, which makes it perfect for managing linear tasks on a smaller scale.

This good task management software is all about moving tasks like sticky notes on a drag-and-drop Kanban board for easier status tracking. Individuals can use it to create personalized task lists, while team members can rely on advanced checklists to add context to tasks by adding due dates and assignees. 

As far as basic task management is concerned, this software supports task prioritization through labels like high, medium, or low priority. Say I want to access a specific batch of tasks and prepare a quick status report—all I have to do is filter through these labels.

Trello’s no-code (and cute!) automation tool called Butler is also incredibly comfortable to use. Even the less tech-savvy members of my team can automate recurring tasks by creating simple rules, buttons, and commands.

Trello lets us view tasks on calendars, timelines, and neatly organized tables, which is often more than enough to manage workloads in smaller teams. However, if you’re running a larger team or a more complex project that requires agility and a wider variety of project views, Trello alternatives with enterprise features may be a better option.

Trello best features

  • Butler—a no-code automation tool
  • Kanban-based task tracking software
  • Includes checklists, calendars, and timelines
  • Color-coding helps prioritize tasks
  • Android and iOS mobile apps
  • Integrates with other task management systems like ClickUp and Jira

Trello limitations

  • Gets costly as users increase in number
  • May not support complex project management

Trello pricing

Trello’s free plan is pretty generous and supports up to 10 boards. You need to get a Premium tier to access more views and AI-driven features, which are necessary for effective task management in modern workspaces.

  • Standard: $5/month per user
  • Premium: $10/month per user
  • Enterprise: $17.5/month per user

Trello ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.4/5 (13,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.6/5 (23,000+ reviews)

Here’s what one user had to say about completing tasks and projects with Trello:

Trello provides software development projects with a smooth platform for managing Agile and Kanban workflows. Tasks can be easily created and organized because of its user-friendly interface and customisable boards, lists, and cards. While Trello’s ease of use is one of its main advantages, it might not have all the complex project management capabilities of more all-inclusive applications. 

Hive helps your team collaborate on tasks with ease

I had little idea of what Hive is like when I first started testing it. The platform advertises itself as an all-encompassing project management software with use cases ranging from project and resource management to client engagement. While I mostly explored features for task management, I can confidently say that this tool wins when it comes to facilitating team collaboration.

Hive provides any hybrid team with a task management platform to:

  • Assign, track, and execute tasks together, regardless of location
  • Monitor upcoming tasks across departments
  • Streamline task intake data with forms
  • Collaborate async or live with Hive Notes and Text and Voice Chat

Like ClickUp, Hive supports project collaboration by letting teammates communicate across projects by leaving comments on action cards or tagging team members.

Collaboration here is smoother because you get to observe your tasks from unique angles . For example, we can use the Portfolio view to get a detailed overview of tasks across projects or the Label view to categorize subtasks. I thought I could focus better by activating the My Actions view to display my task assignments in a concentrated way. 

We can also rely on key features like task status to easily track progress, templates to customize project layouts and business processes, and notifications to never miss a beat. Plus, Hive offers Workflows App —a no-code task automation tool to help you cut down on manual labor and design personalized automated workflows. 

Hive best features

  • Collaborative task management tool
  • Supports individual, group, or project discussions
  • AI assistant ( HiveMind ) and templates to support standard tasks
  • My Actions view tracks all the tasks assigned to you 
  • Includes a no-code task automation tool
  • Integrates with Dropbox and Google Drive

Hive limitations

  • The mobile app has limited functionality
  • UX may get compromised with many collaborators

Hive pricing

Hive’s free plan neatly supports basic task management for all your projects, but you’ll have to upgrade to paid plans for features like custom fields, task labels, and an in-app calendar.

  • Starter: $5/month per user
  • Teams: $12/month per user

Hive ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.6/5 (500+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.5/5 (100+ reviews)

Bonus: Check out these Hive alternatives !

MeisterTask lets you organize tasks easily through intuitive Kanban boards

Most alternatives to MeisterTask include Kanban boards as one of their key features. However, I’d emphasize that MeisterTask excels as Kanban-based task management software because of how user-friendly and intuitive it is. 😻

The tool is beautifully crafted and provides customizable Kanban-style boards that let us organize and monitor task cards. We can mark if tasks are In Progress , Done , or on the To Do list (or create custom sections). What’s cool is that we can also switch to a Gantt-like timeline view to access more linear scheduling.

These boards keep all work centralized and let us communicate effectively through task comments. We can mention teammates in the comments, add them as project watchers, and assign them tasks directly from the board. Whenever you manage projects prone to changes, just activate real-time notifications to keep everyone in the loop about the latest updates.

Besides collaborative boards, the software offers personal Kanban pinboards called Agendas , where we can organize all the tasks assigned to us, as well as access due dates and important files faster.

Many user reviews for MeisterTask compliment the tool’s pretty interface —here’s what a verified user shared:

The colorful Kanban-type interface, the multiple project lists you can have, tags, integration from MindMeister, easy integration from other websites to spawn tasks. I use it on my phone, tablet, and iPad.

MeisterTask best features

  • Easy-to-use Kanban boards to track project progress
  • Can serve as a personal task management software
  • Task-related collaboration through comments
  • Dashboards to track tasks, time-tracking data, and notifications
  • Lets you automate recurring tasks
  • iOS and Android mobile apps

MeisterTask limitations

  • The software could benefit from adding a workflow calendar to its features
  • Notifications may be delayed on mobile devices

MeisterTask pricing

  • Basic: Free (doesn’t allow integration with other apps)
  • Pro: $6.50/month per user

MeisterTask ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.6/5 (100+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.7/5 (1,000+ reviews)

MeisterTask lets you organize tasks easily through intuitive Kanban boards

nTask serves as an SMB-focused hub for tracking and scheduling tasks under three sections: To-Do, Workflow, and Projects . The idea is to create both personal and professional task lists, as well as define workflows for specific functions like designing, fund management, and freelancing. 

