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Basecamp was one of the first project management web apps, part of a family of tools to collaborate from anywhere. It was just a bit more complicated than email and blogging, with just enough features to help you get stuff done. And in its 3rd major version, it took on yet another of its sibling apps' features while continuing to simplify modern work.
Basecamp 3 keeps the tradition of the original simple project management tool going, while adding enough new features to make it stand out in its market over a decade after the original Basecamp was launched. The basics are still there: You'll still manage tasks and discuss things as a group. But you also now have team and private chat, tools to carefully share just what you want with clients, and automated check-ins to keep up with what everyone's doing without having to ask. And it's smart enough to know how to work well with remote teams, where messages come in at all hours yet you're not always on call.
Open a Basecamp 3 project, and you'll see a dashboard that's reminiscent of the main account overview in Basecamp 2. There are several cards with an overview of your tasks, schedule, message boards, chats, check-ins, and files. Select your tasks, say, and they'll open in a card layover that looks like it's on top of the base project. Click away and you'll be back at the main project, ready to jump into anything else.
Campfire chats are the largest new addition to Basecamp. Formerly a separate team chat product from 37signals, Campfire is now baked into Basecamp for one team chat group inside each project. You can also use Pings as a private campfire chat with individuals, similar to direct messages in Slack or private Facebook Messenger chats. Campfire chats are simple—you can drag in files and links, and preview things like Tweets along with chat messages. You'll see a time stamp on each message as well, and an option to add emoji or attachments to messages. It's a basic but handy way to discuss projects.
The Message Board is better for detailed discussions. It's like a private forum for your project with detailed, formatted posts and comments complete with emoji-powered "boosts" to write a quick comment and emoji when you don't need to add more detailed feedback.
Then there are Check-ins, a super-powered form of messages—a way to spark conversations about important things for your team. You can setup a check-in about anything you want: ideas, favorite books, out-of-office schedule, and much more. Basecamp will then email that question to your team on a schedule you set, and keep a log of everyone's ideas and thoughts that came in each time.
Speaking of schedules, Basecamp 3 includes a redesigned calendar to show events and due tasks in a list underneath color-coded months. To-dos can now span a time period, so you can list when a task should be started and completed and see the entire period on the calendar. Events can also span time, for a perfect way to list your retreats, out-of-office time, and more.
And when you're out of office, perhaps for a week of vacation or just are offline for the night, it's likely someone on your team is still working (especially if you have a distributed team or offices in other time zones). Basecamp 3 includes a "Work Can Wait" feature that lets you put in your work schedule, and then will only send you notifications when you're supposed to be working. It's a simple way to make sure you're not on the clock more than you should be.
There's more, too. Basecamp 3 includes a Clientside feature where you can set exactly what you want a client to be able to see, so you can chat and talk freely without worrying about a client seeing your deepest fears. You'll also find new reports that will automatically show you what's overdue, what's coming up soon, what's been recently done, and more.
It's a lot to take in, and yet Basecamp still manages to make it feel simple with its clean design. If you've been wanting a way to work together—with chat, discussions, tasks, schedules, automatic updates and more in one place—it's hard to find a tool that does exactly what Basecamp 3 does. It's a great tool for your discussion-driven projects, one that's designed to work great for remote teams.
Originally published December 18, 2015; updated April 23, 2018 with new screenshots and features.