Basecamp 3 vs active.collab

Treat this as an open letter to both providers, I’m stuck with buyers indecision about which to choose …

Our agency has been a Basecamp subscriber for almost as long as basecamp has been a thing. We’re still on Basecamp Classic [BC1] (thats v1 to you and me) and paying way too much for being so. It’s been a great tool and seen much much (much) use through the years – which again is part of the problem. How do I move away but keep it to look back on ?

I’ll admit, I looked at active.collab [AC] before, and while it could do all that basecamp could and a lot more, it looked bad. It was functional in an IBM sort of way, something we could use, but not really something I’d want to have to force on our clients. However, they clearly pulled their socks up and came out with a whole new version that made it far far simpler and far far nicer to use. Having seen this it immediately became the main contender in mind.

But then … now entering the ring … Basecamp 3 ! We didn’t see a huge value in going from BC1 to BC2, other than it offered some direct migration options. BC3 through has some very nice features leaving me, like I said, torn between the two. I know there’s other options out there and I know everyone has a favourite, but if I had to look at them all I’d go nuts. This is the shortlist I’ve got.

Both contenders have very good mobile applications, so that’s a draw. Basecamp however has a direct Mac and Windows client. It does look like it’s just a wrapped up html view port that can access both systems notification centres, but then again that’s all it really has to be. Winner : Basecamp

As well as full blown message (ala email) sometimes it’s great just to chat about a project informally. Currently we use HipChat for this (which itself is great) but only the dev team is on this and it would be good to get everyone involved. Basecamp have integrated their chat product CampFire directly into BC3 so every project can have a chat room, with the desktop apps mentioned above this is an immediate win for the whole team. AC doesn’t offer anything of this nature. Winner : Basecamp

While we want to move away from BC1, we don’t want to lose what’s there, I’m a real data hoarder and it would actually pain me to do so. Both systems do seem to have an approach to this, with ups and downs for each

  • BC3 : I’ve seen people say that as a BC3 subscriber they were allowed to keep their BC2 account at no extra cost, provided it went into a read-only status. If we could do this with BC1, then instant win ! Having to migrate everything from BC1 to BC2 first wouldn’t be realistic as we’d lose all time tracking.
  • AC : Using the API AC can migrate across from BC2, but again we lose time tracking

The other option of course is to HTtrack the whole thing Winner : Basecamp (remains to be seen)

Cost Tracking
Both systems allow for time tracking, either off-the-cuff or against to-do items. AC however takes real costs into consideration. I can set a per hour cost against a person (or department), a cost allowance against a task, and actively track how well the budget for that task is going. Winner : active.collab

Currently we use an in-house quote system to allow us to generate quotes for work. AC allows us to create a line by line quote with costs, turn it into a job if we win, and as above track the costs against time. BC3 doesn’t seem to have anything like this. Winner : active.collab

To-do format
Different tasks can be visualised in different ways. Both systems allow for a traditional to-do list format and to set times and dates (or a range) against tasks. BC3 offers a “Schedule” view which is like a long timeline of what’s coming up. AC offer more flexibility by allowing you to view your tasks as traditional to-do lists, kanban lanes, or gant charts. Winner : active.collab

Usually a deciding factor in these things, but a minimal one in this case. Both offer unlimited clients and projects and for this AC would be $49 pm for 15 people (jumping to $99 for 30 users) while BC3 would be $79 pm. BC3 allows for 100GB of files, I can’t find how my AC allows for. Either way it’s small potatoes between the two (and both much cheaper than the current BC1 cost), although AC will allow for 6 months free if you come from BC. Winner : A draw ? active.collab (see the edit below)

Like I said at the start, I don’t know which way to jump. I’ll court a reply from each and what I’d like to see happen is for each to offer a response regarding their shortfalls compared to the other. Perhaps one can tell me they’ll be looking to add this in the near future. However, if you came here looking for an answer, I’m afraid I’m just as stumped as before.

I contacted both companies to ask how they could meet the shortfalls of the other, Basecamp got back in super fast response time (paraphrased).

Historical Data
Yes! When you sign up for Basecamp 3, if you’d no longer need to create new projects in Classic, you can idle that account and it would be free. You would still be able to use and access any current projects in Classic; you’d make all your new basecamps (projects) in Basecamp 3, and only pay for that account.

We’re also offering a $150 credit to current Basecamp users to apply toward Basecamp 3. Once you’ve created your new Basecamp 3 account — with the same address that you used for Classic — you would follow the instructions at the link to receive your credit:

Estimates & Cost Tracking
There’s nothing like these tools in BC3 at the moment. I’m sorry about that! We’re still working on our API, actually! Once we release that, 3rd parties will be able to create integrations (like Gantt charts and client estimate/contract approval tools) with BC3.

There have been a couple of time-tracking integrations released ahead of the API, however! Here they are:

(For reference, here are some of the extras that 3rd parties created for Basecamp 2 — of course, I can’t guarantee that these same integrations would be created for BC3, but it might give you an idea: and

Similar situation as above — I imagine Gantt chart integrations would be coming once the API is released. However, we are working on an improvement to To-Dos that will include more vision representation of those ranges (a la Gantt charts). I’m afraid I don’t have a concrete timeline for this, though!

So … a good positive response, looks like it’s heading in the right direction … BUT !

BC3 has NO time tracking (should have spotted this sooner) .

It would seem they removed this in BC2 and now rely on third party integrations like the links provided. This would be fine (everhour integration looks great) if I didn’t have to pay an additional cost, suddenly making the issue of cost of greater significance. 15 users of everhour is an additional $39 on top of BC’s $79 making it $118, more than if I took the AC 30 members package. Still, that’s still cheaper than the $250 we currently pay.

Active Collab also got back in touch (just slightly slower though)

AC are planning to include chat so that balances that category out ( Also they current integrate with Slack so we could use that instead of HipChat. Would probably just wait for their own to get done.

I find myself wishing that BC could do everything AC could do as I love some of the stuff they’ve added. I almost wonder if it would be good waiting for their API to be released and roll our own time management & estimates engine.

We made the jump to Active.Collab via importing all our projects BC1 to BC2 to AC then manually updating the time recording. We managed to pull a backup using Cyotek WebCopy and had been using an external FTP site so did have lots of the files already at our disposal. Worth it for the savings alone, although Atlassian Stride is now on the horizon ....

Comments says:
I’m also an old BC user. I am now parking full BC 1 and 2 archives and actively using 3. Migrating is somewhat cumbersome because it requires BC1 to 2, and then 2 to 3. However this is still functional and the subscription cost all-in is modest. Despite Activcollab’s better tools, and BC3’s annoying styles (the ‘Hey’ and ‘clap’ wrappers are noxious to our clients and collaborators) we’re staying with BC for now. This was not at all an obvious decision: Activecollab has better spreadsheet integration. That would have been the tipping point, but in the end Activcollab was not able to offer a reasonable migration path for the large multi-user projects we run; they did offer to provide a custom service at a per-hour rate, but that still became too expensive. We’re living with BC for now and linking Google docs to provide the missing functions.