In my opinion, the Projects tab has quite a clutter-free interface to design granular schedules and assign tasks or entire task lists to your teammates. If you’re new to the platform, you can start with a weekly scheduling sheet to create a baseline of tasks, along with descriptions and assignees. Then, you can use the Task Builder to add tasks as needed.

As a visual task management tool, my team was able to use nTask to plan and prioritize tasks on a Kanban layout, manage interconnected delivery timelines, and visualize projects with color-coded Gantt charts.

For example, we scheduled tasks by setting planned and actual due dates and creating task dependencies and milestones to ensure timely completion. Then, we set priorities, custom statuses, and real-time notifications to ensure no action remains overlooked.

nTask’s robust time-tracking capabilities help us stay within realistic timeframes. I can monitor time spent on tasks and estimate the time my team will need for future tasks, which makes scheduling (and invoicing) easier over time.

nTask best features

  • Offers multiple project views (board, grid, list, and calendar)
  • Comprehensive task tracking
  • Visual task management and task scheduling through Gantt charts
  • Recurring tasks feature with daily, weekly, or monthly repeats
  • Integrates with 1,000+ tools like Apple Calendar, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams
  • Android and iOS support

nTask limitations

  • Attaching documents and images to tasks may be challenging
  • User interface could be more intuitive

nTask pricing

You can access a 7-day trial period for all plans. NGOs may be able to get up to 50% off upon contacting sales.

  • Premium: $3/month per user
  • Business: $8/month per user

nTask ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.4/5 (10+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.2/5 (100+ reviews)

ZenHub Main Workspace view

ZenHub is a project management solution that primarily caters to software development teams. It provides a native GitHub integration via a browser extension for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. This helps reduce context switching by keeping project tasks connected with GitHub code. 

Plus, ZenHub offers automatic task updates as users complete issues in GitHub, streamlining task completion by eliminating manual status check-ins from your team’s to-do list. There are also automated hand-offs to update all connected workspaces.

This online task management software and software development tool brings tasks together on intuitive, drag-and-drop Kanban boards , allowing teams to view all current tasks and their statuses.

Use these boards to prioritize tasks, track projects, and attach pull requests to corresponding issues. Group related issues into Epics or connect various private and public GitHub repos to a single board. 👨‍🏫

Additionally, ZenHub offers sprint planning features, making it a handy tool for agile teams . It lets us set automated sprint cycles, auto-generate new sprints with prioritized and unfinished tasks, and receive periodical reports on progress.

I’ve also heard pretty exciting things about ZenHub AI (automatic issue categorization, sprint reviews, etc.). However, I wasn’t able to get past the waitlist to try out its beta program.

ZenHub best features

  • Various key features for agile teams
  • Native GitHub integration
  • Provides spring planning and tracking
  • Boards with intuitive task management capabilities
  • Automate repetitive tasks and hand-offs
  • Acts as a visual task management tool with roadmaps and timelines
  • Integrates with Figma, Miro, and Loom

ZenHub limitations

  • Steep learning curve
  • The interface may be challenging to navigate

ZenHub pricing

  • For Teams: $8.33/month per user (annual billing after a 14-day free trial)
  • For Enterprises: Contact sales for pricing

ZenHub ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.3/5 (30+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.4/5 (30+ reviews)

Zoho Projects lets you manage simple and complex projects in multiple project views

Zoho Projects is a reliable project management software with features such as issue tracking, team monitoring , project timesheets, and resource utilization charts. From the range of use cases we explored, this platform can be excellent for managing complex projects in industries like marketing, construction, IT, and consulting.

Zoho Projects offers a comprehensive toolset for task management that assists us in breaking projects down into milestones, task lists, and subtasks for simpler tracking. This task management platform is all about details—each task can have attributes like assignees, work hours, priorities, and reminders. Plus, we can use timesheets and timers to record time spent on each task.

We were able to schedule tasks on a calendar and get an overview of team members’ capacity simultaneously. This, I think, is crucial for balanced task planning and avoiding the risk of team burnout.

Like many Zoho alternatives , this tool simplifies task organization by providing Kanban-style boards with drag-and-drop task cards and flexible statuses. As for planning and tracking complex workflows, we can use Gantt charts to identify granular team tasks, set dependencies, and monitor deadlines to ensure everything is done on time. ⌛

I believe that using Zoho Projects is great for consolidating your task ecosystem when you use other Zoho applications, such as Zoho Mail or Zoho CRM, as the tool gives you a unified view of your tasks across sister platforms.

Zoho Projects best features

  • Quick-access Gantt charts
  • Supports versatile task management use cases
  • Highly customizable workflows with project templates
  • Easy task scheduling on calendars
  • Integrates with various Zoho, Google, and Microsoft apps 
  • Task management apps (iOS 9.0+ and Android 4.1+)

Zoho Projects limitations

  • Initial setup may be challenging
  • Software customization can be time-consuming 

Zoho Projects pricing

  • Free: Up to three users
  • Premium: $4/month per user (10-day trial)
  • Enterprise: $9/month per user (10-day trial)

Zoho Projects ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.3/5 (300+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.4/5 (400+ reviews)

Reviews mostly mention the product to be useful, albeit confusing at times. Here’s an excerpt :

Zoho Projects is useful when using to assign tasks, getting multiple projects done, and needing to know who will do it by when. It allows people to go in and time themselves to track how long it took them to do it. It does get really confusing at times to create tasks because of the many tedious needs that can be miscommunicated while trying to assign (tasks). 

ActiveCollab helps you track personal tasks from a centralized hub

ActiveCollab is all about increasing productivity and meeting deadlines with ease in client-based workflows. Whether you’re a startup or a small creative team, the tool lets you invite unlimited clients to the platform for improved collaboration and feedback loops. In my opinion, this alone can help eliminate those hard-to-keep-track-of client meetings and follow-up email chains.

My experience? Besides adding tasks for my team, I was also able to break down complex actions into subtasks for my clients, ensuring all assigned tasks got done as planned. Additionally, we saw functions to:

  • Add due dates, assignees, and detailed task descriptions
  • Group tasks based on different criteria
  • Duplicate repetitive tasks

This online task management software offers only three project views to choose from, which is less than what ActiveCollab alternatives typically offer. Still, it includes frequently used views—the Kanban board, Gantt chart, and List view. 📝

I know automation is a recurring theme at this point, but still worth a mention—ActiveCollab can reduce manual labor by automating recurring tasks like drafting weekly reports. And, if you need to ensure actions are completed in a fixed order, just create dependencies between multiple tasks.

ActiveCollab stresses the importance of a personal task manager, which freelancers may find useful. It provides a My Work page where you can find and organize your task assignments by project, client, or due date. 

ActiveCollab’s timesheets also impress me quite a bit. Besides getting an overview of all my time records, I can access project-level time tracking for easier billing. I can even revisit my productivity in terms of the comments posted, tasks created or closed, or due dates modified.

ActiveCollab best features

  • Excellent personal task management software
  • Tools to automate repetitive tasks
  • Dependencies for completing tasks in a specific order
  • Android and iOS smartphone apps
  • Integrates with other task management tools like Asana and Trello

ActiveCollab limitations

  • The file-sharing feature of this task management software could be simpler to use
  • Adding more customization options could be beneficial 

ActiveCollab pricing

All plans come with a 14-day free trial. However, you have to subscribe to the most expensive plan for features like workload management and days-off planning.

  • Plus: $9.5/month 3 users/month
  • Pro: $8/month per user/month
  • Pro+Get Paid: $11.75/month per user

ActiveCollab ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.2/5 (90+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.5/5 (300+ reviews)

Wrike assists you in creating personalized workflows and tracking projects easily

Wrike is well-known for its robust task and workflow management features. But what many users miss is how beautifully scalable it is! For instance, the platform lets me build a library of custom tasks that mimics our core processes—we can use it as a baseline for all our future workflows. And the best part is, we can expand this library to build a workspace tailored to a role, department, or even industry.

During the time we tested this tool, we created multi-level task lists across levels like folders, milestones, phases, and projects. Some of us even created personalized dashboards by pinning important tasks from our to-do list, all automatically sorted by priority and due date.

Like most of Wrike’s competitors , the platform supports strong teamwork —we can collaborate on real-time project plans, task assignments, and decision-making within the platform. Plus, the software includes built-in proofing tools for quick yet detailed task feedback and task automation to save time and increase work efficiency.

Additionally, Wrike allows project managers to build customizable reports on task and team performance. I was, for instance, able to further optimize workflows by analyzing relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) on dashboards.

Wrike best features

  • Comprehensive project dashboards with personalized reports
  • Supports feedback-friendly team collaboration
  • Multiple project views
  • Visualize tasks in views like Gantt Chart, Kanban, and Calendar
  • 400+ third-party integrations
  • Task automation

Wrike limitations

  • Could use more custom display options
  • Some users experience task syncing issues

Wrike pricing

Wrike offers integrations and additional cloud security features for an extra fee, but all of the following plans contain task management features:

  • Team: $9.80/month per user
  • Business: $24.80/month per user
  • Enterprise and Pinnacle: Contact sales

Wrike ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.2/5 (3,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.3/5 (2,000+ reviews)

Todoist helps you easily create daily to do lists

While many Todoist alternatives on our list offer additional project management features, this veteran app is purely focused on task management. I think Todoist is one of the few apps that consistently upgrades itself within its niche space. For instance, we can now create detailed daily to-do lists and set recurring tasks using natural language.

The tool ticks all the boxes for basic task planning and management—we can create tasks and subtasks, determine priorities, add due dates, and set reminders to ensure nothing goes overlooked. 👀

Although it’s primarily a task management app, Todoist can help you manage small-scale projects as it includes goal-setting features , labels to categorize tasks, and task descriptions to keep information centralized.

I personally loved its Upcoming calendar view —it displays which tasks are due urgently, and if anything’s too demanding, I can use a drag-and-drop function to reschedule assignments. And if I need to focus on team tasks that are currently due, I simply go to the Today view .

While Todoist’s simple navigation and low price make it a handy tool for personal task management, it’s also a good to-do list app for teams on a tight budget . Its project management features aren’t too comprehensive, but you can still assign tasks and leverage comments for better teamwork and transparency. Here’s what a small business owner had to share after using the tool :

Extremely easy to use for all levels of technological understanding. I use Todoist several times a day and we have integrated this across our whole team. We’ve experienced far less chance of tasks being lost or forgotten and people stay accountable because of the notifications received upon completion.

Tip: ClickUp has a neat Import from Todoist feature if you need to switch to a more extensive project management tool in the future.

Todoist best features

  • Efficient daily task management
  • Multiple task views (including Kanban boards and lists)
  • Basic team collaboration support
  • Easy navigation to monitor project progress
  • Integrates with various productivity and time-tracking apps
  • Has a to-do list app for Android and iOS

Todoist limitations

  • Integrating the software with some apps may be challenging
  • It would be beneficial if the app displayed tasks when you’re offline

Todoist pricing

  • Beginner: Free
  • Pro: $4/month per user
  • Business: $6/month per user

Todoist ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.4/5 (700+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.6/5 (2,000+ reviews)

ProofHub assist you in easy task tracking across projects

Besides being a good task management tool, ProofHub is a task tracking software that lets you easily create task lists and individual tasks, assign them to more than one team member, and closely follow due dates and priorities across task categories . I am particularly in awe of the platform’s Table view for task tracking—I get to monitor progress percentages for actions in different categories (without being a pesky micromanager). 😁

Similar to ProofHub alternatives , the software is fully customizable —we can build personalized workflows and use custom fields to capture any task-related data my team deems important. Custom fields enhance task tracking —because we customize them to track virtually any detail, be it deadlines or output.

Speaking of tracking, ProofHub has an intuitive interface for creating task dependencies for ensuring tasks are completed in a predetermined order. If you want to offer more clarity to assignees, leave comments on tasks or use mentions to guide them.

Additionally, ProofHub offers various reporting options to help gain insight into a project’s progress. You can enhance resource allocation by analyzing resource utilization reports or track project-specific progress with task completion reports.

ProofHub best features

  • Multi-faceted task tracking software
  • Customizable workflows
  • Supports task-related discussions through comments and mentions
  • Reports to gauge task progress
  • Various project views like Kanbans and tables
  • Mobile-friendly

ProofHub limitations

  • Notifications can get difficult to manage
  • Some users find its customization features complex

ProofHub pricing

Note that ProofHub currently avoids the per-user billing format, which may make it appealing for some teams.

  • Essential: $45/month for unlimited users
  • Ultimate Control: $150/month (or $89/month for a limited time offer)

ProofHub ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.5/5 (80+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.6/5 (90+ reviews)

SmartTask helps you manage tasks across multiple projects at once

SmartTask includes all key features you’d typically find in a task management tool. You can set deadlines, add dependencies, and manage tasks in views like calendar, list, and board. I’d highlight that you can create a realistic workflow here by optimizing dependent, overlapping, and ignored tasks—this is the kind of visibility you need when your team is juggling 5+ projects simultaneously.

This software stands out for me especially because of its tools for managing multiple projects simultaneously in a cross-functional setup. Its Project Portfolios feature allows you to create multiple boards to track separate goals, aligning your marketing, sales, and design teams. To play it safer, you can even share task lists across teams to prevent orphaned actions. 

SmartTask supports team collaboration by letting us comment on tasks and generate real-time notifications for updates. We can also invite clients, vendors, and external stakeholders to collaborate on any task or project by sending them an invitation.

Plus, it provides dashboard reports on both project tasks and sales that you can easily find through its advanced search bar. 🔎

SmartTask best features

  • Internal and external team communication
  • Set recurring tasks (daily, weekly, or monthly)
  • Task and sales reports
  • Supports managing tasks across projects
  • Time tracking for individual tasks
  • Task management tools for iOS and Android

SmartTask limitations

  • The UI and UX could use some improvement
  • Adding more integrations would be useful

SmartTask pricing

SmartTask may offer discounted pricing to NGOs upon contact. Eligible startups can also apply for a $1,000 worth of credit.

  • Free Forever
  • Premium: $7.99/month per user
  • Business: $10.99/month per user

SmartTask ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.5/5 (60+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.6/5 (30+ reviews)

Streamline tasks related to prospects and contacts in HubSpot’s task management software

I’ll admit that HubSpot Task Management is far from a traditional task manager—it’s more of a suite designed to help marketers streamline Customer Relationship Management (CRM) processes. Now, we know that effective CRM depends on properly storing, tracking, and managing lead- and customer-based activities. HubSpot helps you streamline these scattered tasks to boost revenue.

We explored this software extensively and can confirm that it reduces the need to switch between multiple tabs when talking to prospects, all thanks to dashboards that centralize all CRM work. In terms of use cases, utilize the dashboards to track your to-do list items, view prospect details, and stay on top of meetings. 

Need to create new tasks? Do that directly from your workflows, email inbox, or to-do list. And if you need insights from past task performances, like deals made and activities completed, leverage HubSpot’s reporting tools. This platform simplifies communication with email templates (for sending messages in bulk) and real-time team chat. 

While sales and marketing teams may enjoy HubSpot’s task management style, some of HubSpot’s alternatives could be a better choice for companies in IT or finance. You can even consider the HubSpot-ClickUp integration if you want to organize your customer-facing processes more diligently.

HubSpot best features

  • A wide array of CRM functionalities
  • Live team chats
  • Dashboards to centralize prospect-related work
  • Integrates with apps like WordPress, Gmail, and Zapier
  • iOS and Android mobile app for HubSpot CRM

HubSpot limitations

  • Limited option to prioritize tasks
  • Workflow automation is limited on the free plan

HubSpot pricing

For individuals and small teams:

  • Starter: $15/month
  • Professional: $800/month

HubSpot (CRM) ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.4/5 (11,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.5/5 (4,000+ reviews)

Manage time spent on different client projects using Paymo

Paymo is a simple task management software and invoicing app rolled into one, so I can see how it holds enormous appeal for professionals and freelancers who want to manage client work, time tracking data, and resources within one platform . It lets you automatically set up ghost bookings based on the task details you’ve entered in the past, as well as receive a visual overview of all bookings for the immediate team on a single screen. 🖥️

Paymo also simplifies managing resources by allowing multiple managers to work on scheduling to avoid overbooking or underbooking. We can:

  • Book time for time-sensitive tasks by the hour
  • Accommodate unscheduled tasks with a simple drag-and-drop function
  • Visualize our team’s availability on timelines
  • Send booking notifications only to relevant team members

The platform lets my employees view their tasks in a single view, while our task managers monitor both their personal tasks and team’s work in separate views. Like with most Paymo alternatives , we get project views like Gantt charts, Tables, and Calendars to visualize tasks.

Paymo also encourages team collaboration, offering a detailed Task View to chat in real time about the latest task updates. Finally, Paymo provides task priority levels like critical, high, normal, or low across teams, which we can adjust based on our delivery commitment to clients.

Paymo best features

  • Timelines to assess employee availability
  • Allows booking time for client tasks by the hour
  • Real-time chat
  • Project views like Gantt chart and Kanban board
  • Integrates with apps like Slack, Google Calendar, and JotForm
  • Mobile app support for iOS and Android

Paymo limitations

  • The mobile app may be tricky to navigate
  • Takes time to train employees to use the platform

Paymo pricing

  • Free (for up to five clients)
  • Starter: $5.9/month per user
  • Small Office: $10.9/month per user
  • Business: $16.9/month per user

Paymo ratings and reviews

  • Capterra: 4.8/5 (400+ reviews)

TimeCamp helps you track time spent on task and monitor task progress within one platform

I have talked to many freelancers about their task management routines, and I think one of their main problem areas is connecting tasks to tracked hours and, eventually, invoices. That’s precisely why I made sure this handy all-in-one tool was on our list.

While most TimeCamp alternatives on this list include typical task and project management features, TimeCamp shifts its focus to time-task budgeting instead.

With its one-click time-tracking capabilities , you can track your or your team’s working hours effortlessly. You can use this data to standardize times for specific jobs, plan and create task assignments and invoice estimates, and monitor each team member’s productivity.

TimeCamp also provides features for measuring the profitability of your projects and tracking billable hours, streamlining invoicing and resource management. Basically, the tasks you had to do manually, like creating invoices and approving timesheets, are automated on this platform.

Although this software highlights time tracking, it’s still a task management tool. Its TimeCamp Planner product helps you organize tasks and monitor their progress on Kanban-style boards. 

If you’re dealing with repeatable tasks, automate them by specifying information like due dates, assignees, and progress statuses. Plus, you can switch from team task overview to your own using the My Tasks feature , which displays your assigned tasks on a list, calendar, or timeline view.

Note that TimeCamp’s time tracking and task management features are available on separate pricing plans .

TimeCamp best features

  • Comprehensive time-tracking tools
  • Kanban board for easy task tracking
  • Personal task lists
  • Can automate repeatable tasks
  • Includes apps for Android and iOS
  • ClickUp (you can use this integration to time your ClickUp tasks and enjoy billing accuracy)
  • Google Calendar

TimeCamp limitations

  • The user interface and server load time could be better
  • The tool may be buggy at times

TimeCamp pricing (for TimeCamp Planner)

  • Starter: $2.99/month per user (best for freelancers)
  • Premium: $4.99/month per user (ideal for businesses tracking profitability)
  • Ultimate: $7.99/month per user (for better analytical reporting)
  • Enterprise: $11.99/month per user (for higher security and custom integrations)

TimeCamp ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.7/5 (100+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.7/5 (500+ reviews) assists you in creating simple to do lists for business and personal use specializes in providing easy-to-use to-do lists to help you achieve both personal or professional goals efficiently. It caters to individuals, families, and teams, and is available via 10+ platforms, including Mac, Safari, and iPad.

During my time with this tool, I was able to organize my to-dos in separate lists and projects, all color-coded to set clear priorities and determine task categories. We can enhance our task lists with:

  • Subtasks and attachments for added task awareness
  • Deadlines and reminders

Sharing responsibilities is also simple—just share a task list with your teammates or family to collaborate on task completion . For example, you can assign different items on a grocery list to family members and track the list to ensure they complete the task successfully. If there’s an urgent matter you wish to discuss, use the chat function to communicate in real time.  

For companies looking for a task management tool with project management capabilities, is a solid choice as it also offers features like customizable workflows, views, pre-made templates, and powerful integrations with other work tools.

If you want more comprehensive workflow features, though, explore some more advanced alternatives . best features

  • Provides simple to-do lists
  • Great as a daily task manager
  • Lets you share lists with teams, family, and friends
  • Reminders for timely task completion
  • Has apps for iOS and Android
  • Integrates with other task management tools like ClickUp and Asana (via Zapier) limitations

  • Some users desire more integrations (like with Microsoft Calendar)
  • Limited advanced features for this price range pricing

Remember to get a Family or Teams plan to access shared lists.

  • Premium: $2.99/month per user
  • Family: $8.33/month per four users
  • Teams: $4.99/month per user

*All listed prices refer to approx values billed annually ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.2/5 (100+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.4/5 (100+ reviews)

At the time of reviewing this tool, we noted a few less-than-positive reviews by Android and iOS users, mostly about some UX elements. However, the reviews for the overall functionalities are quite positive. Here’s what a sales manager who uses the product had to say :

With, organizing my tasks is simple and fast. The app works fine, and it does the job that it’s supposed to do, setting daily reminders and scheduling to keep myself on track of what’s going on. I love apps that offer a simple, minimalistic professional design.

Smartsheet provides spreadsheet-like task management and has advanced features to support complex projects

Smartsheet is a spreadsheet-like task management tool . It’s great for those who are comfortable tracking tasks in Excel but are open to switching to a tool with less complicated calculation work. The tool is popular in construction, healthcare, and education industries where task management is all about working with scattered data.

Like ClickUp, Smartsheet offers comprehensive project and task management tools for handling different workflows. For example, it lets you schedule tasks, create subtasks, allocate resources, and track assignments efficiently from one platform. ✅

Here, tasks are represented on spreadsheets for individual projects. Like most Smartsheet alternatives , we can add basic task information, like due dates and assignees, in clear fields and columns. We can also merge several spreadsheets to have a consolidated view of our tasks across categories.

However, these aren’t traditional spreadsheets—they also provide the advanced features of a modern task management tool. For instance, we can use checkboxes, dropdown lists, and comments to interact with tasks on Smartsheet.

This is a great task management software for teams working on extensive projects as it includes templates for agile project management, OKR tracking, budgeting, and resource management.

It also supports task automation, real-time collaboration , and advanced analytics. Plus, it integrates with services we may already use, like Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams.

Bonus read: Explore ClickUp vs. Smartsheet !

Smartsheet best features

  • Spreadsheet-based project management tool
  • Advanced functionalities for monitoring complex projects
  • Supports real-time team communication
  • Templates for agile project management
  • Integrates with numerous communication, data visualization, and project delivery apps
  • Available as an iOS or Android mobile app

Smartsheet limitations

  • There may be a steep learning curve for users figuring out advanced features
  • It could benefit from adding more template options

Smartsheet pricing

  • Free (for up to two task editors)
  • Pro: $7/month per user
  • Business: $25/month per user

Smartsheet ratings and reviews

  • G2: 4.4/5 (14,000+ reviews)
  • Capterra: 4.5/5 (3,000+ reviews)

Our first-hand experience with these tools has been both adventurous and enlightening. We think each of these options understands their target users and strives to deliver. However, if you’re still struggling to find “the one,” make a list of what you really prioritize in a task management platform.

Typically, great task management software provides features that help you plan, organize, track, and assign tasks, but you shouldn’t have to pay a fortune for these functions. Some features, like reminders, automation, and task views, are the bare minimum, and we see them in almost every tool we discussed.

What you can explore is the overall functionalities you get for a given price. Say Tool A gives you 30 advanced features and the more popular Tool B gives you 25 advanced features at the same price point—you know what to pick!

Lastly, the best task management tools are supposed to make your life easier, not vice versa, so ensure your chosen tool is easy to implement and fun to work with! 🥳

If you absolutely can’t make a choice, we’ll be cheeky and persuade you to try ClickUp ! It’s got all the features you’ll need to streamline task management with minimal effort. Whether you want to set goals, track and assign tasks, manage time, reduce manual labor, or communicate with your team, the possibilities are endless.

Sign up to ClickUp today and enjoy the best toolkit a free task management software has to offer! 💖

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Free writing software: 24 tools to help you create better content, faster

Find the best brainstorming, researching, writing, and editing tools.

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As a freelance writer, I try to keep my app costs lean, so I'm a sucker for free writing tools. But with so many writing apps on the market, it's hard to tell which free options are actually valuable.

I've done some of the legwork for you by bringing together some of the best free writing apps on the internet. All of the options listed here are tools the Zapier team or I have used and enjoyed.

For this roundup, I prioritized completely free tools and freemium apps with a forever free plan that was sufficient for actual regular use. Many of the options have paid plans, but those plans are generally geared toward power users.

The best free writing software at a glance

Free writing tools for brainstorming and organizing your thoughts, best free writing software for expanding your ideas.

MindMeister, our pick for the best free writing software for brainstorming with a mind map

Best free writing software for creating content outlines

WorkFlowy, our pick for the best free writing software for creating content outlines

Best free writing software for brainstorming together

Miro, our pick for the best free writing software for brainstorming together

You can even use Miro with Zapier (also free), so you can automate your brainstorming workflows. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Create Miro widgets with new Trello cards

Trello logo

Add Miro cards from new rows on Google Sheets

Google Sheets logo

Best free writing software for brainstorming topics

Ryan Robinson's Keyword Research Tool, our pick for the best free writing software for brainstorming topics

Keyword Research Tool pricing: Free

Best free writing software for brainstorming ideas with AI

Example of ChatGPT, powered by the GPT-3.5 model, writing marketing copy for a newsletter: headlines, taglines, and call-to-actions.

ChatGPT pricing: Free; ChatGPT Plus is $20/month

Best free writing software for brainstorming out loud

Your computer's dictation software (MacOS, Windows)

Windows dictation software

If you process your thoughts best through speaking, there's a brainstorming app already on your computer. Boot up Windows 10 Speech Recognition on Windows or Apple Dictation on Mac to record your thoughts as you brainstorm out loud.

Windows 10 Speech Recognition and Apple Dictation pricing: Free

Free writing tools for research and note-taking

Best free writing software for keeping everything in one place.

Notion, our pick for the best free writing software for keeping everything in one place

Save new tasks in Google Tasks in Notion databases

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Add new Microsoft Outlook calendar events to Notion databases

Microsoft Outlook logo

Notion pricing: Free plan available; from $8/user/month for team plans

Best free writing software for finding free copies of paywalled research

Unpaywall, our pick for the best free writing software for finding free copies of paywalled research

Unpaywall pricing: Free

Best free writing software for transcribing interview and video content

oTranscribe, our pick for the best free writing software for transcribing interview and video content

oTranscribe pricing: Free

Best free writing software for collecting research from other people

Google Forms, our pick for the best free writing software for collecting research from other people

Create Trello cards from new Google Forms responses

Google Forms logo

Share Google Forms responses in a Slack channel

Slack logo

Google Forms pricing: Free

Free writing tools for solo and collaborative writing

Best free writing software for collaborative writing.

Google Docs, our pick for the best free writing software for collaborative writing

Create new Google Docs from text with new rows in Google Sheets

Google Docs logo

Create new Google Docs when Trint transcripts are ready

Trint logo

Google Docs pricing: Free

Best free writing software for messages and blurbs

WordCounter, our pick for the best free writing software for messages and blurbs

WordCounter pricing: Free

Free writing tools for editing

Best free writing software for finding the perfect word.

OneLook Reverse Dictionary and Thesaurus, our pick for the best free writing software for finding the perfect word

OneLook Reverse Dictionary and Thesaurus offers all the synonyms you could dream of like a regular thesaurus, but it stands out in its reverse dictionary capabilities. Enter a phrase—or even a full sentence—to get words that match that meaning. This feature comes in handy when you want to write more concisely or find that word that's on the tip of your tongue.

OneLook Reverse Dictionary and Thesaurus pricing: Free

Best free writing software for finding the right word—anywhere

Power Thesaurus, our pick for the best free writing software for finding the right word—anywhere

As a freelance writer, I find myself needing to switch up words when I write on various platforms across the internet. Power Thesaurus gives me synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and other forms of word assistance wherever I like to write. It can do the same for you—put it to use on its website, in your browser, on your phone, in Google Docs, in Word, and in Gmail.

Best free writing software for rewording what you write

Wordtune, our pick for the best free writing software for rewording what you write

Best free writing software for clear and concise writing

Hemingway, our pick for the best free writing software for clear and concise writing

Best free writing software for creating compelling headlines

CoSchedule, our pick for the best free writing software for creating compelling headlines

CoSchedule Headline Studio pricing: Free for basic features; from $8/month to buy "Premium Headline" credits that give you access to an SEO score, AI writing features, headline suggestions, and word banks for a certain number of headlines

Best free writing software for finding and removing cliches

Cliche Finder, our pick for the best free writing software for finding and removing cliches

Cliche Finder pricing: Free

Best free writing software for finding jargon in your text

De-Jargonizer, our pick for the best free writing software for finding jargon in your text

De-Jargonizer pricing: Free

Best free writing software for varying your wording and sentence length

Expresso, our pick for the best free writing software for varying your wording and sentence length

Expresso pricing: Free

Best free writing software for comparing your writing to AI content

GPTZero, our pick for the best free writing software for comparing your writing to AI content

Free writing tools for proofreading

Best free writing software for catching spelling and grammar mistakes.

Grammarly, our pick for the best free writing software for catching spelling and grammar mistakes

Best free writing tool for proofreading short-form content

ProWritingAid, our pick for the best free writing tool for proofreading short-form content

Best free writing tool for making MLA citations

EasyBib, our pick for the Best free writing tool for making MLA citations

EasyBib pricing: Free

Free writing software FAQ

Here are some questions lots of people have about writing apps and how to choose the right one.

What's a good free writing tool?

Tools like Google Docs and WordCounter are free forever and very functional. Other apps, like Grammarly or ProWritingAid, have free plans that offer basic features, with more advanced features available via a paid plan.

But there are a lot of free writing tools available that perform a wide variety of functions—everything from brainstorming to research and note-taking to writing to editing to proofreading.

What writing tool do most writers use?

There's a wide variety of writing tools out there, and which one a writer uses really comes down to preference. A lot of writers use Google Docs to write because they already use Google for so many other things—but some may prefer a tool like Notion, where they can combine writing with project management.

What makes a good writing tool?

In short, whatever helps you write! If a blank page and no distraction is what helps you actually get words down, then open a new Google Doc and go at it. If you need to organize your thoughts before you even think about writing, consider adding a brainstorming tool to the mix. Each writer's process is different, and it's all about finding tools that enable your writing, not add another roadblock to your process.

Sharpen your craft with your new toolkit

Related reading:

This article was originally published in June 2015 by Jane Callahan and has also had contributions from Jessica Greene. The most recent update was in August 2023.

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Melissa King

Melissa King is a freelance writer who helps B2B SaaS companies spread the word about their products through engaging content. Outside of the content marketing world, she sometimes writes about video games. Check out her work at

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Improve your productivity automatically. Use Zapier to get your apps working together.

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Never forget a class or assignment again.

Unlock your potential and manage your classes, tasks and exams with mystudylife- the world's #1 student planner and school organizer app..

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School planner and organizer

The MyStudyLife planner app supports rotation schedules, as well as traditional weekly schedules. MSL allows you to enter your school subjects, organize your workload, and enter information about your classes – all so you can effortlessly keep on track of your school calendar.

Homework planner and task tracker

Become a master of task management by tracking every single task with our online planner – no matter how big or small.

Stay on top of your workload by receiving notifications of upcoming classes, assignments or exams, as well as incomplete tasks, on all your devices.

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“Featuring a clean interface, MyStudyLife offers a comprehensive palette of schedules, timetables and personalized notifications that sync across multiple devices.”

” My Study Life is a calendar app designed specifically for students. As well as showing you your weekly timetable– with support for rotations – you can add exams, essay deadlines and reminders, and keep a list of all the tasks you need to complete. It also works on the web, so you can log in and check your schedule from any device.”

“MyStudyLife is a great study planner app that makes it simple for students to add assignments, classes, and tests to a standard weekly schedule.”

“I cannot recommend this platform enough. My Study Life is the perfect online planner to keep track of your classes and assignments. I like to use both the website and the mobile app so I can use it on my phone and computer! I do not go a single day without using this platform–go check it out!!”

“Staying organized is a critical part of being a disciplined student, and the MyStudyLife app is an excellent organizer.”

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The ultimate study app

The MyStudyLife student planner helps you keep track of all your classes, tasks, assignments and exams – anywhere, on any device.

Whether you’re in middle school, high school or college MyStudyLife’s online school agenda will organize your school life for you for less stress, more productivity, and ultimately, better grades.  

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Take control of your day with MyStudyLife

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Stay on top of your studies. Organize tasks, set reminders, and get better grades, one day at a time.

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We get it- student life can be busy. Start each day with the confidence that nothing important will be forgotten, so that you can stay focused and get more done.

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Track your class schedule on your phone or computer, online or offline, so that you always know where you’re meant to be.

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Shift your focus back to your goals, knowing that MyStudyLife has your back with timely reminders that make success the main event of your day

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Say goodbye to last minute stress with MyStudyLife’s homework planner to make procrastination a thing of the past.

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Coming soon!

MyStudyLife has lots of exciting changes and features in the works. Stay tuned!

Stay on track on all of your devices.

All your tasks are automatically synced across all your devices, instantly.

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Trusted by millions of students around the world.

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School can be hard. MyStudyLife makes it easier.

Our easy-to-use online study planner app is available on the App Store, the Google Play Store and can be used on desktop. This means that you can use MyStudyLife anywhere and on any device.

Discover more on the MyStudyLife blog

See how MyStudyLife can help organize your life.

Best AI Websites and Apps for Homework: Top 10 Resources

Best AI Websites and Apps for Homework: Top 10 Resources

Maximize your success: final exam calculator & last-minute tips for better grades, filter by category.

  • Career Planning
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  • Spanish/Español
  • Student News
  • University Advice
  • Using MyStudyLife

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Test and Worksheet Generators for Math Teachers

Test and worksheet generators, learning management system, how it works, you choose the topic., you choose the mathematical properties of the questions., every topic has different options., it creates as many questions as you would like., distribute assignments to your students., print hard copies to give to students., post assignments to kuta works., students complete online., unlimited questions.

Once you have created an assignment, you can regenerate all of its questions with a single click. The new questions will conform to the same parameters as the original questions, but they will be completely new. This feature is at the heart of our software and is what makes it so powerful: you choose the properties of the questions, not the questions themselves. When a question is replaced, you get a new one that is similar to the original question. How it works. You can regenerate entire assignments, particular question groups, or individual questions.

Easy Spacing

Respace the entire assignment to the desired length with one click. Easily give your students enough room to show their work by increasing the spacing. Or you can save paper by decreasing the spacing.

Spacing can also be controlled manually.

Presentation Mode

Very useful as a teaching aid when used in combination with an LCD projector or other display system. One to four questions at a time are shown on the screen.

Use this feature while you teach. Prepare your examples with the software, and then use a projector to display the questions on the board. This saves time during planning and during the lesson, and it makes it very easy to present long questions or questions with graphs and diagrams. With one question displayed, you can:

  • Change the zoom level -- so students in the back can read it
  • Draw lines beside the question to help you organize your work if you solve the question
  • Jump to another question -- useful while reviewing homework
  • Reveal the answer
  • Show / hide the question number and the directions.

Multiple-Version Printing

Print multiple versions of an assignment. You control how each new version is created: scramble the choices, scramble the questions, or make completely new questions. You can also save each new version after it is created.

Scale Assignment

Proportionally increase or decrease the number of questions in the assignment. This is very useful when planning a lesson. You can create a few questions to use as examples, and then scale up the number of question to create a homework assignment. The questions on the homework will be completely new, yet follow precisely from the lesson--and you don't need to design the questions again.

Export Questions

Export questions as bitmap images and paste them into your favorite word processing software. Questions created with our products can be added to existing assignments you have created with other programs. Or you can freshen old assignments by replacing old questions with new ones.

All questions are available for export.

Good Multiple-Choice Questions

Every question you create can be toggled between free-response and multiple-choice format. Multiple-choice questions come with smart, potentially misleading choices. Some are based on common mistakes students make while others are just random but near the correct answer.

You control the number of choices each question has, from two to five.

Merge Assignments

Merge two or more assignments into one. Easily create quizzes, tests, and reviews by merging the assignments from the unit and then scaling the total to an appropriate length. The questions will be new while following exactly from what you taught.

Diagrams Drawn to Scale

Diagrams are all accurately drawn, except if the answer would be given away. If an angle is labeled as 30°, then it really is 30°. If a triangle's sides are labeled 3, 4, and 5, then its lengths truly are in a 3:4:5 ratio. Seeing accurate diagrams helps students gain an intuitive understanding of angles and measurements.

Answer Format

When you print an assignment, you choose how the answers are reported:

  • On an answer sheet
  • On an answer sheet with just the odds
  • In context (next to or within the question)
  • No answer sheet

Graphing and Graph Paper Utility

Supplement your lessons with high-quality graphs and graph paper of any size. Each graph can have zero to two functions graphed on it. Graphs can be of any logical and physical size. You can also tile graphs across the page to maximize your paper use.

Custom Directions and Custom Questions

Enter your own directions to create new types of problems. Shown on the left was a standard order of operations question that has been modified to be more analytical. You can alter the directions on any question type.

From time to time, you will need to enter your own question. That's what custom questions are for. They can be either free response or multiple-choice and can contain math formatted text (equations, expressions, etc).

Modify Automatically-Generated Questions

Most automatically-generated questions can be modified manually. If there is a choice you don't like, you can change it. If you wish a question was slightly different, you can change it.

Paper Size and Margins

Print assignments on any sized paper that your printer supports. If you decide to print an assignment on legal-sized paper, no problem. The questions will automatically be repositioned for you--no cutting and pasting the assignment back together just to use a different paper size. You also have control over the margins, page numbering, and paper orientation.

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Create an assignment in Microsoft Teams

Assign quizzes in Microsoft Teams

Turn in an assignment in Microsoft Teams

View and navigate your assignments (student)

View and navigate your assignments (educator)

Manage assignments on a mobile device

Grade, return, and reassign assignments

Delete an assignment in Microsoft Teams

Add a tag to your assignment

Adjust assignment settings in your class team

Assign work to multiple classes at once

Create group assignments or assign to individual students

Create and manage grading rubrics in Microsoft Teams

Collaborate with other educators on a form or quiz

Edit an assignment in Microsoft Teams

Schedule work to assign later

Save an assignment as a draft in Microsoft Teams

Repost an assignment in Microsoft Teams

Add MakeCode activities to assignments in Microsoft Teams

Send weekly assignment summaries to parents and guardians

Turn-in celebrations in Microsoft Teams assignments

Use Turnitin with Microsoft Teams

Edit Word documents in Teams for Education

Use OneNote Class Notebook in Teams

Review student work in Class Notebook

Provide written, audio, or video feedback in Class Notebook

Deleting and restoring a OneNote Class Notebook that's linked to a Microsoft Teams assignment

Assign quizzes from Microsoft Teams without affecting individual Forms limits


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    Software for math teachers that creates custom worksheets in a matter of minutes. Try for free. Available for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus, and Calculus. Kuta Software. Open main menu. ... Print assignments on any sized paper that your printer supports. If you decide to print an assignment on legal-sized paper, no ...

  26. Assignments

    View and navigate your assignments (educator) Manage assignments on a mobile device. Grade, return, and reassign assignments. Delete an assignment in Microsoft Teams. Learn how to create, edit, and turn in assignments using the Assignments app in Microsoft Teams for Education. Tips for due dates, grading rubrics, and adding files, too.